Jeremiah (Part 8), Remember the Sabbath

This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and stand at the Gate of the People, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem.  Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates.  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.  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.  Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.  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, 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.  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.  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.’”

  • Jeremiah 17:19-27

 

 

Let’s take an inventory of Judah’s sins.  No, never mind.  They were breaking all of them as early and as often as possible.  The true God was relegated to a good-luck charm when things got bad.

 

Of all of the sin in the land of Judah, God focuses on the fourth commandment, remembering the Sabbath Day.

 

Yet, there is a method here.  The people are too full of themselves that they are not listening to God.  If they would just stop their self-improvement (actually self-destruction) for just one day per week, maybe they could take enough time in worship to the true God that they’ll realize that there are nine other commandments that they are ignoring as well.

 

Has your television broadcast ever been interrupted by a “test of the emergency broadcasting system”?  Yes, of course.  This interruption in the book of Jeremiah was a test to show Jeremiah how badly the people of Judah had fallen away.  It was also a reminder to all those who ignored the warnings.  They would only have themselves to blame.

 

I remember the television coverage of the recent hurricane disasters.  Victims would get on camera and say, “Nobody warned us.  We didn’t know.”  Yet, from a thousand miles away I had enough information to know which city blocks needed to be evacuated.  I didn’t need the bullhorn messages right outside their front door that were broadcast from first responder vehicles before the hurricane hit.  One person in particular was rescued from the roof of their home.  The person complained to anyone that would listen (of course, to the people with cameras) that they had been abandoned and that the government had failed them.  In investigating this claim, the person had been evacuated by the government from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina to Houston.  They ignored all of the warnings, because they would not lift a finger to save themselves.  The person demanded that the government save them (and at untold cost).

 

I’m not pointing the finger at one person.  Our nation as a whole is expecting the government to get us out of the mess into which we got ourselves.  For example, my wife and I used to have a tremendous amount of debt.  When you have two house notes for two and a half years followed by an entire year out of work (16 months of no paid work out of 25 months, actually), you can amass a lot of debt.  Follow that with a job that had more pay cuts due to a lack of project work than pay increases.  Through hard work, we maintained an excellent credit rating and got the debts paid off.  We paid every cent of the principal, the interest, and the few penalties.

 

Then I see a TV commercial.  If we had ignored our debt, not paying anything for over six months, the government would bail us out.  Wait a minute!  We became debt free by working harder and depleting our saving to almost nothing (then getting laid off {retired} two years later)?  But if we did not act responsibly, the government would help us?  We were, in essence, punished for doing the right thing.  I could quote Job in his lament of how the evil prosper about now.

 

But, thinking of the Sabbath, let’s look at church attendance.  The scripture for this article is about remembering the Sabbath.  If a church can average 25% or more of the membership each Sunday, they’d probably think that they were doing great.  Really?

 

When my wife and I came home from Germany after three years, I was stationed at a small installation in Watertown, MA.  I think the Army closed the place since then.  I’ve looked on an on-line map, and it looks like my old office is now a GAP store.  On our first Sunday in Massachusetts, I had found the closest Presbyterian Church.  We left the front gates of the military installation and drove down the main thoroughfare into Watertown proper.  We were the only car on the road.  I’m not exaggerating here.  We didn’t see another car for about a mile (the first sign of life, a police car).  Watertown is almost in Boston.  From our living room window we could see the buildings of Harvard University in the next bend of the Charles River.  We had never seen the street when there weren’t hundreds of cars.  My wife asked why.  I suggested that the Saturday night drunks were just getting home to sleep it off.  The stores are all closed (at least in 1980), so why shouldn’t the roads be empty?  I’ve noticed that in a lot of cities with an alcohol culture.  The streets are empty on Sunday morning.  I don’t know if there are studies to back up the observation, but I could add a few cities to the list if they want to start a study.

 

I lamented to my wife this week about the start time of NFL games.  I have no idea why that got into my head.  We had bought tickets 40+ years ago to a Cincinnati-Houston football game at the Astrodome.  We showed up at 12:30 Central Time.  By the time we got to our seats, it was halfway through the second period.  Cincinnati already had an insurmountable lead.  The Oilers had a fair team that year, but Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were much better.  We make a habit of never being late to anything, but we hadn’t noticed that the NFL schedule had changed that year.  From that year to the present, the early games start at 1:00pm Eastern, Noon Central.  That means that people leaving 11:00am worship in the Central time zone will miss the start of the game by the time they get home.  The television networks were tired of staggering games that started at 1:00pm Eastern and then 2:00pm Eastern (for games in the Central time zone).  But it doesn’t just mess up people going to the games, it messes up millions who watch at home.  Many ignore church in order to see the kickoff of the game.

 

I have known preachers that try to take the message to where the people are located.  One success story is the preacher that figured out the Sunday morning tee times of his members and established a devotion time at the first tee early on Sunday morning.  At least, they heard a sermonette and had a prayer before teeing off.  Another minister noticed that the coffee house across the street was standing room only during the Sunday school hour (with church members).  He inquired of the proprietor.  The coffee house was willing for the church to have a Sunday school lesson at the coffee house, but this was the typical response that he received from the coffee drinkers.  “Don’t bring that crap over here.  We dropped our children at Sunday school.  If you start a Bible study here, we’ll just go home.  Good luck getting us to be on time picking up our kids afterwards.”  The preacher never brought it up again.

 

There is not just an ignoring of God on Sunday, there is a movement to defy God on Sunday.

 

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  This is a test.  Failing the test could mean losing our way of life forever.

 

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