Summary: Jesus calls us to relationship, to sabbath-rest. When will we realize this is not about religious or ’spiritual’ activity? We are called to BE not DO.
The sweetest sounding words that my wife ever speaks to me are very powerful. They arrest me and make me sit and up and listen. Ladies, if you have a man that doesn’t pay attention, you need this sentence because you will get the undivided attention you so desperately desire. The sentence is - “let’s go for breakfast”! When we have had a really hectic week (every week!), we love nothing more than to slip over to Top of the Hill somewhere and have a quiet breakfast together. We try not to talk ministry and work. We talk family; us. Sometimes we don’t say much of anything but sit quietly and BE. We aim for PRESENCE. If we leave breakfast and feel connected through the experience, we achieved the ultimate aim.
Today’s text is an invitation by Jesus to join him for breakfast! How exciting is that! Summer is upon us. Church activity is coming to a halt. It is a healthy, necessary discipline. I suggest that it is a Biblical discipline. The summer slumber moves us from DOING to allow us the open doors that entice us into BEING – BEING with God; BEING quiet; BEING RESTFUL.
The dozen or so commands in the Bible to “come and rest” are found in the New Testament – the new dispensation, the new covenant, the new Life section of the Bible. We are called to live a life of grace, to embrace BEING; to stop defining who we are by how much we DO. How vain the people who are so busy that they can hardly take a break, or they pride themselves in keeping their ministry going all year when others rest. Those who rest are more attuned to the art and experience of SABBATH-KEEPING.
Bible – not fewer than 132 references to Sabbath rest-taking. Do you think its important maybe?
1. Understanding Sabbath
a. OLD COVENANT SABBATH REST
Sabbath-keeping began with a command from God: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor, but the seventh day is a Sabbath.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
At one point when the people were on route to the “new land” – promise land, God was providing all their food for their journey. On one of those manifestations of loving provision God gave a specific instruction to them. In Exodus 16:23 the Lord appointed the next day as “a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD.” The command involved resting from their normal daily duties and tasks. As a result God provided two day’s food on the day before the Sabbath so his people wouldn’t have to gather on the Sabbath. The people still went looking for food on the Sabbath however and God was displeased and questioned (v 28) why they would not obey his command to not do that. It was a desecration of the Sabbath. They were not resting from their normal routine of gathering food in the morning.
God was not splitting hairs. Looking for food on the Sabbath in itself was not wrong. The wrong was disobedience. Just because we don’t see the harm in something is not reason enough to ignore what God has instructed us to do or how to behave. The further wrong in this action was failing to recognize the purpose, the intent of the command – it was for the reasons stated in Exodus 31:13 - "Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” If however those reasons alone were not enough to motivate obedience, God added an addendum to the plan. In Exodus 31:15 God warned that the penalty for working on the Sabbath was death!
While we live not under law but under grace (thankfully) the principle must be given attention – God is not pleased, is angered actually when all of life is consumed with temporal care, materialism, consumerism and consumption at the expense of neglecting relationship and Sabbath rest. We need to know that ignoring Sabbath-keeping (remembering we are talking about relationship with God, not a calendar day with certain activities) kills us – it kills our potential for good work, it destroys our productivity, it saps our energy, it depletes our tolerance of other people and above everything else, it kills our relationship with God. EVERYTHING hinges on the strength or weakness of our relationship with God.
Sadly, what God intended even in the old covenant command was misconstrued and wrongfully enforced and applied. We’ll see why in the next point:
b. NEW COVENANT SABBATH-REST
What we just looked at is called the old dispensation or the Old Testament covenant. It changed and was completely fulfilled when Jesus came!