This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Take your burnt offerings and your other sacrifices and eat them yourselves! When I led your ancestors out of Egypt, it was not burnt offerings and sacrifices I wanted from them. This is what I told them: ‘Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!’”
Sometimes, when we go to a church service, we fall into the routine of the Sunday morning. We sing some songs, hear a message, give an offering, maybe. On the special days, we may partake in communion or witness a baptism. Hey, we may even be baptized ourselves.
Sometimes, I think that we completely forget the point to all of those things. For Israel and Judah, it looks like they got caught up in a routine and lost the meaning behind what they were doing. God commands some of what happens in a church service. Christ demonstrated the importance of communion and baptism. So, why have a lot of these things simply become ho-hum?
God tells Israel (and us by extension) to obey Him, but He doesn’t end there. He promises us that his commands are not in vain. They are not arbitrary. God never issues a command for the sake of it. He promises us that it is for our own good.
His main promise is that we will be His people and He will be our God. Now, think about the ramifications of that. The ever-present, all-knowing, creator-of-everything God proposes that we follow Him and He will call us His people. Not only that, but we, then, can call Him our God. God wants a relationship with us. He wants to show us His love. He wants to call us His.
When we think of our relationship to God in this way, then everything that we do becomes something that either brings us closer to God or takes us farther away. God never set up rules for us simply so that we could lead moral lives and perform appropriately within a system. He sets these things up so that we can come closer, relying on Him as our fulfillment and satisfaction. Any seeming limitations are merely guidelines to a closer relationship with Him. He asks us to trust Him even when it’s not easy.
These moments of coming closer can occur every minute of every day, but specifically within the realm of a church service, I think that we need to remember the importance of some of the things we do. All of them are things which have been set up as a way for us to grow closer to Him. At least, that is the way a church service should be designed. Today a church may set things up to get a better response from the crowd or please those who attend, but as believers, we should take each and every one of these moments as a way of growing closer to Him.