Ever hear of a “Sunday Christian”? That’s what today’s reading in Jeremiah reminded me of. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means someone who attends church on Sunday but does not live a Christian life, or someone who doesn’t adhere to the faith, the rest of the week. I could rightfully be called the worst of the bunch.
Jeremiah 7:9-11 asks the following questions (CSB): “Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known? Then do you come and stand before Me in this house called by My name and insist: We are safe? As a result, you are free to continue doing all the detestable acts! Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your view? Yes, I too have seen it.”
Regardless of whether or not you murder or burn incense to idols, the point is, every time you (I) break one of the 10 Commandments or any of God’s law, we are acting like these ancient Judeans. This is particularly true when it’s an habitual problem, a lifestyle. The verses above describe everyday living for non-believers, but this is not to be- must not be– the lifestyle of a Christian. We are called to live a different lifestyle than the world. Does “being in the world, not of the world” ring a bell?
I also wanted to address some later verses from chapter 7 that can be applied to Genesis 22, where Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac on an alter for God. First, Jeremiah 7:31: “They (Judeans) have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, a thing I did not command; I never entertained the thought.”
Now, Genesis 22:2: “‘Take your son,’ He (God) said, ‘your only son, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'”
First, this is shocking. Maybe not to people who grew up in the church, because it’s a familiar story, and we’re taught it was to test Abraham’s love for God. Ok, yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking to someone hearing this for the first time.
Second, Abraham obeys, but he also tells his son that “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering…” (v. 8). While God commands Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham tells his son that God will provide a lamb-as if he had enough faith in his God to provide an animal instead of his actual son as the sacrifice. Sacrifices in ancient times were a sign of a deeper relationship with God, not just a sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake. It was a precursor to Christ’s all-atoning sacrifice later on.
Third, while this is shocking to a modern person’s ears, if you read the Old Testament, all throughout, God speaks of His utter horror at people killing their children as sacrifices for false gods (demons, really). Reading through the OT, you may wonder at the amount of prohibitions on child sacrifice, and the amount of times God says He loathes it. Child sacrifice, and adult sacrifice too, is found in many cultures of the ancient world: the middle east, the America’s, ancient Europe…and God detests it. What a horror. But to an ancient, child sacrifice would not have been out of the ordinary. So God commanding that Abraham sacrifice his child would not have been shocking to him. Remember, Abraham was called out from a pagan culture to be God’s own, so human sacrifice would not have been out of the ordinary for him. But Abraham trusted God to provide an alternative sacrifice since Isaac was his promised son.
And He did.