September 7 I Friday
1 Corinthians 16
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire—but my ears You have opened… I desire to do your will, my God, Your law is within my heart.” —Psalm 40:6,8
During the days of Eli the priest, the spiritual atmosphere of Israel was at a low ebb. “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions”
(1 Samuel 3:1). People came to the temple and would see the activity of the priests but would not see the activity of God. There was little sense of direction or revelation from Him. For many, it was just a cold sense of routine week after week after week.
As priests, Eli and his sons were responsible for carrying out one of Israel’s most important worship practices: the sacrificial offerings. They were up to their elbows in the blood of sacrificial animals day in and day out, but they failed to understand that the value of a ritual is never found in the ritual itself. Behind every ritual lies a reality it is meant to depict. For example, offering the blood of bulls, goats and lambs demonstrated the holiness of God, the sinfulness of humanity, and the people’s need for being redeemed and reconciled to Him. In the larger context of salvation history, these sacrifices, which covered sin, pointed to and found their fulfillment in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, which dealt with sin completely.
When someone engages in a ritual but does not care about the reality, the ritual replaces the reality. We become satisfied with the process instead of God Himself. Then one of two things occur: we either desecrate the ritual and see it as totally meaningless, or we deify the ritual and make it the all-important thing. The result is doing the ritual for its own sake, rather than experiencing the life and vitality that comes from spiritual reality.
No matter how long someone has been a believer, none are exempt from the potential slippery slide into form and routine. Though the Old Testament rituals have all found their fulfillment in Christ, there are other repeated practices Christians sometimes fall back on. We might read Scripture out of obligation instead of as the incredible opportunity for us to meet with and know God. Church attendance becomes a ritual when we engage in the formalities of Sunday but do not let what we hear affect us the rest of the week.
Finding and maintaining spiritual reality is one of the deepest needs in the church of Jesus Christ. When we lose the reality of God, the Christian life quickly becomes a performance. But when we repent of our ritualism and ask God to restore to us an awareness of Himself, He will replace spiritually lifeless performance with personal experience of His power, presence and life.
Prayer: By Your Spirit, Lord, fill me with Yourself. Remove any spiritual blindness I may be experiencing, restore to me the joy of Your salvation and make me increasingly aware of You.