W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
SACRIFICE OF ARTIFICE
Gems in Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah
Micah 6:6-8 is justly famous.
It barks like a watchdog, bellows like a bull, screeches like a cockatoo and hoots like an owl.
all, it is immediately followed by 6:7-8, in which we learn that wisdom
will look with instruction on what is to come to sinning Jerusalem!" Treasures"
noted to be in her, are 'treasures of wickedness'. Let us then see this
in its setting, verses 7-11.
What DOES God want ? asks Micah under the hand of God.
With what shall I come before the Lord,Consider first Isaiah. In Isaiah 52-53 you have a complete, detailed world-map type of depiction of the salvation in the substitutionary sacrifice offered to sinners, of the Messiah. Yet in Isaiah 66:2-5, you have this:
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
The Lord’s voice cries to the city—
Wisdom shall see Your name:
“Hear the Rod!
Who has appointed it?
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness
In the house of the wicked,
And the short measure that is an abomination?
Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales,
And with the bag of deceitful weights?"
NOT acceptable per se is sacrifice in whatever NUMBERS, of whatever OBJECTS, not even if it should include one's own SON! Multiplicity of offering, quantity of sacrifice are not to the point.
You have to realise that God is there. You have to walk in His presence: not lunge into and out of it. You have to be in a companionable relationship with Him without arrogance or self-assertion, humbly, as a sheep with its shepherd. You have to love.
Lovingkindness, mercy, kindly reliability must reside in your heart as a thing to be loved! It must not be there with screeching brakes, as you seek to avoid it as an object of horror, or of undue cost. It must reside in your bosom like delight.
JUSTICE is the thing you are to embrace. It is to issue from you as water from the hills in the rainy season.
This is no case of the merciless skinflint, the ardent fire without understanding. You have to be a lover of love, a triumph for tender-heartedness, and in you is there to be a lavish delight in mercy, that does not dismiss justice, and so truth, but seeks to rescue without its denial, and to help without its disregard.
This is what God loves. This is the sort of approach that He can hear. Where godliness is, there God is pleased. But does this mean that you have to BE godly, to be heard ? How then would you become godly if you were not, but wished to become so ?
Micah has in Ch. 5 sketched the coming of the Saviour. He has even indicated in short, abrupt vignette, the vicarious offering of Christ, seen in the context of the other prophets, such as Zechariah in 2:8, 3:9, 4, 6, 11:12-13, 12:10, 13:7 and Isaiah in 52-55, Daniel in 9:24ff., the Psalms in 2, 16, 22, 40 (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25), 49:7,15, Hosea in 13:14, Ezekiel in 34 and 16:60-63 with Jeremiah 23:6 and 31:31-34.
If then Micah indicates that deity will come and suffer violence in the execution of mercy to man (Micah 5:1-3), and is so specific as to indicate the birthplace, and this reposes happily in the whole nexus of prophetic diction, concerning the Saviour, GOD being the ONLY Saviour from sin (Isaiah 43:10-11, 53), how is it that he appears to slight sacrifice in chapter 6 ?
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
“He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word:
“Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”
The very art of sacrifice is reduced to something at least akin to manslaughter! How could this be ? Even in Isaiah 66 later, we find reference to sacrifices!
The case is clear. There is to be a choosing of their delusions, we find after this announcement concerning sacrifice. Isaiah 66 (see With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength which covers much of the book in detail) is dealing with the end time, and indeed ends with the redeemed looking with horror on hell.
Isaiah 53 has dealt in detail with the NEW sacrifice in the NEW covenant on which both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, in the references listed above, dwell with force. It has shown the mighty God (op.cit.) come as a sacrifice. What then ? Is it not a delusion to be looking to animal sacrifice AFTER THAT! Would not one need to be doomed into confusion, lassoed like a colt in impetuous frenzy, and jerked to a halt, if by any means it might not hurl itself against the rails of a corral ? To ignore the new covenant is dead. To ignore the death of God in human form is incredible, astounding, eerily horrendous, making all other oblivion to suffering a mere bagatelle BY COMPARISON.
The lesser is reduced to zero because it is consummated in the greater. It is a case as Paul puts it, of the glory which surpasses (II Corinthians 3:7-10):But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.To CLING to the lesser, the symbol, in the presence of the SUBSTANCE, the code when the reality is presented, the photograph you kept until you met your foreign bride, and to look with lavish regard on this when she is now by your side: this is an abominable delusion indeed. Small wonder the author of Hebrews has such a challenge in Ch. 10 about treading under foot the blood of Christ (v.29). Imagine if someone was keen on the Life Saver's club at some beach, and then, having had a member lay down his life to help him, continued to rejoice in the garden, and ignored the man!
If then this is the message of consistent Isaiah, as he takes the mind and heart from the day of Christ's sacrifice to the end of the Age, and surveys the scene in the light of what he has so amply propounded from the Lord, is it not also applicable in Micah, who likewise has in this case, in the preceding chapter outlined the vignette of the Saviour in very practical form, dwelling on His utter humiliation who was both deity and only Saviour, and the abhorrence of treating the JUDGE of all with judgment ?
Assuredly it is. In Isaiah 1 likewise you have one of the most utter and complete denunciations of assemblies and sacrifices you could ever wish. It is irony and spiritual assault on complacency and superficiality, on cold formalism and deceitful hearts which merely trade in religion in order to bring success, prosperity or some other thing, with whatever ... accompaniments seem fitting.
Here in a parallel of might, set differently, but no less excoriatingly, is the contribution from the prophet Micah.
- Sacrifice without spiritual realisation is mere mathematics.
- It can even be selfish folly, such as the sacrifice of one's child for one's own soul, a sermon in stony-heartedness if ever there was one. This is not the actual result of the actual presence of the Saviour, whose IS the salvation (cf. Ezekiel 11:19).
- Incense can be an atrocity, like swine's blood intruding illegally in utter indifference, into the sacrificial scene.
But WHY, why and why ?
It is because sacrifice has to have spiritual discernment to relate to the God who is personal, who has personal grounds of contempt for sin, personal messages of love to remedy it and provides sacrifice in the MILIEU of faith to receive it, humility to see the NEED of it, justice to relate to the CALL for it, and trust in God to realise that it is He, and not some performance, in which it all rests. HIS is the reception, HIS is the conception, HIS is the inspection of heart, OURS is the repentance into life itself, OURS is the adventure into eternity, receipt of life itself from the heart of God. Without this, it is an abomination, a contempt for reality, a sacramentalist seduction of the human spirit, a formalistic dysfunction, manipulating with verbal tongs or spiritual seductiveness, the very means of finding truth.
This is the message alike found in Isaiah 1 and 66, in Micah 6 and indeed, in some measure, with its own specialisation, in Jeremiah 7, thus:
Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:First, they had other gods as well. This is fatal. It is spiritual adultery. It is the social philosophy of our times, to patronise all, love none, or use one's own as a sort of practical walking cane, while bowing to all. We have looked at this in detail in Ch. 1 above, in Malachi, and in the preceding volume, Red Alert ...“Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.'“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer ..."
"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.
“But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works,” says the Lord, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren - the whole posterity of Ephraim.
Then, they had a fixation on the temple as a bulwark of spiritual power. It is the Old Testament parallel to trust in a church, as in the pathological attitude of Romanism, which used it to propound wholly non-Christian doctrine making a man a Master when the Master forbad just that (Matthew 23:;8-10). New doctrines fell into place, and behold the impostor. ANYTHING, whether priest or temple, sacrifice or sacrament which is NOT the Lord, and in which TRUST is placed, is merely a substitute for God, and is no part of walk with Him, but as Micah and Jeremiah make so clear, a provocation to Him, a contempt for Him and an abuse of revelation by a sort of spiritual coup d'état. (Cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H.)
What however of the case when it is the sacrifice of Christ Himself that is the object of worship and trust ? Is THIS surely not satisfactory ? Can one not very properly find in this the object of worship, the centre of spiritual gravity, the foundation and the ground of life ?
The question is a searching one. Strictly, taking the proposal as it stands, the answer is this: it is NOT satisfactory.
It has elements of greatness, and a fatal element of error.
It is in CHRIST Himself that one must believe. THIS is His central work of God to be wrought in the heart of man (John 6:29, Acts 11:18), this objective Lord, with that objective sacrifice together with the resurrection which is in one sense, its obverse side. But if you ONLY trust in what He has done, which is what it comes to, and have yet not trusted in Him, alive from the dead, a person who has a will and a way, then you fall short by concentrating so on sacrifice that you forget that it was the prelude in passion to resurrection in power, and that this is the prescription for presence with pardon and guidance from God.
In short: GLORY in the cross of Christ is what we have often stressed on this site (cf. Question and Answer 2). It is a purifying beauty, an essential approach, a basic and inalienable, a sure and right, a natural and necessary thing. Galatians 6:14 not only forbids one to fail to do this, but leads with passionate desire into this very thing. That however is not to TRUST in it. The trust is in HIM! (John 6:40,47). It is because of this very thing that one is able to eat and drink, emblematically of receiving His salvation. Since HE is the Saviour, receiving HIM is the prime requisite (John 1:12); in His capacity as Saviour is the sure result. The dynamic of dealing with the divine, however, is not limited to His deeds; you are to believe in Him if need be BECAUSE of these, yet believe in HIM, categorically (John 14:11).
Thus is found that poignant and powerful word in John 5:39-40:
The word GUIDES TO the Christ, and the WORK gives ground for pardon, and secures it, when it is to CHRIST JESUS THE LORD that one comes, by faith appropriating Himself as Saviour and His performance in love and power, as the mode of His gift.
- "You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."
It is he who "believes in the Son" who has everlasting life (John 36), and He who "does not believe the Son" who shall not see life. It is in HIM that fruit, favour, function and salvation is found. BY HIM, and in Him, find it; but do not omit the PERSON whose it is, in seeking, like some greedy relative, the fruits in the will!
The glory of what the Saviour did is CENTRAL, REQUISITE, A QUINTESSENTIAL EXPRESSION OF HIS LOVE, THE CERTIFICATION OF SIN'S CANCELLATION. Let us not forget to glory in the cross of Christ, but then the word has not finished, uttered by Paul: "by Whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world."
THIS it is which Micah is manifesting. Jeremiah attests it. God without regeneration of man, is not a known God. The God who regenerates as in Isaiah 66:2, is one who is feared in the sense of having His holiness and word inset like jewels in a ring. The regeneration which comes from pardon, approach to God in terms of it and forgiveness with favour is one which is active, not passive, enacted not merely thought, but in life, in love and in power.
- It is a glorying which is not only indicative of greatness, but effectual in result.
- It is one which attends on a change of heart, a transformation of values, a grace and not a gimmick, a grandeur that is of God, into whose life it expressly leads, and from all alliterative life it decidedly directs.
- It is not a mere moral recognition; it is a spiritually transformative relationship.
- It is not a mere legal cancellation, though it is not less; for it is inherent in the love which provided just that, and the power supply which attends on just that, when man again meets with, walks with and knows his God!
Now let us consider Titus and Romans where noted above. The former of these texts is as follows:
- Salvation through the cross of Christ, yes and His resurrection which so intimately attends it, this is not a ground of self-assertion, as if to hoodwink God with a few well-chosen words (as in Jeremiah 7).
- It is a centre of profundity, an entry into an operation, an opening into glory, that of God who knows and directs, leads and enables, gives joy and grace, moves mountains and provides peace. (Cf. Titus 3:5-7, Romans 8 in its earlier verses.) This is the core of the conception, but it is the Lord Himself who is the reality, Himself who DID it, planned it from eternity, so that it was performed in humiliation, executed in His execution, authenticated in the resurrection (Romans 1:4), applied by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:14), who convicting the heart of sin, righteousness and judgment, brings entrance to the soul into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13).
- It is in Him that one trusts, eternally secured in this core, covered in this work, in Him, who is alive to keep, transforming to know.
- Trusting in the Lord is a personal thing between two personal beings: God and man. It has warrant for eternity, ground for faith, action for covenant, eternal assurance in His word of covenant (John 6:51-54); and it has a provision so objective that the subject who receives HIM in this covenant is received as a child of God, whose "seed remains in him" (I John 3:9). It is as wry to trust in the work of the Lord, without realising the LORD as the object of one's trust, as it is to trust in His word without following it to HIM, or in one's own powers or perceptions, as if to make these joint saviour. Salvation is of the Lord and to and through the Lord, who is not a transit station, but the beginning and the end of the whole gift of eternal life, in whom it is found, from whom it comes.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.The latter:
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors - not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
In Titus we see the washing and renewing, in Romans the moral constraint which is endemic, intrinsic, because the Spirit of God will not leave us orphans, and because sin being quelled, its cause is quelled likewise, the sinner being repentant not merely of sin as performer, but of sin as the performer (Galatians 2:20, 5:24, Romans 8:2,8-10), which latter being changed, the heart is not merely regenerated but irradiated. The old nature is not merely forgiven but broken in death and ill-repute. God is glorified not in mere formalism, but in functionality. It is not an effort to try to change; that is moralism. It is a dynamic which secures change: that is the knowledge of God.
The form is testimony to the fact, and the fact is earnest for the function. Where it is a fact, the function follows. Good trees bear good fruit. The fruit of course does not MAKE them good trees, the folly of moralism, and formalism; but the tree does make good fruit. In the case of the vine, Christ made it clear that the branch in Him cannot do else. It may be imperfect, but it is ATTACHED. It is not possible for the attached branch to fail. It is part of the vine and that is Christ, for those who are His are members of His body, and have thus obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11), and discarded the other inheritance, not only in form, but in fact and hence in function (Hebrews 8:10). It may seek to obtrude; it is unable to repossess (Galatians 3:29 with 5:16-27).
The friendship of God, as Abraham had and His servants find, this is a transforming fellowship, a power through faith, a wonder of beauty in holiness which is both majestic and effectual, so that those who sacrifice truth, as in the Bible, for 'beauty in worship' or some such thing, allowing the pleasure of 'the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these' as in Jeremiah 7, to become a priority: these stand ready to lose the reality for their short-sightedness. It is never LESS THAN GOD HIMSELF PERSONALLY who is to be the trust, the portent, the power, the presence and the companion. It is NOTHING LESS THAN THAT.The cross opens the door,Thus ends the sacrifice of artifice, its dynamic of confusion illicit; and in its place is the requisite, 'an Israelite in whom is no guile', who out of the treasure of his heart, brings forth fruit. And what is IN his heart ? It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory". NOTHING can replace this. NOTHING can avail AT ALL, without this. But if you are HIS, this is an irreducible, irrepressible, inevitable and assured result (Romans 8:9-10). It is not something extra. The SAVIOUR is not something EXTRA to salvation! He IS it and has DONE it and it is in HIM that it is found. As Hosea puts it, "In ME is your fruit found!" (14:8). It is GOD who HIMSELF performs the ransom (13:14), and it is GOD who HIMSELF provides the fruit. What is His own, He inhabits.
the resurrection provides the pastor, and confirms the authenticity so providing cover (Romans 4:25ff.),
the Good Shepherd with the Holy Spirit, in view of the blood, freely provides access (Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:15-22, I Cor. 12:13, Ephesians 1:11-13, 2:18).
The 'success' is spirituality, godliness, virtue, love of brethren, love first of God, bearing all things, doing the will of God from the heart, making up as modern exhibits, what remains of the suffering of Christ, not to redeem, His alone (Gal. 6:14, 9:11-5, I Peter 1:18-19, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 3:1-13), but to attest the reality of the Lord who having done the work of redemption, now acts in the redeemed!
The word of the Lord is sure, certain, coherent, consistent, deep, searching, a light to the path, a challenge to the heart, always rewarding when researched, active and mighty, steadfast and true in all its ways. It never varies. It applies to the heart, satisfies the mind, stirs the spirit and feeds the soul.
That is what you would expect, when the LORD of creation speaks. He is verified in all His ways, because all His ways are truth.