18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6, NKJV)
God deplored the insincere faith of Ephraim and Judah: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away” (Hosea 6:4). He still does. In defense of His interaction “with tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus explained that He came to call sinners to repentance – those who need spiritual healing (Matt. 9:11, 13). He applied Hosea to His critics, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:12). Accurate knowledge of God compels mercy toward sinners without forgetting one’s dutiful offerings to God (Matt. 23:23; Psa. 85:10-13). We have received His mercy and are to be merciful as we serve God (Matt. 18:33). Yet, being a Christian is often reduced to rituals and formalities in not a few churches. Sinful conduct of members is winked at and ignored because they are large donors, prominent in the community, in regular attendance at worship services, or otherwise highly regarded (1 Cor. 5:1-2). They may “fast twice a week” and “give tithes of all” they possess, but such things are meaningless to the Lord when hearts are far from Him (Lk. 18:10-14). God foretold and executed judgment upon Ephraim and Judah for their insincere, disobedient faith (Hosea 6:5). Let us learn from their failures and not repeat their sins (1 Cor. 10:5-13). Genuine and enduring faith must be driven by mercy toward others as we keep the commands of God.
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, NKJV)
Before and during the days of Jeremiah, Jerusalem and Judah had trusted in powerless idols, shaped and fashioned after the will and imaginations of men, to sustain protect them and bless them. The idolatrous “altars and their wooden images” exposed their sins to God’s just and fiery punishment (Jer. 17:1-4). God made their sins and punishment very clear to them. It is always thus when one “trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” One is left to a barren wasteland, void of spiritual blessings when the heart departs from the Lord: “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited” (Jer. 17:6). Many think they can survive without God, trusting in themselves and others. Instead of this, one should trust the Lord and follow His will: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7). Doing so brings spiritual life, protection, and productivity, “like a tree planted by the waters…” (Jer. 17:8). When we trust in men instead of God we are living with a “this world” perspective. Trusting in God means we put our faith in the true God and look beyond this world. By faith, we live for eternal realms of glory (Heb. 11:13-16). Our hope is in the Lord.
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.” (Isaiah 2:1–2, NKJV)
Far from being a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled, Isaiah lifts his eyes beyond the Judah and Jerusalem of his day to see what would transpire in the days beyond his own (Micah 4:1-3). Just as Peter said the “last days” of which Joel spoke were being fulfilled on Pentecost, even so this prophecy looks to the days of the Messiah’s reign and redemption for its fulfillment (Acts 2:16-17; 1 Peter 1:19-21). This grand portrait of the mountain of the Lord’s house rising above the mountain tops depicts the strength and power of the kingdom of God, the church, to which all nations flow (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; Hebrews 12:21-24, 28). It is the gospel of the kingdom that calls the lost to come and live in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Ancient Judah and Jerusalem fell as punishment for their sins. Isaiah sees heavenly Jerusalem, freed from sin’s bondage and exalted in the heavenly places in Christ (Hebrews 12:22; Ephesians 2:19-22). This kingdom, the church, is superior to all the kingdoms of men. The gospel call rings out, urging you to come and enter the kingdom, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Acts 2:36-41; Colossians 1:13-14).
30 “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NKJV)
When Jeremiah penned this warning from God, Judah was facing punishment for her sins (“Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 5:29). This passage gives us insight into God’s great displeasure with false teaching and religious oppression. Devastating and horrible things were happening in Judah, because false prophets were speaking lies in the name of God (Jeremiah 14:14). Yet, God’s people “loved to have it so.” The priests, who should have taught the people to be holy before the Lord, seized power for themselves at the expense of the people. And still, God’s people loved to have it so. In the end, they did not escape God’s judgment. Even now, some Christians are content to be deceived by false teachers. Instead of following God’s word, they are willing to be ruled over by the tyranny of human wisdom. Why? Perhaps, because it has always been easier to run with the crowd to do evil than to stand up and stand against unscriptural teaching and immoral practices (Exodus 23:2). God sees false teaching and unholy conduct as devastating and horrible things, that bring destruction upon those who “love to have it so.” May we resolve never to love what God hates (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9).
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:17, 21). But, the Law of Moses said priests would be the sons of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi (Num. 3:10; Heb. 7:11). Since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, the law had to be changed in order for Christ to be a priest (Heb. 7:12). Moses was silent about appointing priests from the tribe of Judah. When the Law of Moses identified the tribe of Levi as the priestly tribe, it necessarily eliminated all the other tribes from priestly appointment. You see, the silence of the Scriptures does not give consent for action. If it did, then Jesus (from the tribe of Judah) could be a priest under the Law of Moses, without changing the law. But, He could not, without violating God’s word. An action or a teaching is not legitimized by saying, “the Bible doesn’t say not to.” Truth is established by what the Scriptures say, not by their silence. God’s word says what is good and right in His sight. If we add to His word, we transgress His will. If this is not true, then why did the law have to change in order for Christ to be a priest?