Backward or Forward?

In Jeremiah 7:24, we read something simple but serious.  God says this to the nation of Israel about their forefathers, “They…went backward, and not forward.” Do you know what this means?

If you read the previous verses in the fuller context of Jeremiah 7:21-27, you will discover an element of sarcasm from the Lord directed to the nation of Israel. He tells them to eat all of the meat from their sacrifices, including their burnt offerings. During the ministry of Moses, Leviticus 1:3-9 instructs the Israelites to offer burnt offerings by burning them in fire completely. These instructions happened prior to the nation of Israel entering the Promised Land.

But 800 years later, during the ministry of Jeremiah, God tells them to go ahead and treat their burnt offerings like all of their other offerings and eat the meat. These instructions happened when the nation of Israel was being carried into captivity away from the Promised Land. Why did God change the instructions?

God patiently waited for the nation of Israel to follow Him from the heart. But after 800 years of waiting, and sending them Moses, Joshua, the Judges, the Kings and the Prophets, they continued to go backwards and not forwards. They continually, repeatedly went their own way and disregarded His presence and authority. So here He tells them to go ahead and offer their burnt offerings like all the rest, because it doesn’t matter anyway. Their sacrifices are a waste of time, no matter how carefully they follow the technical guidelines given in Leviticus.

What did the nation of Israel follow, if they weren’t following the Lord? They were following the stubborn plans and priorities of their own hearts. They gave more serious attention to what their sinful hearts wanted them to do. They gave little attention to the Word of God that was provided to them.

How about you? Are you going backward or forward? Are you going backward by pursuing the self-centered, foolish ideas that your sinful heart is always telling you to follow? Or are you going forward, saying no to the stubborn plans of your heart and saying yes to the clear statements of the Word of God. Are you following your own heart, or are you giving your heart to Jesus?

God doesn’t care how many religious things you do. He cares how much you obey the Word of God intentionally from your heart.

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