Sermon: Exodus 20:8-11, Remember the Sabbath Day

14 Jun

Because of some technical challenges, the audio for two recent sermons was not able to be posted. Therefore I am posting it here and on our church website at

One of the cries of our culture today is, “I am just too busy.” Many people in our country and even in the church feel overwhelmed. We have demanding jobs. We have families that require our care. We run children to this activity and that activity. We have other hobbies or interests which consume much of our time. Then when we finally get settled in for the night it is several hours of television or time on the computer or time on our cell phones and pretty soon it is midnight and we have to get up at 6 for work the next day. Last week I saw a study that said children need 10 hours of sleep a night, teenagers 9 and adults 7-8. How many of us are coming close to that? It’s no wonder we feel burned out and survive on coffee and soft drinks. And where does God fit into this? We’re here today for a couple of hours. About 1/5 of you will return tonight. I hope by the way that it will be a larger fraction. We are revamping our Sunday nights a little bit so I hope you’ll join us for that tonight at 6. A few of you will be here Wednesday and then some of you will come to a meeting or two through the month. Some of you are in an outside Bible study group as well. And then some of you read your Bible for a couple of minutes each day and pray over all the sick people on the prayer list. Most of us spend no time pouring our lives into the life of another believer. We spend little to no time sharing our faith. As parents we are much more concerned that our children are successful in the world’s eyes than we are that they are godly. And we wonder about why we are spiritually weak and why we don’t sense God’s presence and power in our lives. But the good news today is that God has given us an antidote to busyness. It is called the Sabbath. The Sabbath is God’s great remedy to the rat race, God’s great solution to the treadmill of life. It is also probably the most often neglected and dismissed of all the ten commandments.
Now there is a reason for that neglect. It is the only one of the ten commandments that is not directly restated in the New Testament. We know we should obey the others because we see them reaffirmed in the New Testament but with the Sabbath we are uncertain because it is not restated and there are even places in the New Testament where it seems to have been replaced. Hebrews speaks of a Sabbath rest for the people of God. The finished work of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb enables us to rest, to cease striving and to simply trust in Jesus to save us and keep us. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Knowing Jesus should produce in us a continual resting in Him so that the Sabbath is fulfilled in that rest of faith. In addition, it is clear from the New Testament that the day for worship for Christians has shifted from the Sabbath, which is Saturday, to Sunday. In honor of the resurrection the early Christians worshiped on Sunday. It is clear from the book of Acts and from passages like Romans 14 that some believers continued to keep the Sabbath but others did not.
So with all that said, is there any reason to go on with this message? Can we not conclude that since Jesus has come the Sabbath is fulfilled in Him and we should just live in Him and rest in Him and not have to keep anything like a Sabbath? Well, this is what should happen, but is that what actually does happen? Do you find yourself daily resting in Jesus for your very life? Or do you find more in common with the description of the busy person I described in the beginning? You may even be in ministry and face this problem. My main argument in this message is that we need a day set apart to the Lord for our spiritual and physical well-being and our usefulness in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath command has been altered by the coming of Jesus but its essential value is still there if we will take advantage of all it has to offer. God has given you a great remedy to the slave master of busyness: it is called Sabbath. Let’s look at it this morning. But before we do, let’s ask God to guide us as we look at His Word.

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

So this morning, I want to look for a few minutes at why we should remember the Sabbath and then look at how we should remember the Sabbath and then I want to finish by looking at the benefits of remembering the Sabbath. Now in all this I am taking the position that for the Christian the Sabbath is now the Lord’s Day, or Sunday, not Saturday. There is nothing special about the word Sabbath, it just means to “cease.” So it is one day a week when we cease our daily way of living to focus in a special way on God.

This word remember at the beginning of the text is important. Think of it like this. If I said to you “Remember your anniversary” you would know that I was not just talking about keeping in mind the date. I would be telling you to remember it by making it special for your spouse. This is the sense in which the Israelites were told to remember the Sabbath and the way in which I believe we are to remember the Lord’s Day. So let’s look at why we should remember the Sabbath.

The reason I believe we should still remember the Sabbath in spite of all we have said about its fulfillment is because it existed before the Ten Commandments were given. We see this in our text in verse 11 which says that God created in six days but set the seventh day apart a holy, a day when He ceased from His labor and rejoiced in His creation. So the people of Israel in knowing the creation story would have seen the Sabbath woven into the very fabric of time, as God set one day in seven apart. In addition, do you remember back in Exodus to the story of the manna? Do you remember how God told the Israelites to gather extra on the sixth day because on the seventh day no manna would fall? So the Sabbath was tied into creation and into God’s deliverance from Egypt. Deuteronomy 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. And ultimately, the Sabbath points to Christ, who fulfills the Sabbath through His life, death and resurrection. Even though in one sense Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath, the fact that the Sabbath was given from the beginning of creation is compelling to me. Before man ever fell into sin, before the effects of sin ever came into the world, God established this day of ceasing from work, this Sabbath. It was not given as a result of the fall, it was from the beginning a part of God’s good design. So even though it is not re-affirmed in the New Testament in the same way as the other commandments I still believe there is a wisdom in setting apart a day each week to the Lord as we think about the pattern He set in creation and as we reflect on our own redemption, not from slavery in Egypt but from slavery to sin.

So if you are convinced of the why, then the next important question is how? How do we remember the Lord’s Day?
As we look at the text, we see we remember it first as a holy day, a day set apart to the Lord our God. The day is holy because we give ourselves in it to holy pursuits. It is also holy because in the day we cease our weekday strivings to focus in a special way on God our creator, redeemer and sustainer. So the first thing we must say about the how of keeping the Lord’s Day is that it is a keeping that is holy. We give ourselves to holy things. This means on the flip side that what we normally think of when we think of Sabbath, the idea of rest, is not really the primary concern with this commandment. When I talk about observing the Lord’s Day, what many of us think about is a Sunday afternoon nap. Now I am not against that. I think it is often a good thing to get some extra rest on Sunday. But if that is what we are thinking this day is all about, we are missing the point. So we want to say first is that we celebrate the Lord’s Day by focusing on the Lord. This is obvious, but often neglected.

Second, we celebrate the Lord’s Day by celebrating. This day should be a highlight of our week, not something we dread. It is a day that is good for us in every way. Good for us in re-focusing on God. Good for us in having opportunity to pull away from daily routines. Good for us in having opportunities for deeper relationships and fellowship with other believers. You have the chance on the Lord’s Day to come to church and celebrate Jesus with other believers. If you say you don’t have time to pray as you want or read as you want, the Lord’s Day provides you with an opportunity to spend that extra time that you might miss out on during the week. The Lord’s Day provides an opportunity for you to interact with your family in a more personal way. The Lord’s Day is a good day. One of the most important things I want you to hear today is that the Lord’s Day is a joy, not a burden. And that plays into the third way in which we celebrate the Lord’s Day.

We celebrate the Lord’s Day without legalism. We don’t judge others by how they keep or fail to keep the Lord’s Day. As we see in Romans 14:5, One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. And as we see in Colossians 2:16-17, Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

When we start over-defining what it means to keep the Lord’s Day, we rob it of its joy. This is what the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day and it was the reason Jesus condemned them for their teaching on the Sabbath. Jesus wasn’t condemning the Pharisees for keeping the Sabbath, He was condemning them for adding regulations to the Sabbath which robbed it of its joy. So as to how we should keep the Lord’s Day, let me say I only think we need to keep these three ideas in mind. Let us keep it unto the Lord, it is a holy day. Let us keep it with a heart of celebration, it is a day for giving thanks. Let us keep it without legalism, it is not a day to judge others or put burdens on people. Of course the last one doesn’t really work without the first two. If we don’t have a heart of worship to God and a heart of joy in God we will go to one of two extremes, we will either erect artificial standards for keeping the Lord’s day for ourselves and everyone else so that we can feel like we are keeping the Lord’s Day even when our heart is not in it or we will just throw off the whole thing and do whatever we please with little regard for God, often using the excuse of legalism to cover over the license we take with God’s holiness and our hearts. The better way is the narrow way of holiness and celebration without legalism. It is the road less traveled, but when we walk in this way, it makes a huge difference in our lives.

So let’s close by taking a look at this huge difference. What are the benefits of remembering the Sabbath?
We have already hinted at many of the benefits of remembering the Lord’s Day, but here are a few of the benefits.
First, remembering the Lord’s Day has an amazing re-centering effect on our hearts. Through the ups and downs of a week our love for God can ebb and flow. Setting apart a special day to pursue God and rest in Him is a tremendous help to our souls.

Second, remembering the Lord’s Day has an amazing purifying effect on our minds. As we have been pursuing problems at work or home all week, or struggles in school, as we have been rehearsing past hurts or dealing with grief from Monday-Saturday, setting apart the Lord’s Day brings our minds back to who God is and what He is doing and the promises He has made and the joy we should have in Him.

Third, remembering the Lord’s Day has an amazing corrective effect on our lives. As we come to a Sunday, we may consider the coldness of our hearts in a way that we may not from Monday-Saturday. We come face to face in a special way with our God and we find our lives lacking. So we come to Him in repentance, with a heart to walk in His ways from here. Or we are in the sermon or Sunday School class and God speaks to us in His Word through a teacher and we are convicted and we turn away from a specific sin. Or we see the lives of others and we see their strength in God and we are not jealous, we do not envy, we are inspired, we want what they have.

Fourth, remembering the Lord’s Day helps us see how amazing our God really is. We remember on this day His creation. Maybe today you can spend some time outdoors, on the porch or in the yard or even up in Blowing Rock or a local park just worshiping God for His creation. That would be a good use of the Lord’s Day. Maybe you could rest not by playing on the computer but by meditating on God’s Word. Maybe a song of praise to God will come to you in the course of the day. Maybe simply silence is what you need, an opportunity just to settle your heart so that you can pray or hear from God in His Word. Like Israel, we can use the Lord’s Day to remember our redemption. We see the richness of that redemption in things like our Sunday night study in Romans. We see the richness as we meditate on His Word, we see it as we reflect on the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death and victorious resurrection and glorious ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit to be with us forever. brings us The Lord’s Day re-aligns us and reminds of God’s goodness in creation, in salvation and in His daily grace of sustaining us.

Finally, the Lord’s Day shows us what we really worship. John Piper says, God’s purpose for us on the sabbath is that we experience the highest and most intense joy that can be experienced, namely, that we “take delight in the Lord.” And yet what he finds again and again is professing Christians who prefer little human-sized pleasures from things that have no close relation to God at all. If you worked seven days a week in the hot sun to keep life and limb together, with scarcely any time for leisure and reflection, would you consider it burdensome if your God came to you with omnipotent authority and said, “I don’t want you to have to work so much. I want you to have a day a week to rest and enjoy what really counts in life. I promise to meet your needs with just six days of work”? That is not a cruel command. It is a gracious gift. The reason that so many people feel it as a burden is partly that we have so much leisure, we don’t feel the need for the sabbath rest; but more important, I think, is the fact that not many people really enjoy what God intended us to enjoy on the sabbath, namely, himself. Many professing Christians enjoy sports and television and secular books and magazines and recreation and hobbies and games far more than they enjoy direct interaction with God in his Word or in worship or in reading Christian books or in meditative strolls.
Therefore, inevitably people whose hearts are set more on the pleasures of the world than on the enjoyment of God will feel the sabbath command as a burden not a blessing. This is what John says in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” The measure of your love for God is the measure of the joy you get in focusing on him on the day of rest. For most people the sabbath command is really a demand to repent. It invites us to enjoy what we don’t enjoy and therefore shows us the evil of hearts, and our need to repent and be changed.”

So are you too busy? Eugene Peterson has said, “Nothing less than a command has the power to intervene in the vicious, accelerating, self-perpetuating cycle of faithless and graceless busy-ness.” God has given you a cure for busyness by giving you a day each week which you can set apart for Him. It’s not a burden, it’s a grace. Take it and walk in it all your days as a day of holy celebration as the Spirit leads you and you will find a depth and richness to your life that you never knew before.
Maybe this sounds foreign to you because you do not know the Lord.
Maybe you have been leaning on performance or leaning on pleasure.
Maybe you are not God-focused but are focused on other people and have become negative, not wanting to go to church with all those people who are so much less spiritual than you.
Maybe you have such a track record of broken relationships with people and emotional baggage that you think intimacy with God is just a pipe-dream. It’s not.
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Take this challenge. Set this day apart for the Lord. Just do it this once. See where it takes you. See what it reveals. See if it doesn’t strengthen and deepen you.

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