to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
August 27, 2019 – Tuesday
Jeremiah 7:21-26 NIV
21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey Me, and I will be your God and you will be My people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you My servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to Me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’
If you get the idea from reading the verses above that God is upset with Israel, you are spot on. The various titles for this chapter clearly indicate the same. The NIV title is False Religion Worthless, the ESV title is Evil in the Land, while the NRSV title really nails it with Jeremiah Proclaims God’s Judgment on the Nation!
To be clear God is speaking in anger to Judah and Jerusalem – He has already punished the northern kingdom of Ephraim or Israel or the ten tribes. How angry is He?
9 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?11 Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.
He has been watching and He is prepared to act.
12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for My Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears My Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from My presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
What happened at Shiloh? What did God do there in His anger? From the Benson Commentary we discover
Shiloh was in the tribe of Ephraim, and this place, once so favoured and sanctified by God’s particular residence, had shared the fate of the rest of the kingdom of Israel, and was become a scene of misery and ruin. This they might literally go and see at present; and this, says God, have I done because of the wickedness of My people Israel. In which words Israel, meaning the ten tribes, is acknowledged to have been God’s people no less than Judah; and Shiloh, it is observed, had once enjoyed the same privileges, which now belonged to the temple at Jerusalem. But as God spared not Shiloh, but made it the victim of his wrath, so He says He would do to Jerusalem and her temple; and would cast off Judah for their wickedness from being His people, in like manner as He had already cast off their brethren, whom he distinguishes by the name of the children of Ephraim.”
God’s anger and wrath had reached the point that He did not want anyone praying for Judah and Jerusalem.
16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with Me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse My anger.
Then we finally come to our verses for today when it becomes incredibly obvious that the sacrifices mean nothing to God without obedience. Obedience was what was required and the sacrifices were only the out working of obedience. Making sacrifices while worshipping other gods was dishonest, disloyal, fraudulent, and obviously disobedient. Nonetheless, He will not let it be said He did not warn Judah so He tells Jeremiah
27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.
Why was God’s wrath so great? Not only did they worship other idols as gods, but they also were involved with child sacrifice – something so detestable it had never entered His mind..
30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears My Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter My mind. 32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room.
All this judgment coming as a result of disobedience. We may think we can avoid such judgment because of the sacrifice of Christ, but Matthew Henry said this, not about them, but about us:
We understand the gospel as little as the Jews understood the law, if we think that even the sacrifice of Christ lessens our obligation to obey.
There is great truth in this for Paul wrote about our status in Ephesians 2:10, once we have accepted the free gift of Grace taking Jesus as our Lord and Savior
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What those works are or might be I do not know. Each of us will find out as we pray, study God’s word, and seek His will in our lives. Jesus gave a major starting point when He said to those of us who have been forgiven in Mark 11:25
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)