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. Klaudia Roszuk says:

    I missed so many days, but still I was supposed to read this reading exactly today. God’s timing is amazing

  2. Csteward says:

    I just saw these comments, and I am really struggling with the amount of text as well! I’m so far behind because I do not have the time to really give this study the time it deserves.

  3. Meghan Chupp says:

    25“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— 26Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

    Does this seem to point to the future coming judgement of the Lord (that is still to happen?) Or is this referring to a judgement that we see in the Bible?

  4. Bible Project says:

    Hey Rachel,

    Really suggest watching the Bible Project video for Jeremiah! It’s so helpful in understanding some of the old testament texts that I struggle reading.

    1. Janae Young says:

      My family loves The Bible Project so much! So much clarification and truth!

  5. Anna S. says:

    I agree Jeremiah gets a little weary with the condemnation and judgement, but you can see sprinkled throughout the book that God is still a God of grace and mercy. Jeremiah 3:12 immediately comes to my mind, “‘Return faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever.’” Israel messed up big time and God have them chance after chance to repent, but they didn’t, so there were some big consequences. God knew what they were doing was only hurting themselves (Jer. 7:19 – “‘Do they spite me?’ declares the LORD. “Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame?’”) I love Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of His wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” God so longs for us to know Him and have a relationship with Him. He’s not hanging over us waiting to pounce on our every failure, but if we keep choosing to walk in disobedience, like a good parent he will discipline us to bring us back to Himself. The point of Jeremiah is ultimately bringing Israel back to Himself. So, yes, the Old Testament in general can seem more condemning than the New Testament, but if you look for the grace, you will find it.

  6. Stephanie says:

    It has been a tough read at times, but I think that’s really because God’s people have moved SO FAR from Him in their hearts. Maybe try looking for, or highlighting, the opposite of what you’ve been seeing in your text and that might help you to see it from a different perspective. When God cries out over and over again “Return to Me!” (Mercy). When He says, even in His righteous anger, that the land will be destroyed, but He promises He will not destroy it completely (hope), or where He says if you would just stop; stop doing all these evil things and then coming into my house and giving me this fake offering, I would welcome you! God hates hypocrisy (we see that same truth with Jesus and the Pharisees over and over again). Look for the verses where Gods heart is broken and He is calling His people back (even when he KNOWS they aren’t going to listen) and maybe that will help you see Him a little differently.

  7. Kate Nunn says:

    It’s amazing how much the Old Testament and New Testament mirror each other. And both end with the coming of a savior. The best is yet to come!

  8. Rachel Foley says:

    Anyone else having a hard time with Jeremiah? I feel like this study is just reinforcing my distorted image of God as the vindictive punisher who’s waiting to catch me and then destroy me. He’s obviously got good reasons, but there’s no grace and mercy here. I know we’ll get there, but it’s hard for me to merge this image of God with Jesus.

    1. Ruby Shenk says:

      I’m struggling with it as well. I think because of the quantity of text that is reinforcing it over and over, it’s hard to get through it each day

    2. Callie Sercey says:

      Same!! I mentioned this on comments a couple days ago! It feels repetitive, God is mad and then says it a million different ways. It’s hard to see past it.

    3. Dale Tingle says:

      It makes us long for Jesus, doesn’t it? Oh, come, Lord Jesus! EASTER!

    4. Susan Crosby says:

      God is never vindictive and out to punish. He is though a just God. For believers in His Son Jesus there is now no condemnation therefore we are under His grace and mercy.

    5. Jennie P says:

      My son ran away from home five years ago. Jeremiah was the book of the bible that most spoke to my heart at that horrendous time because it shows God as a loving father almost despairing that his children would ever hear him and repent. Now, as the world is devastated by Coronavirus and the serious economic hardship that will follow, I cannot help but see God’s plea with our nations, who knew nations who knew and were founded on the gospel, pleading with our society to return to him. May we earnestly pray for a spirit of repentance to be poured out across all the earth.

    6. Elizabeth Aouad says:

      I want to encourage those who are having a difficult time with these readings. Read it in increments of the whole of the text overwhelms you. Pray as you read and let God minister there truth of His WORD to you. All scripture is God- breathed and profitable. Even the difficult passages. Sometimes the more difficult it is, the greater the revelation will be when it comes.

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