Jeremiah 17:22 Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors.
Jeremiah 17 begins quite dramatically, suggesting the sins of Judah being engraved into the horns of the altars and the tablets of their hearts using flint, not any ordinary tools like wood in those days. The inscriptions were so significantly obvious that even their children could remember the imagery of the engravings as they grew up looking at it. One can imagine how thick and sinful the faults of Judah were.
Jeremiah 17 (New International Version)
1 “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool,
inscribed with a flint point,
on the tablets of their hearts
and on the horns of their altars.
2 Even their children remember
their altars and Asherah poles
It can be quite discouraging to see that chapter after chapter God lambasted the people because of their disobedience. From things like temptations to a lying tongue and unjust treatments to others, God described them rather vividly in the past few chapters in the book of Jeremiah but in chapter 17 of the book of Jeremiah, God pointed out that they did not observe the Sabbath, which was a day meant to spend with the Lord and do only the holy things with Him. No one is to lift a finger to work on their own things, what more in committing sins that are distasteful in the Lord’s sight.
21 This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. 22 Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. 23 Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.
Sabbath? Does it still apply today?
What I have been taught about Sabbath as a modern day Christian is to observe that day on a Sunday, but of course some would do so on Saturdays. The activities for the day include going to church and spending time with the family. It is a time to commune with the things that God has blessed you with excluding work.
This would also mean that one should be spending their time recuperating from a week of hard work and stress because our bodies require that kind of rejuvenation for it to undertake a new load in a brand new week. But when Jesus came around and healed the lepers and the crippled on Sabbath day, what shall we make of it because even the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ actions?
When Jesus healed those people, He did so with the belief that He was imparting healing to bless them with more abundance out of their once handicapped life. In our context, that would be God doing God’s thing, not men’s. And this is congruent with the teachings expected of God when we are encouraged to go after God, not men’s hearts and desires.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
And so, observing the Sabbath for Jesus even after He has come to redeem all our lives from the difficult terrain of juggling between the law and the faith in God, He never did erase the holy purpose of a Sabbath day.
For us, the earthlings and His children, observing Sabbath can be regarded as a display of our worship to our Father for granting us a rest day, just like God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. And if we do that, a lot of good things might come out of it such as a stronger bond with our family, unwinding the bodily stress that we’ve accumulated and rekindling the loss time with our loved ones during a hectic season.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
24 But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, 25 then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. 26 People will come from the towns of Judah and the villages around Jerusalem, from the territory of Benjamin and the western foothills, from the hill country and the Negev, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the Lord.
For those in Judah, how bad have they violated Sabbath? It was probably bad enough for God to begin Jeremiah 17 by equating the depth of the engraving on the horns of the altars to the sins of the people.
It is likely then that Sabbath during those days was no longer observed and even worse was the citizens of Judah have replaced God with their personal wishes by planting their hopes in Baal and Asherah as well as other Gods. Instead of spending the day doing godly activities, they have occupied themselves with activities for Baal, Asherah and only god knows who or what else.
Friends, let us inspect our hearts and our minds today if we have treated Sabbath the way it should. We should also question what we’ve personally been up to on Sabbath day all these weeks, months and years in that have we, like what the scripture said, observed Sabbath the way it should? It’s a very simple query yet it stands as a solidly strong and valid question in the modern context of the 21st century.
But some of us may ask, “What’s the big deal if we don’t?” Well, in the simplest terms and fortunately too, Jeremiah 17 never omitted this part in the scripture.
3 My mountain in the land
and your wealth and all your treasures
I will give away as plunder,
together with your high places,
because of sin throughout your country.
4 Through your own fault you will lose
the inheritance I gave you.
I will enslave you to your enemies
in a land you do not know,
for you have kindled my anger,
and it will burn forever.”
27 But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.’”