Summary: Last week, we discovered Chapter 10 is the most critical chapter in Nehemiah. There is no better way to put it; it is the chapter of commitment. The Israelites have gathered to recommit their lives to God and they do so through four vows. Today, we see th
[Re]centering the Sabbath
Have you ever had to reboot your computer? I came into the Office two weeks ago and Tina’s computer had crashed. She tried to re-start it but it got stuck in that mode. We were reminded how dependent we’ve become on the computer and when it doesn’t work, we’re dead in the water. We had no choice but to stop, shut the computer down and then try to reboot. A lot of times we have to reboot because we’ve got so many windows open and applications running that the computer has slowed down and is not working at its normal speed or capacity. "To reboot means to turn off the computer and put things back the way they are supposed to be." This allows it to run more effectively and efficiently. The Israelites in our Scripture today knew the importance of what it meant to stop and reboot. They knew if they were going to put God first in their lives, they needed to re-commit themselves to living for him.
Last week, we discovered Chapter 10 is the most critical chapter in Nehemiah. There is no better way to put it; it is the chapter of commitment. The Israelites have gathered to recommit their lives to God and they do so through four vows. The first was submission to God’s word and following everything in it. In fact, the people were so serious about submitting to God and His Word that they called the curses of God to fall on them if they did not obey God’s laws. The second was to live a life of purity. This meant that they were not going to bring in or allow any unholy influences into the irlife together or in their homes.
Today, we see the third of those vows which was to keep the Sabbath. From the beginning of time God commanded a day be set aside for Him and so the Israelites committed to do just that. "When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day." That’s the original blue law! The Sabbath caused the Israelites to step back and have a moment of holy interruption - to stop and reboot. Thus, communion and relationship to God was being restored. After working and laboring so hard for six days straight, that they had to stop one day a week to reboot and re-center themselves on God.
God uses the Sabbath to restore that which has been broken down. Take strength training and weight lifting for example. I have a subscription to Muscle and Fitness. You can tell it’s doing me alot of good. A young man in college wrote in a number of years ago because he wasn’t seeing any gains in muscle, despite working out regularly. The young man described his typical day. He woke up and ran five miles. Then he would bike a couple of miles to class. After classes were over, he’d hit the gym for two hours. Inevitably, some fraternity brothers would be playing a game of football and he’d join them until dinnertime. After dinner, he went and played intramurals. After hearing all of this, the columnist reminded this young man that when you do cardio and lift weights, you literally build up your muscle by tearing it down. The way in which you get the maximum results from your workout is by allowing the muscle to relax and get some rest. “You need to stop doing so much and start resting more.” Sounds like us. We do so much and work so hard and then we realize we haven’t been all that productive in our lives. We need that one day to rebuild ourselves where we’ve been broken down. That’s the purpose of the Sabbath.
So the Sabbath is where you find rest. I love what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." The dictionary defines rest as peace, freedom from trouble and anxiety, having tranquility. Can you use any of that in your life? There’s a tendency for us to want to go through life without taking a break. But as followers of Jesus, we have to be intentional about getting out of the fast lane and finding rest. We do so much stuff that we need to rest. Because of the fast pace of our culture, very seldom do we find time to be still and just be. The Sabbath isn’t about doing. It’s about being. It’s being free just to be with Jesus. There’s a great difference between sleep and rest. Sleep is totally dependent on you, but rest is rooted in a relationship with God. Some of you can sleep for 8 hours and wake up tired, anxious and harried. But rest is when you give all your cares, anxiety and worry to God and go to sleep with a deep sense of peace that surpasses all understanding. When you wake the next morning, you realize it’s well with your soul. Jesus doesn’t just want you to find more sleep, he also wants you to find rest in Him.