Feb 2 2020 The Ultimate Meaning of the Sabbath
3rd February 2020
Lord, you can make us right – You are our advocate and defender – the One who says, these are Mine. Thank You that You love us and our sins are forgiven.
Last week was part one – since the first of the year we have been talking about the things that matter most – and we started looking at the practice of Sabbath rest – and people ask, Do Christians have to follow the Sabbath – and the real question should be – Do Christians GET to follow the Sabbath.
The reason we say that – a Sabbath should be a day to relax, chill out, do only those things that bring you joy, that are refreshing, that take away anxiety and stress, and to enjoy time with God.
Do I REALLY have to do that?! No, you GET to do that!
The ultimate – or true – meaning of the Sabbath -
28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The true and ultimate sabbath is only found in Jesus. True rest is only found in Jesus – when we experience a relationship in faith in Christ – and this will only be fully experienced in the new heavens and new earth – and there will be eternal rest – not just laying down – but rest in our souls – the core of who we are will be in this sense of rest forever – no more anxiety/striving/stress – but a sense of deep assurance always.
Jesus is saying – this rest we will ultimately have – we can begin experiencing today and every day, not just on a seventh day of rest – but because of what Jesus did. We begin to experience that by taking His yoke (teaching/way of living) upon us. When we begin to apply His teaching and begin to live the way He lives, then we begin to experience, at least in some form, this ultimate rest in our lives.
How do we, it says – Jesus’ yoke is light and burden is light –
How do we pile burdens on ourselves and others? Jesus didn’t do that. That is coming from somewhere else.
A couple practical things –
First - when we create rules and regulations for spirituality that are not explicitly taught in the Bible.
We turn personal application of the Bible into a universal command made for everybody.
That is the number one way we pile burdens on others.
Simple example: The use of alcohol – the Bible speaks clearly to not get drunk – but it never says to stay away from alcohol completely. In our reality - Some, because of the damage that has been done in people’s lives because of alcoholism – and take the application they put on themselves and impose it on others. That’s when it becomes a problem.
Here’s another example - This might not apply to you – but in some Christian circles – I Kissed Dating Goodbye – some, because of the problems of the American dating scene, there are those who gave up dating entirely – and that would be a fine application if that is where you want to go and find that necessary – but when it becomes a universal command for others, that is a problem.
Another way – focusing on one way of discipleship to the exclusion of others.
We are to be a holy people set apart. We are also told to engage the culture with the gospel. Some will take the separation part and don’t engage at all. Some engage in culture to such an extent that they are in no way separate.
Third – turning our personal examples into the correct ‘biblical’ way to do things.
An example of that: Parenting – Parents - go out and raise amazing kids and write a book telling others how to do it – but it comes across as ‘This Is the Biblical Way to Do Parenting.’
The Bible gives a lot of principles on parenting – but there is very little technical detail on how to do it! God wants us to take these principles and figure out in our families how to do it.
A couple ways we put burdens on ourselves personally:
Self-condemning/Guilt/Over-examining/Over-apologizing burden – this is the burden I stick on myself. Oh no, was there something I did – I’d apologize so much that people would get sick of me!
That comes from not knowing that God loves us and forgives us.
Jesus’ yoke is not one of guilt and shame, but love and forgiveness.
Another example: Perfectionistic tendencies – I don’t have this one, ask my wife – Okay is Okay – I’m on the other side of the (ATT) commercial.
Needing to be correct or right all the time is a real burden. All Jesus calls us to is to follow Him as best as we can. If you are always trying to be right - that is not a good existence – not a good life to live.
Third – the need for control – a lot of us struggle with this – and the problem with that is, you’ll never get it – you’ll never get control of everything – it doesn’t happen. These are burdens that Jesus doesn’t want to give us,.
After saying the burden is light – He goes back to the Sabbath:
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.
So for the Pharisees, obeying the rules and regulations of the Sabbath was of utmost importance – they missed the heart of what the Sabbath was made for. If you just read the Old Testament – it seems like the Pharisees are right –
Exodus – gather Manna for 6 days – on the 6th day – gather twice as much – it is a day of rest and you are not allowed to go out on the seventh day.
But some went out the seventh day and God was not happy.
This looks like what the disciples were doing. But they missed the heart of it.
The Tanach – Jewish Bible – We call it the Old Testament. It is easy to become Pharisees. – We don’t recognize that we can become pharisees.
The Tanach is set up differently – the last books of the Tanach are 1 and 2 Chronicles – and they go through all the kings of Israel – from exile to Babylon to returning back to build the temple.
This is my Bible Geek moment – to understand the Pharisees – the last page of the Jewish Bible
2 Chron. 36: 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.
Here is what is happening – there are 2 reasons Israel was taken into exile: First – Idolatry – second – Failure to keep the Sabbath.
Every 7 years Israel was to give the farms a Sabbath year – they were to only eat the ‘volunteer plants’ – like the zucchini that never leaves your garden! But for 70 years the land had a rest –
70 sabbaths – 490 – from exile until Solomon(?)(
When they get back to the land – they followed the Sabbath because they never wanted to go into exile again.
Jer 29: 10 "For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Jesus gives some examples that get to the heart of the Sabbath:
Matthew 12: 3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.
There is nothing wrong with what they are doing – in 2 Samuel, the soldiers are hungry and they go into the temple and get the temple bread.
Jesus is saying – mercy and compassion for human need is the first and ultimate law of the Sabbath. All of the laws of the Old Testament are build on mercy and human need.
5 Or haven't you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent?
What He is saying – the priests have to work on the Sabbath! Like pastors! First – mercy and compassion for human need – Second – the Sabbath is about replacing striving and effort with Kingdom activity – it is a work of REST. A work of mercy – Justice – and equity.
6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.
They misunderstood the heart of the law. This was all about mercy and human need.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue.
Christian discipleship is not focused on what we give up but on what and how we give ourselves to others. And then he continues with a personal example:
10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"-- so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, "What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 "How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
Works of mercy, justice, equity.
On your day of rest – find some work of mercy, justice, or equity to engage in
Jesus went into the Temple:
Luke 4: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
We’ve been practicing a Sabbath – but we need to practice a Sabbath every day of our lives – mercy – equity - justice.
We can go two ways with this – we are human! We could spiritualize this and say it is all about preaching the gospel – or practicalize it and say it is all about helping the poor! What is it? BOTH!
He proclaims and performs the gospel – and we are to proclaim and perform.
Here is another ‘what matters most’ verse:
Micah 6: He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
When we think of justice – our tendency is to focus on punitive – criminal justice – and that is part of it – We put justice and mercy in competition – as if they are opposites – but in the Bible – they are intimately connected – Justice is only done from the heart of mercy.
The focus of the word justice is taking up the cause of the weak, powerless, and poor.
Tim Keller calls it the quartet of the vulnerable.
Zechariah 7:9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; 10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
These 4 come up over and over again throughout the scripture – doing justice for these 4: Widows, orphans, immigrant, poor.
It is wrong to elevate one above the others. The Bible never does that. Some in our day:
Aliens – worldwide refugees – it is a huge thing. We have immigration and immigrants – but those who are refugees – there are many here in Akron. Some have it much worse than here.
The unborn –
Here is another one:
Human trafficking. Northeast Ohio is one of the centers.
Racial divide –
Young people (those under the age of 65 – ha) Pretty soon it will be 75! Those Millennials and GenZ-ers…
One thing the rest of America can learn from them? Their commitment to this. It is amazing how many of our kids have gone off to really be engaged with people in this way – sometimes we say – when are you going to stop?! But they have this heart for the poor and powerless.
I read a curious article that stunned me this week:
The group of people who do the most volunteering – the most of this work – those born from 1950-1960 – and I thought – you’ve got to be kidding me! Then I started looking at this church – and there are people who are really engaged in ministry and homeless shelters. What if we could connect those wise, old, worn-out souls with those 20-something and 30-somethings with strength, energy, and tons of inexperience, to engage together in this.