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Sermon - 9/13/09
Exodus 20:8-11 - The Sabbath

Audio Sermon

The Sabbath

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 (disciples) to Him” 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 Two.

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 His disciples.” 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 to those 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.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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