Sabbath Security- Jeremiah 17:19-27

August 18th, 2019      

Jeremiah 17:19-27

“Sabbath Security”

Aux. Texts: Mk 2:27-28;

Call to Worship: Psalm 20

 

Service Orientation: Sabbath observance shows a fundamental trust in God.  Trust in God leads to shalom.  Trust anywhere else leads ultimately to death and destruction.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  — Matthew 12:8 

 

Lord’s Day vs. Sabbath

  • Not only did the first Christians move their day of rest and worship to the first day of the week, they also stopped calling it the Sabbath. Instead, they called it “the Lord’s Day.”  When John recorded the revelation he had on the island of Patmos he wrote, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit” (Rv 1:10).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 286)
  • The reason for these changes was the coming of Jesus Christ. The Sabbath was not the final resting place for the people of God; it was only a “shadow” of things to come (Col 2:17).  The Sabbath pointed forward to the reality of the rest found in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Sabbath rest.  With his coming, the people of God moved from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.  Christians do not keep the Sabbath, but they do celebrate the Lord’s Day.  The reason they celebrate it on the first day of the week is because that was the day of resurrection, when Jesus Christ rose from the dead to conquer sin and death once and for all.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 287)
  • The change of the Sabbath from the last day of the week to the first was by Christ’s own appointment. He is “lord of the Sabbath,” Mk 2:28.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 95)
  • The grand reason for changing the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord’s-day is that it puts us in mind of the “Mystery of our redemption by Christ.” The reason why God instituted the old Sabbath was to be a memorial of the creation; but he has now brought the first day of the week in its room in memory of a more glorious work than creation, which is redemption.  As it was said, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,” Hag 2:9.  So the glory of the redemption was greater than the glory of the creation.  Great wisdom was seen in making us, but more miraculous wisdom in saving us.  Great power was seen in bringing us out of nothing, but greater power in helping us when we were worse than nothing.  It cost more to redeem than to create us.  In creation it was but speaking a word (Ps 148:5); in redeeming there was shedding of blood, 1 Pt 1:19.  Creation was the work of God’s fingers, Ps 8:3, redemption was the work of his arm, Lk 1:51.  In creation, God gave us ourselves; in the redemption, he gave us himself.  By creation, we have life in Adam; by redemption, we have life in Christ, Col 3:3.  By creation, we had a right to an earthly paradise: by redemption, we have a title to a heavenly kingdom.  Christ might well change the seventh day of the week into the first, as it puts us in mind of our redemption, which is a more glorious work than creation.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 96)
  • In respect to the Fourth Commandment, Jesus’ declaration, “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” (Mt 5:17), is most helpful. The fact that He did not come to “abolish” the Law emphasizes His continuity with the Fourth Commandment, while His intention to “fulfill” it emphasizes His discontinuity.  He superseded the Sabbath Commandment by establishing the Lord’s Day.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 73)
  • A word would be in order as to why most Christians have substituted the Lord’s Day for the Jewish Sabbath. There is ample evidence in the NT that the resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian gospel.  This even occurred on the first day of the week.  When events are mentioned in the record of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, they always occurred on Sundays (Mt 28:1-9; Lk 24:1, 13-34; Jn 20:19-23).  The day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to the church, again was a Sunday (Acts 2). 

     Quite early in the history of the church most Christians shifted their holy day from Saturday to Sunday.  While we do not know the exact time for sure, we know that the trend was already evident in NT times.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 192-3)

  • The Sabbath’s distinctive is rest, in cessation from labor; and the Lord’s Day distinctive is worship of the risen Lord. As Christians, worship is absolutely binding upon us as a matter of regular Lord’s Day observance (cf. Heb 10:25).  As Christians, rest (cessation from labor), while it is not demanded, must be a matter for prayerful and humble application, as we shall see.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 78)
  • In the NT the ritual elements of the Jewish Sabbath are superseded by the work of Christ and by faith in him. The Sabbath observance changed to the first day of the week, now called the Lord’s Day, to focus on the new life effected and epitomized by the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  However, even now the observance of the Lord’s Day must subscribe to Col 2:16-17: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you. . . with regard to. . . a Sabbath day. . . the reality. . . is found in Christ” (cf. Jn 20:1, 19, 26; Acts 2:1; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Rv 1:10).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 56)
  • The following points of agreement between these two days seem obvious.

     Both days possess a special character.  The Sabbath was connected either to God’s rest after His six-day work of creation, or to Israel’s exodus from Egypt.  Sunday is called the Lord’s Day, recalling the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Both days are feast days, since there is salvation to be commemorated.  Deliverance from the slavery of Egypt, commemorated on the Sabbath, finds its extension and expansion in deliverance from the slavery of sin accomplished by the resurrection of Christ, commemorated on Sunday.

     On both days, worship occupies an important place.  The “holy assemblies” and the gatherings in the synagogue from former times are comparable to our modern church worship gatherings.

     Just as the Sabbath was made for man, in order to rest up and to celebrate a feast, so too Sunday was made for man.  The rest we may enjoy on Sunday and the liberation through Christ that we may commemorate are just as essential for the character of this day as they used to be for the Sabbath.  OT rest was not disconnected from worship, and NT worship is not disconnected from rest.  The accents may differ, but as far as the essential elements are concerned, there is surprising similarity.

     There is similarity also in terms of the violation of Sabbath and Sunday.  In every age there have been people enslaved to their work, people who cannot lay their work aside for a feast day.  Whether we are talking about violating the Sabbath or violating Sunday, it makes no difference.  Anyone unable to rejoice in God’s laws because he cannot surrender his own preoccupations has as much trouble with Sunday as with the Sabbath.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 121)

  • We will see that the comments of Jesus and Paul on the Sabbath should make us cautious about insisting on strict rules for Sabbath-keeping for everyone. Because of this, different Christians will come up with different ideas of what it means to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 187)
  • This command has resulted in some legalistic attitudes, and consequently some Christians have rejected it as not being relevant to us today, especially in view of some negative comments found in the NT. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 188)
  • Paul seems to be even more negative than Jesus about what he saw of Sabbath observance in his day. He says, “. . . let no one pass judgment on you . . . with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col 2:16).  This verse sums up his attitude to the Sabbath.  The OT regulations about the Sabbath are no longer binding for Christians.  To “observe days and months and seasons and years” was equivalent to returning to slavery (Gal 4:9, 10).  What I learn from Paul is that we must be careful about making binding rules about the Sabbath and thrusting them on all Christians.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 189)
  • In the early church, worship and not rest from work was the priority in the observance of the Lord’s Day. Sunday was a workday in the countries where most of the earliest Christians lived, and so they met for worship either early in the morning before going for work or in the evening after work.  In Israel Christians would have had the Sabbath as their day of rest and Sunday as their day of worship.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 193-4)  

 

Background Information:

  • The basic command is, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.” The word “Sabbath” (Hebrew šabbāt) derives from the verb šābat, “to stop. Cease, rest.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 185)
  • The rabbis had made the sabbath a burden instead of a blessing. They had heartlessly heaped on the longsuffering people, who were almost wholly dependent on them for Biblical teaching, a thousand requirements over and above the law.  Content with the outward form–whether it had to do with the sabbath, the sanctuary, or the sacrifices–the rabbis had conveyed false ideas about God.  Their God was meticulous, a stickler for details.  But the true God–the One who instituted the sabbath, provided the sacrificial system, and once abode in their sanctuary–was merciful.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 227-8)
  • There is little doubt, however, that the sabbath became of increasing importance in Jewish life during and after the Exile and that it is to that age that this passage is speaking. The reason is simple. With the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the loss of national independence, much that had hitherto been regarded as central to Israel’s religious life had been wiped out. But the sabbath needed no temple for its observance. By “the rivers of Babylon” (Ps. 137:1) or in any other place where fate or national tragedy had taken them, Jews could gather on the sabbath to remember the traditions of faith  in which they had been nurtured, to listen to the words of the law. The observation of sabbath became one of the ways in which the increasingly scattered Jewish community could retain its identity as the people of God.

     But the more important something becomes in the religious life of a people, the greater the danger that it will be misunderstood or misused. Just as Jeremiah had to demolish a false view of the Temple, so Jesus had some harsh things to say about the way in which the innumerable regulations which grew up around particular institution were blinding people to the way in which the sabbath was there to help people to celebrate their faith (Mk 3:1-6; Mt 12:1-14). Sadly the Christian Sunday, the first day of the week, the day which celebrates the resurrection triumph of Jesus, has suffered in certain Christian circles the same distortion. The note of celebration of the mighty acts of God has been lost in a harsh, negative piety, exactly the kind of piety which Jeremiah is so often at such pains to condemn. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 148)

  • This is the only command in the Decalogue that starts with shamar (be careful). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 186)
  • By the time of Christ, the Fourth Commandment—“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”—had become the unintended basis for exotic legalisms. To ensure that no work be performed on the Sabbath, thirty-nine clarifications of work were devised, with each category capable of endless subdivision.  One category forbade the carrying of burdens and hedged it with minute prohibitions for every situation.  Anything equal to, or heavier than, a dried fig was declared a burden.  So it was permissible to carry half a fig on the Sabbath, unless one put it down and picked it up, thus doubling the weight to a full fig and so breaking the Sabbath! 

     Similarly, if a person was in one place and extended his or her hand, which was holding a piece of fruit, into another place, and the Sabbath began at that moment, the person would have to drop it that instant.  Otherwise he or she would be breaking the Sabbath by transporting a burden from one locality to another.

     Happily, one could pick up a child on the Sabbath, provided the child’s hands were first examined to make sure they had nothing in them, for otherwise that would involve lifting a burden.  Less happily, false teeth were not permitted on the Sabbath because they might fall out, and the poor denture-wearer would be tempted to pick them up, thus sinning against the Sabbath.

     Another category prohibited travel on the Sabbath.  So the rabbis defined a permissible Sabbath day’s journey as two thousand cubits (1,000 yards).  To walk one inch further was an egregious breach of the Sabbath.  However, if a rope was tied across the end of one’s street creating an eruv, then the legal fiction was that the whole street became a single house, and so one could walk 1,000 yards beyond the rope.  Interestingly, present-day Orthodox Jews have perpetuated the eruv by marking off areas of modern cities with symbolic “gateways” of thin wire stretched between tall, slender poles.  Today there are eruvim in such cities as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Miami.  The eruv that contains the White House dates from 1990.

     One of the largest of the 39 categories dealt with guarding one against labor.  Here, women were forbidden to gaze into a mirror on the Sabbath, because they might discover a white hair and be tempted to pluck it, which would be a grievous sin.  While eating, a radish could be dipped in salt, but not left too long, since one would then be performing the labor of pickling the radish.  Spitting was allowed on the Sabbath, provided one spit into his handkerchief or on the rocks.  But it was unlawful to spit on the ground, because one might inadvertently scuff the spittle and the earth with his sandal, thereby plowing and cultivating the earth.  So being a righteous person under this system depended more or less on which way a person spit!  And so went the legalisms and abstruse rules ad infinitum—all to hedge the Sabbath.  ( R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, pgs 67-9)

  • For hundreds of years it was firmly believed that only a Sabbath enforced through social legislation would keep society from sliding into a kind of unwitting slavery, protecting the vulnerable from the powerful and quashing the punitive obsessive-compulsive who lurks within us all. One of the bitterest public policy debates in 19th-century America, in fact, was over whether offering postal service and opening public institutions on Sundays would harm our national character and lead directly to barbarism. (JUDITH SHULEVITZ; Bring Back the Sabbath; Published: March 2, 2003)
  • The Ten Commandments prohibit work on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11). That was the “letter” of the law.  But because the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest and to worship God, the priests had to perform sacrifices and conduct worship services–in short, they had to “work.”  Their “Sabbath work” was serving and worshiping God, which God allowed.  Thus, even though they technically break the sabbath, God holds them guiltless.  Jesus always emphasized the intent of the law, the meaning behind the letter.  The Pharisees had lost the spirit of the law and were rigidly demanding that the letter (and their interpretation of it) be obeyed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 233)
  • The apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees (2:31-38) tells of an incident during the time of Judas Maccabaeus when a group of Jews refused to defend themselves on the Sabbath against the Greek army led by Antiochus Epiphanes. As the soldiers of Antiochus attacked, the Jews’ “answered them not, neither cast they a stone at them, nor stopped the places where they lay hid; but said: “Let us die in our innocency: heaven and earth shall testify for us, that ye put us to death wrongfully.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 281)
  • (Mt 12:2) In his Antiquities, the Jewish historian Josephus reports that it was also because Jews would not defend themselves on the Sabbath that the Roman general Pompey was able to capture Jerusalem. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 281)
  • (Mt 12:4) Jesus is asking the Pharisees, “What does Scripture say about this action? Does it say, ‘Shame on David and Ahimelech–they shouldn’t have done that’?  No.  It says nothing.”  It neither condemns nor approves the action.  Does this silence sanction this otherwise condemnable occurrence?  Jesus’ gloss on the 1 Samuel text certainly leans that way.  To him, by implication that silence equals evaluative approval.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 315)
  • Because the Lord of the Sabbath had come, the shadow of His Sabbath rest was no longer needed or valid. The NT does not require Sabbath observance, but rather allows freedom as to whether or not any day is honored above others.  The only requirement is that, whatever position is taken, it is taken for the purpose of glorifying the Lord (Rom 14:5-6); and no believer has the right to impose his views in this regard on anyone else (Gal 4:9-10; Col 2:16).

     From the days of the early church (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2), Christians have set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as a special day of worship, fellowship, and giving offerings, because that is the day our Lord was raised from the dead.  But the Lord’s Day is not the “Christian Sabbath,” as it was considered to be for many centuries and still is in some groups today.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 287-8)

  • (vss. 19-21) Scholars suggest several different gates that might fit the description of the gates in verse 19-21. The point is that Yahweh wanted Jeremiah to be where the maximum number of people, including the leaders of the land, would hear him. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 168)
  • As we know, the people of Judah did not listen to this warning and they were exiled. It is sad to realize that even after they are restored to Jerusalem that Sabbath observance continued to be a serious problem as Nehemiah notes in Neh 13:15-21.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 138)
  • The passage makes sense only if we understand that the people habitually violated the Sabbath. They used it to conclude the work of the week and to prepare for the coming week’s work.  Contrary to the express word of Moses, the Sabbath had been chosen by the people to bring their produce in from the country, since they worked the fields during the week (v. 21).  This must not continue.  The people carried burdens out of their homes in exchange for the produce brought into the city (v. 22; cf. Neh 13:15-18).  The prohibition of labor on the Sabbath was so general that later on it became encrusted with absurd restrictions, which the Lord Jesus assailed in the Gospels.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 489)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What is the Sabbath?  What are the implications of obedience and disobedience?

 

Answers: Sabbath is a time to stop working and begin resting in the Lord.  A time to reflect on Who He is and who we are.  Sabbath obedience brings shalom.  Sabbath disobedience leads to death and destruction.

 

Observing the Sabbath, along with all the consequences of observing sabbatical years and Years of Jubliee, appeared to be a weighty mandate.  For observing the Sabbath was clearly the proof of the pudding.  Would God’s people keep the reins in their own hands, or would they confidently entrust their lives to the Lord?  Someone who wants to keep control of his own affairs would experience the interruption of business on the Sabbath day as a hindrance.  Observing the Sabbath day requires faith.  Where faith is destroyed, the Sabbath is destroyed along with it.  One who violates the Sabbath violates the covenant.  For that reason, it is understandable that Sabbath violation could even be identified as the reason why Israel suffered calamity (Neh 13:18; Ezek 20:13).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, Manual for the Christian Life, 117)

 

To many modern readers, Sabbath observance may seem almost trivial in relationship to the other charges God through Jeremiah levels at Judah: murder, child sacrifice, idolatry.  However, the Sabbath was considered the sign of the Mosaic covenant (Ex 31:13, 17).  In a sense it was the pinnacle of the law during the OT period.  It was established at creation (Gn 2:1-3) and mandated as the fourth commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15).  To neglect the Sabbath, in short, was a serious affront to God and his authority (see Longman, Immanuel in Our Place, 161-84).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 137)

 

God had given the Sabbath to the Israelites as a special token of their relationship with Him (see Ex 16:29; 20:8-11; 31:13-17).  It was to be a day of rest for the people, their farm animals , and the land. The people, however, repeatedly disregarded the law and treated the Sabbath like any other day. Their sin was evidence that their hearts were devoted to material gain and not to the lord.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 94)

 

Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the NT Epistles for believers to obey, but the Sabbath commandment isn’t among them. The Sabbath was a special  sign given to Israel (Ex 31:12-18, not to the church. Believers are free to honor special days as they feel convicted by the Lord (Rom 14:1-23; Col 2:16-17) and must not judge one another. To make Sabbath-keeping a means of salvation or a mark of special spirituality is to go beyond what the scriptures teach, and to equate the Sabbath with the NT Lord’s Day is equally unbiblical. The Sabbath is identified with the law: you work six days and then you have a rest.  The Lord’s day is identified with grace: you begin with a resurrected Christ and the works follow.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 226)

 

Isaiah denounced the formalistic Sabbath observance of his time (1:12, 13), and defined true Sabbath-keeping as turning from one’s own ways and from one’s own pleasures, and taking delight in the LORD (58:13, 14).  Other prophets raised their voices in protest against the abuse of the Sabbath (Jer 17:21, 22; Ezek 22:8; Amos 8:4).  They regarded the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews as due, at least in part, to the desecration of the Sabbath (Jer 17:27; Ezek 20:23, 24).  Hosea predicted that God would make Israel’s Sabbaths to cease because of her unfaithfulness (Hos 2:11); but that this cessation of Sabbath observance was not meant to be permanent is made clear by Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa 66:23; Ezek 44:24).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume Five, 185)

 

The OT records two reasons God gave for observing or remembering the Sabbath day. Ex 20:11 says that he “blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” because he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  In Dt 5:15, Moses told the people to observe the seventh day as a memorial of their redemption from the Egyptian slavery. As Christians, we have these same two motivations with one exception- our redemption is from the slavery of sin through Christ’s atonement. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 168)

 

The basic reason for this urgent call was the fact that sabbath-keeping was explicitly a badge of loyalty, a sign of the covenant with the Lord (Ex 31:12-17).  It was a good criterion.  A people’s or a person’s reaction to the gift of a day to be set apart for God was a fair indicator of their spiritual temperature; and it still is.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 74)

 

Once the temple had been destroyed, virtually all this religious traffic into Jerusalem for the sabbath had ceased.  There remained little incentive to pay any attention at all to this ancient institution; so we can readily understand how easily the citizens of Jerusalem who had stayed in the city after 587 allowed interest in the sabbath to lapse.  The purpose of the Jeremiah sermon, based on the preaching of the prophet but related to the later situation, was to inject a new dimension of hope into the observance of the institution.  It was a day of hope–of eager looking forward to a restored city of Jerusalem, with a recovery of its past glories and spiritual vitality.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 110-11)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Rest

 

What do we need to know about the OT Sabbath or the NT Lord’s Day?:

I-  God says keep the Sabbath (The Lord’s Day) Holy. (Jer 17:21-22, 24; see also: Ex 16:23-29; 20:8-11; 31:14-16; 35:2-3; Lv 16:31; 23:3; Dt 5:12; Neh 9:14; 10:31; Isa 58:13)

 

The Sabbath instructed all humankind that there is more to life than work.  ( R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 71)

 

The Sabbath is a taste of the holiness of “the world to come.”  It is a day when we are commanded to cease involvement in worldly efforts and concerns.  It is a full day set aside to help you struggle with your petty, inner demons–to reconcile their power against what is offered you in a spiritual relationship with God.  Holiness is timeless.  To celebrate that beautiful truth every week is to help you focus your life the other six days on the concepts of meaning, character, and spirituality.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 98-9)

 

So the purpose of the Sabbath was to give the Israelites time to reflect, not on their works, but on God’s works.  They were then to find refreshment in knowing that their physical needs were supplied not by their toil, but by the God who had created the universe and had given them life.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 103)

 

This is the real basis of his hallowing and blessing the day of rest. He is saying in effect, “Let my highest creature, the one in my image, stop every seven days and commemorate with me the fact that I am the creator who has done all this. Let him stop working and focus on me, that I am the source of all that he has. I am the fountain of blessing. I have made the very hands and mind with which he works. Let one day out of seven demonstrate that all land and all animals and all raw materials and all breath and strength and thought and emotion and everything come from me. Let man look to me in leisure one day out of seven for the blessing that is so elusive in the affairs of this world.”  (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985; Desiring God Website)

 

There are a number of philosophical and spiritual implications of Sabbath recognition, appreciation, and observance, not the least of which has to do with not being enslaved but being free to pursue a godly life.

     That is why the Sabbath was given to the Israelites immediately after the Exodus.  To this group of ex-slaves the idea of a day of rest was not only enticing, it spoke to the essence of their being.  For generations, they had toiled under the whips of the Egyptian taskmasters.  Who would not be moved by a day of liberation in which all people could acknowledge the freedom granted by God?  This is our freedom from servitude under human masters, the ultimate freedom of the human soul from oppression, toward its true purpose: to serve God.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 104)

 

The duty to work for six days is just as much a part of God’s covenant with man as the duty to abstain from work on the seventh day.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 28)

 

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.  The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else.  Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 13)

 

Most of the commandments are negatives, but this one is positive–“Observe the sabbath day”–and there is something basically wrong when it is turned into a day of prohibitions.  It is worth pondering that this commandment is not clearly endorsed in the NT; indeed Paul even seems to put a question mark against it in Gal 4:9-11.  It is important to take a balanced view of it.  It is quite wrong to treat Sunday as if the other days of the week did not belong equally to God; it is quite wrong to make a fetish or an idol of the day; it is quite wrong to get our enjoyment of the day out of imposing irksome restrictions upon others (including, it may be, our own children).  It is above all a day to enjoy, and to share with God.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 41)

                   

. . .  the sabbath is a gift of love to meet man’s need, not an oppressive burden to make him miserable or proud. (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985 ; Desiring God Website)

 

We spend the week trying to understand the mysteries of the universe through science.  We perform new engineering feats, we open the mysteries of the atom, and we search the heavens and the earth for signs of life.  On the Sabbath we search for the essence of God.  Shabbat is the antidote to the tendency toward self-idolatry.  On this day, we are reminded that God is God.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 124)

 

If we consider that what Jesus is pressing is the claims of human need; if we remember that it is not himself but his disciples that he is defending; if we remember that Mark tells us that he said that the Sabbath was made for the sake of men and women and not the other way round; then we may well conclude that what Jesus said here (Mt 12:1-14) is: “Human beings are not the slaves of the Sabbath; rather they have control of it, to use it for their own good.”  Jesus may well be rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for enslaving themselves and others with a host of tyrannical regulations; and he may well be here laying down the great principle of Christian freedom, which applies to the Sabbath as it does to all other things in life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 31)

 

A good rule for the Sabbath is to avoid any discussion of people’s jobs.  It is neither a time to “network” nor a time to prepare for the work of the week.  The Sabbath is the time to find meaning in the moment.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109)

 

Have you ever watched a play or movie only to be so preoccupied with other thoughts that you could not enjoy it?  Have you not been able to make love to your spouse because your mind is consumed with worry and work?  Have you pushed aside the insistent attempts of your children to talk because your mind is jammed with last-minute details?  Have you not had the time to take care of your body and health because you are overwhelmed with scheduling conflicts?  The Sabbath is the time for putting all mundane actions and thoughts aside so that we can live and appreciate the moment.  The Sabbath experience is the great liberator from your fears of worthlessness without frenetic productivity.  The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time (Heschel).  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109-110)

 

Time is a very precious commodity.  You can’t take it back and start over gain.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.  We’re all given fifty-two weeks a year to use, and every week contains seven days with twenty-four hours each.  What are you doing with the time God has given you?  Are you spending it the way He wants you to?  Are you using part of it to rest in God, as He commands you?  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 84)

 

Now, for most of us Sabbath is first to be achieved in the practice of solitude and silence.  These must be carefully sought, cultivated, and dwelt in.  When they become established in our soul and our body, they can be practiced in company with others.  But the body must be weaned away from its tendencies to always take control, to run the world, to achieve and produce, to attain gratification.  These are its habitual tendencies learned in a fallen world.  Progress in the opposite direction can only be made in solitude and silence, for they “take our hands off our world” as nothing else does.  And that is the meaning of Sabbath.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 175)

 

We must keep in mind the distinction between the older understanding of recreation as re-creation and the modern pursuit of recreation.  In broad strokes, today’s idea of recreation is a hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  It’s not re-creative but destructive. 

     The older, wiser way of re-creating is the way to go.  Forget your regular labors, and re-create with conversation with family and friends.  A common, unrushed meal around a table is so important.  Especially re-creative are picnics, walks, swims, or playing with the kids, wrestling on the floor, shooting baskets with the boys.  Listening to good music is also a marvelous way to re-create.  A great “read” in one of the Christian classics is a time-proven way to restore the soul as well.  (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 83)

 

Sanctify the Sabbath by choice meals, by beautiful garments; delight your soul with pleasure and I will reward you for this very pleasure.  (Rabba, Deuteronomy, 3, 1)

 

The experience of the Sabbath is supposed to influence our beliefs and behaviors when we go back to work.  The Sabbath is a reminder to take ourselves seriously, but not so seriously that we think we are God.  In a world where we judge people for what they have done, we should learn from the Sabbath to judge them for who they are.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 124)

 

We’re made out of dust, and, as we noted earlier, even dirt needs to rest!  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 111)

 

Observing a Sabbath gives you the opportunity to be in the moment, appreciate the deeper truth of existence, and enjoy the taste of eternity in every morsel of this holy day.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109)

 

All week we may ponder and worry whether we are rich or poor, whether we succeed or fail in our occupations; whether we accomplish or fall short of reaching our goals.  But who could feel distressed when gazing at spectral glimpses of eternity, except to feel startled at the vanity of being so distressed?  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 30)

 

Cult, even costly and self-denying cult, is attractive because it seems to offer a way to get God to do what we want.  But ceasing work (for ourselves) and ceasing self-enhancing activities is not at all attractive.  Nevertheless, the Sabbath is enjoined as one of the feast days and is to be considered as a time of delighting in the Lord and in all his blessings to us.  It does not manipulate God but is a means of developing the all-important relationship with him.  (John N. Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah, 626)

 

On the Sabbath the priests were kept very busy (Lv 24:8, 9; Nm 28:9, 10; 1 Chr 9:32; 23:31; 2 Chr 8:12-14; 23:4; 31:2, 3), all this in spite of the Sabbath commandment found in Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15.  What happens in such a case is that a higher law, demanding that everything be done to make possible the worship of God by the people, modifies and restricts the too literal interpretation of the regulation concerning Sabbath rest.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 513)

 

(Mt 12:1) Reaping grain was forbidden on the Sabbath (Ex 34:21).  The disciples, however, were picking grain because they were hungry, not because they wanted to harvest the grain for a profit.  Thus, they were not breaking God’s law.  The Pharisees, however, had established 39 categories of actions forbidden on the Sabbath, based on their own interpretations of God’s law and on Jewish customs.  According to the religious leaders, the disciples were technically “harvesting,” because they were picking wheat and rubbing it in their hands.  The Pharisees were determined to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 231)

 

(Mt 12:1) By plucking the corn they were guilty of reaping; by rubbing it in their hands they were guilty of threshing; by separating the grain and the chaff they were guilty of winnowing; and by the whole process they were guilty of preparing a meal on the Sabbath day, for everything which was to be eaten on the Sabbath had to be prepared the day before.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 26)

 

To their statement regarding his disciples–“Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath”–Jesus gives three replies.  To these “hypercritical formalists” (as Charles Spurgeon calls them), Jesus goes to the Bible.  First, he gives an example from the former prophets (1 Sm 21:1-6) about King David, then from the Law (Nm 28:9, 10) about the priests, and finally he cites the latter prophets (from Hos 6:6, one of his favorite verses).  Jesus brings the OT to his defense.  He brings the sword of the Spirit out to cut off all the ungodly traditions that have attached themselves to God’s holy Law.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 314)

 

We live in a society in which the expression “Time is money,” credited to Benjamin Franklin, has come to refer to the importance of time.  The only problem with this expression is that money cannot buy more time and cheapens the value of time.  We forget that money can be replaced, but time cannot.  We would be far richer as individuals and as a society if we were to say that “time is priceless.”  Then we might treat it with more respect.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 97)

 

A freeway billboard sign was promoting the sale of a particular brand of watch.  The catchy ad phrase was, “There’s no present like the time.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 97)

 

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”  —Leonardo Da Vinci

 

So Jesus answers the charge against his disciples by showing from the OT itself that the Sabbath is not fulfilled by the scrupulous observance of the Pharisees but in living out the intent and motive of the Sabbath, which was designed to bring rest.  Increased sacrifice brought greater burden.  As the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus gives the true interpretation of its intent, bringing rest under his easy yoke and light burden of discipleship (cf. 11:28-30).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 442)

 

First He told them that they had entirely missed the point of the Sabbath.  They had turned God’s wonderful provision for rest and worship into an instrument of slavery for God’s people.  Then He claimed the right to make that assertion by declaring Himself to be the Creator of the Sabbath and therefore the Lord of the Sabbath.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 365)

 

The sixth day of Creation was a busy one.  The first Sabbath was the first full day of life for Adam and Eve.  It marked the first time they went to sleep and woke up with the discovery, unlike the mayfly, which lives but a day, of a tomorrow.  They discovered that life went on!  Every Sabbath, like the first one, we should awaken with a deep appreciation of what it means to wake up and live another day.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 125)

 

The Sabbath’s purpose was to grace God’s people—to grace their bodies with rest of the genesis rhythm—to grace their souls with Heaven’s rhythm, providing Israel with respite from their labors so they could focus on God and gratefully commemorate their gracious liberation.  It was, indeed, the Fourth Word of Grace.  ( R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 72)

 

As the Creator of the Sabbath, God rightly had absolute authority to say how it should be observed.  Therefore, this statement by Jesus was nothing less than another assertion of His deity.  He was saying that He had instituted the Sabbath.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 365)

 

We must dedicate the day to God; we must not only “keep a Sabbath,” but “sanctify” a Sabbath.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 100)

 

First of all, the sabbath is a gift of God as much as it is a command (Ex 16:28-29).  The Lord’s blessing of the sabbath is the provision of the sabbath as a gift for human existence.  The sabbath belongs to the providential work of God in providing for the continuity of life.  It is given to bless human existence.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 81)

 

The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 27)

 

Pushing aside our perpetual concerns for physical survival, we turn to the bigger question of spiritual survival.  By creating sacred time, we are motivated to explore these issues when we otherwise might not.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 106)

 

At the conclusion of all other days God says of the world “it was good,” but with the addition of humanity it becomes “very good.”  Each Sabbath we are reminded of our potential for doing good.  It is our re-creation each Sabbath that helps us acknowledge our role in bringing goodness to the world.  We are the bridge between the worldly and the divine.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 108)

 

The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.  Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 14)

 

Setting apart one day regularly to the Lord inhibits the human inclination to justify oneself by job or work.  The sabbath is a concrete symbol that God’s saving grace is what redeems human life rather than any or all work.  The sabbath is a regular time to stop striving and reaching, to stop trying to justify oneself before God and everybody else; it is a time to remember having been set free and accepted in the ultimate sense and to know that the chief end of life is not found in any human work or accomplishment but only in glorifying and enjoying God.  As such, the sabbath is an implicit but important pointer toward the reality of justification by faith (Winn).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 82-3)

 

Sunday is indeed a day of joy, but it ought also to be a day of feasting, though not necessarily at an elaborate meal.  As Ignatius well said, “To fast on the Lord’s day is to kill Christ; but to rejoice in the Lord this day, and to rejoice in all the duties of this day, and to rejoice in that redemption that was wrought for us on this day, this is to crown Christ, this is to lift up Christ.”  The Lord’s Day is for a joyous table with family and friends and the needy and the searching.

 

Finally, Sunday is a day for action rather than inaction.  It is not a day for idleness.  We do not honor the Lord’s day by doing nothing.  It is a day to serve in the church, to teach, to counsel, to reach out to others, to evangelize.  All this and more is to be part of Lord’s Day worship!  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 80)

 

The Sabbath was meant to be a boon to man, not a burden; it was not a day taken from man by God in an exacting spirit, but a day given by God in mercy to man—God’s holiday to His subjects; all legislation enforcing its observance having for its end to insure that all should really get the benefit of the boon—that no man should rob himself, and still less his fellow-creatures, of the gracious boon. (A. B. Bruce; The Training of the Twelve, 92)

 

Mark 2:27: this familiar verse should not be interpreted to say that everybody is free to use or misuse the Sabbath as he thinks fit.  But this saying of Jesus does make clear that the Sabbath is a gift and a blessing for man, and therefore something different from a legal regulation whose goal lies simply in a formal observance.  The Sabbath was not designed to put people in a strait-jacket consisting of dos and don’ts, but the Sabbath was intended to be commemorated without burdensome hindrances.  Just as with other commandments, Jesus blew the dust off the law, so here too in a very special way He restored the fourth commandment to its original beauty and luster.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 114)

 

We must be impressed with the fact that the Lord attached great significance to obeying this particular commandment (e.g., Ex 35:1-3; Isa 58:13-14).  This should not surprise us, because the Sabbath is called a sign of the covenant between Yahweh and His people (Ex 31:12-17; Ez 20:20).  One could discern from the Sabbath that there was a covenant between the Lord and Israel.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 116)

 

The Mosaic law did require a careful observance of the Sabbath, but knew nothing of an expanded casuistry.  It speaks clearly of laying aside all daily work.  Construction of the tabernacle had to be stopped (Ex 31:13-17).  Plowing and harvesting were forbidden, even during the prime days for these activities (Ex 34:21); commerce and transport of goods likewise were forbidden (Amos 8:4-6; Jer 17:21).  No household was permitted to start a fire for cooking or baking (Ex 35:3), and gathering firewood was also forbidden (Nm 15:32-36).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 119)

 

On one Sabbath, Joshua led Israel around Jericho seven times, after which this city collapsed (Josh 6:15-20).  Apparently the Shunammite woman was accustomed, as we have seen, to visiting the man of God on the Sabbath (2 Kgs 4:23); that trip required her to travel more than twenty miles!  The prohibition in Ex 16:29 that forbade Israel, en route to Canaan, from going outside the camp on the Sabbath was apparently not a perpetual regulation later requiring Israelites to stay at home.  Pharisees later may have occupied themselves with the proper length of a “Sabbath journey,” but you will find no basis for that in the OT.  Finally, we would mention that Jehoiada the priest did not hesitate to carry out his plot against queen Athaliah on the Sabbath, since this day provided the greatest chance of success (2 Kgs 11; 2 Chr 22:10-23:15).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 120)

 

At the same time it is evident that the fourth commandment contains principles which are applicable to all people.  It recognizes the moral duty of man to worship his Creator for which stated times and places for worship are needed as well as surcease from the ordinary employments of life.  It recognizes also the basic need of man for a weekly day of rest.  Man’s history has demonstrated his need for the recuperation of his physical and mental energies once in every seven days as well as his need for a day of the week set apart for spiritual devotion and instruction.  The Sabbath command provided for these needs of the ancient Israelites.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume Five, p. 184)

 

The Sabbath was a commemoration of liberation.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 112)

 

Just as God had rested after His work of creation, so too He now permitted Israel to rest, liberated as she was from the slavery of Egypt.  The Sabbath day showed who Israel was: a people chosen and liberated by Yahweh, who could be assured of His providential sustenance of her life, sustenance that did not depend on her laborious exertion.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 116)

 

The Sabbath is the time for taking “a time-out” from that which consumes us during the week.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109)

 

The Israelite Sabbath institutionalized an astonishing, hitherto undreamed-of notion: that every single creature has the right to rest, not just the rich and the privileged. Covered under the Fourth Commandment are women, slaves, strangers and, improbably, animals. The verse in Deuteronomy that elaborates on this aspect of the Sabbath repeats, twice, that slaves were not to work, as if to drive home what must have been very hard to understand in the ancient world. The Jews were meant to perceive the Sabbath not only as a way to honor God but also as the central vehicle of their liberation theology, a weekly reminder of their escape from their servitude in Egypt. (Judith Shulevitz, Bring Back the Sabbath, Published: March 2, 2003)

 

“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God;” as if God had said, The Sabbath-day is my due, I challenge a special right in it, and no other has any claim to it.  He who robs me of THIS DAY, and puts it to common uses, is a sacrilegious person, he steals from the crown of heaven, and I will in nowise hold him guiltless.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 93-4)

 

Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days?  Does not our work always remain incomplete?  What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done.  Another interpretation: Rest even from the thought of labor.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 32)

 

No tradition of Sabbath observance is found in any other ancient culture at this time.  Israel needed to recall each Sabbath day how they were slaves in Egypt and were required to work constantly.  Then God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and made them his own people.  Such a mighty act of creation recalled his original creative work and emphasized their dependence on the Lord for everything.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 71)

 

As gift, the primary character of the sabbath is rest.  It places in the cycle of life a provision for freedom from the tyranny and oppression of unrelenting human labors, drivenness, and the increasing pressure of unceasing work.  The sabbath commandment does not command work for six days; it assumes that human existence requires this hard labor.  In the OT, hard toil is a necessary evil that participates in and grows out of the sinful propensities of humankind (Gn 3).  Work has its reward, but only under the shadow and protection of the sabbath (cf. Pss 127 and 128 for negative and positive views of human toil).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 81)

 

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  Jeremiah’s prohibition in the Lord’s name against carrying a burden into the city gates of Jerusalem (Jer 17:19-22), this prohibition of daily labor, is quite different from prohibiting the carrying away of a sleeping mattress which the man who had been healed by Jesus could roll up with great joy!  Those Pharisees who forbade that activity were destroying the festivity of the Sabbath.  Their attitude robbed the Sabbath of its characteristic gratitude for liberation.  Gratitude had to make way for precisionist obedience, freedom was replaced with a new bondage, and relaxation was ruined by a perpetually plagued conscience.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 118-9)

 

103 Q.  What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?

  1. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publically, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

     Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath. 

(Dt 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor 9:13-14; 2 Tm 2:2; 3:13-17; Ti 1:5; Dt 12:5-12; Ps 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb 10:23-25; Rom 10:14-17; 1 Cor 14:31-32; 1 Tm 4:13; 1 Cor 11:23-25; Col 3:15; 1 Tm 2:1; Ps 50:14; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8 & 9; Isa 66:23; Heb 4:9-11)  (The Heidelberg Catechism, GRC Publications, 1988, 57)

 

One can understand why the prophets sometimes speak of the abandonment of the whole of OT religion as “profaning the Sabbath” (Ez 20:21; 22:8; 23:38).  There is a subtlety to Sabbath observance.  Because it excludes secular activity, its “holy rest” comes to dominate all of life.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 333)

 

II-  Sabbath obedience brings shalom.   (Jer 17:; see also: Gn 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 31:14-15; 34:21; 23:12; 35:2; Dt 5:12-15; Neh 13:15-17; Isa 56:3-8; 58:13-14; Jer 17:21-27; Ezek 20:12-24; Amos 8:4-5;  Mt 6:26; 9:13; 15:6-9; Mk 2:27-28; Lk 6:5-7; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; Jn 5:9-18; 7:19-24)

 

God not only appointed the seventh day, but he blessed it.  It is not only a day of honor to God, but a day of blessing to us; it is not only a day wherein we give God worship, but a day wherein he gives us grace.  On this day a blessing drops down from heaven.  God himself is not benefitted by it, we cannot add one cubit to his essential glory; but we ourselves are benefitted.  This day, religiously observed, entails a blessing upon our souls, our estate, and our posterity.  Not keeping it, brings a curse, Jer 17:27.  God curses a man’s blessings, Mal 2:2.  The bread which he eats is poisoned with a curse; so the conscientious observation of the Sabbath, brings all manner of blessings with it.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 94)

 

And what does it mean that he hallows the day? “Hallows” is the same word as “sanctifies.” It means set the day aside for special focus on what is holy, namely, God and his holy works.

     Now consider the two words together. He blessed the day and he hallowed the day. How do these fit together? He made it a source of blessing, and he made it to focus on himself. Isn’t it obvious that the hallowing is included in the blessing and the blessing is included in the hallowing. When you hallow God and focus your attention on him, you receive more blessing than if you keep on busying yourself seven days a week with secular affairs, thinking that professional advancement and money are the route to true happiness. And (the reverse) when you seek your blessing in God rather than in the products of human labor, you hallow him and honor his holiness as the greater wealth. (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985; Desiring God Website)

 

Most marked of all is the conditional either/or manner in which the prophetic address is composed, warning of punishment for disobedience (v. 23) but concentrating more heavily on the rewards of conscientious observance of the sabbath as a holy day on which no work was done: “Then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, . . .” (v. 25).  Clearly with such unexpected words as these, the entire hope of national restoration, with the recovery of full political independence for Judah, was associated with Sabbath observance.  This indicates that it was felt that the carelessness about Sabbath observance had been encouraged by the Babylonian administration during the exile.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 110)

 

You may recall the movie Chariots of Fire, which tells the story of two Olympic runners: Eric Liddell and Charles Abrams.  Abrams runs because he is driven; he runs in order to prove something.  He is a cheerless man whose whole life is motivated by ought, by duty, by the law.  Liddell runs because he can’t help it.  “When I run,” he says, “I feel God’s pleasure.”  He knows a freedom of heart that Abrams can only watch from a distance.  Abrams uses discipline to subdue and kill his heart.  Liddell is so freed by grace that when he runs, Abrams says, “He runs like a wild animal–he unnerves me.”  “Where,” Liddell asks, “does the power come from to see the race to its end?  It comes from within.”  It comes from desire.  (Curtis and Eldredge; The Sacred Romance, 199)

 

Religious leader David O. McKay taught, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”  If you win the battles there, if you settle the issues that inwardly conflict, you feel a sense of peace, a sense of knowing what you’re about.  And you’ll find that the public victories–where you tend to think cooperatively, to promote the welfare and good of other people, and to be genuinely happy for other people’s successes–will follow naturally.  (Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 294)

 

A man I like very much was recently terminated by his company after twenty-two years of service.  The economy had forced an across-the-board cutback, and his job was considered non-essential to the company’s survival.  He was cut!

     My friend was convinced that he would be hired by another company in the same field within a matter of days.  After all, he told me, he had numerous connections, a profit-making record, and long term service.  He was not worried, he said.

     But several months passed with no offers.  The “connections” dried up; no one responded to his feelers or to his resumes.  He was reduced to sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.

     One day, after those many torturous months, he said to me, “This whole thing has forced me to do a lot of hard thinking.  I’ve given myself to this career of mine for years, and look what it’s gotten me.  What was all this for anyway?  Boy, have I gotten my eyes opened up.”

     Opened up to what?  My friend is a fine Christian layman.  But his eyes, by his own admission, had been closed to what his career had come to mean to him.  What his eyes had opened up to was the fact that he had worked for years without asking what it all meant, what it was all for, and what might be the result.  He had never discovered the exercise of reflection in the context of biblical rest. (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 166)

 

III-  Sabbath disobedience leads to death and destruction.  (Jer 17:27 see also: Ex 31:14-16; 35:2-3; 2 Chr 36:21; Neh 13:15-19; Ezek 20:13-24)

 

Profanation of the Sabbath (21) had become commonplace, in defiance of God’s commands to keep it holy. If the ethical ideals of the covenant are observed, the legitimate Davidic dynasty will be maintained, and from the north will come only peaceful migrations of people. If not, the complete destruction of Jerusalem is portended.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 108)

 

If we don’t come apart and rest, then we’ll just come apart.  — Vance Havner

 

Our tendencies to imitate our culture are directly related to our unwillingness to stop, cease producing, consuming, moving, accomplishing, buying, planning.  We can be as much 24-7 (even in the name of Jesus) as our secular neighbors.  Yet we cannot live as light and salt, doing righteousness and showing justice, if we fail to practice living out of God’s rest.  It’s a boundary that sets us free.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 96)

 

Despite his gestures at rebellion, the “modern man,” as Lippmann called his professional and intellectual peers, was increasingly subject to…moments of blank misgiving in which he finds that the civilization of which he is a part leaves a dusty taste in his mouth.  He may be very busy with many things, but he discovers one day that he is no longer sure they are worth doing.  He has been much preoccupied; but he is no longer sure he knows why.  He has become involved in an elaborate routine of pleasures; and they do not seem to amuse him very much.  He finds it hard to believe that doing any one thing is better than doing any other thing, or, in fact, that it is better than doing nothing at all.  (Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals; as quoted by Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan, 188) 

 

Unless the soul is fed and exercised daily, it becomes weak and shriveled.  It remains discontented, confused, restless.  (Billy Graham quoted in The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 302)

 

 

What a travesty to choose the early service because it won’t interfere with the next ten hours of hedonism.  Quick, get home from church, change, stuff the kids in the car, hoist in the cooler, shove in a Beach Boys tape, head for the beach, eat, watch the air show, eat, play a little football until someone gets banged up, eat, return home exhausted, and drift off into a brain-dead stupor, dreading Monday morning.  Praise the Lord!                 (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 81)

 

If we are not rested, on the other hand, the body moves to the center of our focus and makes its presence more strongly felt, and the tendencies of its parts call out more strongly for gratification.  The sensual desires and ego demands will have greater power over us through our desperate body and its parts.  In addition, our awareness of what it is doing–it is very subtle–and what is happening around us will be less sharp and decisive.  Confusion is the enemy of spiritual orientation.  Rest, properly taken, gives clarity to the mind.  Weariness, by contrast, can make us seek gratification and energy from food or drugs, or from various illicit relationships, or from egoistic postures that are, in Paul’s words, “upon the earth.”  They pull us away from reliance upon God and from living in his power.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 175-6)

 

During the French Revolution, radicals abolished Sunday, but the found that the health of the nation suffered, and they had to reinstated it.  The Russian Communists, on the theory that they had created a new man, instituted a much-ballyhooed ten-day week.  But despite its super-workers (stakonovites), the new social order miserably failed.  God’s rhythm is best for men and women because God created them. (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 71) 

 

A Sabbath-breaking nation will soon become a broken nation.

 

Our business of life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves.

                   

Restlessness is a gift of God.  If we are not restless, we would never search for God.

 

More genuine harm has been done by the neglect of busy people than by the actions of evil people.  (Steve Brown message, “Invitation to a Party”)

 

Worship Point: God created Sabbath so we could reflect and be reminded of His provision, protection, grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, patience and love.   When you do that in Spirit and in Truth you cannot help but worship. 

 

Commit yourself to the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s house, and little else outside of the home will be necessary for the cultivation of a thriving spiritual life.  The Puritans referred to the Lord’s Day as “the market day of the soul.”  Six days a week one buys and sells for the sake of one’s body.  Sunday however we are to “trade” in spiritual commodities for the sake of our souls.  All secular affairs are to be set aside.  All Christians, “after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand,” are to “not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts, about their worldly employments and recreations,” but also are to be engaged “the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.8).  The key to consistent attendance at public worship (of which we have spoken above as the key to your spiritual well-being) is a commitment to observing the Christian Sabbath.  Or to state it negatively, you will never be able to become consistent about attending public worship until you are convinced that Sunday is not just the Lord’s morning, but the Lord’s Day.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 332)

 

My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms.  Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

     We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.  (John Piper, Desiring God; 19)

 

It is said of Bernard, that when he came to the church-door, he would say, “stay here all my earthly thoughts.’  So should we say to ourselves, when we are at the door of God’s house, ‘Stay here all my worldly cares and wandering cogitations; I am now going to hear what the Lord will say to me.’  Distraction hinders devotion.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 107)

 

The Pharisees were so concerned about religious rituals that they missed the whole purpose of the temple–to bring people to God.  And because Jesus Christ is even greater than the temple, how much better can he bring people to God.  Our love and worship of God are far more important than the created instruments of worship.  If we become more concerned with the means and methods of worship than with the one we worship, we will miss the true purpose for worship–to glorify God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 233)

 

The things we should pray for in the morning of the Sabbath.  Let us beg a blessing upon the word which is to be preached; that it may be a savor of life to us; that by it our minds may be more illuminated, our corruptions more weakened, and our stock of grace more increased.  Let us pray that God’s special presence may be with us, that our hearts may burn within us while God speaks, that we may receive the word into meek and humble hearts, and that we may submit to it, and bring forth fruits, Jam 1:21.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 106)

 

Now the only reason for keeping the Sabbath was, that the people, by sanctifying themselves to God, might be employed in true and spiritual worship; and next, that, being free from all worldly occupations, they might be more at liberty to attend the holy assemblies.  The lawful observation of it, therefore, must have a reference to this object; for the Law ought to be interpreted according to the design of the Legislator.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 47)

 

A Sabbath observance regulated by the principle that the institution was made for man’s good, obviously involves two great general uses—rest for the body, and worship as the solace of the spirit.  We should rest from servile labor on the divinely given holiday, and we should lift up our hearts in devout thought to Him who made all things at the first who “worketh hitherto,” preserving the creation in being and well-being, and whose tender compassion towards sinful men is great, passing knowledge. (A. B. Bruce; The Training of the Twelve, 92)

 

Gospel Application: The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that it is not up to you.   It is Christ plus nothing.  Jesus is the fulfilment of everything to which the Sabbath points.  We can rest in Jesus if we trust Him.  (Dt 25:19; Ps 16:9; 62:1, 5; Isa 32:9-20; Mt 11:28-12:14; Mk 2:23-28; Lk 6:1-9; 13:14-16; Jn 17:4; 19:30; Col 2:16; Heb ch. 3 & 4)

 

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self: to Jesus: but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  (Alistair Begg quoting Charles. H. Spurgeon in Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)

 

At the end of his great act of creation the Lord said, “It is finished,” and he could rest.  On the cross at the end of his great act of redemption Jesus said, “It is finished”–and we can rest.  On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work–the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough–that it is finished.  He has lived the life you should have lived, he has died the death you should have died.  If you rely on Jesus’ finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you.  You can be satisfied with life.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 43)

 

Did Christ finish His work?   How dangerous it is to join anything of our own to the righteousness of Christ, in pursuit of justification before God!   Jesus Christ will never endure this; it reflects upon His work dishonorably.  He will be all, or none, in our justification.   If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions?  And if not, to what purpose are they?  Can we finish that which Christ Himself could not complete?   Did He finish the work, and will he ever divide the glory and praise of it with us?   No, no; Christ is no half Savior.  It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ for righteousness.  God humbles the proud by calling sinners wholly from their own righteousness to Christ for their justification.  — John Flavel

 

Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.  — St. Augustine

 

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal

 

For two thousand years Israel’s priests offered atoning sacrifices for sin.  The Bible describes in intricate detail the altar, candlesticks, robes, curtains, laver, and tables involved in the temple ceremonies.  However, there is no description of a chair for the priests.  They did not sit down, because their work was never done.  But when Jesus acted as our great High Priest, offering his body in sacrifice for our sin, no other sacrifice would be needed, and so he sat down.  His posture signals that his work is finished.  Now we can rest in his finished work, with no need to offer additional sacrifices for our wrong.  (Bryan Chapell;  Holiness by Grace, 163)

 

Like Jesus’ interpretation of the Law and the Prophets in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. 5:17-47), he gives a stunning authoritative pronouncement about the Sabbath that takes us to the heart of God’s intent and motive in giving that commandment.  This passage, therefore, should be read in the light of the preceding chapter, where Jesus condemned the current generation whose religious leaders, especially the Pharisees, had wearied and burdened the people with legal obligations of their traditions.  Jesus has come to bring rest to those who take on his yoke of discipleship (cf. 11:28-30), the kind of true rest to which the Sabbath rest was designed to point.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 438)

 

Jesus claims to be the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sabbath day, the sanctuary temple, and even the Scriptural Law, the three realities dearest to the people of God.  And thus salvation comes not through keeping the Sabbath, perfect obedience to the Law, or temple sacrifice, but only through faith in Christ.  Salvation comes (do you remember Matthew 11?)  Only to those who rest in Jesus, who come to him, weary and heavy laden, for final Sabbath rest (see Hebrews 4).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 316-7)

 

The Jewish sabbath was only a picture; it anticipated a rest based on the finished work of Christ (Jn 17:4; 19:30).  So in the new covenant, our rest, like that of God, is in a person: Jesus, the Lord of the sabbath.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 228)

 

When Jesus was with the Pharisees on the Sabbath he said, “I am not just someone who can instruct you to take rest; I am rest itself.”   (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 52)

 

The point is clear: If Jesus is at the center, all is well; but if anything else becomes the focus of worship (even keeping biblical laws with rigor and diligence), then something is wrong.

     When you’re choosing a church, be sure that the church keeps Jesus at the center.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 234)

 

When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week?  When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear.  As long as you are running, you are safe.  But running is exhausting – if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear.  (Or if we haven’t run in a while.)  However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free – just as we are called to be.  As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural.  As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him.  It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.   (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

 

Don’t miss the underlying point here: Jesus is making clear that as Lord of the Sabbath, He is God.  He is God in the flesh, and as God, He has the authority to determine Sabbath regulations for His disciples.  This authority goes beyond the mere exceptions to the law that gave David the right to eat in the tabernacle or priests the right to work on the Sabbath.  It was absolutely right, then, for Jesus to show mercy to a man on that day.  By claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus was implicitly saying to these legalistic Pharisees that the way to become right before God is not through following certain rules and regulations; the way to become right before God is through faith in Him.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 160)

 

During the old dispensation the week began with six days of LABOR.  These were followed by one day of REST.  Later, by the labor of his vicarious suffering Christ, the great High priest, procured for “the people of God” “the eternal Sabbath rest” (Heb 4:8, 9, 14).  By faith in him believers even now (in principle!) enter into this REST, which is constantly being followed by their LABOR of love, that is, by their works of gratitude for salvation already obtained for them as a free gift.  The order LABOR–REST is therefore changed to REST–LABOR: very appropriately the week now begins with the day of REST.  In summary, Jesus asserted his authority over the Sabbath by interpreting it by word and deed as being a day of true freedom, a day of rejoicing, of rendering service of love to each and to all, and, in and through it all, by worshiping God above everything else!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 515)

 

This was exactly the kind of approach to God that Jesus had addressed at the end of Matthew 11 when He said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened” (v. 28).  The weary and burdened were those who had the law heaped upon them, with the idea that their righteousness depended on keeping certain rules and regulations.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 159)

 

The Perils of Activism: Or look at the activism of our activity.  Modern Christians tend to make busyness their religion.  We admire and imitate, and so become, Christian workaholics, supposing that the busiest believers are always the best.  Those who love the Lord will indeed be busy for him, no doubt about that; but the spirit of our busyness is constantly wrong.  We run round doing things for God and leave ourselves no time for prayer.  Yet that does not bother us, for we have forgotten the old adage that if you are too busy to pray, you really are too busy.  But we do not feel the need to pray, because we have grown self-confident and self-reliant in our work.  We take for granted that our skills and resources and the fine quality of our programs will of themselves bring forth fruit; we have forgotten that apart from Christ–Christ trusted, obeyed, looked to, relied on–we can achieve nothing (see Jn 15:5). (J. I. Packer; Keep In Step With the Spirit, 98)

 

The apostle Paul regarded the law as a yoke of bondage from which the Christian had been set free (Gal 5:1).  In his “revolt against external law” (P. Cotton, From Sabbath to Sunday, 11), Paul made no distinction between moral and ceremonial law.  It was all a part of that old covenant which was done away in Christ (2 Cor 3:14).  The Sabbath is definitely included in “the bond which stood against us with its legal demands,” which, Paul declares, God canceled and set aside, “nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14).  It is mentioned along with festivals and new moons, all of which are declared to be “only a shadow of what is to come” (2:16, 17).  To “observe days, and months, and seasons, and years” is to be slaves to “the weak and beggarly elemental spirits” (Gal 4:9, 10; cf. Col 2:20).  The observance of days is a characteristic of “the man who is weak in faith” (Rom 14:1-5).

     Paul provides no grounds for imposing the Heb. Sabbath on the Christian.  The Christian is free from the burden of the law.  The Spirit of Christ enables him to fulfill God’s will apart from external observance of the law’s demands.  The author of Hebrews likewise speaks of the Heb. Sabbath only as a type of “God’s rest,” which is the inheritance of all the people of God (Heb 4:1-10).  He does not tell his readers to keep the Sabbath, but rather urges them to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume Five, 186-7)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to properly observe the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day.  Never forget that the Sabbath is for man to better know how to love God and others.  Man was not made for Sabbath observance as a self-salvation project. (1 Sm 15:22-23; 21:1-6; Neh 13:15-17; Isa 1:11-20; 58:13-14; Jer 17:21-27; Amos 8:4-5;  Hos 6:6; Mic 6:8; Mt 12:1-14; 22:37-40; Mk 2:27; 3:4; Lk 6:1-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; Jn 5:9-18; 7:22-23; ch 9; 1 Cor 13:3; Col 2:16; 1 Jn 4:20-21)

 

There was a defining moment in my spiritual life.  It happened when I realized that if I insisted on becoming consumed by every major sporting event or political race, every move of the stock market, or even every worry of parenting, if I let these things seize my heart, I simply could not enter into a true celebration of the Sabbath or the joy of a baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or Christmas or Easter, or any other true and significant celebration.  I have learned the necessity of “guarding my heart” (Prv 4:23) because my heart does not have an infinite capacity to rejoice or be alarmed.  By becoming preoccupied with passing things, I exhaust my heart’s ability to care about the things that really do matter.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 110)

 

Renewal and restoration are not luxuries. They are essentials. Being alone and resting for a while is not selfish.  It is Christlike.  Taking your day off each week or rewarding yourself with a relaxing, refreshing vacation is not carnal. It’s spiritual. There is absolutely nothing enviable or spiritual about a coronary or nervous breakdown, nor is an ultrabusy schedule necessarily the mark of a productive life.  — Charles R. Swindoll

 

Without God you can never have integrity, unity or wholeness in your life.  There are just too many different voices yanking on your heart, will, mind and soul clamoring for your affections, loyalties, time, and energies.   Each area of your life, whether it be your family, work, recreation, sexual desires, health, finance, charities, faith or food, wants your full attention and affections.  Only by making God the center and focus of all your affections can you give proper attention, dedication, and priorities to every aspect and area of your life. When our hearts are pure to God, when all we will is to do what He desires and wills for us to do, then, and only then, can we have the peace, soundness, wholeness, unity and integrity of heart that we desire  (see Mt 6:33; Prv 3:5-7; 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17, 21).  This is not necessarily “Thus saith the Lord.”  But, I am convinced, it is pretty close.  — Pastor Keith

 

Ours is a society that pegs status to overachievement; we can’t help admiring workaholics. Let me argue, instead, on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years.

     Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. As the Cat in the Hat says, ”It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation–at the very least a scrubbed house, a full larder and a bath. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction. (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath ; Published: March 2, 2003)

 

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. (Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”)

 

“Fred Mitchell, a leader in the world missions, used to keep a motto on his desk that read, ‘Beware of the Barrenness of a Busy Life.’”  (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World,  17-18)

 

One is reminded of 1 Jn 4:20, 21.  How can you love God whom you’ve not seen if you can’t love your brother whom you have seen?  Love of one’s neighbor trumps Sabbath law.  No, that’s not right.  Love of one’s neighbor is Sabbath law.  It is lawful to love.  Healing another person on Saturday or Sunday or any day of the week is an act of love.  It’s okay.  It’s worshipful.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 321)

 

Jesus here reaffirms that the Sabbath was given for God’s glory and for man’s welfare.  It was never intended to restrict the expression of love through deeds of necessity, service to God, or acts of mercy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 285)

 

The command to keep the Sabbath day is the only one of the Ten Commandments that the NT does not require of Christians.  By His grace, Jesus Christ gives every believer in Him a jubilee liberation that is perfect, final, and eternal.  A Christian therefore does not violate the Sabbath when he works on the Lord’s Day but when he persists in self-righteous works in the presumptuous hope of adding to what the Savior has already accomplished.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 24)

 

By introducing this with the words “haven’t you read,” Jesus was not suggesting that the Pharisees had never read the story but that they had not grasped its significance.  If they had understood it, they would have known that their approach to the Sabbath was fundamentally wrong since they were unable to explain such an incident.  If David was right, then his need at that moment superseded the normal rules that would have restricted the use of the consecrated bread for the priests.  The Pharisees should have known that the law was given to help people, not hinder them.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 206)

 

The OT statement “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” means that rituals and obedience to the law are valuable only if carried out with an attitude of love for God.  If a person’s heart is far from God, ritual and law keeping are not more than empty mockery.  God did not want the Israelites’ rituals:  he wanted their hearts.  Jesus challenged the Pharisees to apply the prophets’ words to themselves.  The Pharisees’ rigid guidelines had caused them to be unable to see beyond the letter of the law.  So in condemning Jesus and his disciples, they had condemned the innocent.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 234)

 

The Lord’s desire is not to condemn men for sin but to save them from it.  He only condemns those who will not have His mercy (cf. 2 Pt 3:9).  And if righteous, holy God is supremely characterized by love and mercy–even to the extent of graciously setting aside the penalty for breaking some of His own laws for man’s benefit–how much more are His still-sinful children obliged to reflect His compassion?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 287)

 

Believers who have not learned to rest in God need work to keep them from seeing the emptiness of their lives.  They go on working without rest, first, because they have not come to understand the beauty of trusting totally in the God who works for them, and, second, because they are afraid of silence, for silence forces them to face up to who they really are.  Those who do not take Sabbath rest should ask whether there is something seriously wrong in their lives.  Are they getting from work the satisfaction they should be getting from God?  “Much of our busy activity is little more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 191-2)

 

Their violation of sabbath holiness is typical of their violation of general holiness.  “So great is the holiness of the sabbath,” notes Pedersen, “that it has its root in remote antiquity.”  It is the only law which finds its justification in a myth (Gn 2:2b-3).  “Breaking the sabbath is a breach of what is holy.”

     Perhaps it should be added that, as C. J. Ball observes, the Sabbath “was originally a joyous festival and day of rest” before it developed into “an intolerable interlude of joyless restraint” under the Pharisees such that Jesus had to remind them that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27).  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 958-9)

 

In summary, these four points:

  1. Accept the gift of one day’s rest a week. Humble yourself to believe you need it. And be willing to admit that your wealth and your significance and your true advancement in life depend far more on God’s labor than on yours.

 

  1. Devote one day a week to focus your attention on God in a special way. Keep a holy day and devote yourself to those things that deepen your love for God.

 

  1. Except where you think obedience to God requires otherwise, let that day of rest and Godward focus be on the first day of the week as a witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your sabbath and of your life.

 

  1. For those of you who are free in your conscience to extend your holy exercises forward into Saturday night, let’s dream together of new ways to sanctify Sunday morning. Could it be that the Lord is leading you to new dimensions of prayer, or new hours of personal Bible study, or new deeds of mercy for the poor, or Sunday morning visitation to a shut-in, or perhaps a home evangelistic Bible study for neighbors who would not come to church but might come to your home? Can you think of any better time to reach your neighbors with the gospel than between 10 and 12 on Sunday morning? Who knows—maybe the city will find its way to Bethlehem on Saturday night, or maybe Saturday night will free up the saints to reach the city on Sunday morning?  If any of you has a sheep that falls into a pit on the sabbath, will you not reach in and pull it out?  Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!  Therefore it is lawful to do good—all kinds of good—on Sunday morning.  (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985; Desiring God Website)

 

Our hearts should look forward to the Sabbath as a favorite day, the most wonderful of days.  You should not cast a longing eye at the world and its entertainments.  It is offensive to the Lord if we approach him while preferring to be elsewhere and if we show that with pouting lip or with impatient shuffling feet that are eager to be off to other things.  You must come with the sense of relish which excites the person who will meet with a lover.  Even the comparison of setting aside our business and earthly pleasures should make us happy to spend a day with our favorite persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (Walter Chantry, Call the Sabbath a Delight, 36)

 

But please remember this: the path to Sabbath rest will always be a contested path.  Haven’t you ever wondered why it seems so incredibly difficult to find these times with God in our life?  Why it seems like such a chore to simply pick up your Bible or get down on your knees to pray?  The enemy knows this path to the Sabbath will lead you to rest and righteousness and perspective and a reordering of your priorities.  And Satan will try to thwart you.  He doesn’t want you to find that path.  Never doubt it!  He has a thousand ways to sidetrack and divert you.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 122)

 

After a week of perplexing problems and heated contest, it does so rest my soul to come into the house of the Lord and worship, and sing, and mean it, “Holy , Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” and to know that He is my Father and takes me up into His life and plans, and to commune personally with Christ.  I am sure I get wisdom not my own, and a superhuman strength for fighting the morals evils I am called to confront.  —Theodore Roosevelt

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

Making sure you recognize Christ’s presence in church each Sunday (Some suggested ideas to help you get ready). (Karen Burton Mains, Making Sunday Special, 109)

During the week:

 

 

  • Have I mentally determined that Sunday morning with Christ in his church will be the high point of my week?
  • Have I learned what the main text of the sermon will be and have meditated on that passage?
  • Have I prepared myself to sing God’s praises by reading through the hymns chosen for the service?
  • Have I carefully considered the offering I want to present to the Lord with gladness?
  • Have I prayed about inviting a friend who would benefit from being with me in Christ’s presence?

 

On Saturday:

 

  • Have I asked Christ to make me sensitive tomorrow to the needs of people in the body who are hurting?
  • Have I solved the “Sunday clothes hassle” by making sure that what I will wear is ready today?
  • Have I spent time in confession so all will be right between myself and my Lord when we meet tomorrow”?
  • Have I determined to get to bed early so I will be refreshed and ready for church tomorrow?
  • Have I planned on sustaining the delight of this time with Christ and his people by guarding against Sunday afternoon infringements?

 

On Sunday:

  • Have I gotten up in plenty of time so I will not feel rushed?
  • Have I programmed my morning so I will not just arrive at church on time, but get there early?
  • Have I eaten a good breakfast, so an empty stomach will not detract from my worship?
  • Have I my Bible in hand plus a pen and paper for taking notes?
  • Have I left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there?

 

So What?: Getting Sabbath right makes us more human.  Sabbath negligence makes us less.  (Gn 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 31:14-15; 34:21; 23:12; 35:2; Dt 5:12-15; Neh 13:15-17; Isa 58:13-14; Jer 17:21-27; Ezek 20:12-24; Amos 8:4-5;  Mt 6:26; 9:13; 12:3-8; 15:6-9; Mk 2:27-28; Lk 6:5-7)

 

The Sabbath is not a day–it is a life-changing attitude.  By reflecting on who He is and what He has done, our spirits will be so refreshed that when we return to our workaday world and all of its pressures, we can continue to rest in Him.  That is the Sabbath.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 105)

 

We always have too much to do and not enough time to do it.  But let’s make sure that there is at least one day a week when we have extended time with Him.  Because if we don’t resolve it in our minds and write it on our calendars, the world will quickly swallow that time.  Before we know it, the alarm clock will be ringing on Monday morning, and the opportunity will be lost.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 121)

 

What was Creation’s climactic culmination? The act of stopping. Why should God have considered it so important to stop? Rabbi Elijah of Vilna put it this way: God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so. The implication is clear. We could let the world wind us up and set us to marching, like mechanical dolls that go and go until they fall over, because they don’t have a mechanism that allows them to pause. But that would make us less than human. We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember. (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath; Published: March 2, 2003)

 

Observing the Sabbath has changed me from being a gerbil on an exercise wheel to a human being aspiring to “walk in God’s ways.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 108)

 

The story told by the Sabbath is that of creation: we rest because God rested on the seventh day. What leads from God to humankind is the notion of imitatio Dei: the imitation of God. In other words, we rest in order to honor the divine in us, to remind ourselves that there is more to us than just what we do during the week. (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath , Published: March 2, 2003)

 

It is a sin to be sad on the Sabbath day.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 31)

 

With our human genius for getting things wrong, however, we find the legalists of our Lord’s day missing the point and spirit of this prohibition, in the case of the healed man who was told to pick up his mat and walk, on the sabbath–hardly for trade!–just as they missed all our Lord’s object-lessons on the subject.  For ourselves we can note from these passages the perverse extremes (that of Jeremiah’s generation on the one hand, and of Christ’s on the other), either of which can ruin the Lord’s day; whether by flooding it with the mundane or by freezing it with the forbidden.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 75)

 

What better way to get ahead in the business world than to work seven days a week instead of six?  But God did not intend his people to be slaves to their work.  He wanted them to rest on the seventh day, as stipulated in the fourth commandment.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 284)

 

Legalism involves working in our own power (sometimes according to God’s law and other times according to our own rules) in order to earn God’s favor.  We think that if we can do certain things–good things no doubt–we can be righteous before God.  Lest we too quickly disconnect ourselves from the Pharisees, we need to be reminded that we are all born with a legalistic heart, a heart that thinks there is something we can do to merit our way to God.  It’s the foundation of all the religions of the world, whether it’s paying homage to Hindu gods at Sikh temples or bowing to Allah in a Muslim mosque.  At their core all other religions call us to follow religious rules and regulations.  And if we’re not careful, this kind of thinking becomes the foundation for how we live as Christians; we begin to think that if we pray enough, if we study the Bible enough, if we avoid certain sins, if we come to worship, if we help other people, if we go overseas in missions, if we do any number of things, we will become more acceptable to God.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 157-8)

 

Christians don’t have to identify the Sabbath day with Saturday or Sunday nor think of a Sabbath rest in a legalistic way as a twenty-four-hour period (Col 2:16-17).  But what should they do?  This will vary somewhat from culture to culture, but for many middle-class Christians in North America, perhaps the Sabbath commandment can point to a way of living that says work and busy schedules do not define us.  Rather than thinking about the Sabbath as a legalistic prop for works righteousness, perhaps one should be more grace oriented than a refusal to live by work and through human achievement?  Perhaps a Christian Sabbath can become a sign in a busy, tension-packed world that disciples will not live by work alone but through the rest and renewal that comes from God.  Perhaps the sanctifying of a day or period in the week for rest can become a provisional illustration to the world of faithful Christian existence, where one is initiated in the process of loving God and enjoying him forever.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 180)

 

  

JESUS:

OUR SABBATH REST

 

 

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