We are continuing in our series of the “Ten Suggestions???” and we’re at commandment number four today. I am really excited to teach a series like this because it’s one of those things where a lot of people would say, “I believe in God and living by the Ten Commandments” but if you ask them to name four of them they can’t. So, we don’t know a lot about them, but I appreciate your willingness to come and to consider the richness of God’s word. And speaking of that, I’d like to encourage you to join us in the Community Bible Study of 1 John to dig deeper, to work it out, and see how God’s Word does play out practically in your life, because I’d love to have you get connected in that way if you’re already not.
If you’ve got your Bible or can find a Bible under the chair in front of you let’s go to Exodus 20:8–11. The theme for today is Sabbath, the day of rest, ceasing from our work, and today I am not sure many of us know how absolutely essential and central this concept was for God’s old covenant, Old Testament people. You see for thousands of years, they celebrated the Sabbath in a way that was completely devoted. It was the centerpiece of their week. All of life revolved around it; family, business, travel, and worship revolved around it. The Sabbath was essential and central to their culture then, even as it is today. In Israel, when the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday night everything shuts down. You can’t get a cab, you can’t go out for dinner, you can’t go out shopping, you can’t transact business, because everything literally has stopped, everything changed on the Sabbath.
In America today, I believe we, as God’s people, are overlooking and missing the blessing of the Sabbath. We Gentiles don’t get this. Most of us don’t remember the days when stores were closed on Sunday. And most of us are not really committed to much of anything with that degree of devotion. But, the forth commandment raises all kinds of questions. You know like, should we practice the Sabbath? And if so, on what day and in what way? How does it or does it not apply to us? Lots of questions surfaced this week as I studied the fourth commandment, so let’s read it and see what we can glean together.
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” NIV
Religion is and always has been about rules, but rules never work, because we’re not to be filled with rules… we’re to be filled with the Holy Spirit who helps us to obey the word of God. That is why Jesus says to those finger pointing religious folks in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is a gift that God gives, and when we make it a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s no longer a blessing but a burden. And if you don’t do your work during the six days… if you’re disorganized, you’re lazy, or you’re late… you’re going to end up missing the blessing of having a day off… missing God’s pattern for work. So maybe you need to re-organize your week in a way that will fill you, energize you, strengthen you, and prepare you for the coming six days? Here’s what it is: It’s a change of mind; it’s a change of rhythm; it’s God’s pattern for our week.
But you see, if my whole week is disorganized, if it’s put together poorly, I’m going to miss the blessings of the Sabbath. And verse 11, says that the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, so I want to grab ahold of that for myself and my family, I want that for you and yours, but the one thing I don’t want to do is to turn it into a law, I want to be wise and do what’s right. I want to turn it into wisdom from God. I want to speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1 Corinthians 2:7). That is of Jesus Christ, who has become for us our Sabbath… our righteousness, holiness and redemption. So let’s dig in to God’s word… verse eight says, “Remember…”
What the Lord is saying is that we are to take something that is from the past, remember and memorialize it, so that it would be living in the present, and live on into the future. It’s not just a mental remembrance; it’s celebrating and modeling that which has gone before us so that it would have a future with us. So, to “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8) in our language today would be to remember your day off. It means to pause from your work, to interrupt your daily routine, with a day of rest.
But to remember it “by keeping it holy” is an important concept. Because just as God is set apart… just as God is different from us… he is holy. You see, we’re sinful and he’s not. We’re created and he’s eternal. We have to learn things and he knows everything. He is totally different from us, and in the same way his people are to keep this day, the Sabbath, holy and separate. So the concept here is that for six days, we do the same thing, we get up and go to work, but on the seventh day… it’s holy, it’s set apart, it’s different from the other six days. So, the principle of the Sabbath is that six days look alike and one day looks different… its holy.
So what can we do and not do on the Sabbath? Well, God says, “Remember” you can’t work. Now I know some of you have been waiting to hear the “Don’t work sermon” and you’re all about that. But that’s getting into law isn’t it? You know, that’s where your sheep falls into a pit and you’re concerned if it is lawful to take it out on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11-12). But God also says, “Remember to do all your work in six days.” So maybe we need to get to the “Get a Job” part of the sermon, because maybe you’re not particularly fruitful. You know, you’re the one who is up at the crack of lunch, you get two naps a day, and you work part-time. And so what you don’t need is more days off; what you need is more days at work.
For others of you, you’re going to kill yourself, you’re going to burn yourself out, and you don’t have room in your life for rest or for the Lord. And what you need to do is repent by enjoying a Sabbath. So each of us here, come into this with our own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies and you know where you are. And I love this, because our God, a God who “so loved the world” said, even people from other religions, your employees, your coworkers, visitors from other places, are all involved in this… everybody got this blessing.
So God says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Remember that whatever you do for the other six days, that stops on the seventh day, because I the “Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:11). And so he goes back to Genesis chapter two, he goes back to Creation, and points out what he’s modeled for us saying, “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.”
Now because of evolutionary theories, there’s a big debate as to whether or not the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest… were actual, literal, 24-hour days. But here, in Exodus and throughout the Bible, it very strongly indicates that those are literal 24-hour days because God sets up a seven-day week based upon his example and pattern from Genesis chapter two. And so Ephesians 5:1 tells us to, “Be imitators of God.” We’re to find our patterns in life based upon God’s patterns.
But as we consider the fourth commandment, we’ve got to ask the question. Is the Sabbath for Christians today? Because as you read the Bible, only nine of the Ten Commandments are mentioned specifically and commanded in the New Testament to be followed by those who love and obey Jesus. So I find it’s extremely helpful to consider the practice of the early church and those who knew Jesus face to face… those who actually lived through five Sabbaths with him in those forty days following his resurrection… those forty days that he walked the earth giving witness to his resurrection before returning to heaven.
Now Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each of the four biographies that tell the story of Jesus, say that he rose from death on “The first day of the week.” On the calendar, the first day of the week is Sunday right? So Jesus dies in our place for our sins, rises as our Savior on Sunday, the day which John, in Revelation, calls the “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10) and immediately the early church started meeting not on Saturday, but on Sunday. “On the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). So, the Bible and church history shows the church getting together on Sunday ever since the resurrection.
Today the old covenant is fulfilled, the new covenant has come, and everything that was written was anticipatory and preparatory for the coming of Jesus and is now satisfied in the resurrection of Jesus. And so the whole world is changed, all things are in the process of becoming new, in order to represent the new reality that is brought into being through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, the emphasis shifts from the anticipatory Saturday Sabbath to a celebratory Sunday… the Lord’s Day… the first day of the week, because we don’t just concern ourselves with when we worship, we concern ourselves with who we worship.
And so our Lord Jesus comes without sin. God becomes a man, lives a perfect life in full, complete, total obedience to the entirety of the law. Jesus said it this way, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to FULFILL them” (Matthew 5:17). So, the Ten Commandments, the 613 Laws, the first and greatest commandment, all the Law and the Prophets, the whole law is fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:36-40).
This is why the apostle Paul in Romans 10:4 says that “Christ is the end of the law.” Because Jesus Christ is our perfection, he’s our righteousness, he’s obeyed the entirety of the law, but he goes to the cross, substitutes himself as our sacrifice, suffers and dies in our place for our sins as our Savior. He rises from the grave on Sunday, gives us his righteousness, and as our living, sovereign Lord, there are some things that he still tells us we shouldn’t do, like murder people, commit adultery, steal, lie, or worship false gods. And yet I realize that apart from Christ, you and I will never meet the demands of the law, but we can rejoice in Christ who fulfilled every demand of the law for us.
So, that being said, the Saturday Sabbath is not binding on Christians because it’s fulfilled in Christ, who says it this way:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I’ll give you Sabbath he says. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
So, our rest today is in Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfills the law. He is our Savior. And he is our Sabbath, right? But let’s move from the realm of law and into the realm of wisdom because it is the wise thing to do. Remember the context, the people of God are gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, God calls them together, and like a father giving instruction to his children, he’s telling his kids how to live their lives. Now they just came out of slavery working seven days a week. They haven’t had a day off. They’re burnt out and exhausted. And so God sits them down and says, “I love you and you really need to take a day off because you’re going to hurt yourself.” And so there’s great wisdom in that isn’t there?
So God’s warning us, if you don’t take a break, you’re going to break. If you don’t take a Sabbath voluntarily, you’ll take a Sabbath involuntarily. And today we call it stress, depression, ulcers, heart attack, and hospitalization. The question is not, are you going to stop? The question is, are you going to stop joyfully or painfully? That’s the question.
And I’ve got to admit, I’m still learning this. And there have been times when I’ve scared myself, when I’ve really burned myself out, and I need to be saved from myself. I know in a lot of way I’ve failed at this, I’m still working at this, and for those of you who are like me, it’s something to constantly be aware of and constantly be repenting of, because all of a sudden, productivity becomes idolatry. We think, “I can get more done!” and God says, “The thing that’s most important to me is time with you.”
And I get this because I have six kids, I love them, but what I don’t want for them is to just do their chores. I want them to get some time with me. I enjoy those evenings when I sit on the couch with the kids. You know they fight over who’s sitting next to me, they lay on top of me, at my feet, or whatever. And I think I would be so very grieved and saddened if my children never came and sat with me… because they’ve got to cut the grass… got to clean the house… got to watch the game… got to do this or do that. And so God is saying, “I’m your Dad. You need to do your chores, but I also need you to spend time with me, because it’s good for you, I love you, and want to spend time with you.”
So this morning, I want you to understand this, not in terms of some Celestial Judge giving a law, but as a Father giving wise counsel to his children. A dad who’s looking out for his kids and worried they’re going to burn out. He’s trying to save us from ourselves, because at some point every one of us will run out of energy. You can only go for so long and like your phone: your battery winds down, and you’ve got to recharge it. And so when we Sabbath, when we have a different day, it’s not a work day, and all of a sudden we get new perspective on the other six days. We get to rest in Christ; enjoy time with Him, the life he’s given us, and the people that he’s surrounded us with. That’s the heart of the Sabbath.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 16, 2014