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. Jennifer Anapol says:

    What hit me the most with this reading is the way that God is so saddened by his people’s sin. He doesn’t want to have to discipline them, bit he knows that is the only way they will come back to him.

  2. Ashley Edmondson says:

    Oh the tears of Thankful Joy I have as I read this. Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “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”

    *I will carry these words in my heart sun up to down! :)

  3. Sara Terry says:

    I prayed the “dangerous” prayer that God would show me my sins this weekend . Well, I almost immediately , and without explanation,lost two brand new pendants ( a cross and an olive tree) that my dad brought me back from Bethlehem as a bit of a condolence after I had a miscarriage while he was on the trip . My level of heartbreak over these objects , over these things that I put such value on and anticipated as a “holy” declaration of my faith to the world , is convicting . My mouth says that I want my actions to show I’m a Christian and to show it with what I wear , but my heart still gets value from other people and objects of the world I perceive as valuable .

  4. Peyton Grace Potts says:

    Day 8:
    Why do we hold onto things that cannot help us? Why do we look to manmade things instead of God? Why do we follow the ways of the world instead of the Lord? We are a broken people who flock to the “easy” path. We follow what everyone else is doing just to be liked. God has called us to be different to stand up for what’s right. What good is wisdom if it’s not godly wisdom? We are nothing without the Lord.
    No matter how far we get from God and how messed up we become, He always wants to bring us back and refine us. We are His people. We are called to share His name with those who don’t know Him. This is the purpose for our lives.

    1. Julianne Rader says:

      Amen. This world is so self serving and I see it in the nation of Israel in Jeremiah. God is calling out to our current society to return to Him and He will be our Father, just as He did in Jeremiah. Well said.

  5. Monie Mag says:

    I see God’s great love for his people. His desire to have a personal relationship with us. He understands our failures. He just wants us to get back up when we fall and turn to Him for forgiveness and get back on track. Woe if we get to a place we no longer feel shame or humiliation. When we believe the lie that we are safe in our sin. I’m so grateful for a loving God who helps us walk with Him. God said He would give us a new heart, a heart of flesh for our heart of stone. He will put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His ways and with Him. Ezekiel 36:26

  6. Barbara Holland says:

    Amen!

  7. Candy B says:

    “But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me…” Jer. 9:24
    That is what God desires…to be known by me. It is not all the rules, but it is about relationship. Oh, to be fully known, loved and accepted. Isn’t that the longing of everyone’s heart? And God has that same longing – for me to know Him fully and love Him. May I truly be called a friend of His.

    1. Bessie H says:

      Candy, that is very well said. Thank you! It is truly all about relationship.

  8. Mari V says:

    I don’t want to chase after anything but my Lord Jesus. I am in a place where I put my total trust in the One who created me. Life has been hard but my Jesus has been walking with me from the very get-go. May I never put my eyes on my trust on any one else but Him!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *