Disaster movies such as Independence Day, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow like to use special effects to show the Statue of Liberty being destroyed. It’s a shorthand way of symbolizing the destruction of America. For the people of Jeremiah’s time, the gates of Jerusalem had a similar importance. To speak of their destruction was a shorthand way of symbolizing the end of the nation. To deliver such a message while standing at the Gate of the People was a powerful thing to do (vv. 19–20)!
Today’s reading focuses on one of Judah’s sins—breaking the Sabbath, the fourth of the Ten Commandments (vv. 21–22; Ex. 20:8–11). This commandment intertwines rest (not laboring), consecration (keeping the day holy), and following God’s example of resting on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:2–3). Historically, the Jews had often disobeyed this command (Jer. 17:23), and the people of Judah then were no different.
Two conditionals follow: If the people obey and keep the Sabbath, God will bless them (vv. 24–26). The Davidic line of kings will continue. The city of Jerusalem “will be inhabited forever.” Solomon’s Temple will endure, and the people will continue to worship there. But if the people disobey and break the Sabbath—as was happening before Jeremiah’s very eyes—God “will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem” (v. 27). The contrast and what’s at stake couldn’t have been more clear!
Interestingly, in His day Jesus condemned the Pharisees on the issue of Sabbath-keeping. On the surface, they kept it through a long list of regulations. But when they criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, He called them out for their hypocrisy. They had lost sight of God’s purposes for this command (Matt. 12:9–14).
>> While Christians differ in their practice of Sabbath keeping, the creation principle of rest is still God’s design for us today. How can you honor the Sabbath today?
Father God, help us formulate a theology of rest. You created us with limits—and You who have no limits exemplified rest on the seventh day. We ask You to bless our rest, restoring our strength to serve You.