Honouring the Sabbath
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Today we continue our series on the Ten Commandments and we look at honouring the Sabbath.
In Exodus 20 (where the Ten Commandments are recorded for us… but you find them in Deuteronomy 5 as well) God gives more words, more explanation, to this commandment than He does to any other commandment. In my translation 90 out of 256 words are spent on this command. That is 35%!
More than 1/3 of God's time is taken up by one of the Ten Commandments. That makes this commandment significant, and yet, I would suggest that it is probably the least understood and the least kept of all the commandments.
When asked what the fourth commandment is, many would probably say something along the lines of: ‘Don’t work on the Sabbath’… ‘Rest on the Sabbath’
But the command is: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
That hopefully begs the question: What must we remember?
Well first of all, let there be a day of the week, the 7th day, when you actually make a conscious effort to remember throughout the day that… Today is the Sabbath. Kind of like when we have a birthday… that whole day we keep it in our minds… today is my birthday. Let’s have a day a week where throughout the day, we remember, we remind ourselves, today is Sabbath.
There’s a bit more we can remember though. Did you notice that God remembers something… He says: ‘In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas and everything in them, but on the 7th day I rested.’
That’s what God remembers as He gives us this command… I created the whole universe in 6 days and then I rested from my creative work. So… God remembers and celebrates creation in this command. One of the ways we can remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy is by remembering our God as Creator and we can do this by just looking out and even finding ways to enjoy and celebrate creation. There are many ways to do this:
Some folk make an effort on the Sabbath to make time to just look at the stars; others may go to the zoo; perhaps drive in the country;
a walk through a park etc, etc, etc.
All the time remembering: ‘Today is the day that God, Creator God, rested from making all this.’ Can you see how this can bring obedience to this commandment to life in you?
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy… to keep holy (you might remember a few weeks back) means to set apart for God. Something or someone is holy if it is separated or set apart from other things for God.
When the 10 Commandments are recorded in Deuteronomy God says this: ‘Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that I, the Lord your God, rescued you by my great power and strength. That is why I command you to remember the Sabbath.’
So here is another way to remember the Sabbath: Remember that once you were slaves, but now you are free. I don’t think we as Christians remind ourselves enough that the truth is: WE ARE FREE…. FREE from bondage to sin, even while we still struggle against it and with it… don’t let Satan say to you: ‘You’re mine, look at your behavior, you’re as bad as you ever were… you’re mine’
No!!!!! In Christ, I am free, my freedom has been won… I am no longer your captive, even though it might look like I am, I’m not! In Christ, I am free!!
And if one day a week we would set time apart to remember this TRUTH, we would live out that freedom more successfully than we currently do.
The Sabbath is another one of God’s means of grace for us. Just as He blesses us through the other means of grace, like prayer, Scripture reading, the Sacrament, fellowship and fasting...... so too He conveys grace and blessing to us when we remember the Sabbath and set it apart for Him, especially in the 2 ways we've mentioned: remember and celebrate creation,
remember and celebrate your freedom in Christ.
Now, for another way..... REST. Our reading from Hebrews reminds us that God's desire for us is… REST. I don’t have to ask how many people here are TIRED. One of the freedoms that Christ has won for us is… REST.
Come to me, all you who are tired and I will give you… REST.
Rest is incredibly important to God. He wants us to rest. He COMMANDS us to… rest.
When we remember creation we remember that:
God created… on day one.
God created… on day two.
God created… on day three.
God created… on day four.
God created… on day five.
God created… on day six. On day six He made all animals – must have taken up most of the day. At the end, last of all, He creates humans. What’s the first thing these humans do… well..... it’s the end of the day, so they probably… go to sleep, they rest!
Then they wake up to their first full day in this creation, day seven, and God says to them… REST… it’s Sabbath. So what did they do, well, they no doubt found ways to enjoy the creation and each other… WOW – look what God has made.
Rest is so important in God’s plan for us, that it is the first thing that He gives His created beings to do.
So here is another way to ‘Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy’ – don’t do the things on this day that keep you busy the other six days of the week. Set this day apart as special… as different… as holy to the Lord.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Here is a final way to do this, and it comes from our reading from Mark’s gospel. Jesus reminds us, so we ought to remember, that the Sabbath is made for us, we were not made for the Sabbath.
Sabbath fits into you, it is made for you.
You and I don’t fit into Sabbath.
Can you see how Sabbath thus sets free, it doesn’t confine. [I explained this in my introduction to this series – laws set us free, they don’t confine us. Before we are born again we hate laws and rebel against them, but when we are born again – laws set us free. You and I are not confined by the law that says ‘drive on the left side of the road…’ we are set free by that law!]
We don’t fit into the Sabbath, Sabbath fits into us and sets us free to celebrate creation, to remember our freedom, and to rest.
Therefore: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.