Day 8

Obedience over Sacrifice

from the Lent 2020: His Love Endures reading plan


Jeremiah 7:1-34, Jeremiah 8:1-22, Jeremiah 9:1-26, 1 Kings 8:41-43, Luke 19:41-44

BY Guest Writer

If I had a nickel for every time my two daughters had conflict. The offense could be teasing, hitting, not sharing, or a million other things. After talking privately with each of them, I would bring the girls back together, stand them face-to-face and instruct the offender to say, “I’m sorry. It was wrong for me to __.” Occasionally, I would even ask them to hold hands, which caused them to roll their eyes at this admittedly awkward parenting strategy.

My goal was not for them to robotically repeat words or to just go through the motions to avoid punishment. As they practiced the external act of reuniting and verbally confessing their sin, my hope was that an inner posture of repentance would grow and that reconciliation would follow. My methods seemed external, yet my goal was always to shape their hearts.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see how God established specific ways for His people to relate to Him and to others. The Ten Commandments set clear parameters for God’s people. First and foremost was the non-negotiable command to avoid all idolatry: to only worship the one true God (Exodus 20:3). In addition to the Ten Commandments, God gave many other instructions detailing how to conduct civil life, participate in temple worship, and offer sacrifices.

What was the point of all these commands? Was God’s goal to create robotic rule-followers? Definitely not! God’s methods may seem external, but He was always fighting for their hearts. God’s goal was reconciliation and intimacy with His people. This is true for us today as well.

“When I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt,
I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice.
However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God,
and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you
so that it may go well with you’” (Jeremiah 7:22–23).

The God of all creation was pursuing relationship with His people—not moralistic law keeping. But they stubbornly resisted and forfeited intimacy by chasing false gods from the nations around them. They went through the motions of worshipping God in the temple, but their hearts were distant from Him. They shamelessly broke the Ten Commandments, which were actually God’s gracious blueprint for how to remain faithful, free, and flourishing.

We hear Jeremiah’s anguish as he weeps and wails over this wayward nation (Jeremiah 9:10). Over six hundred years later, we hear a similar lament from Jesus who weeps as He grieves over Jerusalem. Jesus ached for those so bent on human effort and religious duty that they could not recognize that Jesus, the Messiah, was in their midst.

Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I disobey God’s commands, for every time I trust in my external actions to validate me before God and others, for every time my heart grows cold and blind to Jesus.

Oh Lord, I confess that I’m the offender. I’m sorry. It is wrong for me to trust in my own efforts and to chase after things that deliver a mere, momentary buzz of satisfaction and security. Thank you for letting me hear that You long for more. You’ve always fought for the hearts of Your people. I’m so grateful You’re eternally, lovingly pursuing mine.

Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.

Post Comments (74)

74 thoughts on "Obedience over Sacrifice"

  1. Haley Z says:

    Sometimes simply saying “I’m sorry” is the hardest thing. Lord I ask that you make me humble. Allow me to truly repent my dishonorable, sinful actions and fix them when I hurt others. Let me be more comfortable being the first to say I’m sorry.

  2. Elizabeth Polley says:

    Asking for prayer this morning for my 2 year old. She’s been covered in hives all weekend, which occasionally happens to her, but these are different. As they fade they leave bruising and she also has some swelling on different parts of her body. Heading to the doctor soon and I am trying not to be terrified of what the doctor says/has me do next. Please pray for her health and peace for my heart.

    1. Betsey Walton says:

      I am praying for you and your daughter. Peace to you and her and knowledge for the doctors.

    2. Jane K says:

      Praying Elizabeth for your daughter. May God bring healing to her body and sooth her skin. My son in-law has been having similar responses and is in the process of eliminating different food groups. May they both be healed in Jesus’s name.

  3. Sarah Barai says:

    I LOVE that we ended this devotion with a confession. What a great reminder that God has given us the blueprints and is always there to guide us.

    1. Laura Quines says:

      Me too!! It was so perfectly what I needed.

  4. Cathe says:

    I see how much we are back in the same situation, here and now. False teachers, false churches, following after the religions of other nations. We need to repent, be in Gods word and trust and follow Him only.

  5. Kara says:

    In Luke 19:44, Jesus says “ because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.” Wow. God visited these people in small and big ways over hundreds, thousands of years. He wooed, disciplined, provided, warned…and they still didn’t listen.

    I wonder if they didn’t listen when things were “fine,” and that meant they couldn’t recognize His voice when He called. Im guilty of this too. I tune into lots of voices when things are fine: podcasts, tv, social media, and news. BUT if I don’t also tune my ears to His voice now, I may miss His whispers when it’s time to change course.

    Open the ears of my heart Lord! Your sheep know your voice and know you are the Great Shepherd!

    1. Suzie McRae says:

      ❤️❤️

    2. Catherine McVey says:

      Amen ❤️❤️

  6. Emily Whalen says:

    How blessed are we to have a God who loves us enough to pursue us? Forever thankful that our God loves us and longs for our hearts.

  7. Dorothy Hecimovich says:

    God is after relationship. No relationship is healthy without boundaries. Lord help me to live in loving obedience that our relationship may flourish and be my primary goal.

    1. Camille English Davis says:

      ❤️

  8. Brenna Lee says:

    “…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

    These are the verses that stood out to me the most today.

    Oh God of mercy and Justice,
    Forgive us of the moments we’ve acknowledged you for less than you truly are, the times when we’ve put others before you.
    I praise you God because time after time you are patient, you are gracious, you overwhelm me with your love.
    Help us to know you, to truly know you & to know you’re word that we will see You, that we will know You are near.

    In the holy name of Jesus, amen.

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