Obedience over Sacrifice
Open Your Bible
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.