In the last chapter (verse 10), the people asked, “Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this evil against us?” And here, the reply is given: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars.” In early times, the iron stylus and the diamond-point were used for engraving; and they cut so deep that the letters were etched in stone forever. It was in this way that the sin of Judah was permanently engraved upon their hearts; for they had set up idolatrous images of Baal everywhere, and the corruption had become so profound that none but God Himself could know it.
In verses 5-9, a universal truth is uttered; and the words are partly quoted from Psalm 1. Upon the man who trusts in man, the curse of God rests; but His blessing descends upon the person who trusts in Him alone. The former man is like a plant which grows in a salty and uninhabited desert, which is parched by the heat of the sun. But the latter is like a tree that is planted by the water-brook. Being planted and rooted in this prime location, it spreads out its roots to gain more strength; it blooms like an evergreen, and brings forth fruit – even in times of drought!
But the prophet pauses here and says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked!” (verse 9) Such was the case in his days, and it is equally so in ours. In the heart of man, there are so many windings and turnings that the eye of human reason can never find the bottom thereof. But God does know the human heart, for He searches it through and through. And one day, every human heart will be laid bare to itself and to mankind; all of its pride, vanity, and wickedness shall be exposed to view. And of all terrible sights, that will surely be one of the most terrible! But is there any way to escape this? Is there any way to be exempted from the fearful exposure of our depravity, and from the everlasting consequences which will follow that exposure? Yes, there is! If we humbly submit ourselves to the all-searching eye; and if we pray for the grace of our Savior to renovate, cleanse, and purify our evil heart – then a new heart will be given to us, and a right spirit will be put within us! And then we shall never fall under condemnation, for our sanctified nature will be found to be fit to share in the heavenly inheritance of the skies!
Verses 19-27 contain a warning and a caution to revere the Sabbath Day, as well as a promise of prosperity if this admonition was obeyed. This is certainly one of those passages in the writings of Jeremiah which deserves to be pondered in these God-dishonoring days. The law of the Jewish Sabbath was that no work was to be done on that day. But in Jeremiah’s time, the people were commonly seen carrying burdens out of their houses, and entering with them into the gates of Jerusalem – which, being the holy city, ought to have been preserved above all other places from such desecration. Jeremiah witnessed these things; and at God’s command, he went and stood in “the gate of the common people,” so that all who entered there might hear his words. There he spoke to them of the Sabbath-law which their fathers had disobeyed; and there he urged them to the observance of that law, by representing to them the blessings which would follow if they obeyed it, and the curses which would fall upon them if they did not.
But it will probably be said (as indeed it has been said by many) that the Jewish Sabbath has been abrogated; and therefore, Christians have little or nothing to do with such passages from the Old Testament. It is right to admit that the Christian Sabbath is a different institution from the Jewish Sabbath in these respects: first, it is not observed on the seventh day of the week, but on the first; second, it commemorates not so much the rest of God from the work of creation, as the rest of Christ from the work of redemption and resurrection from the dead; and third, it is not celebrated by a cessation from all work, but only from unnecessary work – as well as by acts of worship, charity, and love. But does this mean that its observance is a matter of indifference? Shall we say, then, that the Sabbath is an old and worn-out institution; and that no one will be any better for observing it, and no one any worse for setting it aside? The people of the world may say this, but we will not admit it for a moment. The Lord’s Day was kept by the early Christians as a day of gladness and rejoicing; and they continued to observe it in such a manner, even after the Apostles had entered their heavenly reward. Are we, then, under no obligation to regard it at all? Would it be right for us to set it aside and make it a day of trade, commerce, and pleasure, like the other six days of the week? I am sure that you will not hesitate to answer, “No!” Somehow, an instinctive desire to observe the Sabbath arises wherever the Gospel of the grace of God is proclaimed; and people not only see how valuable an institution the Sabbath is, but they learn to call it a delight! It becomes to them “the pearl of days” – the brightest day of the week, and the pledge and foretaste of the everlasting rest of heaven.
Lord Jehovah, we acknowledge that our hearts are indeed deceitful and desperately wicked. Come to us and search our hearts, and heal us from our sinful backslidings from You! Cause us to love Your blessed Sabbath Day, and to find it to be a delight and a blessing to our souls. Amen.
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