32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Obedience is worthless when it does not come from a heart given to God completely. The scribe in today’s text perceived this truth when Jesus told him the first of all the commandments was to love God fully (Mk. 12:28-30). May we grasp this fundamental truth; Out of the heart comes the obedience that pleases God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). Without love for God in our hearts, our outward actions of obedience are null and void. Christ calls us to be obedient children, so we will not discount the place of obedience in the Christian’s life (1 Pet. 1:13-16, 22). Obedience from the heart pleases God and frees us from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:17-18).
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1–2, NKJV)
We are exhorted to give careful and complete consideration to the High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. The high priest under the law of Moses was “taken from among men” and “appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1). Aaron was called by God to fill this role (Heb. 5:4). By God’s oath, Christ was called by God as High Priest (Heb. 5:4-6, 10). Aaron entered a tabernacle made with human hands, there to offer animal blood for his sins and the sins of the people. But, our High Priest has entered heaven itself (the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man”), seated at God’s right hand (Heb. 8:1-2). He offered His own blood to God to atone for sins (Heb. 9:11-14, 23-26). By his freshly killed flesh, Jesus opened the way for sinners to have access to God’s mercy (Heb. 10:19-21). We draw near to God only because our High Priest offered His blood to God as a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:22). Now at God’s right hand, Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for “those who come to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25-28). Thus, Christians “come boldly to the throne of grace” and obtain mercy in our time of need (Heb. 4:16; 2:17-18). What an amazing High Priest is Christ Jesus (Heb. 7:26)!
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Peter has developed the point that Christians are “a holy priesthood” because Christ is the chief cornerstone of the house of God, the church (1 Peter 2:4-6). In this summary passage, he says our priesthood is royal or regal. Because we are citizens of the kingdom of God, we share in the blessings granted by the King (Jesus), who has “made us kings (a kingdom) and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). Just as priests serve in a temple, Christians compose the temple of God – the church – and serve God in it (Ephesians 2:19-22). (This shows the importance and value God places on the church.) We are privileged to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God which are acceptable through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Therefore, our sacrifices and service to God must agree with His will since we are “priests to our God” (Revelation 5:10). The church does not decide what is acceptable service to God. God has done that, and revealed it to us in His word. It is up to us to offer Him the priestly service He expects and deserves (Romans 12:1-2).
12 “But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord.” (Malachi 1:12–13, NKJV)
When will man learn that acceptable worship of God is not defined and determined by what man chooses to offer God, but by what God says will be please Him? Ancient Israel corrupted the table of the Lord by failing to carefully offer Him sacrifices according to His law. They brought defective offerings before Him, and sneered with contempt at the commanded sacrifices (Deuteronomy 15:21). God heard their complaints, and rejected their contemptible, faithless offerings. Surely, we must learn that our worship will only please God when it is “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God rejects defective worship today, even as He did then. God will not accept attempts to worship Him that fail to conform to the worship taught and approved in the new covenant of Christ. True worship does not become “a weariness” and “contemptible” to true worshipers (John 4:23). Let us approach God with reverential honor, and never grow weary of offering Him the worship He commands – and is due (Malachi 1:6).
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5, NKJV)
God chose Jesus Christ as the living stone – risen from the dead – from whom and by whom His house would be built (Matt. 16:16-18; Acts 4:11-12). Christians are “living stones” in God’s spiritual house, the church (1 Tim. 3:15). We were dead trespasses and sins, but He made us alive, saving us in Christ, the living Son of the living God (Eph. 2:1-7). And so, Christians are priests, composing a “holy priesthood” that offers up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. Because we are priests, our hearts and lives must be pure, respecting the holiness of God. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). Take your role as priest seriously. Come before God with clean hands and a pure heart to do His revealed will (Jas. 4:8).
10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: 11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. 12 “When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:10-15)
Israel had wearied the Lord God with their sacrifices of worship and offerings of praise while they simultaneously defiled themselves with all manner of sin (see Isa. 1:4, where God described His children as a “brood of evildoers”). We cannot successfully worship and serve God with defiled hands; only “holy hands” will do (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8). Pretending to love God while practicing sin is as unholy as the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Cleanse yourself of sin’s defilement that your sacrifices of praise will honor and please Him (Isa. 1:18-20).