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Great Themes of the Bible
A newspaper editorial seems to describe well the times we live in. It said,
“The world is too big for us. There’s too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence, and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain, to keep pace … and still you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. In the political world news is seen so rapidly that you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure much more.”
Sounds like it’s been plucked right out of today’s headlines, but it actually appeared in the Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833.
Burnout has become a major problem in America and in the churches. Maybe you’re here this evening and you’re feeling burned out. You had to bring work home, only to add it to the work that’s already waiting for you. And the worst part is that when you wake up the next morning you know you’re going to be just as tired as when you went to bed.
What I find interesting is that out of all the Ten Commandments, this commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day is the longest; therefore it’s something God really wants to teach us.
Read Exodus 20:8-11
Pastor Vance Havner said, “We all need to come apart to rest before we come apart, period.”
God established the Sabbath because He knows our need for rest and worship. He created the Sabbath for our delight. It’s His word of grace for those who are driven and harassed.
God intended the Sabbath to be a blessing for His creation, especially humanity. But the problem is that we’ve allowed ourselves to become enslaved to it. God created it for our pleasure, but we’ve corrupted it by adding to it. God designed the Sabbath not to limit, but to liberate.
The Sabbath’s Purpose
The Sabbath had it’s beginning at the Creation. God created the universe in the first six days and then took the seventh day off.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NKJV)
While the word “Sabbath” doesn’t appear in this account, it’s clear that God established a sacred day of rest every week. This is seen in the fourth commandment.
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11 NKJV)
The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cease, desist, or rest.” But did God take the Sabbath because He was tired or overworked – NO. Instead, God instituted this day of rest out of His love for humanity. God established this day because He knew we needed a stop-what-you-are-doing day. And the reason He knew we needed this day is because He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows what’s best for us so that we can operate effectively.
But as important as rest is, this is not the only reason God gave us the Sabbath. This other reason is brought out in the Book of Deuteronomy where God reiterates these Ten Commandments, and when He comes to the Sabbath He expands its meaning.
“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NKJV)
If I could summarize, the Lord gives us the Sabbath, not only because we need the rest, but also so that we can take this day and worship Him for our deliverance.
So, by these two definitions, the Sabbath is to be a day of rest and worship
God knows our need for peace and praise, and so He gives us this commandment to take a day to not only rest in Him but to worship Him as well.
But as in all things, we can mess up the blessing God gives.
The Sabbath’s Perversion
What’s interesting, but not surprising, is that the Sabbath was perverted even before God could make it into a commandment. On their way to receive these Ten Commandments, God gave them this Sabbath principle.
“This is what the Lord has said: Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.” (Exodus 16:23 NKJV)
God told them to gather enough Manna for that day, and if they gathered more it would turn into rotten maggoty food. But on the day prior to the Sabbath, God told them to gather enough for two days so they wouldn’t have to work on this holy day. And God promised He wouldn’t allow it to become bad.
But some didn’t believe, so they went out that next morning, the Sabbath, to gather Manna, but found none on the ground. Look at what the Lord said.
“How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” (Exodus 16: 28-29 NKJV)
But this wasn’t the only time Israel perverted the Sabbath. Later they reduced the Sabbath to a form with no meaning or substance. And so God said,
“Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.” (Isaiah 1:13-14 NKJV)
They were keeping the Sabbath out of habit. What they were doing was mixing God’s Sabbath with their idolatry. And so God told them to stop it, because it wasn’t doing them any good.
When God has first place in our hearts and we delight ourselves in Him, then our worship becomes genuine and God will bless us. But when our own pleasure and comfort comes first, then we’ll never experience God’s blessings.
So God tells us to stop doing what we want on the Sabbath and start making it a holy day, a day set apart for Him. This is the Sabbath that pleases God.
To the prophet Isaiah God said that He would delight Himself in those who so keep the Sabbath holy. Look at what He tells for us to do on the Sabbath that makes Him happy.
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you will find your joy in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13-14a NKJV)
When we take delight in the Lord and in the ways He commands, then God promises He will give to us the desires of our hearts, Psalm 37:4.
The Sabbath was a day of delight to be observed with rest and worship and it was to be a special day unto the Lord, free from the daily grind making it a bummer to keep.
This is what the Pharisees were doing. It’s said they had over 1500 regulations surrounding the Sabbath. The problem was with what they were saying about what God said, which is at the heart of a lot of the church’s problems today.
Some of it was really ridiculous. Like eggs hens lay on the Sabbath could not be eaten because the hens worked on the Sabbath. You also couldn’t swat away a fly because that would be work, and if you tried to catch the fly, that would be considered hunting.
But, we must be careful to avoid taking this problem Jesus had with the Pharisee’s as a moral dispute. It wasn’t. Rather it went much deeper; it went to the Lordship of Jesus over the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 NKJV)
As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus spoke against their Sabbath ritual saying that God made the Sabbath for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath; that the day was for the health and healing of humanity, body, soul and spirit, and not to make man subject to the day.
The Sabbath’s Principle
In a culture that coined words like, “burnout” and “workaholic,” this is important.
While the Sabbath is not a commandment to be legally kept or enforced, the principles set forth in God’s law concerning the Sabbath are to be kept and applied. You see we still need time on a weekly basis to restore and refresh ourselves physically, mentality, emotionally, and spiritually.
Especially spiritually, and so we need to set some time apart for God to restore and refresh us through spiritual devotion and instruction. We need to take time from both work and play to renew our spirits. This is the heart of the Sabbath principle.
If we neglect the Sabbath principle it’s to our own peril, because worship is God’s design to recharge our spiritual batteries and to give to us a sense of the sacred.
What happens when we neglect the Sabbath principle is that we try to recharge ourselves physically and mentally through other means, but end up depleting our spiritual batteries.
The Old Testament specifies the seventh day as the Sabbath, but in the New Testament this has become a principle, not a legalistic requirement.
In the New Testament the church didn’t meet on the seventh day; instead they met on the first day of the week, or Sunday, because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead. But as far as which day we are to keep the Sabbath, listen to the Apostle Paul instruction.
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV)
Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath by giving us rest, that is, rest from their captivity to sin. He said,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV)
Our Sabbath is found in Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t relieve us from setting apart a day or time to focus on God and our worship of Him. The writer of Hebrews confirms this saying,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
Dr. Richard Swenson coined a term that seems to describe what happens to us when we skip this vital principle. He calls it a “lack of margin.” Dr. Swenson sees a steady stream of hurting people coming into his office, and the majority of them suffer from this disease. He said,
“Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Its something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. As a society, we’ve forgotten what margin is. In the push for progress, margin as been devoured.”
“We feel distressed in ill-defined ways. We are besieged by anxiety, stress and fatigue. Our relationships suffer. We have unexplained aches and pains. The flood of daily events seems beyond our control.”
Now, think of the words Jesus said,
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
We’ve got electric lights that burn all night. We’ve got cars, trains and airplanes so we can go further and faster than ever before. We’ve learned to multi-task, but we’ve forgotten how to rest.
And old Indian proverb says that we’ll break the bow if we always have it bent.
The Sabbath is God’s gift to enable us to get the whole of ourselves, body, soul, and spirit restored and renewed. And we do this by purposing in our hearts to set aside time to rest and come together and worship the Lord.
Devotional: An Anointed Rest
While we may be bone tired, weary beyond reckoning, we are to continue forward in the work and calling from God.
And what helps us to continue when we feel like quitting is the rest God gives us. This is not a physical rest, however, even though God knows our need for such, but rather it’s a rest that’s available for our souls.
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord alluded to such a rest.
He said, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV)
Jesus said that when were burdened we’re to come to Him and He will give rest to our souls, Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV.
The reason we get so burned out and want to quit is because we haven’t found God’s anointed rest. We’re so busy trying to make it that we’ve no time for resting. But there’s an anointed rest waiting for every one of us.
The writer of Hebrews says that on the seventh day God rested from all of His labors, and because of that there remains such a rest for God’s people.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 NKJV)
And so it’s through God’s grace that there’s a rest for His people, it’s a rest where we cease from striving and let God take over.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study