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.... 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 17:24,27
What a strange message to send! Why is God so concerned about the Sabbath all through the Bible, from beginning to end, and especially here in the last days of this nation? Why is it the Sabbath he focuses on? It is amazing how this message about the Sabbath has been distorted in the understanding of men in the church through the ages.
The Sabbath, you remember, began when God ceased from the work of creation and rested on the seventh day. He ceased from all his works. He tells man all through the Scriptures that this is a picture of the life of faith and trust in him. That life of faith is to cease from your own works and trust in God to work for you. That is keeping the Sabbath. All the ceremonials and rituals which gathered around this day are only to illustrate to us what God is getting at. In the book of Hebrews he says,
...for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10 RSV)
The Sabbath is a picture to us of how God intends man to live — not by trusting in himself, not by trusting in any other man, or in what other men can do; but accepting this new way of life, which is God himself living in us, God himself working through us; and making our humanity available to him, with our mind, our emotions, our will, and everything about us; and saying,
Lord, here I am. Here's the situation in front of me, the thing I have to do. (Maybe it is my work tomorrow and all through the week. Maybe it is some special demand made upon me by my children, by my husband or my wife. Maybe it is some difficult situation to which I must respond.) Lord, how do I meet it? Well, here I am, Lord. You meet it. You meet it in me. I'll do what is necessary, but I'll count on you to do it in me, and you'll be responsible for the results.
That is the Sabbath. That means you are at rest inside, because the strain is not on you, it is on God. You are at peace inside because you do not have to be responsible for what happens; he does. That is what it means to approach life at rest. That is the man who never turns dry and barren, but who remains green and strong and fresh in the midst of all the drought and disaster around him. That is the man or woman who remains as a green tree in the time of drought, who stands continually before God in the face of every demand and says,
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved.
Father, I pray that I may be able to rest in the Sabbath, cease from my own works, let Christ live through me, and know his victory in me.
How does our understanding of the Sabbath affect the essence of our Christian life? Are we attempting to live and serve as Christians with restless vigor? What is wrong with this picture?