“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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 20:8-11)
This is the fourth in a series of sermons on what is called the
“Ten Commandments.” Today we look at the
4th Commandment, which is all about - rest. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 contains
the same command as this one, but with differences. The portion in Exodus 20 that speaks of the Lord as the
Creator and resting on the 7th day, is not mentioned in the Deuteronomy
verses. Also, God through Moses in Deuteronomy specifically reminded them
that those in Israel were slaves in Egypt who had no rights at all. If
they were forced to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they died,
they could have done nothing about it. To be utterly controlled with no
rest is a nightmare.
It’s with such horrible working conditions in mind that the Lord told
Israel and tells the rest of us, not only shall “you
not do any work” at least one day a
week, but those in your family are to be treated well. If you are able to have people working for you, they will
be treated fairly, also. And yes, if your children do chores, it will
build character, but don’t overdo it. Paul said, later in time, “fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath…” and in
another translation, “do not exasperate”
them (Ephesians 6:4).
By the way, the reference to God’s work in Creation is interesting.
The reason God rested on the 7th day as reported in Genesis 2:1, is
because there was nothing left to do. Everything was complete. The
universe was fully in place. The earth, including seas, land, the animal
and vegetable kingdoms, the macroscopic and microscopic – it was done.
No evolutionary forces were causing portions of creation to change
and/or come into existence. Unlike our lives, which always seem to be
changing, it was perfect! And also note that the Lord went back to work
after humankind fell. We see Him in Genesis 3:21 & its context,
working by making
coverings for Adam and Eve, who felt naked because of their sin.
There are brief moments in our lives that we can look back on as
times of – rest! These are times when, at their very best, you feel at
peace with – everything and everyone! There is peace with other people,
peace with your decisions, peace with God. You know pleasure and have a
sense of safety. You were touched by the beauty of the world and just
for a moment, you knew peace with yourself.
But if you are working twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a
week, in a job or career that is only marginally satisfactory, but must
do it in order to live, rest is hard to find. In fact rest is likely to
be non-existent in a world that, for you, only contains grim
determination. And the reality is that you can’t continue doing it
forever – you need rest!
Jesus understood. In Mark 6:7-13, we find Him calling “the twelve
and it is very interesting that He gave them, earlier in His ministry
than you would expect, “power over unclean spirits…”
and they were able to heal “many who were sick.”
Matthew gives us more detail about the same incident or reported another
one very much like it in Matthew 10:5 & forward. Jesus said to them, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead (and)cast out demons…” (Matthew 10:8). These abilities were
given long before the Day of Pentecost seen in Acts Chapter
In Mark's account, the disciples returned from their healing
ministry throughout Israel, and then they learned that John the Baptist
had been beheaded by King Herod. It was then Jesus said to
them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted
place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). The Lord personally knows our
need to rest, better than we do. They needed rest from constant ministry
and they were grieving a great loss, needing time to mourn John the
Baptist who had been savagely murdered.
Claudia May wrote a book with a wonderful title: “Jesus is
Enough: Love, Hope & Comfort in the Storms of Life,”
a book containing information we all need. She used Mark 6:31 as a
reference in saying Jesus “knew
His disciples could not sustain their efforts to care for others if they
were not able to find enough moments of replenish their bodies with food
or get time to rest. Also, Jesus was aware that few, if any, of the
individuals who gathered daily to see Him would consider the welfare of
This world is a hard place and our work, including ministry, takes
energy. And the world doesn’t care what happens to us. We need to find rest,
particularly that deep, lasting rest inside which comes from the Lord.
As previously mentioned, our families and co-workers need rest as
well. We think of Shabbat, or the Sabbath, as it is often called, to be
a day of busy religious activities, but the sense of the verses in both
Exodus and Deuteronomy, is about the concept of utter REST from the
tension of life.
In relation to our families, Claudia May said, “if we consistently put the needs of others before our own
families, or let outside commitments make us less attentive to our
families wants, resentments may brew within…” She continued, “family members may even act out in destructive ways…
(to) get our attention.” There are a lot of
rebellious young people in this world, and at least some of them will be
helped by our commandment for today. Chores can be
important, work in the family business may be good, schoolwork is
certainly necessary, after school sports can be helpful, but too much of
good things can produce anger, not that different from the anger
produced by neglect.
By refusing to come to the Lord, we deny rest to ourselves and
around us. Frankly, there is nothing in this world offering the rest
we so desperately need. And if you think about it, there always has to
be a REASON why, in this world of turmoil, rest is possible. And there
is. The ground, the reason we can know rest in this troubled place is
because of the finished work of Christ. Just like Adam and Eve
inadequately tried to cover themselves, but then were covered by God, our
sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. He did it all, and just
like there was nothing more to do after Creation because it was
finished, there is nothing more for you to do when you have trusted in
Christ. In doing so, you satisfy the command of God, and you have
utterly satisfied the requirements of the Law.
The rest we need is closely related to peace. We find rest because we
end our resistance and have peace with God. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Will you trust in Him right now?
Dear Lord, I trust in You. Forgive me for trying to live this life
in my own strength. I need Your peace, I need Your rest. I need You.
Thank You for dying for my sins. In Jesus Name. Amen.