Day 84: God Makes Things Perfectly Clear

Jeremiah 17:19-27

Yahweh said this to me: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, through which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem. Tell them, ‘Hear Yahweh’s word, you kings of Judah, all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Yahweh says, “Be careful, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. Don’t carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day. Don’t do any work, but make the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. But they didn’t listen. They didn’t turn their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, and might not receive instruction. It will happen, if you diligently listen to me,” says Yahweh, “to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but to make the Sabbath day holy, to do no work therein; then there will enter in by the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on David’s throne, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city will remain forever. They will come from the cities of Judah, and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country, and from the South, bringing burnt offerings, sacrifices, meal offerings, and frankincense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving, to Yahweh’s house. But if you will not listen to me to make the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem. It will not be quenched.” ’ ”

Can you imagine the prophet going to each gate in Jerusalem and telling the people to stop bringing their work through the gates on Saturday? It’s hard to make the issue more clear isn’t it. Either the people were to stop bringing their work through the gates of Jerusalem on Saturday or they were to suffer from God for it. God not only made it clear to the people going through the gates, he also made it clear in this text. Over and over God made it clear that no burden was to be carried on the Sabbath day. I counted that He repeated the same thing five times in this passage. God was hinging his judgment on this single command. What could this mean? Obviously, failing to keep the Sabbath is a very serious example of failing to keep the Law of Moses, and I believe that this has meaning for us today as Christians as well.

First, I think it’s important to see that God always makes things clear. God wasn’t going to harm His people for failing to keep laws that they didn’t realize they were breaking. God repeats and repeats His precise expectations. When Israel failed to obey, it was done willfully and not in ignorance. God doesn’t try to trick us. When we sin, it is because we choose to be rebellious against God.

I believe that it’s also worth it to consider why God would use the breaking of the Sabbath as the straw that would break the camel’s back. It seems like such a religious observance without much of a tie to loving acts like feeding the poor. It doesn’t seem as bad as murder or telling a lie. Why the Sabbath? I don’t really know for sure, but I do know that God views the Sabbath as a symbol for something else.

Hebrews 4:8-11

For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.

One thing God is clearly telling us, is that in order to be saved, we must rest from our own works. God cannot keep us from the punishment we deserve if we think we can work on it ourselves. True believers must come to the point of permanent rest from their own works before they can be saved. Could it be that God was using this as a demonstration of this fact? I think so.

Day 39: Clash of Worldviews

John 5:10-14 : So the Jews said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat.” He answered them, “He who made me well, the same said to me, ‘Take up your mat, and walk.'” Then they asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your mat, and walk’?” But he who was healed didn’t know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

Here’s another interesting exchange. The Jewish leadership caught the man who was healed walking around carrying his mat. Instead of asking how he was able to walk around, all they could see was that he was breaking their rules. It is amazing how blinding self-righteousness is. A miracle can happen and it can be ignored entirely. Later, in this book, we will see the Jewish leadership not only ignore a huge miracle, but attempt to destroy all the evidence. I have a hard time understanding this behavior. It is a reminder to me that some are so wicked in leadership that they will stop at nothing to maintain power.

Jesus found the man again and warned him not to sin anymore. This may be a case in which the man was sick because of sin in his life. Here way can see that Jesus was willing to heals sinners. He told this man to stop sinning so that nothing worse happens to him. You might be asking, “What could be worse?” Well, there is death, but there is also eternal punishment. Jesus maintained his focus on the eternal. If this man were to continue in his sin, he very well could end up on his way to Hell. Merely being sick would be fun compared to that. How good it is for us to follow Jesus’ example and see things from an eternal perspective.

I also want to mention that, at the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Jews were responsible under God to keep the Law of Moses as described in the Old Testament. Sacrifices were also required as a payment for sins. Things changed after Jesus’ death as we shall read more about later. This man was responsible under the Law, to be righteous, or face the penalties. Jesus knew the law well enough that He held this man responsible for his sins and also knew that it was not unlawful to heal or carry mats on the Sabbath.

Day 38: Truth to Power

John 5:1-9 : After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, “Bethesda,” having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel went down at certain times into the pool, and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there, who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Arise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

In Jerusalem at that time, there was a pool of water that had healing powers when an angel agitated the waters. This sounds strange to me today because I have never seen anything like it before. I am very aware of miraculous healings in my lifetime, however. Here we have a man who, evidently, had tried and tried for many years to be healed, but, being unable to walk, could not get down to the pool in time.

It is even stranger that Jesus asked this man if he wanted to be made well when He knew that the man had been sick for a long time. We know that Jesus knew the answer. This is another time when Jesus wanted someone to express their need to Him. Prayer is like this. God already knows what we want before we ask Him, but He expects us to ask.

It is interesting to me that the man didn’t really answer the question. It’s almost as if he assumed that Jesus was saying, “Why don’t you ever go down and get healed in that water?” But, that isn’t what Jesus asked. Jesus was asking if He wanted someone else to heal him. He was clearly focused on what he had to do to get to the water. Sometimes, we get distracted by the work we think we must do to get to God. God’s grace is all about God’s work in getting to us. The new rules that Jesus was bringing with Him were that if a person wants to do God’s work, they must simply believe Him. No walking to a pool was first necessary. Trusting in Him was the first thing necessary.

So Jesus tells him to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. I wonder what would have happened if the man would have been following the stories of Jesus, was ready when He came and had just said “Yes” to His question. You see, it was illegal according to the Jewish leadership to pick up a mat on the Sabbath. Jesus told him to break this rule. As we see next time, the man gets caught.

Jesus did this Sabbath breaking act right under the noses of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. Clearly, Jesus was, again, taking bold action in opposition of the leadership. Jesus was always having to fight for people who were hurting and He was quite willing to do so. He was not afraid to stand up to “power” because He was the real power.