NORTH MINNEAPOLIS PRAYER FOCUS FOR 11/05/17: THE SABBATH

Issue: God’s Will-Image through Rest

8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

-Exodus 20:8-11

I’ve been working through a CCEF course over the last 8 or so weeks. We have had the blessing of looking at some of the Ten Commandments in the course of our reading. This week I was able to reflect on rest. To reflect on rest, we have to reflect on God as well as work. I want to share with you some thoughts on the Sabbath Day.

Man was created in the image of God. All men today are in the image of God. All men are. You don’t do anything to earn this image. You were created in it. Sin has distorted the image, for sure, but the image is still there. All people reflect things about God. One of those things involves work. God worked for six days to create all that is. The work of His hands is very good. One of the things He gave to Adam before Adam sinned was work. Work is very good. It’s part of the image bearing man is intended to reflect and enjoy.  Man is intended to enjoy work. Man was made to work.

With sin, we sweat and toil and work hard and still bear thorns and thistles. Our work is not without bad fruit. That’s part of the curse. At the same time work is a gift. It’s one of the good ways we know God. It’s also one of the good ways God provides what we need. God’s provision is all grace. It is unmerited. We didn’t do anything to deserve what we receive. Still, hard work can reap amazing results by the grace of God. Other times we get little to no harvest. The work is in our hands. The results are in God’s hands. We labor with joy and we rest in God. We can till the field. We can prepare it to receive the seed by doing certain things like molding it to hold water, putting minerals and fertilizer in the soil, digging lines for growing the seed and spreading the seed apart so they don’t kill each other when they start to grow, planting a field where it will receive the light it needs, carving out space so fires don’t cross over into the field, and so on. But we need rain, we need good seed, we need time, and the weather and elements can cause negative effects (drought, natural disasters destroy a whole crop, the sun doesn’t shine as the crop needs, or the sun shines too much). The elements can also cause positive effects when you have the right amount of rain, the right amount of wind, the right amount of sun, etc. Throw in the dangers of animals and bugs that will eat and destroy the crops and you get a whole lot of work and a whole lot of need that rests on God. Some things are just out of your control. Ask any farmer.

You go to the field (having a field is a gift) and plant seed (having seed is a gift). You have prepared it and still rest in the hopes that what the crops need will come to pass. You have no knowledge of the results, but you work because of the hope that it may yield a crop. Your body needs food. You have some need of money to purchase the other things you desire to have.  Ultimately, you are doing all this work without the benefits with the hopes that you will have a healthy abundant crop to enjoy the fruit of your labors. Then after you’ve done the parts you can do in the season you should do it and you have to wait…and hope. You do the little things you can, but most of the season is about waiting and hoping. Then comes the season for harvest. What comes forth is what you have. You receive it. You go out and do the work of harvesting, gathering, preparing, and selling. Then what do you do?

You enjoy it.

Little or much you enjoy what you receive.

This is the first picture of the fourth commandment. God is a creator who has done all of the work to create His garden (the earth) and all that is in it (including His children who will inherit it). And God rests and enjoys it. He looks out over the work that is done and sees that it is good and He invites His family into that enjoyment. The Bible points to God’s enjoyment of the fruit of His harvest as a bountiful feast with wine and food and family. There is no work. This is a time of rest. It’s a time to reflect on all that has been done and what good has come of it. We too are called to do the same.

With the New Testament, we see that the Sabbath is much bigger in scope. There is a greater rest that we enjoy that came through the finished work of Jesus. He, like His Father, invites us to join in the work (by inheritance) and to share in the passing down. He also invites us to enjoy the rest now and the greater, perfect rest in the age to come when the entire earth is harvested and all of the work is completely finished. It’s pictured as the wedding feast of the New Covenant. One way we enjoy this now is by gathering together as a family each week in corporate worship and in the table of the Lord through the ordinance or sacrament of communion. We take of the bread and drink of the wine (I prefer real wine though grape juice works just as well) and reflect, or remember, all that God has done. Then on Monday we get back to work.

Without the work, there is no feast. No harvest equals no crops to eat. No vineyard equals no wine (or Welch’s grape juice). No work means there is no rest. You will toil in the time you are called to rest and enjoy. You will have to search for food and drink. But God is a gracious giver and calls us to come and eat bread we didn’t make and wine we can’t buy. We too invite others into our feast. And we invite them into His work.  We have many jobs within the body. Some are farmers, others teachers, some preachers, others are plumbers, carpenters, electricians. All of these occupations can glorify God if we work them knowing God is the giver of good gifts including work. Or they can show the heart of a slave who does so joylessly to serve desires the world, our flesh, and Satan yokes upon us if we will take them.

Israel was free and blessed, yet in famine they abandoned their home, went into Egypt, received the harvest they had not worked for, and …never left and went back home. Slowly, they accepted laws until they became slaves and were no longer free to leave. Then they worked for what they were given harvesting the fields of others. They could not decide what they would receive, how much they should or should not work, or what type of work they would engage in. They had become slaves inside and out.  This is a real life picture from real life people, but its got a bigger message than just Israel in slavery to Egypt. Men are enslaved to Satan and do his work (sin) for his kingdom. What seemed like salvation at first became the same chains that enslaved them. Men are happy to stay where they are as long as they believe they will get the things they think they need. Yet sin delivers less and less and you find yourself ensnared in slavery that cannot simply be broken. Your enemy is far stronger than you are and neither is your mind or heart strong enough to break free. Your slave master(s) pursues and you get ready to surrender for fear of death.

The Israelites didn’t see what God was teaching them and they remained in the wilderness for forty years until all who were to afraid to enter the Promised Land finally died off and the next generation, purged and cleansed through the process, were all that were left. But the work God had was still not complete, so their stay there was not to last. They found new slavemasters as they failed to obey God and conceded here and there on killing all sin (as pictured in the peoples of the land). Sin tricked them. They conceded. They got eradicated and enslaved again.

Such is the warning for the Christian life. We must work diligently by the sweat of the brow to provide for our families. We toil in different fields, but we toil. Unfortunately, too many of us are bound and thus toil where we are promised our desires instead of seeking the promised fields God has provided. We stay too long and get bound by the law and rules of other bond masters.

To enjoy the Sabbath, we have to learn to rightly view work. It is a good gift and there is a time to diligently work to establish a harvest. But then work comes to a necessary halt. We are to rightly enjoy the work of our hands, as big or as small as the Lord decides to give. And our rest is not just for ourselves, but for others that work with us. Check out Deuteronomy’s description of this commandment:

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.[1]

In both passages, God gives a reflection to rightly understand our work. In the first set of commandments, He says to reflect on God’s work in creation. Your work and rest are part of reflecting and knowing Him. In this second law presentation the reflection looks at what God has done in freeing these people from slavery. Two different reflections for the same law, to the same people, from the same God. Here’s the point I got from it and I believe it is the point we our to get today: You can approach work and rest two different ways. One leads to slavery, the other leads to freedom and enjoyment. It is not a freedom from servitude, but the one that leads to life is found in knowing God and what He desires for you. This is freedom in servitude to a good Lord. The other is slavery to food, needs, and rest in the improper time(s). You become a slave to a lord that has no love for you…and ultimately no rest.

In both commandments, we see rest comes for the worker, his family, his servants, the livestock, and even the land. In this rest, everyone benefits. But the second set warns us to remember there is a reality that not all lords are equal. Some will not give their people, livestock, or land rest necessarily. They desire power, control, resources, and nothing is necessarily allowed rest. The Egyptian pharaoh increased the workload on the Israelites and did not grant them any true freedom. As you look at your life and all of the good gifts, remember to work hard under the Lordship of God who desires you to enjoy His good harvest and its gifts. He grants rest. Enjoy it. Fear becoming a slave to the harvest, the fruits, your desire to not work, Satan, your flesh, and the world’s standards. And treat all that God has given you with the same love He calls you to enjoy. Give others rest. Invite others into your work, His work, for their good. Fight for freedom…in slavery…to the only true good Lord, Jesus Christ.

Pray for God’s gospel to transform work and rest in the lives of God’s people here. Pray for rest for those who are burdened by sin and the slave masters who bind us (Satan, our flesh, and the world system that tells us what we need and what we should want). Pray for satisfied hearts that receive with joy whatever God has given (contentment). Pray for strength as we toil here planting gospel seeds. Pray for workers to join us in our God’s good work. Pray for a bountiful harvest as He has promised it is. Pray we will beware of the snares of Satan. Pray for God’s glory to abundant as we sit at His table. Pray for me as I seek to move into fulltime ministry here so I can narrow my work into building the church through preaching, teaching, and fellowship.

Thanks for your prayers!

Mike



[1] Deuteronomy 5:12-15