SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 6 March 2022
Sermon Text: Exodus 20:8-11
Sermon Series: “The Ten Commandments” (#5)
Watch Sermon Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZl2UKMdNMg
I. The Sabbath
II. Remembering the Sabbath
III. Keeping the Sabbath holy
IV. The Sabbath day and the Lord’s Day
We’ve been meditating on the Ten Commandments and, this morning, it’s the fourth one with which we seek the Lord’s wisdom so that we may understand His grace toward us as revealed in this commandment. This is our prayer and goal for today.
Some people approach these commandments, assuming that these might lead them to their success in the world or guarantee their eternal life if they faithfully keep them. Some others, on the other hand, regard these commands as a part of an old abolished, bygone, laws that no longer bind their present life.
But we do not follow any of such groups’ views nor their applications on the Ten Commandments. We read these laws of God and hear His voice, and find His saving grace through His promised Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. In these commandments, we find our gracious Father’s invitation to Him and Jesus; we find His blessings prepared for and given to all who believe in His Son, our Saviour Jesus. So, our thanks and praise to God become deeper and firmer with our study on these commands. And this is the goal of today’s message based on the fourth commandment. In this sense, we’ll see what Sabbath is, why we ought to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
I. THE SABBATH
What is ‘the Sabbath’? We’ll begin with the meaning of the ‘Sabbath.’ The first appearance of this word in the Bible is Gen. ch. 2. God created the whole world in six days, and on the next day, He stopped His work and rested. That ‘rest’ is the simplest meaning of ‘Sabbath.’
The key to the meaning of ‘Sabbath’ is ‘rest’ after the completion of God’s work. Often people think that the seventh day in which God rested is the main point of the Sabbath, but that’s not correct. The core of this ‘rest’ is God’s enjoyment of His completed works.
So, this ‘rest’ is not a workless, drowsy, disengaged day-off. Instead, the idea of ‘rest’ in the ‘Sabbath’ comes with full engagement with God’s works of creation, full enjoyment of the beauty and blessings of all that God has completed. Sabbath rest is, simply put, a joyful and satisfying happiness in the works of God.
II. REMEMBERING THE SABBATH
As I mentioned a minute ago, the gist of the Sabbath is not the day God rested, nor the act of ceasing work and doing nothing, but ‘remembering’ the purpose of God in making it ‘holy’ – that is, separating this day from all the other days – and blessing it. In other words, God’s purpose of making the Sabbath a special day is for His people – like you and me – to remember not only now, but also forever, the blessing God desires to give us. Working and toiling in the world, we easily and readily forget God and His blessings. But we should always know and remember our joyful union with Him the Lord and the accompanying joy and comfort. In all other days, we’re to carry out what each of us are assigned to in the world. But the Sabbath day is the day set apart by God for our benefit, that is, to remember God, to remember His creation, to remember our rebellion, thus, fallenness in sin, yet, the Lord’s forgiveness of our trespasses and free gracious offer of salvation. The Sabbath day is the day set apart for us to remember how wonderful the love of our heavenly Father is, to remember how blessed we are in Jesus, our Saviour, to remember that we’re His and He is ours!
This is the purpose of God in separating a day from all other days and blessing it. After all, this is what ‘making this day holy’ means.
III. KEEPING THE SABBATH HOLY
Once you understand this, then, you’ll see why God commanded His beloved in both eras of the OT and the NT to keep the Sabbath day holy. There’s no reason for not keeping this day holy – that is, unlike all other days, we focus on God and worship Him through Jesus, and spend the day, enjoying God and sharing Him with one another. It is a day of life and joy, of thanksgiving and praise, of foretasting heaven on earth. On the Sabbath day, our heart and mind are relieved from the burdens of our earthly toil, and our soul is enriched with heavenly comfort.
I believe all of you have been experiencing this on every Lord’s Day. When you come to church and worship God together with all fellow Christians, you don’t say to yourselves, ‘What a foolish thing have I done?’ No, you never say that, nor feel that way. It’s the opposite. While you’re sitting in the midst of this congregation of God’s children, you feel so comfortable and relaxed. When the service is over, you greet others in a way you’d never do to people on the streets or at shopping centres. These people you interact with are not your blood related family members, not your ordinary friends; they are special. You smile and exchange a heavenly love that is sweet to your heart with these special people. When you leave this place and go home, the rest of the day is peaceful, and your soul senses tranquillity and serenity because of the Lord’s presence with you.
If you don’t remember whether this is the way you feel on the Lord’s Days, then, you would not deny that you’ve felt somewhat positive when you attend the church on Sundays, something constructive and good as you keep the Lord’s Day different from all other days, would you?
In addition, a good aspect of keeping the Sabbath day holy is sharing it with all others. This is why God commands us to keep the Sabbath together with everyone in our family and work as well as all animals under our care. This also includes any visitors under our roof.
If you’ve understood the purpose of setting the Sabbath day holy, then, you’d know what this means. Simply, you and I are commanded by God to invite all to join you in rejoicing in God’s completed work, enjoying His blessings poured upon you through Jesus Christ. You cannot keep this joy to yourself, but share it with everyone who is with you, including animals. After all, this joy and blessing of God’s rest is too great and immense for anyone to have all to oneself. In fact, sharing it doubles and triples our joy!
In this sense, keeping the Sabbath day holy is neither legalistic nor burdensome for Christians. Keeping the Sabbath day holy – that is, special, different from other days – is for our benefit; God blesses all who come to Him on the day He blessed and set apart. Not keeping it holy is, therefore, missing out of this special present of God prepared for His dear ones. No wonder why we feel uncomfortable when we miss the church on a Lord’s Day, when we forget God on a Lord’s Day, when we spend a Lord’s Day with seeking earthly things or pleasures.
IV. THE SABBATH DAY AND THE LORD’S DAY
Having said, I’d like to tackle the big question mark many people have in their mind regarding the Sabbath day. That question is on the relationship between the OT Sabbath day – that is, Saturday – and the NT Lord’s Day which is Sunday, the first day of the week. The question is this: ‘Why do we need to worship God on Sunday and not on Saturday, unlike the OT Israel?’
The answer is what I have already explained earlier with God’s purpose of setting the Sabbath day and making it holy. What was the purpose? To enrich us – God’s dear children – through our enjoyment of the beauty and blessings of God’s completed work; to satisfy us with happiness of God’s completed work, that is, not only His creation but also – and more importantly – His rescue work for us. This is the purpose of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath day is the day we rest in our gracious and loving God.
So, this purpose of the Sabbath day is why the OT Israel observed the seventh and last day of the week, and the NT church worships on Sunday, the first day of the week.
In the OT, the nation Israel rested on the seventh day, and that was their longing for restoration of God’s true Sabbath rest which had been broken and lost by man’s sin. On every Sabbath day, the OT Israel sacrificed animals as an atonement for their sins and, through their sacrifices, they looked forward to having a restored Sabbath. That was proper for them because the restoration of the Sabbath rest would be an event in the future at the coming of God’s promised Messiah. Over the animal sacrifices on every Sabbath day, the Israelites longed to see His coming and restoring the rest.
But that’s not the case for the NT Christians. The Messiah has come and accomplished His work through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. With and by His work completed, a new era has dawned. It is the time God promised and announced through His OT prophets. Out of numerous OT prophecies, let me read you the promise Jeremiah delivered as recorded in Jer. 31, beginning from v. 31, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and … Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out from the land of Egypt, My covenant that they broke, … For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, … I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
In Jesus Christ, the days promised to come is here now. Listen to the Lord Jesus affirming the dawn of this new age in Mt. 12:28, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” This ‘kingdom of God’ Jesus talked about in Mt. 12 is the Sabbath restored. Listen to Him again as recorded in Jn. 16:33, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” The apostle Paul confirms this in Eph. 2, telling us that Jesus Himself is “our peace” who has made us one with the Father and with fellow members of God’s household. Paul further explains what he means by Jesus being “our peace” in Rom. 8:35 and following, pointing out that, in Jesus, no one and nothing could separate us from the love of Christ, not even death! By Jesus, therefore, the kingdom of God has come upon us and that kingdom is, in another word, God’s Sabbath rest restored!
This is why we of the NT church recognise the day of Jesus’ resurrection as the new Sabbath day in this new era. This is what the OT Israel longed to see. And, in their longing for the coming days, they observed the last day of the week as the Sabbath day. But no longer do we follow that pattern because you and I are living in the restored Sabbath of God! It is not our own interpretation or application; this is the understanding of the apostles of Jesus being inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit and the pattern Christ’s church have learned ever since.
By the way, the restoration of God’s rest is not yet in full scale. We still experience sin’s power in the world, and we’re affected by it. But, the coming of the Son of God and, especially, His death and resurrection has begun or inaugurated restoration of God’s Sabbath rest. At Jesus’ return to us, this Sabbath rest will be fully restored, and no more will sin be in the kingdom you and I will dwell eternally.
As we rest on Sunday or the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath day, we do not agree with anyone who would count any day of the week as equally a Christian Sabbath day. That’s because the first day of the week was the day Jesus rose from the dead, and the idea of God’s command for His own people to keep the Sabbath day holy, separate it from all others, is still effective upon us.
My fellow worshippers of God, this fourth commandment urges us to ‘remember and keep the Sabbath day holy’ because it is a promise of God for His blessing. The first three commandments remind us to whom we come and worship, saying, ‘you shall have no other gods before Me,’ ‘you shall not make a carved image and bow to it,’ and ‘you shall not take the name of God in vain.’ We bow and worship God the Almighty, the only living and true God.
But this fourth one is a tender and kind invitation for God’s people to come and rest in Him. God invites you and me to come and enjoy His completed work of redemption. The Lord invites us to invite all others under our care to have the same blessing. In fact, this is the rest Jesus promised to give to all who come to Him. Listen to Jesus and take what He promises in Mt. 11, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
So, I’m excited on every Lord’s Day because of this blessing of Sabbath rest. I sincerely and wholeheartedly pray that you too have the excitement of the blessing of God’s Sabbath rest! ***