Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rituals

Every church has a ritual, whether it is an Independent Baptist Church or an Anglo-Catholic Church and churches on either end and in between. The liturgical churches have a planned ritual. The non-liturgical churches have a ritual by default.

At the worst, rituals become idolatrous; at the best, they are figures of the true; between the best and the worst, they are dead traditions. Normally they start as figures and end up as idols. The rituals described in detail in the Old Testament were meant to be figures of the true. We see this in Hebrews, chapters seven through ten.

Long before these rituals were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, they had ceased to be figures; they became the real thing to the people who practiced them. When this happened they were no longer acceptable to God even as figures.

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:10-20 NIV)

Sodom is not the subject; Jerusalem and Judah are the subjects (vs 1).
There is an example of this when Jesus used the bronze serpent to open up the gospel to Nicodemus in John 3:14:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. (NIV)

This bronze serpent, the symbol of Sin and Death also symbolized Jesus who was made sin for us. This symbol, this figure of the cross, became an idol to the people for seven hundred years until Hezekiah had it destroyed.

He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.) (2 Kings 18:4 NIV)

Now the cross has become an idol and sometimes a fetish.
Whatever the ritual, do you know its significance? Has it lost its significance?

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