When the Jews offered sacrifices, we note that God has something to say about what happened to the blood of the sacrifices. Eight times in Leviticus, we read where God expected the priests (or Moses) to put blood on the horns of the altar, and then the rest of the blood was to be poured “at the bottom of the altar” (Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34, 5:9, 8:15, 9:9).
As I read these passages and thought about the animals offered, I got to thinking that it would not take long for this area to stink and, on occasion, have blood pooled up around the altar after the priests had offered many sacrifices. In the days of Solomon when the Temple was built, the Bible speaks of 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep offered to God (I Kings 8:63)! Think of feast days such as the Passover and other times when the multitudes had gathered and offered their sacrifices! Can we fathom the volume of blood that poured from that altar?
Is there any wonder why God required the numerous washings by the priests and commanded them to wash their hands and feet before going into the Tabernacle and Temple? Their hands and feet would have been coated in blood! I wonder how long it would be before the laver itself, once filled with water for their purification, had become blood-red?
Why did God require blood in connection with the sacrifices? “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Blood was necessary in God’s plan. These people needed to see the price of sin. They needed to understand that the consequences of sin were bloody and ugly. They needed to know that sin affected more than just the individual and that, yes, sometimes the innocent will suffer for the deeds of the wicked!
Don’t we also need to understand the price of sin? Don’t we also need to see that the consequences of our sins are bloody, ugly, and affect other people besides ourselves? Don’t we need an object lesson that our sins will hurt innocent people? I believe if we truly faced what our sins do, then sin would not look the same to us anymore! It would repulse us, and we would want to get away from it. Just like when Judas threw the money back at the chief priests and elders in the Temple after Jesus was condemned to death (Matt. 27:1-5), we also would run away from our sins when we understand what it did to the innocent One!
Remember that Christ, the “Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29), died as the sacrifice for man’s sin. He suffered, and His blood poured out from His various wounds as He died on the cross (Zech. 13:1)! Look with the eye of faith to His sacrifice and understand “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Yes, the “Just” suffered for the “unjust” (I Pet. 3:18)! His blood was shed “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). After He died, a cruel soldier pierced His side “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (Jn. 19:34).
Every time blood was shed and poured at the altar in Old Testament days, it pointed to the blood of the innocent One whose blood could take away sin (Heb. 9:24-26, 10:4)! His blood poured down to the ground and pooled around the cross for a time. Perhaps folks there stepped in it? We know there were many gathered around His cross (Jn. 19:24-27; Mk. 15:29-32; Matt. 27:47-49). I am sure some Roman soldiers had Christ’s literal blood on their hands and clothes since some argued and gambled over His bloody garment (Matt. 27:35, Jn. 19:24), and others had whipped and beat Jesus’ back (Matt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; Jn. 19:1)! No doubt Christ’s blood could be seen at the whipping post, and from here, one could follow His blood trail to Golgotha! Now, as Christ is suspended between heaven and earth, we see Jesus’ blood drip down and pool at the ground! What a bloody altar the cross is!
The people of the Old Testament knew something about blood and something about the cost of sin. Do we appreciate that cost? Jesus died so we might live (II Cor. 5:14-15; Rom. 12:1-2). His stripes heal us (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24)! His blood cleanses us (Rev. 1:5, 7:14)! His blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 1:18-19)! Have we ever paused to consider the actual cost of sin and the magnificence of Christ’s sacrifice?
When the Jewish people looked at the bloody altar at the Tabernacle or Temple, they came to realize the reality of sin. What will we do when we look at Christ’s blood?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these” (Jer. 7:4, KJV). The NET records this passage as, “Stop putting your confidence in the false belief that says, “We are safe! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here! The temple of the LORD is here!” What was going on with these people in Jeremiah’s day?
In context, notice that God has sent Jeremiah to warn this sinful nation of their sin. He went to the gate of the Temple and cried out, “amend your ways and your doings” (Jer. 7:2-3). They responded, “The Temple of the Lord,” as if God would spare them from destruction because the Temple was in Jerusalem. They were reminded twice in this chapter not to trust in those lying words. The mere fact the Temple was in Jerusalem would not save them when the Babylonian army swept over them.
What would save them? God said salvation would come when they “amend” or change their ways (Jer. 7:5). In other words, repent, and they would be allowed to dwell in the land (v. 7). Notice that the key to their salvation was not in having the Temple in Jerusalem but living as God told them to live (v. 5-7). Even though many years had passed, the words of Joshua 24:14 were still true, and they needed to worship God “in sincerity and in truth”! They could not “ride the fence” by practicing their abominations and then turn around, beaming about having the Temple there (Jer.7:9-15). That Temple was made of physical material and could be destroyed (and was, II Kings 25)!
Friend, beware that you don’t have the same attitude as the Israelites of old did. It is easy to slip into the mindset that I am bound for Heaven so long as I am a member or have my name on the “roll” of a sound church. This is not always the case! Don’t misunderstand; we know that salvation comes through Christ (Lk. 19:10), and all those who are saved are added to His church (Acts 2:38-47). My point is that we must examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5) and make sure our actions match our words (Rev. 22:14; Lk. 6:46)! The people in Jeremiah’s day had to “amend” or change their ways because their actions did not match their words (Jer. 7:9-11). It takes more than merely having our names written on a piece of paper to be saved. We must be active in the Lord’s work (I Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10; Jas. 1:22-25; Heb. 5:9)!
It pains me to say this, but there will be people condemned to an eternity in Hell because their actions, speech, and thoughts were not in line with the Scriptures (II Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46). Yes, some of these will be people who claim to be members of the Lord’s church. Why will this happen? It will happen because they weren’t slaves to God (Rom. 12:1-2) but obeyed only when they felt like it. When they were confronted with their sin, they said, “I’m a member of the Lord’s body!” Just like those folks said, “The Temple of the Lord!” As if that were all that was required! Sadly, Christ will say, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). Let’s learn a lesson from this text and not act like those in Jeremiah 7!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In Jeremiah chapter two, God declares that His people had committed “two evils” (v. 13). These evils were: “they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” In short, this verse tells us why the people were in the shape they were in, spiritually. This explains why they were facing an enemy like Babylon and why Jeremiah, and other prophets, had warned the people of their unrepentant sin and impending doom for years. At the same time, this verse gives us insight into why our country and society are in the shape it is in today! What can we learn from this short passage (Rom. 15:4)?
Judah’s problem was that they had forsaken the “fountain of living waters.” The phrase “living water” would be stated again in Jeremiah 17:13. This was repeated in the New Testament when Christ referred to the living water He could give to the Samaritan woman and whoever else wished to have it (Jn. 4:14). Revelation 22:17 tells us that “whosoever will, may take of the water of life freely.”
Notice that forsaking God meant forsaking the “living water.” The Jews had forsaken God through their words and deeds. Have we not done the same? Look around and note the immorality, the utter abandon for anything that reminds us of God. In America, Christians have not “resisted unto blood” yet; but at times, the majority will make Christians feel ashamed for mentioning God, the Bible, truth, morality, godly standards, etc., in public. Our children learn early that it is hard to stand alone in school. I can remember numerous times where I stood alone in the face of friends, teachers, and others and had to say I would do what the Lord said even if others did not like it. Friends, have you had to make such stands? I am sure many of our dear readers have. When we stand like Jeremiah, Amos, and numerous others did in history, people might tell you to keep your religion to yourself or tell you to keep your beliefs “private.” This is because the majority has rejected the “fountain of living waters”! We have laws in our land that allow murder, fornication, drinking, gambling, and many other things. Our country has legalized many things God calls sin. Then, the majority of the people engage in these things because they are legal! Is there any wonder why I am finding a small number of people who are now ready to listen to God and do His will? They have tried what Satan and the world have to offer, and they are dehydrated! They need the true water and will find it nowhere else but with Christ (Jn. 4).
The last part of Jeremiah 2:13 notes what happens when people reject God. You see, if man rejects God (Jehovah) in his life, then he does not simply forget God. He must then put another “god” in Jehovah’s place! Please notice in this passage that it wasn’t enough that men rejected God, the “fountain of living water.” What happened next? They still needed water, so they went and dug their own cisterns (v. 13)! The problem was that the cisterns they dug could not hold water! Physically, we would think a person foolish who has access to a clear stream, where he might use free water, who then digs a cistern to carry water to his house. Yet, we do this spiritually when we reject God but then invent our own “gods!”
This is what Paul (by inspiration) said that the Gentiles did at one point. He showed that these people were so wicked that they “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). What they had done was “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image make like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). Notice that these people didn’t reject God and then stop worshipping anything. Instead, they rejected God and found another god (in the case of the Gentiles, they created many)!
We have committed these same two evils today! We have rejected God and then made our own gods to worship! While some may think I overstate a case, I don’t believe I have. When God is taken off of His throne, men will put something or someone in that place. It might be a job, some physical pursuit, or hobby. It may be self, family, etc., but something will go in that spot! Sadly, we have elected officials who have been only too willing through the years to legalize sins so that they could be reelected! Rest assured, whatever we select in place of God will be a poor substitute -- just as poor as rejecting cool, clean water for drinking water we get from a leaky cistern! Rest assured, we will also suffer as those people suffered for rejecting God! “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). That was true in Old Testament days, and it is true today! If we wish to avoid the consequences of our sinful behavior, then let us repent of our sins now (II Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30)! Let us turn back to God while we still can! We didn’t get this way in a day, and it will take more than a day to make all the corrections necessary. However, if we don’t start today, when will we start (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)? If we do not act now, when will we act? What is it going to take for us to listen to God? Let’s begin today to aright the ship of this nation and not continue in the same error as Judah!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Our Lord Jesus asked His apostles, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37). These questions of Christ get my attention. In an age when we are told that possessing material goods is the purpose of life, we need to go back and listen to the Lord’s words here.
Please understand that one’s soul is his greatest possession. The eternal soul of man is of such value that Jesus died so that men’s souls might be saved (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9). The eternal soul of man is just that -- eternal. It will last after this world is on fire (II Pet. 3:10)! It is the immortal soul that continues. “Then shall the dust (our bodies) return to the earth as it was,” but the spirit of man will return to God’s care (Ecc. 12:7). Do we appreciate the true value of the soul?
I am not sure we always appreciate the value of the soul. As I observe men, I see them exchange their eternal souls for doctrinal error (Gal. 1:6-9, 3:1; Rom. 16:17; II Pet. 2:1-3). I see others exchanging their souls for drinking and drugs (I Pet. 4:3-4; Prov. 20:1; Gal. 5:19-21). Still, others will exchange their souls for ungodly acts like stealing, fornication, homosexuality, and lying (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:25-32). In other words, folks are saying that practicing these things are more important and are of a higher value than their souls’ salvation. Please reread Mark 8:36. What is actually gained when folks spend their lives in such sins?
We are very short-sighted, aren’t we? We think satisfying the flesh will result in a satisfied soul. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact is that if someone were able to acquire all of the gold in the world, the silver, the diamonds, the precious gems, the money, etc., none of this would equal the value of his soul.
Some, though, don’t even need this much to exchange their souls! Some will jeopardize their souls and even deny plain Scriptures to avoid contradicting family members or some respected person (Jn. 1:11; Mk. 7:6, 8-9, 13). Some do it by yielding to others’ ungodly pressure rather than listening to God (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 12:42-43). Yet, others exchange their souls by going back into the world after learning the truth (Lk. 8:14; II Tim. 4:10)! (Notice that I added Scripture references to show that the problems that plague us are the same problems that plagued people in the first century!)
Is it any wonder the words of Christ, not only in Mark 8 but throughout Scripture, are applicable today? Our needs and concerns are the same now as they were then. Our need to stand firm and hold tightly to our soul’s salvation is just as needed now as it ever was (I Thess. 5:21; II Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:23)!
Friend, what will you give in exchange for your soul? Could it be you have already done this? Some folks are exchanging their souls for personal pursuits, personal sins, and pleasing self, and they are being short-changed! Don’t allow this to happen to you!
We can avoid this happening to us when we deny ourselves and follow the Lord (Mk. 8:34)! We can prevent this by determining to live by faith (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6) and being baptized for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Then, we need to live a faithful life to the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Let us present our bodies as “a living sacrifice” to God (Rom. 12:1-2). We can make sure that our souls are not exchanged for the wrong things, but these kinds of actions and decisions must be made today! Now (II Cor. 6:2)! Some wait until it is too late. Don’t be like them!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The Pharisees were constantly at odds with Jesus and His disciples. No occasion makes it more defined than Mark 7:1-16. There, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not keeping “the tradition of the elders” (v. 3, 5). Mark explains that these people held their traditions in high regard. One such tradition had to do with the washing of their hands. They had been taught that unless one washes his hands to his elbows before eating, then the food he eats is considered unclean by God. By extension, eating this unclean food made the person unclean as well. Similarly, there was a demand for washing the pots, cups, and other vessels holding the food. Jesus would later say that He was more concerned about what came out of the mouth rather than what was put into the mouth (Mk. 7:15; Matt. 15:17-20).
Jesus then pointed out that they had another tradition that if someone gave a gift to the Temple, this exempted him from providing needed money and care to his parents (“Corban” - Mk. 7:11-13). This person could say essentially, “I gave at the Temple” rather than giving needed funds to his parents. Jesus said this and several other traditions had “made God’s word of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). God never intended for His commands to be placed at odds against each other. The Law of Moses granted people the ability to give a gift to the Temple and care for their parents. The Pharisees, in contrast, encouraged them to do one thing and exclude the other.
What does “tradition” mean? A tradition is simply something we’ve done for a long time. We can certainly think of many things we do as individuals, as a community, as a church, and as a nation that fit in the category of “traditional.” Traditions are not equal with inspired Scripture, though (II Tim. 3:16-17)! After reading Mark 7, we might all agree that it is a good idea to wash one’s hands and eat off of clean plates. Yet, Jesus showed how the people’s traditions had become sinful because they “set aside” God’s commands and made God’s word “of none effect” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Traditions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily sinful. It is when we place our traditions above God’s revealed will that we have a problem!
This is why I titled this essay “The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.” If we are not careful, we will end up treating a tradition as truth or as an unbreakable command when, in reality, it is not in that category at all! Let me hasten to add this is not an article condemning everything “traditional.” Paul even wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that some traditions come from God (II Thess. 2:15). Indeed, there are many things Christians (and non-Christians) do that, while traditional, aren’t sinful. Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) reveal, though, that men placing traditions above God’s commands is a real possibility. After years of practicing these, the Pharisees preferred their traditions to God’s word. In so doing, Jesus said they were sinning.
How can I know whether or not a tradition I am practicing will place me at odds with God’s word? A simple test is: Ask whether or not my tradition came from God (II Thess. 2:15, 3:6; I Pet. 4:11)? Am I doing something simply because “Dad and Mom” liked it, or a preacher said to do it, or because we as a nation have “always done it”? Am I doing something because I have found it authorized in the Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17)? Traditions can lead me into sin if I give them as much respect as I do the word of God.
When we look at traditions from this perspective, I hope we see that there are many things we do that can be called “traditional.” Are any of these traditions obstacles to our spiritual growth? If so, then those need to end! Practicing man’s traditions is not worth losing our souls (Matt. 16:26)!
God’s word must come first in my life (Matt. 6:33)! After that, everything else must fall into place. When we get this in the wrong order, we will have problems, but when we do it right, we will be blessed! The Pharisees’ problem was they placed their traditions above God’s will and were condemned for it. It got so bad they refused to recognize Jesus as Christ because He didn’t fit what they wanted. Let us learn the lesson and put Christ and the gospel first and lay our traditions aside when they conflict with what Christ has said! Let us get this right because our traditions will die one day, but the word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25; Ps. 119:89; etc.)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs