Have you ever traded something for something else and regretted it? When I was a kid we traded baseball cards – based on our favorite players and which ones we thought would be worth something someday. It was still a fun hobby as a child. Sports teams trade players and then later regret it. Sometimes trades do not pan out for our good.
This is true spiritually speaking as well. We can be guilty of trading religious actions in place of godly living. In Jeremiah 7 God laid into the Israelites for this. He said in vs. 4 “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” They thought as long as they had that symbol of God’s presence, they were just fine. But they had disconnected their religious actions in the temple from acts of mercy and justice for people around them.
We can be just as guilty. We may think: “As long as we are correct in our theology”; or, “As long as we go to church”; or, “As long as we get people baptized”; or, “As long as we take communion”; we can go ahead and live however we want during the rest of the week. It’s as if we think, “We can do as we please socially and morally as long as we have done all the things God wants us to do religiously.
But, He wants worship that is connected to the rest of our daily lives. In Isaiah chapter 1, God told them that He was tired of their religious actions that did not carry over into how they lived. Many have traded religious symbolism for the real life God desires in us. God won’t have it. He told them He would hide His eyes from them. But then, after all of that, He pleaded with them to repent and come back to a right relationship with Him. He wanted them to be obedient to those religious practices, but He also wanted them to change how they lived throughout the week and in how they treated others. He said, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Let’s praise God for His mercy and grace. But let’s not be guilty of trading religious symbolism for real and genuine godly living.