Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blessed When We Rest

This is an excerpt, a little sneak peak, you might say into the rough draft of the book I am currently working on Devotions From Exodus. I thought I might share it with you. :-)

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8

I began this devotion on the fourth commandment of our God and had to stop. As I read it I couldn't get past the obvious fact that as a modern American church this is the one and only commandment we do not seem to practice, to observe, as it is written. 

Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God;
in it you shall not do any work,
you or your son or your daughter,
your male or your female servant
or your cattle
or your sojourner who stays with you.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them,
and rested on the seventh day;
 therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:9-11

As I was discussing this thought on the Sabbath commandment online with family and friends one of them pointed out that this is the only commandment that begins with God telling us to "remember" it. I would agree with her that there must be a very good reason for that beginning. This commandment also is the last commandment that addresses our relationship with God specifically.

Do we as the modern western church choose to ignore this commandment? There are christian denominations that choose to observe worship on Saturday instead of Sunday, but is that the same as keeping the sabbath holy?

What does Jesus have to say about the Sabbath?

In John 5:18 we read that "the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

The Jews are saying that Jesus is breaking the Sabbath. We know that this cannot be true, because Jesus kept the Law of God with perfection. We have to look at the context of this verse and find out why the Jews made this accusation. When we look at the context we see they accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath because He healed a man and told the man to pick up his pallet and walk.

Now the Jews tell this newly healed man that he is breaking the Sabbath because it is not permissible for him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath. If we look back at Exodus 20:8-11, I do not read anywhere that God said, "thou shalt not carry thy pallet". I believe the Jews made this accusation not because Jesus was breaking God's Sabbath, but because He was breaking the Jews tradition of sabbath. It was for this that they sought all the more to kill Him. A friend of mine pointed out that in this verse we do not see the Jews even consider giving praise to God for this man's healing, they are only concerned that he is breaking their rules.

In the book of Matthew we read more of Jesus and the Sabbath. In Matthew 12:1-8 we read of the Pharisees accusing the disciples of Christ of breaking the Sabbath because they have picked grains of wheat to eat in their hunger. Jesus then points out to the Pharisees that the priests of the temple do themselves break the Sabbath as they continue to perform their temple work on that holy day. He then tells them that something greater than the temple is here. In Matthew 12:8 Jesus declares "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Then in Matthew 12:9-14 Jesus goes on to heal another man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees then question Him about whether or not it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. If I was Jesus I would probably be rolling my eyes at this point and shaking my head in disbelief at these men, but Jesus simply answers, "What man is there among you has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!"

These Pharisees, these religious tyrants, had missed the whole point of the Sabbath command. They missed it because their focus was to control men by the Law, not help them. Truth be known they probably did value the sheep over the man because their sheep would make them money which would bring them power and that man would cost them money and they would have to humble themselves in order to serve and help him.

The fourth command is to remember the Sabbath. In Mark 2:27 Jesus tells us that "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." The instructions following this fourth commandment concerning the sabbath day in Exodus 20 tells us that we are to remember this day by rest.

"In repentance and rest you will be saved,
in quietness and trust is your strength."
Isaiah 30:15

So what exactly is Jesus trying to get across to these religious men about their view of the Sabbath? How does what Jesus say to them relate to us today? Are we breaking the Sabbath by worshiping on Sunday instead of Saturday?

Let us reason together.

We have to remember what this command says.
It tells us to remember to rest.
To rest in rest?
No, to rest in God.

I don't know about you but Sunday is not a day of rest for me. However, I don't really believe it was designed nor intended to be. When we are called to assemble together as the church we are called to serve and be employed, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:10). Sunday is the day we come together as a body of believers to grow in grace and truth. It is the day that we are supposed to spend building each other up. I believe this is separate from the Sabbath, which is to be a day of rest.

We are commanded by God to remember the Sabbath and commanded by Christ to remember Him by the Lord's Supper, the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup (Luke 22:19-20).
Remember the Sabbath and remember Me, the Lord of the Sabbath, when you come together by the Lord's Supper.

Maybe our Lord is saying "Remember by the breaking of this bread and the drinking of this cup that you could not work enough to earn your salvation. Remember that I alone am God, set up no idols of worship in your heart, do not consider my name as useless or ordinary because it is by this name that you are saved. Remember the Sabbath and rest in Me, knowing that in Me you are complete, it is finished."

I believe that we are called to remember the Sabbath and to come together and worship on Sunday. The Sabbath is for us individually (Mark 2:27) and the Lord's Supper for us collectively, "Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Corin 10:17).

Also let us notice that the command is not "Remember Saturday and keep it holy". It is remember the sabbath. The first sabbath is the seventh day. We read of it in the beginning in Genesis.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 
By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done,
and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 
Then God blessed the seventh day
and sanctified it,
because in it He rested from all His work
which God had created and made.
Genesis 2:1-3 

Have you noticed that in Genesis when God tells us of creation He doesn't say there was evening and morning, Sunday, then there was evening and morning, Monday, etc? He simply says one day, then the second day... I have to think that also is for a reason, don't you?

Let's just for the moment look at the observance of the Sabbath in practicality.
Let us just imagine if we as a church would put away the idols of immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires and greed (Colossians 3:5), would we rest more?
If we put these idols away, what would happen to the round the clock seven days a week work schedule? Would we need to run a business 24/7 if we did not worship the idol of greed. Or try to make money off of those who worship the idol of greed?
Let us even consider the medical field. How much emptier would our hospitals be if we removed all the patients that were their due to stress induced illnesses, from being overworked, or from immoral living?
Let us consider the prisons. How much emptier would they be if we put away the idol of greed and remembered that God was our Creator and Sustainer and Provider?

How many of our families would still be intact if at least one day a week we chose to rest in God. To be still before Him. To not require work from our children or our employees and to do none ourselves. If we just one day a week stopped and looked at all that we have accomplished and was content and said, "you know this is good, very good." What if just one day every week we just stopped in the midst of all the craziness of life and worshiped our God by casting all our cares on Him and enjoying the abundant blessing of Himself while trusting that He would take care of tomorrow.

I don't believe it's that we are to not move on the sabbath or carry our pallet or pick grain in our hunger or heal a man or even to hold a church service on a particular day. I believe it is simply that we are not to strive on this day.

I believe God is saying "I am mindful that you are but flesh, I know the worries of this world that flood your soul, just give Me one day. One day. And I promise if You will stop this one day and remember and fall into my arms, then I promise I will carry you the rest of the week. Just trust Me."

Just ponder it my friend.
Then look at your own heart and examine yourself.
Are you remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy?
Let us not forget that we are blessed when we rest.

Oh Father,

Thank you for your Sabbath. Thank you for giving us permission to rest. Forgive me Father, for not giving You this time. You are indeed my Creator and You will carry me. Help me to honor You in this way, by willingly allowing You to carry me. Calling on You in my time of need and not wasting my time by striving on my own. My Jesus, I cast my cares on You this day and I come to You, my God, for rest (Matthew 11:28).

My Jesus it is in Your name I pray,

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