9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. – Jeremiah 17
The place of the heart in the worship of God is of primary concern to God. The heart can be devoted to God or it can be devoted to the flesh. For Judah, there heart just wasn’t in the worship they offered. They had become interested in the materialistic pursuits so that worship was displeasing to God. As Jesus pointed out, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from Me“, Mt 15:8,9.
In the Old Testament, one of the ways this cold practice of religion manifested itself was in the lack of interest in keeping the Sabbaths. Jeremiah writes,
“19 Thus the LORD said to me, “Go and stand in the public gate, through which the kings of Judah come in and go out, as well as in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 and say to them, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD, kings of Judah, and all Judah and all inhabitants of Jerusalem who come in through these gates:21 ‘Thus says the LORD, “Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. 22 “You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.” Jeremiah 17.
As in Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi, and other places, the perennial problem was the lack of desire to remember and honor God in the observance of the day of rest. It was a heart problem. The heart was into making money more than giving honor to God. God ordained for there to be a time that men lay aside the making money and pursuing material interests. But over and over again, the people longed to see the Sabbath come to an end so that the commerce could commence. They are deceived in their hearts.
“15 In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. 16 Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? 18 “Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.” Neh 13:15-18.
God’s people have been a rebellious people. They went into captivity for 70 years for their heart problem, and now after they have rebuilt the temple and the walls of the city, there they are again back to putting the flesh first.
When Jesus cleansed the temple of all the merchandisers, the sin was the same. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘my house shall be a house of prayer. But you have made it a robber’s den.” When this happens, there is no worship of God. The people were deceived in their hearts. In their hearts they longed more for the meat that the spirit. And whatever they offer to God was displeasing.
Today, Christians fall into the same error. The temple of the body is to be a place of holiness unto God. But the body is not devoted to God. Lipservice is what God gets, but the valuable part of a man’s life is devoted to “wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads“. The clock and calendar are devoted to recreation or to the making of money and as a last thought an hour might be given to the worship of God. Where is the true devotion to God when God is short changed with our giving and with our unwillingness to bring meaningful sacrifices to Him?
Truly, God sees those who put Him last. The Lord’s Day is the day designated for the church to assemble together. And we are not to forsake the assembling together, Heb 10:25. If we took to heart the work of drawing near to God and encouraging one another, we would desire to worship and would allow nothing to get in the way of it.
The value of reverent worship to our souls and to having the abundant life far exceeds the little extra profit we might gain in fleshly pursuits. God is worthy to be praised. Take a look again at the priorities you place on things. God is seeking you to worship Him, Jn 4:23,24. God wants His people coming together to encourage one another in the faith, Heb 10:24,25. There are great similarities between skipping the Old Testament Sabbath and skipping the worship assembly today.
Are we more devoted to God that those Jews in Jeremiah’s day? Seek the Lord. Pray and study the Scriptures. Search your own heart because Jeremiah says, “the heart above all things is deceitful.” The heart will be had by what you love most.