May 14 2023 - A Guilt-free Sabbath

We’re going to go back a bit to last week.

Psalm 46: 1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

This is a precious psalm – and it closes with this:

10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Sunday night we had small group - many were sharing that they found it difficult to do verse 10 – to cease striving – to be still. Some even felt guilty if they stopped and weren’t accomplishing something. That is a common human experience. I think that is one reason it is in the Bible – many of us struggle with it.

Let’s talk about how to cease striving – or to be still.

When the earth gives way or the mountains slip into the heart of the sea – we cannot do it in the heat of the battle unless we have practiced and trained ourselves through the daily, mundane experiences.

Like the Navy Seals saying – when the going gets tough, the tough sink… to the level of their training.

So I will give us a practice to help us train to be still – cease striving and know that He is God – so that when the earth shakes – and that is called a guilt-free Sabbath. Just saying the word Sabbath makes some sweat! I’ve been listening to a podcast – he says that when he teaches his students in a class – early on, he will get his students to start practicing a Sabbath.

And they come to him and say – I don’t know if I’m doing it right! And if you are concerned that you are not doing it right, you are not!

A proper Sabbath is concern/guilt free! If there is concern and guilt, it is not Sabbath.

Genesis 2: 2-4 And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested (Sabbath/Shabbat) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Sabbath = stop! Cease! So God is the first Sabbath keeper.

One thing that is interesting – blessed/sanctified/made holy – means set apart – or totally other.

When we say God is Holy – we think it is ‘moral’ – but it is totally ‘other’ – and this seventh day is totally different from all other days.

In Genesis – Evening/morning – when it comes to the seventh day – it does not say that – The reason – at this point – this is established as a perpetual/eternal Sabbath. From this point – any work/any activity that humanity would do – including the work of ruling and caretaking for creation, and multiplying and filling the earth – would be works of rest/worship/Joy –

And then something happened in Chapter 3 – the serpent/the garden/the fruit – and it goes from rest to toil – weeds/thorns/sweat/curse – and that is – the eternal/perpetual rest is lost for all humanity.

From the 10 commandments – the fourth one:

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exo. 20:8 NAU)

When I was – I have a bunch of books – and I went through the ones that had something about Sabbath keeping – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – etc. – and they talked about the benefits we get from the Sabbath – emotional, spiritual benefits – and the detriment that comes from never resting. And all of that is really important – and there is a lot of Biblical truth about that – but that is not the focus of a Sabbath in Scripture. The focus of a Sabbath is REMEMBERING. The reason is to remember. There are several things to remember.

In Deut – where the 10 commandments are reiterated…

Deuteronomy 5:12-14

12 Be careful to observe the Sabbath day just as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to work and do all your tasks in six days, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.

The first thing to remember – what has been lost – it reminds us that God’s purpose in creating us was to live and work and rule and exercise dominion and care and steward His creation in rest – in ceasing and knowing – so we are being reminded of that by this practice.

Even though that is not our reality – He set up one day a week where that is your reality – looking forward to and eternal rest – not that we will sit around and do nothing – but it will be of rest/joy and peace.

It begins the process of restoring our relationship with God. It reminds us of our proper place – YOU are not in charge, God is. When you have a Sabbath – you are saying God is in charge.

Deuteronomy continues – restores our relationship – and this is the first I’ve seen this…

Deuteronomy 5:14 On that day you must not do any work, you, your son, your daughter, your male slave, your female slave, your ox, your donkey, any other animal, or the foreigner who lives with you, so that your male and female slaves, like yourself, may have rest.

The second thing the Sabbath reminds us of is our place with others – our position with others – it restores our relationships with people. Our place and position are clear here. Your slaves and foreigners are all equal – all made in the image of God. Sure, this world has people of status – and there were slaves – but God is saying – One day of the week – everyone is equal – because that is how it will be for eternity.

There is a third thing that could be hidden – ox, donkey, and other animals – creation – a day of rest for all creation. This reminds us of our calling.

Gen. 1:26 – exercise dominion over all creation – we are called to do this in partnership with God and others.

The Sabbath encapsulates creation – its purpose and meaning.

That is Sabbath – that is a lot different from what can I do and what am I not allowed to do. We need to not think that way – but think this way. Then verse 15:

15 Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there by strength and power. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Because they were slaves! How much does a slave work? From sunup to sundown 7 days/week. For the Jews, everything goes back to the Exodus – it reminds us of our liberation.

As they crossed the Red Sea – God then tells them to have a Sabbath – first thing – rest! They had been slaves for hundreds of years – and God says it is time to rest – as a remembrance of your salvation.

He has liberated us – freed us – redeemed us.

For them – they would say – evening/morning – the first day – the Hebrew day began in the evening – Sabbath begins Sundown on Friday and ends at Sundown on Saturday.

The reason – their day began in the evening – and it began with a meal a celebration – and then bed! The moment the sun went down – feast – celebrate – sleep.

For us – when does the day begin? When the alarm goes off in the morning – and the focus is on producing/accomplishing/achieving – but for them – the beginning of the day was going to sleep!

For us – we need to ask ourselves some questions – what productivity – activity – am I a slave to?

And that is not just work – employment – we can be slaves to all kinds of activity – achievements and accomplishments – and those must stop. We have a lot of emotional slavery. And that needs to stop.

Maybe a more gentle/pleasant way of saying it is this way:

Do I live a ‘for God’ life or a ‘with God’ life.

DO you think – what do I need to do for God?

We do ‘for God’ but that comes from ‘with God’ – any for God that does not come from ‘with God’ is not of God!

Jesus had a lot to say about the Sabbath –

There were 2 views of the Sabbath –

The Pharisee view – what is the right and wrong way to do the Sabbath? That is not a guilt-free Sabbath - The Pharisees liked guilt Sabbaths. It was a measure of control.

Mark 2: 24 And the Pharisees were saying to Him, "See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?“…

27 And He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 "Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

The Pharisees believed that we were made for the Sabbath – but Jesus says it is the other way around.

Today is Mother’s Day – maybe you don’t have to do any work today – it is a gift! We think – why did He give us that gift?!

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath – meaning He is the one restoring the perpetual, eternal Sabbath – and in Him every day is a day of rest – it is all fulfilled in Him.

He reminds us that we are made in the image of God. We are called to be God’s partners.

It is a high calling…

Luke 6: 6 And it came about on another Sabbath, that He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He healed on the Sabbath, in order that they might find reason to accuse Him.

8 But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Rise and come forward!" And he rose and came forward. 9 And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful (He uses their language against them…!) on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm, to save a life, or to destroy it?"

So there is a fourth thing to remember – the Sabbath is a day for doing good – Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

That is a Sabbath day.

It is a whole different picture. But it is a biblical picture.

Everyone loves this verse: - But we often neglect what this verse is setting up – what Jesus is doing – those two stories I just told you – from Chapter 12 – it goes back to back with this:

Matthew 11: 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry."

Yoke – teaching/way/walk – my way of doing life upon you – and really He is saying – partner with me – Let us walk together – yoked together – so you are not carrying all the weight but I am…

The yoke of the Pharisees was heavy and burdensome

All our work and activity – including our job and employment – should be a work of rest and enjoyment. Our jobs never feel that way – but it is true in Jesus. There is a way – in Jesus – even for your employment to be a work of rest, joy, and peace.

Let me say that is not easy – it is a battle.

But He is ever-present in trouble – so when work starts to lose it – He is ever-present.

Let’s go back to the benefits of a Sabbath – emotional, spiritual, physical, -health benefits – How to have a guilt free Sabbath –

1 – Choose a day – it can be flexible! Pick a day that you have a sabbath! But! Life happens! Jobs happen! But if you have to go into work on a Sabbath – it happens! But there should be flexibility.

The other thing to consider – consider evening and morning. It is natural, I think, - let’s say you do Saturday evening into Sunday – after the sun goes down – you can’t cut the grass – well, some of my neighbors do! But you have dinner – you watch a movie – you get up in the morning – and you come to church and hopefully it isn’t too much work.

Sometimes that is the way it is. My wife was a teacher – and it is hard to not focus on Sunday night.

2 – STOP! Cease striving! What do I have to stop to have a guilt-free Sabbath? That is between you and God!

What striving must cease? Those are more internal things – physical striving and internal ceasing. It may be striving over our political or cultural news.

It might be family issues – just stop striving.

It might be financial striving – stop!

3 – Worship! We should be God-focused – at least some of the time – it could be singing or listening to music – scripture – things that turn your heart to God – it could be reflecting on creation.

Whatever it is that helps you worship and have an attitude of gratefulness.

4 – Rest – take a nap – sleep in late – watch a movie –

5 – Find JOY – do things that give you joy – things that delight and refresh you. It may be hiking! Playing golf – it is hard to be God-focused.

6 – Be flexible. It is good to make plans, but leave plenty of empty space.

7 – Do good!

What I don’t mean – spend all your Sabbath volunteering the whole day – but if someone needs help – it seemed like everyone in your church – every Saturday – someone was moving – if that was your Sabbath day – you might be moving people every Sabbath.

Find JOY – it is a gift – when it is no longer a gift, you are not doing it right. You are only doing it correctly when it is a gift and a thing of Joy to you.

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