Deuteronomy 5: 12-15 (Pentecost 2 - 2018)
“Remember the Sabbath Day”
“ Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Rest? Rest from what? Are you tired? Tired from what and of what? What is this Sabbath we are to remember? What is this Rest that our Jesus promises? Are their moments of your week when the promises of Jesus seem intangible? How seriously do we take God at his Word? Today we consider the value of God’s Word. Luther explained it this way: We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. God’s children take God’s Word seriously. Believers in Christ, Remember the Sabbath!
This is God’s Command
You have heard the trite phrase: “The 10 Commandments are not suggestions.” True enough. When God gave the Ten Commandment he meant them. But he also gave them with this preface: “I am the Lord YOUR God who brought you up out of Egypt.” (5:6) He loves his people. He loves you! He showed that love to Israel by rescuing them from Egypt and keeping his promises to them. In the land promised to them he kept his primary promise to send his Son, Jesus, into the world. In doing so, he rescued us from our slavery to sin.
The Lord our God loves us. The Lord gives us commands because he loves us. He says, “Remember that I am the Lord YOUR God.” (5:15). God knows that we need to hear and obey his laws. He wrote the knowledge of those laws on our very hearts (Romans 2:15). Our conscience also bears witness (Romans 2:15) to the fact that we know when we have disobeyed our loving God. Guilt is a very powerful thing, fueled by a powerful law, enforced by a perfect God.
His written commands also reveal our true nature – sin. Before we draw our first breath, before we say our first naughty word, before we neglect church for the first time, we are sinful enemies of God. We do not love him. We do not wish to hear what he says. We do not want to do what he tells us. “Through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).
The timing of reviewing the Third Commandment at the top of summer is impeccable. It seems this is the time of year when the draws to lose focus are on the move: Summer reveals some interesting priorities in us when it comes to the Word. When will worship take a back seat the quickest? When will our devotional life take the biggest dive? When will we regret most often those teachings that offend the sinful flesh? Sin has a natural desire to ignore or change what God says. Add the pleasures of summer and the fight to remember the Sabbath gets fierce! Physical rest we do easily enough, but at the expense of spiritual rest?
Still the Lord says: this is what you must do. Believers take God’s Word seriously. Believers Remember the Sabbath Day. Believers know that God’s commands are important simply because God speaks them. Children of God heed the words of our Savior, “If you love me, you will do what I command” (John 14: 15), and “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching” (John 14: 23). We know it is the truth because he said so.
Children of God also cherish the truth that “We love him because he first loved us.” (1 John 4: 19). God demonstrated that love to us. God teaches us that love. God reveals that love to us. God knows that our time spend with his Word is time being reminded of that specific love. It is a love he has for us. It is a love he shows to us by teaching us all about his Son, Christ Jesus. In that love we dedicate time for worship amidst time for play. For that we devote time for devotion along with the restful sunsets at the lake. There in his Word wind find our truest Rest. There is is Christ with peace for the soul!
The Sabbath Teaches You Christ
“God’s Word is a Lamp to my feet and light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word is intended to shed light for us on everything God wants us to know. The Sabbath Day was designed to teach Christ to a wondering Israelite nation. It was a vital piece of the Ceremonial Law that introduced true salvation for God’s people before Christ’s first coming.
In the first giving of the law in Exodus God pointed out the connection of the Sabbath to Creation. God’s Word had powerfully designed the world in its perfection and beauty. For six days he masterfully formed every part of his world. And on the seventh day he took a Sabbath (REST). God took time for God. He set apart a whole day and made it a holy day. In doing so he was teaching his people something very important. As I have set aside time for me, you also ought to set aside time for the Lord. The Lord designed his world and his people for his own purpose and to his own glory.
The Sabbath also taught Christ through rest. In the second giving of the Law, the connection was made to their freedom from Egyptian slavery. The Sabbath taught Salvation through the reflection on the words and promises of God. On the Sabbath every physical labor stopped. Even the animals were kept at bay. When the people dropped everything on the seventh day they were led to focus on one thing: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with an outstretched hand.”
The highlight of that remembrance was the Passover. The same outstretched arm that killed the firstborn of sons of Egypt, is the arm stretched out to part the Red Sea. The same LORD God that sent Moses and Aaron to proclaim freedom is the same LORD that sent the Angel to Passover the houses whose doors were covered in blood. With every Sabbath Day, with Every Passover meal, with every festival, with every offering and sacrifice from the traveling tabernacle to the Temple of Solomon, God was reinforcing the truth “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. The Word shows the fulfillment of the Passover blood by pointing us to the blood on the cross. In the Word God feeds us, not with boiled lamb, but with “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The Sabbath taught them Christ.
The Sabbath was made for us and Jesus is Lord of it. That is the point of the Gospel lesson today. Jesus gives us the Sabbath for our benefit. He does not mean for the rule to become a burden we do for the sake of doing it. He tells us plainly: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it” (Luke 11: 28). In the Sabbath he gives us himself. In it he gives us rest. This is the Jesus who says “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest … for your souls” (Matthew 11: 25, 30).
This is not just rest from a long week of work. This is not just a day to put up our feet. This is real spiritual rest. God’s Word speaks to us. It reveals the saving activity of Jesus. It speaks of his work on the cross nailing the requirements of the law to the cross and making a public spectacle of our spiritual enemies (Colossians 2). As the Old Testament believers learned of Christ through the Sabbath, we learn of Jesus’ saving love each time we hear and learn his Scriptures.
Remember the Sabbath this summer and always. Respect and love God in such way that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. God promises to bless those who hear these words and put them into practice (Matthew 7:24). In doing so he brings peace to our souls through the message of forgiveness in Christ’s saving work. In doing so he strengthens our trust in his promises by sending his Spirit into our believing hearts. In doing so he sheds light on our daily lives as his Word rebukes, corrects and trains us in righteousness, equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). In doing so he also points our eyes toward the heavenly rest we will enjoy when he returns to take us to glory. Amen.