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
Read Jeremiah 15:1-21
The terror that awaits God’s people builds in this chapter of Jeremiah. We catch a glimpse of how angry God is with His disobedient children and what is about to happen to them. We also hear Jeremiah questioning why he has to suffer along with his people when he has been obedient to God. God answers him, and Jeremiah soon discovers that sometimes we suffer not because we are disobedient towards God, but because we are being used by God for a greater purpose.
This chapter of Jeremiah gives us an incredible example of how God works towards those who love Him. Yes, God wants what is best for us, but some Christians taken the illogical jump that nothing bad should ever happen to us. This is what preachers like Kenneth Copeland or Joel Osteen preach. It is a "happy gospel" founded on unbiblical principals that sickness, accidents, poverty, etc. are from the devil and not from God, therefore all we need do is rebuke them or "bind" them in Jesus name and they will bother us no more. They base their beliefs on scriptures taken out of context and do not bother to see the big picture of how God works. So when sickness or poverty do not go away they blame it on the Christian as not having enough faith. When in truth, poverty, sickness, and other problems we encounter in life, don't go away because those who teach these lies are false teachers preaching false gospels and not acting on behalf of God or according to His Word.
Starting in Jeremiah 15:10 we get a glimpse into all that Jeremiah has suffered at the hands of his own people, all because he has been obediently proclaiming God’s warning of impending judgment. He is beginning to realize that even though he had not sinned and rejected God as the others had, he would still be sent into exile along with them. So he, to put it bluntly, starts having a pity party. And how does God respond? Does He say, "I want only the best for you, so I will keep you from this hour of torment?" No. Does He let Jeremiah know that he doesn't have enough faith and that is why he won't escape the coming invasion?" No.
Instead, the Lord says that He will deliver Jeremiah into the hands of the enemy, but his enemies will intercede for him during the coming persecution. The word used for intercede is paga` and means "to entreat, plead or intercede." So the enemies will, by God’s hand, recognize Jeremiah as one who speaks for God. As idol worshippers, they no doubt were very cognizant of the God of the Hebrews and being a superstitious and fearful people they would, no doubt, not want to make the Hebrew God angry. So in the end, Jeremiah would go into exile and be captured by his enemies, but unlike his own people who refused to listen to him, his captors would regard him as someone to be feared.
God is adamant – he will go into exile, but for a purpose. And God will be with him and deliver him. He tells Jeremiah that the enemy will fight against him but they will not prevail, for God will rescue him.
Jeremiah did everything right. He was obedient to God by prophesying to the people about God’s coming judgment. It cost him everything and eventually leads to Jeremiah and his people being taken captive and sent into exile. He rightly thought he would escape the coming judgment because he was God’s servant and was obedient to him. He was wrong. But, God did promise to deliver him and rescue him from the hand of the wicked. Notice it does not say he will rescue Jeremiah by allowing him to stay in Jerusalem or by allowing him to live. It simply says, “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:21). Ultimately, Jeremiah would not be separated from God in this life or in the one to come. He would be used by God, for God's good purposes and His glory. He did not give Jeremiah an easy "out" because he was His servant. Instead, God used Jeremiah's obedience and faith for His own glory and as history would show, elevated him as one of the major prophets in Biblical history.
The point is this - God does not always say yes and He does allow bad things to happen to His people, despite what prosperity preachers proclaim. But those "things" are for His glory and ultimately lead to our sanctification, so that when we leave this earth we will be able to stand before the Father and He will be able to say, "Well done! My good and faithful servant!"
As I continue on with my Bible study of Jeremiah I am constantly struck by what the Lord wants me to share with you. I'll be honest, I'm starting to wonder why everything I post is a warning for the church! I want some good news to share. I want to talk about how great Jesus is and what He's done and is doing in my life. But when I try to write about those things I'm stopped. I have to be obedient. So here is what I learned today from Jeremiah 14.
Jeremiah continues to hear from the Lord and prophesies that sword, famine and pestilence will come upon the people because of their wickedness.
And those who claim to speak for God, those false prophets who tell the people that there will be no famine, sword or plague – will die by those very things. God says, “by sword and famine they will be consumed” (Jeremiah 14:15). Today’s false prophets do the same thing. From their pulpits they proclaim that a revival is coming. They proclaim that God will restore our country to its former glory and that the revival will reach all the way into the halls of government. They proclaim all kinds of wonderful things that are going to happen to make us a great nation again. But I am learning some hard truths from Jeremiah. I am learning how false prophets work. They tell the people what they want to hear and unfortunately, those who listen to them are, according to the Scriptures, as doomed as they are, for God says He will pour out their wickedness upon them (Jeremiah 14:16).
The first nine verses in Jeremiah 14 are about the droughts and famine that would come to the land. Judah is in mourning because they realize they are being punished for their sins, but at the same time, they are astonished that God would actually follow through with His threats, so they beg the Lord to heal the land.
But God reminds them that they love to wander. Therefore, He will remember their sins now and they will be punished. So He tells something to Jeremiah that is very significant and contrary to what most of us are used to. He tells Jeremiah not to pray for them and goes on to say that He will not hear their cries, nor will He accept their offerings. But He will bring the sword, famine and plague upon them.
Contrast this with Daniel's prayer of repentance for his nation in Daniel 9. His prayer of repentance was answered and explained by the angel Gabriel. Why? Because Daniel was a man highly esteemed by God, and He knew Daniel's heart and his prayers of repentance were sincere. But the people crying to God in Jeremiah 14 were not at all sincere. They just wanted relief from the famine, drought and plague that was coming their way. There was no repentance at all.
The rest of this chapter sees the people pleading with God, asking Him for help from the punishments they deserve. They have the audacity to make a point that He had a covenant relationship with them (vs. 21) and so He cannot forsake them. Yet, they conveniently forget that they had promised to follow Him and not worship other Gods, so they broke the covenant first. So many times we do the same thing to God. He is blamed for everything, when in fact it is man’s own sin that condemns him. If it were not for Jesus we would be eternally doomed.
So what can we learn from this chapter? If you want God to hear your prayers make sure you are right with Him first. Be like Daniel and pray with sincerity. Repent of your sinful behaviour. But don't do it just to get something from God. Do it because you want to restore your fellowship with Him and because you are sincerely sorry for your behaviour. God knows your heart. If you are sincere He will hear your prayers. If you are faking it, He'll know that too.