The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ (Jeremiah 7:1-4)
In Jeremiah chapter seven, the Lord told Jeremiah to stand outside the gates of the temple. He then told him to proclaim His words to the people that were going into the temple. God was very angry with these worshippers. They had become so degenerate they were chasing after false gods. They were also stealing, murdering, committing adultery and even burning their children as sacrifices to false gods. Yet, on the Sabbath, they showed up to the temple to worship God, BELIEVING that all was forgiven because THEY WERE GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE. And God told them (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You think that is going to save you from my wrath? You think by walking through these doors on the Sabbath, you are automatically forgiven of all your sins, cleansed, and made new just because you're here? I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh!" (Jeremiah 7:9-15)
Jeremiah 17:19-27 touches on the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and what the consequences would be for the children of Israel if it was not kept holy. As I read these verses I wondered why, when Scripture clearly says the Sabbath is the seventh day, Christians did not keep this commandment. We try to keep all the rest of the Ten Commandments. Why not this one? So I thought I'd do a little digging as to why we worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday, and if we are wrong to do so.
First off, we need to remember why the Sabbath was created in the first place.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
We can see from the verse above that it was on the seventh day that God finished all His work and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. His work was finished. His accomplishment was complete, so He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. Why? Because that was the day He rested. Are you catching this? It was HIS DAY to rest. God's day, set aside solely for Him, to rest. This was before the Ten Commandments. Before Moses, before Abraham and before Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. The seventh day was always holy to God. It wasn't until the Ten Commandments were given to Moses that God commanded His people to honour His Day, the Sabbath Day. How were they to honour it? By doing the same thing God did - rest.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Who was allowed to work on the Sabbath Day? No one. Not even the animals or strangers who were within the gates of the Israelite's camp (this was before Jerusalem) were allowed to work. And once again we are given the reason why - because the Lord rested on the seventh day, blessed it and hallowed it (sanctified or made it holy). So, was this commandment only for the Jews? God did choose them to be His chosen people - to show the rest of the world how to honour Him, but the Sabbath was made for man, not just Jews (Mark 2:27). Yes, when the Ten Commandments were given they were given to the Jews, but they have been the basis for right and wrong for both Christians and Jews for centuries. Yet, out of all the commandments - do not kill, do not lie, do not steal, etc., we ignore the command to honour the read Sabbath day. Why?
There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that the Sabbath was ever any other day but Saturday (the seventh day). The Jews have observed the Sabbath as Saturday for over 5000 years. It might not have been known as Saturday then, but it was always considered the seventh day. Jesus observed it and his apostles observed it, so why don't His followers?
The first Christians were Jews and so they continued to keep the Sabbath holy as was their custom. And just as it was Jesus' custom to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, the apostles carried on this tradition. But it should be noted that when Gentiles began to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, some Jewish Christians believed they should be obeying Mosaic Law. So the apostles met and discussed the issue (Acts 15) and this was the decision given by the Apostle James (Jesus' brother): “Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20). Oddly, Sabbath-keeping was not one of the commands the apostles felt was necessary to force on Gentile believers. Why? Because they were already observing it by following the example of the Apostles (Acts 13:42-44).
It wasn't until after all the Apostles were gone, that heresies and false doctrines crept into the church about how to observe the Sabbath Day, mainly through the influence of the Emperor Constantine when he converted to Christianity. For it was his influence, along with a growing antisemitism for the Jews, that created a division in regards to the Sabbath that has lasted until this day. It was also because of Constantine that pagan festivals were introduced as a way to keep his mostly pagan nation appeased over his insistence that Christianity was the true faith. This is how the pagan celebrations of Christmas and Easter were brought into the church (but that's a topic for another time), today I want to address why Sunday is observed as the Sabbath rather than Saturday.
There are many reasons why Christians began to observe Sunday as a day of importance. Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday for one (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). He appeared to many of his followers on Sunday as well (John 20:11-18; Matthew. 28:7-10; Luke 24:34; Luke 24:15-32). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost (the feast of Unleavened Breast) was also on a Sunday (Leviticus 23:4-8). But nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that the Apostles suddenly stopped obeying the Law to honour the Sabbath Day and switched instead to making Sunday as the Sabbath.
Yes, there are indications that the early believers met on the first day of the week to eat together (Acts 20:7). In fact, Scripture is clear, they met together every day in the Temple and broke bread together every day in each others homes (Acts 2:46-47). But the idea of them not honouring Saturday as the Sabbath was never an issue for the early believers, because in this the Apostles, like Jesus, honoured the Lord by keeping His Sabbath Day Holy.
Now many point to Revelation 1:10, where John states that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" as proof that the early Christians considered Sunday as the Sabbath Day. But what they fail to remember when quoting this verse is Jesus' divinity and authority as God. He not only is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), but He is the one who created the Sabbath Day and made it holy.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
When writing the Ten Commandments, God called it the “Sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10). In Isaiah 58:13 God called the Sabbath "My holy day." It is clear then that "the Lord's Day" is and always has been the Sabbath Day (Saturday). The argument could be made that Jesus looks at the intent of the Law, not the letter of it. So, if we are keeping Sunday as our day to honour God then God should be okay with that. Should He? But, by what right do we have to undo a day God specifically set aside for Himself - that He sanctified and made holy? Who are we to change the Laws of God? You might argue that Jesus abolished all the laws. But Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). In fact, Jesus said that if we loved Him we would keep His commandments (John 14:15). Should the church therefore repent and return to honouring the Lord on His actual day? This is something each Christian will have to decide and pray about as we await the Lord's return.
Read Jeremiah 17:1-13
My mother in-law was a very wise woman. She would often remind us never to put our trust in man, but to put our trust in God, who always keeps His promises and will never let you down. In today's reading, Jeremiah says something similar and relays from the Lord this stern warning about those who put their trust in man:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
As I read those words it made me think of "words" in general and who we listen to, because those whom we give an ear to tend to influence us the most. In particular, I'm thinking about those who call themselves preachers, speaking on behalf of God, and do so either through television, books, or from the pulpit in their churches on Sunday morning. Their words often times become our "words of wisdom" and we take them as gold. Yet many times we don't look at those "words" closely enough to see how they align with Scripture. We inadvertently trust in the man (or woman) who preaches them and end up making that man or woman our strength. Pithy sayings become our new mantra, such as this one from Joel Osteen, "We were old sinners - but when we came to Christ we are not sinners anymore." Nice words, that "sound" scriptural but aren't. Yet, our beliefs and convictions become aligned with each new book released by these celebrity preachers, and slowly but surely, without ever realizing it, our allegiance to God is replaced by trusting in man's word rather than God's Word. As the verse above suggests, "flesh" becomes our strength, because we are relying on what we can do or say to make change happen in our lives.
By now, many in the evangelical community recognize those who are false prophets/teachers/preachers. We know that the prosperity gospel is wrong, the grace doctrine is wrong and the name it and claim it doctrine also goes against scripture. We know and recognize the names of those celebrity. preachers whom we need to stay clear of, people like - Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and others, who preach false doctrines contrary to the Word of God. Most of us know by now that the Word of Faith community has strayed greatly from the Word of God. Unfortunately, many are still putting their trust in these celebrities to their own detriment. I have said it before, those who follow after false preachers will suffer the same fate God has in store for those who teach false doctrines (2 John 1:10-11). They are like the verses above suggest, cursed. They will never grow in their relationship with God, because they have never fully trusted in Him, instead preferring to lean on the "wisdom" of man. Relying on positive, upbeat messages that encourage people to use their words to speak into existence a better reality. Word of Faith preachers encourage people to put their trust in themselves (man) rather than in God and His Word. Unless they repent and turn back to God and trust in Him again, rather than false promises from false teachers, they will be like unsalted land - uninhabited - without God or His Holy Spirit.
But what does God say about those who trust in Him?
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
What happens when you trust in God and His Word, when your hope is in God alone and not in the false promises of man? You are like a tree planted by the waters, ever growing in the Lord, never ceasing to produce fruit in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. An intimate relationship develops through trusting in God and reading His Word. And when we place our hope and trust in Him, we are rewarded by His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Jesus says we are to abide in Him as He abides in us in order that we might bear much fruit - just as the verse above suggests. To continually abide in the Lord, we must be reading His Words!
If you want to know God, His character, His likes and dislikes, what He expects from us, it is all laid out for us in the Bible. Our faith is built on the Word of God. When we abide in it daily we grow in our faith and our relationship with God. This is where our trust should be placed and where we can find truth for living. Abide in the Word of God for it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12)
Read Jeremiah 16:1-21
The opening verses of this chapter must have been so disheartening to hear for Jeremiah. As an obedient servant of God, he had just found out in Jeremiah 15 that he would not escape the coming judgment God was sending upon His people. These people had turned away from God to worship idols and had fallen into all kinds of sin. But Jeremiah had not followed them into sin, instead he became God's prophet to warn them of what would happen if they didn't return to God. Now God is telling Jeremiah not to get married or have children because they would die gruesome deaths. He also tells Jeremiah that if any of his friends or family die that he must not mourn with them or for them. Why? Because they had turned away from God. Talk about harsh!
All the chapters in Jeremiah thus far have been God warning His people to repent and return to Him or else face the consequences. Ultimately, they chose to face the consequences rather than return to God. The result was that many died through famine and by sword, and were eventually taken captive to a foreign land (Babylon). God punished His people who had turned away from Him to worship other idols and who indulged in the practices of the heathen nations around them. Yet, He didn't punish each person individually, He punished the whole Jewish nation. Clearly, not everyone had turned away from God (the prophet Daniel lived during this time and was also taken captive), yet everyone was punished. Why?
It becomes clear at the end of the chapter. When the Gentile nations saw what the Jewish God did to His own people, many of them threw away their idols and turned to God instead (Jeremiah 16:19-21). God used the Jews disobedience to make Himself known to other nations. By punishing them as a nation it would result in the Jewish people permanently giving up idol worship and other nations believing in the one true God.
After the return from Babylon, this was partly fulfilled as the Jews entirely and permanently renounced idols and many Gentiles turned from their idols to Jehovah.”[i]
So how can this chapter apply to us today? If you are a parent you will understand how disobedient children can be. Sometimes they just won't listen! And mom and dad have to become pretty inventive with the appropriate punishment that will drive home the point, never to disobey again. Our children think our rules are because we "just want to be mean." They don't understand that we are trying to protect them from themselves. This is why God had to punish His children. He wasn't being mean, He was being a Dad. That old saying "this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you" is true. God didn't want to punish His children. He loved them. But He could not let them continue on destroying their lives because where they were headed was eternal life without Him. They had to be punished and set on the correct path. The result, as I said, was Gentiles turning to Him and Jews finally giving up idol worship.
Today, we have the book of Revelation warning us about what is going to happen as we get closer to Jesus' return. The warnings were written about thousands of years ago and many of the prophecies have started to come true. We could be the generation that ushers in Jesus' return, which is a frightful thing because before He returns, horrible judgments upon the earth will happen. And the final judgment to come when we stand before God isn't just for one nation. It is for the entire world. Yet, for the most part, people continue on as if everything is okay and nothing is going to happen. They are behaving like Jeremiah's people were.
It is the responsibility of all Christians to continually sound the alarm, no matter how crazy it makes us sound, that Jesus is returning and with His return comes judgment Yet, we rarely hear a sermon on Sunday morning about the horrors that await those who will suffer through the tribulation. So it would seem that just like the leaders during Jeremiah's day, they are ignoring the warnings.
It doesn't help that false teachers are preaching "everything is awesome" type doctrines today and people are following them blindly. Prosperity teachers continually rant about how God wants the best for us and so they feed people a delusion that God is so enamoured with them He will rain down wealth, health and all manner of good things if they will just believe it and claim it - all while knowing what they are preaching is not even biblical. Will God punish these false teachers? Most definitely. Will He also punish those who follow them? Of course He will, unless they repent. If He did it with Jeremiah's people, He'll do it with Christians too. Our God is consistent and will do what needs to be done to bring His people back to Him.
If God would punish an entire nation of His disobedient chosen people, why would He not do the same with disobedient Christians? It may not be outright idol worship, but willingly following a false doctrine is still disobedience to God and His Holy Word. We are all responsible for what we choose to believe. If we do not examine the Scriptures to find out the truth of our beliefs, it is our own fault. The Jews of Jeremiah's day knew that they should not worship false idols, yet they chose to anyway and suffered greatly for it. False doctrines are the modern-day equivalent of false idols in the church today and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 seems to confirm that:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
And what does God say about people who listen to false teachers and follow their doctrines?
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
If you are following and listening to a false teacher like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer or Kenneth Copeland for example, you are sharing in their evil deeds.
Come away from them or share in their punishment (2 Peter 2:1-22).
[i] MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV
I started a Bible study on Jeremiah a while back and got side-tracked. Too many issues in the world needed to be addressed and so for a while my posts centered on them. While I still continued on in my studies I did not share them here. I hope to get back to that on a regular basis, starting with this post.
We will begin with Jeremiah 12. It is a crucial chapter because Jeremiah comes right out and asks God - why do the wicked prosper? I wrote about this some time ago when I was frustrated with corruption in government. God showed me then what He has planned for those who govern us. But in this chapter the "wicked" are not those who rule over us, but those who are charged with the spiritual welfare of God's people - namely the priests and teachers of the Law.
Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard,
In the KJV the word "rulers" is replaced with "pastors" because the Hebrew word that was used in the original context was ra`ah which means "pastor, shepherd or teacher". In fact, Jeremiah's chief complaint in this passage are the religious leaders. He acknowledges that God planted them and that they had taken root, grown, and born fruit. Yet their mouths had all the "religious speak" but their minds were far from God (Jeremiah 12:2). So, he rather bluntly asks God to "take them out" (Jeremiah 12:3).
God's response was one of empathy. He agrees with Jeremiah that those charged with the spiritual well-being of his "inheritance" (Israel) have failed miserably. He likens Jeremiah's estrangement from his family, to His own, in that Israel has forsaken Him. He also agrees that something has to be done about it. He says of these religious rulers that they "have sown wheat, but reaped thorns" and that they should be ashamed of their harvest (Jeremiah 12:13). God also agrees (in part) with Jeremiah's plan to "lead them like sheep to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 12:3), but He includes a promise. First, He will pluck them out from the land for their treachery in encouraging God's people to worship idols. But, when they have suffered enough, God will bring them back to the land of their inheritance, IF they will teach the people to worship Him and learn His ways, rather than the ways of Ba'al. However, if they do not establish the people in worshipping God alone, He will utterly destroy them (Jeremiah 12:14-17).
How Does This Apply to the Church Today?
In the same way that Israel's priests and teachers were charged with the spiritual welfare of their people, so too are those who have been called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those pastors who lead congregations, or teachers who lead in Bible study, are responsible for the words that come out of their mouths and the actions that they take when representing our Heavenly Father. They must not teach falsely, nor act in a manner that would encourage those they lead to do the same. For those who are discerning it is easy for us to spot false teachers and doctrines today, because we have kept the Word of God close to our hearts and fed our souls with it. But for those who forsake Bible study they are in danger of being lead like sheep to the slaughter, because they follow false doctrines and teachings that go against Almighty God. There is however, a solution to not becoming a victim of false teachers and preachers and it is quite simple - read your bible.
I realize I talk a lot about the importance of reading your Bible. I also talk a lot about false prophets and teachers, but if we can learn anything from Jeremiah it is this - God says they should be ashamed of themselves (Jeremiah 12:13). If they don't repent then their fate (and those who follow them) will not be pleasant, for God will deal as harshly with them as He did with Israel's religious leaders (2 Peter 2:1-22).
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