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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 17:26,27

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 7, 2015

26 They will come from the cities of Judah, and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country, and from the Negev. They will bring burnt offerings, sacrifices, fellowship offerings, incense and thank offerings to the house of the LORD. 27 But if you will not listen to me to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will set fire to its gates. It will burn the palaces of Jerusalem, and it will not be quenched.

Think of the place where you grew up. What five or six things could you say about the location that would make you the most nostalgic—would make the other people who lived there remember it with the same fondness that you have? My hometown of Poynette has its Rowan Creek running through the south side of town westward, the big school campus to the southeast, the state Game Farm to the northeast, the industrial park on the north side, and Main Street with my dad’s paint store smack in the middle of town. For the Jews of Jeremiah’s day, and anyone who has lived in Israel, the landmarks are all here in this one verse: The cities of Judah spread out to the south and west. The “places around Jerusalem” include villages like Bethany on the Mount of Olives and the Old Testament town of Nob where David once retrieved the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:1-10). The land of Benjamin lies just to the north. Then there is the “lowland” or shephelah, the foothills between Jerusalem and Philistia. There is the “hill country” more northwest toward Samaria, and there is the Negev or deep lowland to the south toward Edom. A Jew would picture these places just as I can remember the sights and sounds of little Poynette in central Wisconsin, and even the smell of the quick running creek and the pine woods all around the town.

Jeremiah also brings to mind the sacrifices of the temple. Burnt offerings (‘olah) were voluntary acts of worship, offered either for unintentional sins or simply as an act of devotion (Leviticus 1:1-17). Sacrifices (zebach) were also acts of voluntary worship, given to show devotion to God.

Fellowship offerings (minhah) were sacrifices that were shared as a communal meal (Leviticus 7:11-34). When King Manasseh repented of his terrible sins, he restored God’s altar and offered fellowship and thank offerings (2 Chronicles 33:14-16).

Incense (lebona) was to accompany all offerings including the morning and evening sacrifices (Exodus 30:7-9). Because it was a component of worship, it made an appropriate gift from the Magi to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:11).

Thank offerings (toda) as the name implies were given in thanks to God for some blessing or gift, such as a new baby, some success in the nation, or recovery from an illness. Thank offerings are sometimes mentioned in connection with proclaiming God’s word (Psalm 107:20) and especially with fulfilling a vow (Psalm 50:14, 56:12 and 2 Chronicles 29:31).

The thing to notice about these sacrifices and offerings is that none of them are the sacrifices required to atone for sins. The implication is that true faith in God for Old Testament believers meant the same thing that it does for us who are New Testament believers. Faith is the organ by which we receive all of God’s blessings, including the forgiveness of sins. Where there is faith in Christ, there is no longer any sacrifice or recompense for sin that is required. The writer to the Hebrews quoted from a later chapter of Jeremiah (31:33,34) this way: “He (Jeremiah quoting the Lord) adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:17,18). This is pure gospel, the debt of sin paid in our place by God himself. Jeremiah contrasts the gospel with the law, the unquenchable fire of hell burning even the gates of Jerusalem. But we put our trust in Jesus. In him we have full forgiveness and peace. In him, heaven becomes our familiar landmark; the only place we want to be.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.