Each week, God invites us to a special time of worship and rest.
I. Connect to My Experience
A dad and his family were on vacation a few decades ago and found themselves in need of gas. The good news is that there was a gas station not too far ahead on their journey. The bad news was that it was Sunday. For most people that may not have been an issue but for this dad it was a big deal. This man’s observance of the Sabbath meant that their Sunday behaviors would not require the work of another person. So now this dad found himself in a quandary—run out of gas with his family in tow, or get gas and break his long-held Sabbath observance.
What would you have done in this man’s situation?
What Sabbath practices do you remember being important to your family in your youth? What about in the larger culture? (In my youth it was the Sunday afternoon nap after Sunday dinner. Then it was back to church. Sometimes we played Canasta or Monopoly. About once a month it would be a Sunday afternoon drive in the country.)
Do you have things you do or won’t do out of observance of Sabbath?
Most of us know that the Ten Commandments include guidelines about the Sabbath. However, Sabbath practices have varied greatly, with significant changes in recent decades. It wasn’t long ago that few businesses in the Western world opened on Sundays, due to the Christian Sabbath. Now, nearly all retailers are open on Sundays, and Christians hurry from the pew to avoid the rush at restaurants after Sunday worship.
Yet the biblical guidelines regarding the Sabbath remain. Like other parts of the Ten Commandments, contemporary readers face the challenge of interpreting the commandment about the Sabbath in ways that engage both its original purpose and their present setting.
In today’s session, we will examine God’s commandment to observe the Sabbath and discover what that means for us today.
A. Regarding the Sabbath (Read Exodus 20:8-11)
The first three commandments were prohibitions. (1. Never believe in false gods; 2. Never make nor worship false gods; 3. Never misuse God’s name and never use profanity or vulgarity) However, this commandment is different, calling for positive action. (4. Never fail to observe the Sabbath, to keep it Holy.)
To better understand the genesis of the fourth commandment we need to understand its relation to the creation account, as well as its connection to the Exodus story. We’ll begin in Genesis. In Genesis 2:15, we read that humanity was placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. This was good work. Being made in the image of God, humanity was also meant to participate in God’s rest. Here was to be a pattern of living, patterned after God’s activity, incorporating work and rest.
What did God do on the seventh day? (Gen.2:2-3) 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Why do you think God rested after the six days of creation? Did God need to rest? (God wasn’t tired, but His work was complete and therefore He ceased. V.2)
How are “work” and “rest” generally thought of in today’s culture? Is one better than the other?
Why is a proper perspective on work and rest beneficial?
Exodus 20:10 says that the “seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.” This is part of the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. Exodus wants us to understand that holiness happens in relation to God.
What is the danger in thinking that holiness is separate from our relationship to God? (Can we be holy on our own? Can our actions make us holy? Can we be holy individuals apart from relationship with God?)
God made man to work, to rest, and to worship. This is what the Sabbath is all about. God Himself divided time into seven days. Gen.2:1-3 declares that God created the universe in six days and then rested on the seventh day.
After working six days, we are to take the seventh day and use it to rest and worship. God Himself set the day aside for us. God loves and cares for us, and He knows what we need. He knows that we need a full day every week for rest and relaxation, and for worship. The great commandment says—Never Fail to Observe the Sabbath, to Keep it Holy. Who is to keep this commandment? YOU!
Verse 8: You are to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Verse 9: You are to labor and do all your work in six days.
Verse 10: You are not to do any work on the Sabbath day, nor your family, nor is any slave or employee for whom you are responsible.
Verse 11: You (implied) are to follow God’s example and set the Sabbath day aside, use it as a day of rest and worship.
Jesus said in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (NLT)
B. Jesus and the Sabbath (Read Luke 6:1-11)
Thus far we have been discussing how vital it is to see the connection between Sabbath and relationship-—our relationship to God and our relationship to others.
As presented in this passage, what did the Pharisees think was important about Sabbath observance? (not doing unlawful things; it was a matter of what to do or not do. Remember that the Pharisees had over 600 rules/laws to interpret the Ten Commandments.)
How had these Pharisees’ understanding of Sabbath drifted from God’s original desire for Sabbath? (They’ve failed to see it as a gift to them and others and instead had become the Sabbath-police.)
How do we drift from the original mission of Sabbath? (We lose sight of the original goal or purpose.)
Does Jesus tell us something new about Sabbath, or does He point back to God’s original desire, or both?
Connect to My Life and the World
When someone asks us how we’re doing, the typical reply is, “Busy. Just been so busy.” It’s safe to say that busyness has become an idol. Into that world the Lord calls us to embody a different way of being, so that our relationships with God and others are nourished and given new life.
How does “busyness” affect our life? Would you say that most people find their worth and identity in what they do or what they can produce?
What intentional practices do you engage in for the purpose of connecting with God, others, or creation?
In this time of covid-19, how have you seen your Sabbath observance affect the rest of your life?
Based on what we’ve read today, how should our practice of Sabbath impact our lives, and those around us?
What is one thing that you can do that will help you connect to God and others?
Gerard Reed in his book, The Liberating Law, says, “’Jesus is Lord, and He is risen!’” That was the motto of the early church. So each Sunday believers came together to rejoice, just to be happy in the realization of who Jesus is, to enjoy the reality of His presence. More than anything else, Sunday should be a good time for us, for we know that in Jesus we have entered into eternal life, God’s timelessness.” These are good words to keep in mind as we gather together to worship God on the Lord’s Day!
God, Bless our Sabbath rest today. Amen