A second “woe” concerns ritual that is devoid of spirit. God taunts Jerusalem to awaken them to how heartfelt worship was missing from their rituals (29:1). The city will become something like an altar hearth (“Ariel”) for God’s judgment (29:2). The Lord’s instrument of judgment will lay siege to the city (29:3); still, Jerusalem’s plea for relief will amount to nothing more than a whisper from the dead, just as empty as their worship had been (29:4).
Jerusalem’s enemies will see even worse. They will be “blown away” like fine dust (29:5). God’s drama of fiery judgment contrasts the drama of empty ritual in Jerusalem (29:6). The destruction of her enemies, however, will be so completely overwhelming that any thoughts of victory will pass as quickly as the faded memory of a hungry man’s dream (29:7-8). Empty ritual leads Jerusalem to spiritual blindness (29:9). The same holds true for prophets who could have spoken God’s word to Jerusalem but did not (29:10). God’s word remains a mystery to those who blind themselves with mindless repetitions of empty ritual (29:11-12).
Worship rituals are important to the faith of God’s people, but more important to God are the hearts of people toward Him. Ritual alone only detracts from a relationship with Him. What are meaningless motions to the God who acts with purpose (29:13)? Still, God in his mercy will again make known the wisdom of true worship. At that time, the empty ways of their leaders who misled them will pass from the scene (29:14).
Another woe concerns the false idea that one can keep secrets from God (29:15). He is mysterious to His people, but they are not at all a mystery to Him: “How stupid can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you” (29:16, NLT).
A new day is promised (29:17). God will reverse the ill circumstances of the faithful and lead them to praise Him (29:18-19). Those who live by insult and entrapment, however, will be “cut off” (29:20-21). The One who delivered Abraham from idolatry and changed Jacob the deceiver into the father of Israel (29:22) will also deliver a repentant and holy people to honor and respect the name of the Holy One of Israel (29:23). At that time, they will openly recognize truth and be taught of God (29:24), just as God originally expected (1:3).
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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