When you read the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, you will hear the Lord God Almighty complaining. God would complain about their sacrifices and say that He was weary of them. Have you read these in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos? (Isaiah 1:11-15, Amos 5:21-23, Jeremiah 6:20, 7:21-23). This is because the people only want to give sacrifices and carry out activities; jump and shout, dance, scream, and pray without listening, without understanding, like the Jews of old. They would carry on with their activities so much that so many times, the Lord would say, “What are you doing? Take away the noise of your festivals, take away the sound of your musical instruments, My soul is tired.”
Sometimes, He would say, “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be quiet. Keep quiet.” (Habakkuk 2:20, Zechariah 2:13, Zephaniah 1:7). I know we don’t interpret that passage like that; but I think that God was likely saying, “Stop making noise,” because we _are_ noisy. Ecclesiastes 5 says, Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
In other words, that’s the Lord saying, “When you come into My presence, be quick to keep quiet.” He says, “Be silent, don’t talk much, for I’m in heaven, you’re on earth. Let your words be few.”
However, a lot of Christians believe the exact opposite. It’s practiced everywhere. In many congregations, what you’ll hear is, “Brethren, let us pray. Our only answer is prayer.”
No, it’s not. Prayer is not the strategy. Obedience is the strategy and what God wants from us is for us to obey.
The LORD said to the people of Judah, “This is what the LORD of the Heavenly Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat the meat. Indeed, when I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I didn’t speak or command them about burnt offering and sacrifice, but I did give them this command: ‘Obey me and I’ll be your God, and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you so it will go well for you.'” (Jeremiah 7:21-23)
God said to them, “When I brought you out of Egypt, what did I say? Did I say offer me sacrifices?” In Ecclesiastes 5, He calls those kinds of sacrifices ‘the sacrifices of fools’. That’s what He calls the sacrifices of those who disobey Him.
It isn’t about being in church and singing, We bring the sacrifice of praise… That sacrifice is only fine and acceptable if you’re obeying Him. Other than that, it is a sacrifice of fools.
If you don’t care about what God thinks, you do not have a regard for Him. For instance, in a conversation, if someone starts telling you, “Well, brother, I think if you know what the Bible says…,” and you go, “Leave Bible! Forget Bible!” whatever sacrifice you brought would be a sacrifice of fools. You don’t have any regard for the Almighty God.
In Psalm 50 verse 21-23 God says, “When you did these things, I was silent, so you thought I was exactly like you. But now I will condemn you and state my case against you! Carefully consider this, you who reject God! Otherwise I will rip you to shreds and no one will be able to rescue you. Whoever presents a thank-offering honors me. To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.”
In Jeremiah 7, the people were disobeying God, but in between, they were offering sacrifices, praises, tithes, and offerings, non-stop. That’s just like saying, “Today, I’m going to do what I like, but I will bring an offering. I will disregard what God says, but I’ll keep giving because I don’t joke with my giving.”
This is why sometimes I sound as though I am against tithing. This is because tithing has been used to destroy people. Very wicked people on earth give tithes. There are those who disobey everything God says, and then bring their tithes and offerings to give to Him. If you do that and your Pastor makes you feel comfortable with yourself, if he rubs your head and say, “Ahhh, brother! God bless you,” and he says other things that make you happy, just know that you are headed to perdition – or at the very least, to loss on Judgment Day. Even if your spirit is saved, you will lose everything, because you were made to feel that giving was everything, that sacrifice is what serving God is about (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). No, it’s about obedience. “Obey Me,” He said. “I told you to obey Me, obey the things I say.”
Someone may read Jeremiah 7:21-23 and say, “Is God lying? How can He say, ‘I did not command them concerning sacrifices’? But the books of Leviticus and Exodus are full of instructions about sacrifices, so why would He say this?”
His point was that, the sacrifices are not the primary things. Do you understand?
The Lord Jesus said the exact same thing in Matthew chapter 23. He said, “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!” (verses 23-24)
The primary thing to do is justice, mercy and faithfulness. These are the more important things. He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to obey Him, not to give sacrifices. Sacrifices are less important.
The books of Leviticus and Numbers are full of instructions about sacrifices and details on how to offer them. When Jeremiah the prophet gave that prophecy, it is possible that the people despised him and laughed at him, saying, “Go away. How can you say that God did not call us to give? He didn’t tell us to give sacrifices? Our sacrifices are the main thing. This is what opens the door for us – our tithes.” Which is just like the church saying, “You will go to heaven, but those who don’t tithe won’t go to heaven.”
There is still this level of confusion in the church after all these words in the Bible. Obedience to God in your daily life is more important than your sacrifices. Sacrificing is secondary. The only way you should sacrifice is as an act of obedience. Obedience is the goal, not the sacrificing.
Do you know why people find it easy to offer sacrifices and not to obey? It’s because sacrifices require only action. It’s easy to hold your hands together like a Muslim, bending down to pray five times a day. You sacrifice something when you do that, and when you are done, then you can go back to living how you like. Don’t you understand that it’s easier to be a Muslim than to be a real Christian? You can’t compare both. To be a real, obedient Christian who follows the Lord and submits to Him is one of the hardest things there is. And why? Because you have to obey God all the time. You have to obey Him in your room, by 2am when there is nobody else and you are all alone. You have to be obedient to God when nobody is there by 4am. You have to keep obeying God when you travel to another country of the earth. You have to obey God inside your heart. Can you imagine that? I think a bad thought about you, and I have to apologize to God. I do something bad against you, and the Holy Spirit says, “Go back and say sorry.” No one would beat you with a cane if you don’t go back to apologise, yet you do [you obey the Holy Spirit].
Many times you may go back and apologise and the person [who you apologised to] says, “What? It’s ok. Is that what you worried about?” And you’re almost telling the Holy Spirit, “You see? I said it. I said it didn’t matter.” But it mattered. It mattered for you; it mattered even for that person. The person might just have been trying to make you feel comfortable, but was glad you came back to apologise. It mattered to God because He is working on you. You are the clay, and He is the potter. He’s shaping you. If you didn’t yield to His hand when He pushed you like that, you’ll be crooked and you’ll harden in that form. You have to keep being changed by the hand of the Potter.
God said, “Obey Me.”
You say, “Oh! I can’t wait to bring something to offer my King.”
He says, “It’s more important that you allow Me to shape you into what I want you to be.”
There are people everywhere who want to bring an offering to God. This is how people get to the place where they steal money to give as an offering in church? Years ago, it was in the news that a man, who was part of a very popular church in Lagos, stole millions of Naira from his work place, millions of Naira. He was poor, and he gave the money he stole as an offering. It’s still there, on the internet. It wasn’t a secret confession. It was out in the paper. He worked in a hotel or something, and he kept stealing money from the organisation. And the funny thing was that he lived in a small house. He was poor, not rich at all. But when the church needed something, he always gave. He was a giver, giving other people’s things. Imagine that someone stole from you and gave someone else your things. Is that giving? How can you give people’s [stolen] property to the church? Someone must have told that man that giving is the main thing. Someone taught him that the main thing God wanted from him is to give.
You may have heard [or perhaps you know] that you cannot give a sacrifice that does not cost you something? How do you interpret that? David said it when Araunah offered him his threshing floor to build an altar to the Lord in 1 Chronicles 21 [and 2 Samuel 24]. David had wanted to pay Araunah for his threshing floor, but Araunah said, “Take it and build an altar to the Lord. I give it all.” And David said, “No, I will not give the Lord that which cost me nothing.” David did not say “I will not give the Lord that which does not cost me very high.”
— Pastor Ita Udoh
14th October, 2020