It Is Useless
21The Lord told me to say to the people of Judah:
I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, but I won't accept sacrifices from you. So don't even bother bringing them to me. You might as well just cook the meat for yourselves.
22At the time I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I didn't command them to offer sacrifices to me. 23Instead, I told them, “If you listen to me and do what I tell you, I will be your God, you will be my people, and all will go well for you.” 24But your ancestors refused to listen. They were stubborn, and whenever I wanted them to go one way, they always went the other. 25Ever since your ancestors left Egypt, I have been sending my servants the prophets to speak for me. 26But you have ignored me and become even more stubborn and sinful than your ancestors ever were!
The Lord said:
27Jeremiah, no matter what you do, the people won't listen. 28So you must say to them:
People of Judah, I am the Lord your God, but you have refused to obey me, and you didn't change when I punished you. And now, you no longer even pretend to be faithful to me.
29Shave your head bald
and throw away the hair.
Sing a funeral song
on top of a barren hill.
You people have made me angry,
and I have abandoned you.
How do we know when someone is a true believer in God?
When he/she obeys God.
Now keep on reading …
Intuitively most of us don’t like the word “obey”. When we hear it, we shut down. When we read it in the Bible we often think it’s a strident, harsh, cold, or demanding word. But we’re wrong! The word “obey” in the Old Testament is sama, which means “to hear”. When God asks us “to hear”, he wants us to understand and respond, in other words to act in accordance with his Word. Then, when we hear/obey, God promises to bless his people (e.g. Leviticus 25:18-19, Deuteronomy 6:3).
To press the point: A call to obedience is God’s loving invitation to blessing (v.23). It’s also the key to understanding the text. Here are the main points:
- God wants obedience, not sacrifice (vv 21-23)
- life goes well for us when we obey God (v 23)
- we go backward, not forward, when we disobey God (vv 24-26)
- God gets angry when we refuse to obey him (vv 27-29)
Obedience is a response. It’s hearing, grasping what God wants me to do, and acting on it. Obedience is intrinsic to our relationship with God. He initiates by speaking, and we respond by obeying. When we obey, we’re blessed with what he wants to give us. When we disobey, we’re disciplined. So let’s remember, as we go about whatever we’re doing today, that we live in fellowship with God only as we obey him.
Lord, unstop my ears when I don’t want to listen to you. To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Help me grasp what you want me to do, and help me do it. For the fame of your name. Amen.