Why Sabbath Was So Important

My devotional time has me in Jeremiah 17:19-27. In these verses God is making a big deal out of their observance of the Sabbath. The LORD says, “Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day…”

In the context this part about the Sabbath seems out of place. The chief problem with Israel and Judah is idolatry. It is so bad that even “their children remember their altars and their Asherim”. They were supposed to be tying the Shema to their door posts instead the kids were learning how to use an Asherah pole.

So why talk about the Sabbath? Is that really the issue?

Is God like the bratty kid that refuses to be your friend because you couldn’t make his birthday party? Are they going into exile because they decided to get a little work done during God’s special day? That seems a bit misplaced.

What idolatry and Sabbath communicate

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the nature of idolatry. Idolatry is the hearts natural response to rejecting God. When we don’t honor God or give him thanks we turn to creation—the stuff we can make, the stuff we can control, the stuff we can wrap our minds around.

Idolatry is the reflection of a heart that would rather worship a lie than bow a knee to the revealed God. It is a heart that needs something in its hands. And so it rejects the uncontrollable God for that which can be manipulated.

Now consider the nature of the Sabbath. The Sabbath would ask a profound question of the Israelites. It would be the barometer by which they could measure their devotion to Yahweh. Essentially Sabbath asks this question: Do I trust the provision of an unseen God or do I trust the work of my own hands?

Now the relationship between Sabbath and idolatry is more clearly seen. When the Israelites get serious about the Sabbath they’ll be serious about rooting idolatry out of the land.

Or so one would think…

The Pharisees and the Sabbath

If you fast forward about 500 years you’ve got a group of passionate Israelites that are rigid in their devotions to the Sabbath. They rightly understood that it was for idolatry and a lack of observing the Sabbath that got them booted out of the land. So, they devoted themselves to observing the Law.

The problem, though, is that while they got the message of Jeremiah 17 they missed the message of Jeremiah 31. Without a change of heart you’ll trade an Asherah pole for a Sabbath and think you’ve done God a favor. And that is exactly what the Pharisees had done.

They lost the spirit of the Sabbath while retaining the letter. They forgot that the Sabbath was made for man and that it was a barometer of the heart. Rather than seeing the Sabbath as a means of trusting the provision of an unseen God they turned the Sabbath into a work of their own hands.  

Conclusion

Even today the question of the Sabbath is vitally important. Will we rest from our works and trust in the provision of Christ? Or will we trust in the work of our own hands? You can’t do both.

Today in Blogworld 11.26.14

John Calvin on Theological Trespassing

Calvin has been hugely influential to me on this point. Life saving almost. I’m glad to see his thinking here get some press from Ligonier.

Why Is Church So Boring?

I love David Murray’s answer (with some help from Sproul) and solution.

An Infallible, Liberal Pope?

Obviously, I don’t agree with the infallible part—but Thomas Howard shows why this is a possibility for the Catholic church.

Does Happiness Require Apathy to Others Sorrows

I appreciate Piper’s answer here. And I think this informs even some of the guilty feelings that we might have while enjoying Thanksgiving meals with our family.

I don’t know why this amuses me so much. But these senior citizens can really get down with it:

I’m Bored With Blogs

Blogs are starting to bore me.

I realized this after taking a month off from blogging. Because of my hiatus I had thousands of articles stored up on my Feedly list. Sifting through these I realized how little of substance is actually being said in blogs.

And so I’m bored.

It feels like the same people saying the same things in the same way. And those of us that are also curators (having features like Today in Blogworld) are guilty of perpetuating this. I confess that I’ve shared articles from known commodities without really reading through the article and considering all the implications. I like the title. I trust the author. So I link to it. That isn’t helpful. And I’m sorry.

Fresh Voices

This is why I put out a plea last Friday for blogs that aren’t on The Gospel Coalition (TGC), that don’t care to be on TGC, and aren’t whining about TGC.

I’ve got nothing against TGC, it just so happens that this is the echo chamber that I seem to find myself trapped in. It feels like so many blogs that I read are either part of TGC or they are writing in such a way to try to get the attention of TGC. Or on the other end of the spectrum they are talking about why TGC stinks.

I just want to hear fresh voices.

I’m not bored with the gospel by any means. But if I’m being honest I’m a bit bored with the way that we talk about the gospel. That’s why I’m spending less and less times on blogs and more and more times with John Newton and my Puritan friends. They’ve got a way about them. They are gospel-soaked in a way that never gets old. (Probably because they don’t use phrases like gospel-soaked).

Changes

I’m also making a couple of changes in my own writing and in our Today in Blogworld (TiB) feature.

For my own writing I am going to work extra hard to know my own voice and use it. I’m convinced that the less I care about circulation the more our readers will benefit. I want to be a fresh voice.

For the TiB feature I am going to start reading more widely. You can help with this. If you know of solid blogs that fit the qualifications I mentioned earlier, then, I’d love to know about them.

Secondly, I am going to force known commodities to work. Not that getting a link from me is a sought after prize, it is not. But I want to read a TGC author with the same careful eye that I do someone without a name I recognize. That kind of laziness is what has created the mess of our celebrity culture. I want out. I’ll still link to known authors—probably often—but I won’t do it just because of who wrote it.

Conclusion

I hope that nothing I’m saying here comes across curmudgeonly or that I have some vendetta against TGC. I don’t. But I’m desperate to break out of this echo chamber that I’ve put myself into. I want to see Christian blogging raise the bar, because I don’t believe I’m the only one getting tired.

I believe whole-heartedly in the need to be gospel-centered. But my biggest fear is that folks will confuse the way that we talk about the gospel (which is getting boring to me) with the gospel itself. And that’ll be a tragedy of epic proportions. This is why I’m pleading for fresh voices or at least a freshness to our voice.

Today in Blogworld 11.25.14

5 Ways to Kill Anger

Sinful anger ruins everything. Here are five ways to work towards killing it.

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

The only thing I dislike about this piece is that it puts a terrible country song in my head.

Nick Offerman on Wendell Berry

I have a confession. I’ve never read Wendell Berry. People keep talking about him and Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) might be the guy that pushes me over the edge into being a reader.

Write More Better

My friend, Aaron Armstrong, has given us writers a valuable resource for free.

This poor pathetic ferret: