False security - Hope 103.2

False security

By David ReayFriday 13 Jan 2017LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Jeremiah 7:1-8

1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go to the entrance of the LORD’s Temple, and give this message to the people: ‘O Judah, listen to this message from the LORD! Listen to it, all of you who worship here! 3 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says:

“‘Even now, if you quit your evil ways, I will let you stay in your own land. 4 But don’t be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the LORD’s Temple is here. They chant, “The LORD’s Temple is here! The LORD’s Temple is here!” 5 But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; 6 only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. 7 Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.

8 “‘Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! (NLT)

Back in the Middle Ages, many church buildings were refuges for fleeing criminals. The church offered sanctuary, and thus came to be seen as a magic charm against misfortune for the criminal. We rightly dismiss such ideas today. But there was a similar sort of thinking around long before the Middle Ages. In Jeremiah’s time, the people of Judah were going about their ungodly ways while relying on the very existence of the temple to protect them from any harm. Surely God was happy with them because after all he ‘lived’ with them in the temple of Jerusalem.

God strikes no such bargains. Just because they had a temple and conducted their religious rituals in it didn’t mean they were exempt from practicing their faith. Fine words and gestures in the temple needed to be backed up by fine words and gestures outside the temple. Worship was more than ritual.

It is still an issue for us. So much easier to sing songs of love than to love. So much easier to pray for the needy than to practically help them. So much easier to study the Bible than to apply it. For us, coming to church can become the sum total of our faith. For us, we can assume that we are in God’s good books because we sing songs with fervour, because we never miss church, because we believe the right things, because we are part of the ‘right’ subcultures in the Christian church.

Again, God doesn’t bargain with us this way. Our relationship with God depends on our receiving the mercy of Jesus. And we show we have received the mercy of Jesus not just by observance of rituals but by doing what Jesus tells us to do. Which is a lot more than turning up at church when we feel like it. Our only sanctuary and safety comes from a personal love relationship with God through Jesus which expresses itself in right conduct. Anything else is mere religion.

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David Reay