Ten Words to Live By
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KEEP THE SABBATH HOLY
God spoke these words to live by ...
Exodus 20:8-11 -- "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."
Years after the time God spoke these words, Moses recalled them saying to the people: "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 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. 15 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." (Deuteronomy 5)
The first four words to live by focus on our relationship with God. If the first three are a three course meal, then this fourth word is the table setting. The first three words reveal to us who God is and who he isnt, but the fourth word creates the environment for the relationship with the God who delivers, the God who cannot be manipulated or made into our image. We are to keep the Sabbath by keeping it holy. A special day for the whole community.
It seems so ancient and meaningless, this command to set aside a special day. Hasnt this command been repealed? Isnt this the command that hasnt been repeated or carried over into the NT? We typically think of Jesus as the one who emphasized the enduring significance of the Ten Words. Heres what Jesus had to say about the Sabbath ...
Principle 1: The Principle of Remembering [Honoring God, listening, holiness]
- Jesus did not respect the legalistic observance of the Sabbath that ignored the needs of people. The Pharisees were maintaining a religious system that attempted to sanctify a 24 hour period, but it ignored real issues such as hunger and health. Jesus does not support their legalistic system ...
- But Jesus is not against the Sabbath. He contends that if they understood that The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, then would understand the principle of the Sabbath.
- Of all the words to live by, this is the one that especially calls us to understand the principles that are embodied in the keeping of this commandment ...
- Our lives can get so busy that we lose the ability to reflect and refresh. Be Still and Know that I am God is a song we need to sing more often. Too often the song we sing is Get busy and think that you are God. Being still and quiet reminds us that He is God and we are not.
- Remembering and Holiness allows us to experience true rest: We are overwhelmed with leisure. Our play is sometimes a lot of work.
- The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. (Mark 6:30-31). True rest is rest with God.
- The Sabbath is about respecting ourselves and connecting with our Creator God.
Principle 2: The Principle of Trust [Created Order Exodus 20]
- The rationale for the Sabbath in Exodus is found in the created order. Cycles and patterns are part of the created order. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The seventh day is not unimportant. It has real meaning. The seventh day is a day in which God enjoys his work. The seventh day is when God created satisfaction, tranquility, peace.
- Gods created order teaches us how life is supposed to be lived, and if we understand the principle of Sabbath Trust, then we can reflect on how we tune our lives to the rhythms of the created order: Night and day, inhaling and exhaling, animals and plants.
- The created order is an interconnected system and the observances of holy periods of rest are for the best. Learning to trust Gods wisdom in the created order rather becoming so proud that we do whatever we want. [The Dust Bowl in the 1930s was the result of overproduction and a severe drought in the west. Cotton was a cash crop but it also dried up the soil. The land was taxed beyond its limits and it dried up so bad that nothing could be grown on the land.]
- But our tendency is to trust in our work. The Sabbath corrects that. In Israel, the Sabbath was also the seventh year and not just the seventh day ... In the Sabbath year. ... You may ask, What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops? I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. (Lev. 25:20-21) Could we trust God this much?
- The Sabbath is about respecting the world God made - the land and resources -- rather than overusing it and abusing it.
Principle 3: The Principle of Humanity/Spirituality [Justice Deuteronomy 5]
- The rationale for the Sabbath as it is mentioned in Deuteronomy is a sense of justice. The Sabbath was a way of keeping Gods people from relapsing into slavery. The power of Pharaoh had dehumanized and demeaned the people through the overwork of slavery.
- So, the Sabbath declares to all that We are not slaves. This is more than private time. This is a public feature of the community. Notice that the Sabbath wasnt simply for the wealthy or the true members of Israel. It was communal and it even extended to servants and foreigners living among them. Since the Sabbath principle of being human rather than slave is communal and public, no one is taken advantage of.
- This principle of Sabbath keeps us from serving the wrong master. But the concept of shutting everything down for a day is very counter-intuitive. Our work ethic supports excess. Rather than a Sabbath ethic (which is Biblical and supported by Jesus) we are more influenced by a Puritan Work ethic (which is not Biblical and originated with Calvinism). Unfortunately, the Puritan work ethic (which encourages constant labor) leads to becoming dehumanized or it leads to enslavement. The Sabbath ethic is humanitarian and leads to spirituality.
- Can our institutions really respect this? Chick-Fil-A is a rarity in the world of business. Every Chick-fil-a store is closed on Sunday. The only rationale is that it honors God and it honors employees. The founder of Chick-Fil-A has been told countless times about the profit he is losing by being closed on Sunday. But Truett Cathy seems to recognize a principle greater than profit. What if our institutions respected people as humans rather than workers.
- The Sabbath is about respecting human beings rather than abusing, using, or enslaving them.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 October 2007
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