Let us pray: Dear Savior, taking a hiatus from the busyness of this life is a relief! How we long to sit back, relax, ponder Your beautiful creation, and savor those quiet times of life. Lord, that’s why you created Sunday! That’s why You created the day of rest. Always prompt us to put Sunday to the use You intended it by worshipping Your goodness thereby renewing our souls. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF THE SABBATH!
TEXT: Deuteronomy 5: 12-15
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
June is the kick-off for Summer vacations. So, are you planning a vacation? Are you excited about it? Where will you go? What will you see and do? I’m guessing that like me, on more than one occasion you’ve taken a vacation, ran all over creation, didn’t sleep as you wished, and then arrived back home to piled up mail, long grass on the lawn, a host of messages that came into the office when you were away and promptly uttered those fateful words: “I need a vacation from my vacation!” I suppose a time management specialist would have insights into all this. But the fact is: most people are just too busy for their own good.
God created us in His image. We possess traits that our Creator also has. He made us moral creatures. He gave us emotions like: love, faithfulness, and self-awareness. After creating the universe and beyond in just six 24 hour days, we’re told that God rested on the 7th day. He took time to ponder His creation and reflect on all that He had made. This is the reason why we also need to “keep the day of rest holy.” We inherited this trait of needing rest from none other than our Heavenly Father!
Almost everyone knows the 3rd commandment—Christians and unbelievers alike, albeit for different reasons. Historically human calendars set aside a day for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation each week. This is because the need of it has been inscribed on our hearts by our God. But since people have short attention spans and often view Sunday as a “bonus day” to get ahead via even more work, God had to etch it in stone on those two tablets of stone so as to prevent us from ignoring His holy will. Our text is about God giving this law to His people on Mt. Sinai.
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Sabbath literally means: rest. Just like God did at the end of the first week of creation. Now we all know what work means. But exactly what does “rest” mean? Does it mean sleeping in every Sunday morning and thereby worshiping St. Mattress? Some would seem to think so. Does it mean sitting in your most comfortable chair and watching mindless TV? Does it mean doing minimal cooking, eating, or ignoring the throw-up on the floor from the sick kids? Obviously “rest” has more to it than that.
Then there is the other extreme. The old Puritans were a lot like the ancient Jews. Those Jews had rabbinic laws about exactly what constituted work on the Sabbath and what didn’t. They had laws about how far you could walk before you broke the Sabbath law. They had laws about how involved you could get with cooking food, straightening the house, taking care of your livestock—literally everything—on the Sabbath. It became a study in silliness after a while. I suppose if such folks were alive today they would have rules as to how many text messages you could send and receive, how many minutes of video games the kids could play, and how long you could look at Facebook before you violated the Sabbath’s injunction of: rest.
Rest is a state of mind and body. Just as we need sleep to recharge and process what happened each day, so we need a day of rest to focus on rejuvenating our bodies and filling up our souls before the new week drains us. This is a universal need, too. God made that very clear in the following words: “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey, or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” God’s pretty smart. He knew all about the ravages of stress even before humans invented the word!
He also knew that the ultimate in stress relief lies in these two things: forgiveness and thankfulness. Forgiveness means letting go of hurts. God enables us to do exactly that when we feed our souls on His forgiveness for every sin through the merits of Jesus Christ. At Church you receive the ultimate in “soul food.” You receive eternal forgiveness for your sins because God won it for you on the cross by the blood of Jesus Christ. And the only response to such a relieving gift is: thankfulness. To me, true thankfulness and faith are really the same thing. For Godly faith is being grateful, thankful, for a gift (forgiveness and eternal life) which is precious beyond measure. So naturally, weekly public worship is the renewing avenue for both these gifts. At church God gives us His holiness and we receive it. Our souls then find rest in Him. So, true rest finds its fullness in Sunday morning worship.
I’m not going to get into all the objections people make about “keeping the day of rest holy.” I’m not going to touch on what constitutes work that cannot be ignored, a vital, life-saving job that no one else do, what constitutes a dire emergency, and the like. The point here is: Christians, God’s people, are to use their sanctified common sense when making decisions and not let the world dictate to them as to what’s more important than showing up and thanking God each Sunday morning. For in the end, you have to live with yourself. In fact, the day of rest is about how to live with yourself even better, isn’t it? But, we also have to live with God. And putting Him first leads always to better living….Amen