Exodus 20:8-11 ~ 20110807 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/07 Exodus 20:8-11 Word # 4 Stop to Remember
We are studying God's ten words to his people, his house rules that he gave to his people after he saved them from slavery in Egypt. That is critical to understand. This is not God's list of how to earn his favor. They are given after he has freely saved his undeserving people and brought them into relationship with himself. Now he is telling them what that relationship should look like. God's instructions start with God, because God is unashamedly God-centered, the universe he created is God-centered, and the people he redeemed are to be God-centered people. He starts by saying 'I am YHWH your God. I saved you. You are to have no other gods. You are to make no images. Who I am is not to be taken lightly.' And then he gives us his fourth commandment, 'I am to be the center of your time'. And this is the first of his commands that is framed positively. So many people object to all the negativity in God's commands. 'Don't do this, don't do that, no, no, no, thou shalt not...' This fourth command starts out telling us positively what we are to do. And interestingly enough, this is the command that most people don't like and don't want to listen to. If we were at liberty to choose nine from God's top ten list and throw one out, this is the one that many Christians want to toss. Here it is:
The Sabbath is a hot-button issue within the Christian community. Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? When? How?
Let me start by giving you some of the major views of this controversy, then I'll give you some New Testament scriptures that will serve as guiding principles for us, and then I want to get back to the command itself and see what we can learn from it. And just so you know, I am not intending to give you the final word on this issue. I intend to leave you with more questions than answers today, and I expect each of you to wrestle through this question yourself with your bible before God and decide what you will do with it. I am not done wrestling with it myself, and I still have a lot to learn.
Differing Views Among Believers
Here are some of the major views on what the Sabbath means for the Christian:
The first major dividing line on this issue is whether or not the Sabbath is required for the Christian. Those who say yes, Christians are required to keep the Sabbath because it is part of God's unchanging moral law, divide into two main groups – those who would keep the Sabbath on Saturday; technically from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown; and those who say that since the resurrection, Christians are to keep the Sabbath now on the first day of the week, or the Lord's Day, which seems to have been the practice of the church from earliest times. Both of these groups would further divide on what it means to keep the Sabbath. Is it primarily a day of rest, where idleness is the ideal, or is it primarily a day of worship, where energy is to be spent in pursuit of deepening our relationship with the Lord?
Those on the other side of the major dividing line would say 'no, the Sabbath is no longer mandatory for the Christian' would also divide into two main groups. Some would say that Christ did away with the Sabbath and at his resurrection instituted a new day of worship, the Lord's Day, or Sunday. Others would say, 'no, Christ did away with the Sabbath and now every day is holy, set apart to the Lord. There is no one day that is more holy than another.
Is it still to be observed or not? Is it Saturday, is it Sunday, is it every day? Is the focus to be rest or worship? There are godly believers who would argue passionately from the bible for each one of these very different perspectives. So what are we to do? Let me read to you some passages in the New Testament that give us insight on this specific issue:
Not Required for Salvation
The church in Galatia was in danger of turning away from the grace of Christ to a different gospel (Gal.1:6). They were turning away from justification by faith in Christ and back to law-keeping. Paul had strong words for them. No one is justified by the works of the law! (Gal.2:16). So if we make Sabbath-keeping a requirement for salvation, or if we think that we gain favor with God by observing a holy day, however we define it, then we are in danger of turning away from the true gospel. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on the merits of Christ alone and in no way by keeping any part of the law.
Room for Difference of Opinion
In Romans 14, Paul addresses disputable issues on which there are legitimate differing perspectives, like eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.
Paul clearly says that there is room in the body of Christ for difference of opinion, not on sin, but on disputable issues, and he says that one day above another or every day alike is one of those disputable issues. In other words, you can make a good biblical argument (and many do) for saying that we should treat one day out of seven differently, to be set aside for rest and worship. And you can make a good biblical argument for saying that because of Christ, every day is sanctified and holy to the Lord. And Paul's ruling principles for dealing with disputable things are: do not violate your own conscience and do not pass judgment on your brother. On an issue like this, we need to heed these wise words.
A Shadow of Christ
In Colossians 2, Paul points all of us lawbreakers back to the cross:
Paul in Romans tells us not to pass judgment on others over disputable things, and here in Colossians he tells us to plant our resurrected forgiven feet firmly on the cross of Jesus and let no-one pass judgment on you in questions of a Sabbath keeping. The Sabbath is a shadow pointing to the deeper reality in Christ!
A Look at the Law
Now, if that is true, that the Sabbath is a shadow that points us to Christ, and that all Old Testament scripture is God-breathed and profitable, then if we look back to the Old Testament Sabbath with a view to seeing what it teaches about Christ, and let that shape our hearts and our minds, we will benefit greatly. So let's look.
Memorialize the stop-work day. The Hebrew word 'Sabbath' means 'stop' or 'cessation'. Think of this through the lens of a Hebrew slave. My people have been in bondage for 400 years. Forced labor for a cruel taskmaster. No relief. They ruthlessly made us to work as slaves and made our lives bitter with hard service (Ex.1:13-14). God heard our cry for rescue from slavery and he came to our rescue. He crushed our oppressors and brought us out by mighty demonstrations of his sovereign power. He fed us and cared for us in the wilderness, and he said 'I'm your new boss now, and I demand that you take a mandatory day off every week'. Imagine their response: 'Do we have to? We like working 24/7, 365 days a year. Rest? What kind of a master are you, demanding that we rest?!! We want to neglect our families, abuse our bodies, ignore our God, we just want to work work work!
Why is it that God offers us a blessing, he invites us to a holiday, and we bring excuses and look for a way out? God frees us from slavery and offers us rest, and we find reasons to justify our desire to keep right on in our everyday busyness. Wouldn't you think that we as Christians would come to God and say 'I know that we are not under law but under grace, and I know that we are set free from the demands of the law in Christ Jesus, and that we cannot possibly earn your favor by any kind of law-keeping, but would it be okay if in that freedom, we still took a day off to enjoy rest from our labors and focus our hearts toward you in worship? Can we use our blood-bought freedom that way?”
This idea of stopping to enjoy, as the fourth commandment tells us, has its roots in creation:
God rested. He didn't need to. He wasn't tired. He stopped to enjoy what he had made. By his own example, he built that in to our seven day weekly rhythm.
And this idea of stopping to enjoy is also rooted in redemption. In Deuteronomy, when Moses retells God's law to the next generation before they enter the promised land, he says it this way:
Rest, remember God's awesome power in the six day creation. Remember his awesome power demonstrated in your salvation. As God graciously has extended to you rest and enjoyment, you extend it to those God has entrusted to your care.
The prophet Isaiah communicated God's displeasure in the way Israel abused this day. He pictured for them what it should look like
Delight in the day because you delight in me. Enjoy your blood-bought relationship with me. Look to me and I will exhilarate you.
The Substance Belongs to Christ
Remember, Colossians 2:16-17 told us that the Sabbath was a shadow, the substance of which belongs to Christ.
Lord of the Sabbath
When we look through the Old Testament, over and over we hear about the Sabbath to the Lord, the Sabbath to the Lord, the Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord, the Sabbath to the Lord. When the Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of breaking the Sabbath, he responded by saying “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Mt.12:8; Mk.2:28; Lk.6:5). In the Old Testament, the Sabbath belongs to the Lord, and Jesus says 'I am Lord over the Sabbath, the Sabbath is mine.'
Do Good on the Sabbath
Jesus taught that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt.12:12; Mk.3:4; Lk.6:9; 13:15-16; 14:3; Jn.7:23). Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, took occasion over and over on the Sabbath to cast out demons and to make the lame walk and cause the blind to see and make the crippled whole, so much so that an exasperated synagogue leader cried out:
Jesus head-on challenged the thinking on what it means to keep the Sabbath.
The Heart of the Sabbath
The Sabbath was a shadow; the substance belongs to Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. He said:
When Jesus addressed God's law, he lifted it up. He never tossed it aside. In fact he continues:
In Jesus' teaching on the law, he always drove it deeper, to a heart level, dealing with inward desire, not merely external conformity. Not just the outward act of murder, but what about the hatred in your heart? Not just the outward act of adultery, but what about the lust in your heart? What about self-righteousness? What about pride? Jesus lifts up the law to show us the spiritual intent, that it is holy and righteous and good (Rom.7:12, 14, 16). Whatever Sabbath-keeping might look like today, Jesus showed us that it is an issue of the heart, and it is a time for doing good, opening the eyes of the blind, setting the captives free, making people whole.
The Fulfillment of the Sabbath
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath in another way. Jesus is the fulfillment of the stop-work day. Some of the people were following him around looking for food. He told them:
This was a question of labor; what must we do to be doing the works of God? Jesus said 'Stop working and trust in me. Believe in me. Rest in the work that I will do for you.' All work that is aimed at earning favor with God stops in Jesus.
Jesus invites us to come to him for rest. Do you need a break? Do you long for rest? Are you weary? Jesus beckons us to come. Come to me and rest. You will find rest for your souls.