The Unholy Sabbath

Bible Book: Jeremiah  17 : 19
Subject: Sabbath; Worship, Day of
Series: Jeremiah's America


When I was growing up we worshiped at the Green River Baptist Mission, seven miles west of Sledge, Mississippi. At the time we ran about 80 - 90 in Sunday School, and sometimes a few more, but I can remember when we had only a few for services. I have many fond memories of that little mission. Our Superintendent of Missions planted the mission, which would eventually become the Green River Baptist Church. He was an outstanding preacher of the Gospel. I mean, he really preached the Word of God, and that without compromise. Perhaps that was the reason some people got under conviction for working on Sundays. I soon observed the pattern. They would repent after the cotton was planted in the Spring - and again after the harvest was over in the Fall. “I am never going to work on Sunday again, but the ox was in the ditch this time.”

Any time they got behind the ox was in the ditch. When you tried to explain that the Lord’s concern was for the welfare of the ox that had fallen into the ditch, not for the farmer who suddenly panicked when he checked the weather report, they didn’t seem to get the message. Year after year, the same people repented: they would never work on Sunday again. Then when they saw the cotton opening they convinced themselves that they had to “get it out before the rain sets in.”

There are many things for which I am indeed grateful when I look back to my home. Mother was the primary spiritual influence in my life, and she had Daddy’s support. Daddy was the primary influence in education, and he had Mother’s support in that. Many country boys missed the first six weeks of school to help the family pick cotton. I tried to persuaded my daddy to let me miss one day to disk some land when we had a wet Spring and the planting time was critical. As a matter of fact, even though I lived in Tunica County and had to walk a mile and a quarter to catch the school bus at the Quitman County line, I only remember missing two days when I was in the eighth grade. My coach once told some of my team mates how much Johnny wanted an education and I did not know how to respond because it never occurred to me not to go to school. My daddy told us, “You are going to finish highschool and then get four years of college. If you want any more after that it is up to you, but you are going to finish college.” Not bad for an orphan who had to drop out of school and help provide a living for himself and his grandmother when he was thirteen years old.

My mother taught me the Ten Commandments. She taught me that the Lord’s Day was a holy day and not to be treated like any other day. She not only taught me the importance of worship, she was used by the Holy Spirit to channel my thoughts and my heart to appreciate the importance of worshiping with God’s people - with His church. My daddy was a quiet man and I do not remember his ever sitting down and giving a lecture to his children. He offered a word of advice, a word of caution, a word of instruction when he felt it was necessary. My daddy taught us by example. He taught us to be as honest with our word as with money. He taught us to respect the property of our neighbors. At times, I thought he was rather narrow, but it was at the times when he seemed narrowest that he made the deepest impression on his children.

I drove home from school once for the week-end. Daddy told me he needed me to go with him to Crenshaw to drive back a tractor he got from Barney Sigler when he bought eighty acres of land to add to the farm. Barney had gone up on the price but agreed to throw in a tractor. When we got to Barney’s farm headquarters the tractor would not start. I suggested using one of Barney’s other tractors to pull it off. Daddy knew Barney well, and I knew him well enough to know that Barney would expect us to do just that. Daddy refused, saying that Barney was not there to give us permission to use his tractor. “It is his tractor and he should be asked before anyone uses it.” We drove ten miles home and got on a Ford Tractor and drove the ten miles back, pulled off the tractor to get it started, and then drove the ten miles home. It took a major part of my day off, but, I will never forget the lesson (as narrow as it was!).

When it came to the Lord’s Day, Daddy never lectured, he simply applied what Brother Waldrup preached and what Mother taught, occasionally offering an explanation, but not always. Just as we never missed school to work on the farm, we never missed church to work. We never worked on Sunday. We always “laid by” the cotton in time for Bible School and revival the second week in August. We worked long hours on the farm, but we always stopped in time to make it to prayer meeting on Wednesday night.


A. God Observed a Day of Rest Following the Creation, Genesis 1.

According to the first chapter of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth, and everything that inhabits the earth in six days, and then rested from His creation on the seventh day. God said, “Let there be”, and there was. Let there be light and there was light. God created the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and everything that creeps upon the surface of the earth, and then He looked at what He had created and found it all good. Then he created man in His own image, the crowning act of creation. Then He rested on the seventh day. I could not believe it when I first heard someone try to justify not going to church because they needed rest and Sunday was their day of rest.

In reality, God was not exhausted and He did not need a day to rest from His labor the way human beings need rest. The word actually means to desist. After six days of creation, God desisted from His work in order to make the seventh day, the Sabbath Day, a holy day. That means that the Sabbath Day is different from other days, just as God’s name is different from all other names. We must desist from the everyday things of life and commit that day to the Lord.

B. Sabbath Observance Is Included in the Ten Commandments, Ex. 20:8.

The Ten Commandments are the foundation upon which all the rest of the Law is built. There are ten commandments. The number ten is the number for human completion, and these ten commandments cover the entire sphere of human relationships and human responsibilities. The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God the Father. The last six deal with our relationship with others. Jesus gave us two great commandments, the first of which summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you do not worship other gods, you do not take God’s name in vain, and you do not violate the day set aside to honor the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. The second great commandment deals with the last six commandments. If you love your neighbor as Jesus intended you do not kill him, you do not steal from him, you do not covet what he had, you do not lie about him, and you do not commit immoral acts with him or her.

God declared that the people of Jeremiah’s Judah had committed abominations against Him. I do not believe I violate Scripture in any way when I say that America is guilty of committing abominations against God. For example, homosexuality was once called perversion, and those who practiced it were said to be guilty of deviant behavior. May I give you a number of steps that have led us to where we are today? There was the Scopes Trial in 1925, which set the stage for America to enter the post-Christian era in 1935 (if Francis Shaeffer was right). Courts began reflecting the fact that America had entered the post-Christian era shortly after the Second World War. In 1962, prayer was taken our of public schools. In 1963, the Bible was taken out of schools. Before too long the there was a ruling that a passive display of the Ten Commandments was apparently dangerous to our children. Roe v. Wade opened the door the slaughter of some forty-five million unborn babies. The courts have sided with homosexuals and homosexual unions against the traditional family for a quarter of a century. In 2004, a federal court ruled against Alabama chief justice Roy Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments. At this time, the United States Supreme Court is dealing with the Ten Commandments - and every time anyone enters the Supreme Court building they see their own display of the Ten Commandments.

The year 2005 will be remembered for a number of reasons, including the war in Iraq, the death of Pope John Paul II, and the murder of Terri Schiavo. America should hang its collective head in shame because of the horrible sin against that helpless woman. My brother Mike is an attorney who has deposed neurosurgeons and defended someone in a similar condition as Terri. He says what Michael Schiavo did, with the help of his lawyer and one federal judge, was murder. To me our shame was multiplied by the calloused attitude of the majority of Americans. Then, after her death, a Zogby poll revealed that the majority of Americans did not support Michael Schiavo. In fact, only nine percent said they thought they should have removed the feeding tube. Of course, someone came up with a poll that said over half the people supported him. I would venture to say that the wording of the poll may have made a difference there. For example, there were those who were opposed to the action but once the courts ruled we had to go along with it.

What America has done with the Ten Commandments is an abomination against God. God’s name is taken if vain. The powerful elite in the media and in politics is waging a war against God, while opening the door to Islam and other religions. I am going to include what America has done to the Lord’s Day as an abomination - but we will come back to that.

C. Moses Recorded What God Told Him to About the Sabbath.

“Do your work for six days but rest on the seventh day so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave as well as the foreign resident may be refreshed. Pay strict attention to everything I have said to you” (Ex 23:12-13).

“The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am the Lord who sets you apart. Observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Whoever profanes it must be put to death. If anyone does work on it, that person must be cut off from his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who does work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites must observe the Sabbath, celebrating it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign forever between Me and the Israelites, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Ex 31:12-17).

We could read passage after passage in the Old Testament that testify to the value God places on Sabbath observance, but does the passage I have just read leave any doubt in your mind? When the Israelites entered the Land of Promise they lived under a theocracy. God was their King. Under that system, the penalty for violation of the Sabbath was death. I do not know anyone who believes that all who work on the Sabbath Day should be put to death today, but can we not agree that God takes the Sabbath Day very seriously.

D. Jeremiah’s Judah Knew the Law, But They Refused to Keep It.

When we read the Mosaic Law, we find God warning Israel against disobeying Him and committing abominable things. God warns them against perversions of God’s Law and abominations against God. There are a number of sins that fall into one category or the other: adultery, incest, homosexuality, and idolatry and insincere worship. When we go the Book of Jeremiah we find God charging His Chosen People with abominations. That which is called an abomination is idolatry. God told Jeremiah to say, “Here is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves?” (Jer 2:5, HCSB). The Lord continues:

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat its fruit and bounty, but after you entered, you defiled My land; you made My inheritance detestable. The priests quit asking: Where is the Lord? The experts in the law no longer knew Me, and the rulers rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and followed useless idols. Therefore, I will bring a case against you again. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will bring a case against your children’s children. Cross over to Cyprus and take a look. Send someone to Kedar and consider carefully; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever exchanged its gods? (but they were not gods!) Yet My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols. Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled. This is the Lord’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:7-13).

Idolatry is an abomination against the Lord. Marital infidelity is an abomination against the Lord. Homosexuality is an abomination against the Lord. Taking innocent life is an abomination against the Lord. Lying, stealing, cheating, and deceiving are abominations against the Lord. As a matter of fact, we could summarize abominations against the Lord by reciting the Ten Commandments. One of those commandments which was violated in Jeremiah’s Judah and in modern day America to the point of perversion and abomination concerns violation of the Sabbath.


A. God’s Command Concerning the Sabbath Is Very Clear, Jer. 17:19- 22.

“This is what the Lord said to me, “Go and stand in the People’s Gate, through which the kings of Judah enter and leave, and in all the gates of Jerusalem. Announce to them: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah, all Judah, and all the residents of Jerusalem who enter through these gates. This is what the Lord says: Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. You must not carry a load out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but you must consecrate the Sabbath day, just as I commanded your ancestors.”

B. They Knew the Law but Refused to Obey Him, Jer. 17:23.

We cannot stress too strongly that these people had not just drifted away from God, from His Law, or from His day. Their sin was not one of ignorance, but iniquity. Listen to what the Lord said: “They wouldn’t listen or pay attention but became obstinate, not listening or accepting discipline.” Let me repeat it: Those Israelites of Jeremiah’s day could not plead innocent, for in fact, they are guilty of iniquity, not ignorance.

C. Observance of the Sabbath Would Bring God’s Blessings, Jer. 17:24-26.

“However, if you listen to Me, says the Lord, and do not bring loads through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day and consecrate the Sabbath day and do no work on it, kings and princes will enter through the gates of this city. They will sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses with their officials, the men of Judah, and the residents of Jerusalem. This city will be inhabited forever. Then people will come from the cities of Judah and from the area around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the Judean foothills, from the hill country and from the Negev bringing burnt offerings and sacrifice, grain offerings and frankincense, and thank offerings to the house of the Lord.”

If the people of Judah honor the Lord’s Sabbath He will bless them with a land, with strong and godly rulers, and the opportunity to worship Him according to His guidelines. Imagine asking the Lord what He will bless us with if we are faithful in keeping the Sabbath, and He answers, “I will give you the privilege of worshiping Me.” Many Americans would be in surprised. We have come to demand that He make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. Our ancestors paid a high price so that we might have freedom to worship without fear of persecution. Let me stress this, whether you place a high value on the privilege of worship or not, God does. My dear friend, to use computer terminology, you had better not “minimize” what God “maximizes”!

D. Refusing to Observe the Sabbath Would Bring God’s Wrath, Jer. 17:27.

“If you do not listen to Me to consecrate the Sabbath day by not carrying a load while entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, I will set fire to its gates, and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem and not be extinguished.”

The people of Judah knew the Mosaic Law. They could not plead ignorance. There was no way they could have misunderstood what God told Jeremiah to tell them. Yet, they refused to obey God and consequences were devastating. They were overrun by the ruthless Babylonians who invade the land in 606 B.C., 597 B.C., and again in 586 B.C., at which time the walls were breached, the temple was looted and then destroyed, and the people were taken into captivity in Babylon for seventy years (from 606 to 536 B.C.). There were other sins that brought down the wrath of God on Judah, but violation of the Sabbath was certainly one we must not overlook. Can there be any doubt in your mind as to how seriously God takes the Sabbath?


A. The New Testament Is Our Guide for the Sabbath.

1. Jesus Did Not Cancel God’s Law, He Fulfilled It.

Jesus stressed that He did not come to cancel the law but fulfill it, yet some may ask, did not Jesus change the law regarding Sabbath observance? In reality, Jesus set the record straight. The Pharisees never missed an opportunity to use the Sabbath, alms, the temple, and everything else to demonstrate their authority in the Law. In reality, what they revealed was their hypocrisy. It was against the backdrop of this hypocrisy that Jesus taught His disciples that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. By that, He did not mean that the Sabbath was made for man’s commerce, profit, greed, recreation, or anything selfish purpose. The Sabbath is God’s gift to His children so that they might worship Him - Just as we read in Jeremiah 17.

2. New Testament believers began worshiping on the first day of the week.

At first, believers went to the Temple and observed the Jewish Sabbath, but when they were forced out of the synagogues they began worshiping the Lord on the first day of the week, in honor of the Resurrection. In other words, Sunday became the Lord’s Day. God demands that we forsake not the assembling of ourselves together. The saints came together with God’s people, in God’s house, in God’s name, on God’s Day. That is our model, and we must take God’s holy day as seriously as Moses, Isaiah, or Jeremiah.

B. America Is as Guilty of Violating the Sabbath as Ancient Judah.

America was founded on Christian principles. I know that many people deny that vehemently, but we have the word of the founders on this. I would like to share with you a few words from the Preamble to the Constitution of a number of states:

Alabama 1901, Preamble. We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution.

Arkansas 1874, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government.

California 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom.

Illinois 1870, Preamble . We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.

Louisiana 1921, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.

Mississippi 1890, Preamble. We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.

Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI ... Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator .. can be directed only by Reason . and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other.

We could read similar statements from any of the Preamble to the Constitution of all fifty states. I am not trying to convince you that at the time these constitutions were written, America was a theocracy. What I am stressing is that leaders held a Christian world-view and there was a Christian consensus.

The founders placed high value on the Word of God, and because they did they placed a high value on God’s name, and God’s Day. David Barton has told of the court case in which charges had been brought against a man who used the profane version of the word damnation. The court ruled that the man was guilty because he had taken God’s name in vain. They reasoned that only God can damn anyone, and to express that desire was the same as taking God’s name in vain. They were also very serious about God’s Day.

America entered the post-Christian period of our history in 1935, or possibly a little later in some parts of the country. In the Bible Belt, I would say that it was at the end of the Second World War because so many people turned to the Lord during that war. Post-Christian America embraced evolution, which is the gateway philosophy to a host of evils, including abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia. That does not mean that all evolutionists favor homosexuality, abortion, or other sins condemned in the Word of God. What I mean is that once you sell people on evolution, you can sell a lot of them on abortion, same-sex marriage, adultery, and a low view of the marriage vows.
It is as simple as this: if you do not have God at the beginning, you don’t have to worry about a Judge at the end. If He is not the Creator you don’t have to worry about ever standing before the judgment bar of God. If you do not believe in God the Creator, how can believe in God as Redeemer, or Judge. If you do not believe in the God of the Word, you may scoff at the Word of God. A Jewish friend told me that someone told him about the program on the History Channel about the Flood. I assured him that if he saw anything about the Bible on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel it was a liberal presentation. It seems that some authority the host interviewed claimed that it would have taken years to load all those animals onto the ark. I said, “That depends on who is loading them. If God is loading them there would be no problem. He brought them to the ark, saw them on the ark, and closed the door.

Once you begin to question the authority of the Word of God you may well scoff at many of the teachings of the Bible. Biblical morality is a joke to a large segment of our society. Sunday, for many, is a day for work, a day to visiting Grandma, a day for recreation and pleasure. I remember when I first noticed the weatherman on Friday of Saturday evening telling people what kind of day they would have for hunting, fishing, or for a picnic on Sunday. Blue Laws were repealed across the nation.

No doubt, a lot of people today believe those who followed the Biblical teaching on the Lord’s Day are a bunch of narrow-minded, fundamentalists. It is bad enough when lost people violate the Lord’s Day, but it is a shame and disgrace when those who profess to be Christians scoff at what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath, just as they joke about sermons dealing with gambling, drinking alcoholic beverages, or the “recreational” use of drugs.

C. This Is not Just Theological, It Is Deeply Personal for Me.

I was pastor of one church for fifteen years. The people in our area were very active in little league and a member of our church headed up the program. He told me many times that they would not play games on Sunday or Wednesday evenings. That was good, but we always had some little league coaches who decided to use those times to practice. I was attending a pastor’s conference in another town when the new young pastor made the suggestion that we organize an associational softball league for young men and young women - and we could play on Sunday afternoon. I immediately said, “If you do that we forfeit any ground we might stand on when we ask the little league coaches not to play on Sunday. First the pros played on Sunday, they colleges, and now high schools practice on Sunday. Little league state-wide is already using Sundays for play-offs. If we organize a league to play on Sunday, how are we going to ask them not to do it?”

Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not my day. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not play day. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not grandma’s day. Sunday is the Lord’s Day - all the time, not just when I don’t have something else to do. Sunday is the Lord’s Day - all day!

My older son John worked all the way through highschool. I mean, he really worked. He mowed lawns, worked on a rice farm, and he worked at a hardware store. He saved his money and invested it in CDs - and then found that his savings prevented his getting loans or grants when he went to college. He could not even get a job on campus - and that was at Mississippi College. If he has blown all his money he could have gotten help. If he had used all the CDs up the first year he could have gotten help. However, since he had designated a CD for each semester for the first few years, he only found one job on campus - one semester. John went to a nearby mall and found a job he really enjoyed. Then, they repealed the Blue Laws in Mississippi and the manager gave them the new schedule. John tried to tell him that he could not work on Sunday and asked if they could schedule around that. The manager showed concern for his convictions at all. John resigned on the spot - and he really needed the job.

Where did John learn such reverence for the Lord’s Day? Well, after all, look who preached to him every Sunday! That may well have been part of it, but it was not all of it. Between age ten and fifteen John read through the Bible five times. He read every Sunday School lesson three times. His mother and others taught him in Sunday School. That is all good, but I really believe two practical lessons contributed to his convictions.

There was a very active scout group in our community, many of them members of our church and many more in another local church. One of the leaders invited John to go with the group to Arizona for two weeks and John asked permission. I told him that he could not miss church those two Sundays. The leader assured me they would “hold church services” in the mountains. I still refused because I did not want him to miss that which is best for that which is merely good.

They scheduled a work day one Sunday afternoon so they could go to a deacon’s home and help dig up a stump. They were teaching the young people to serve others. I refused permission for John. I wanted him to learn to serve others, but not at such a high price. If the man had needed medical attention, if there had been an emergency it would have been different. They scheduled this project for Sunday for their convenience. I would like to believe that John learned a lesson about the Lord’s day through these practical applications of God’s word.

Many of the people who knew my mother were influenced by her commitment to the Lord and to His Word. If you had asked me for a definition I could have pointed to my mother - and you would not believe how many neighbors would have said Amen. A few years later I began to realize that though my daddy was less vocal, he applied his convictions in his own quiet way.

Once a sharecropper who lived on our place came to see Daddy on a Saturday afternoon. He said, “I know you are going to church tomorrow, and I know you don’t work on Sunday. I don’t go to church and I was wondering if you would let me use a tractor and plow my cotton tomorrow.” Daddy said, “I don’t work on Sunday. My land is not worked on Sunday. And my tractor is not worked on Sunday.” I know a lot of people today would think he was some kind of right wing fundamentalist, but he would be surprised to hear then say so.

Once before Daddy bought a combine, he had contracted with a man to cut his soybeans. Everything was going well until the man had a breakdown. He stopped by the house to tell my daddy that he was having to repair his combine and should have if ready by Saturday night. He told him he would finish the last field on Sunday before moving on to another farm. Daddy told him he could not cut his beans on Sunday. The man said, “When I leave I cannot move all my equipment back for that one field.” Daddy told him that he would just have to leave it for the neighbor’s hogs then.

I never heard anyone call my daddy a religious fanatic. He was practical, but he had his convictions and he stayed with them. Livestock were fed, watered and secured on Sundays, but we did not do anything that was not necessary on Sundays. Did God bless my daddy with wealth because of his faithfulness in observing the Lord’s Day? No. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, he paid a price for his convictions at times. He was a good farmer but a series of dry years led him to the conclusion that it was time to rent out the farm and buy a business in town. He did glean a bumper crop in the hearts and minds of his children, James, Mike, Linda, and me.

I also remember the time Daddy bought a load of hay which had to be unloaded some distance from the barn because the road was muddy. We heard thunder about eleven o’clock and we got up and hauled the hay to the barn. This was something that needed to be done.

Doctors have Sunday calls. Nurses have to work Sunday shifts. Pharmacists may have to fill prescriptions on Sunday. I would hate to think that I had to drive all day on Sunday and could not find a place to but gas or to buy a meal. Some of those who need those meals are people who are having to stay with family members in the hospital. It is fortunate that they can find a place to eat.

Large plants, like paper mills and oil refineries would never get any work done if they closed every Friday afternoon and opened again the next Monday morning. I discovered that when men who worked at International Paper Company told my how long it took to shut the mill down and start it up again. I am not condemning those who have to work on Sunday. I am certainly not condemning those law enforcement officers, firemen, and the military personnel who must work on Sunday. What I am doing is challenging you to see the Lord’s Day as He sees it. What I want you to see is that we must keep the Lord’s day holy. It is a day when we should come together with other believers to worship our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer in truth and in spirit.


It may well be that American will never experience revival until we return to a biblical view of the Lord’s Day. Too many people who do go to church every Sunday, rush out to the restaurant, then they rush home to dress to go to the golf course, the lake, to the woods, to the mall, or the movie. You are on dangerous ground when you begin making plans for yourself and for your children that may distract one from true worship on the Lord’s Day. Keeping the Lord’s Day is a lot more that showing up on Sunday morning.