Jeremiah 17.19-27 – God’s priorities and ours.
Posted: 1 April 2011 in Jeremiah

Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

If we were to compose a list of sins, in order of seriousness, then I suppose murder, theft and rape would be near the top, with sabbath observance somewhere further down.  And yet, Jerusalem is here being threatened with destruction because of a lack of sabbath observance. That would not seem to suggest  sabbath observance is near the bottom of God’s list of priorities.

It does not take much reflection to realise that we order our priorities in the way that we do, because we place our own welfare at the top, and anything which merely has to do with our duty to God somewhere near the bottom. A quick read read the ten commandments, on the other hand, soon reveals that it is our duties towards God that he places at the top of the list, with nothing being said about our duty towards one another until the fifth commandment. It ought, I suppose, to come as no surprise that God’s priorities differ from ours, because he is, after all, creator and Lord of the universe. Not unreasonably he considers it to be a serious disordering of creation when his creatures are negligent in their worship of him.

Lest the above passage fail to make the point sufficiently clear to us, there is a passage in Numbers where the death penalty is recorded as having been passed on somebody who violated the sabbath.

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