Summary: The Sabbath is to be Holy as unto the Lord. But what does that mean for the people of the New Covenant? Could doing the works of God be the best way to honor the Lord.
The Lord’s Day
Do any of you remember the old ‘blue laws”? For those who are younger than 30, our state used to have rules about what could and could not be done on Sunday. Almost all stores and restaurants were closed on Sunday. The vast majority of people did not have to work on Sunday’s because just about everything was closed, with a few exceptions like gas stations and hospitals. In the Bible belt regions of our state people would spend the day with their church families and their extended families. After Sunday services people would go home and have a Sunday meal with their families. The afternoon would be spent quietly in devotion, worship and prayer in the most devout homes. In other homes people would spend the time playing family games or reading books. It was a quiet day of rest for much of the country.
It was in the context of that culture that Eric Liddell refused to run a race on Sunday in the Paris Olympics of 1924. Eric was a devoted Christian who believed that he must defy his home country, and the Olympic Committee. He was scheduled to run in the 100meter race, a race he was highly favored to win. But the event was scheduled for Sunday, and Eric refused to run. The government of England did not want to lose their chances at a gold medal, and so they tried to persuade Eric to race. But he wouldn’t budge.
In the end he did not run in the 100 meter, but he was entered on another day in the 400 meter race, a race he had never run in competition before. Many race commentators said that he ran that race like a man on fire. He broke the world record and went home with a gold medal in the 400. In 1981 a movie titled: “Chariots of Fire” was made to tell his story.
Was Eric right to refuse to run on Sunday? Are we to cease from all labor and all sports on Sunday’s? Should shops and restaurants be closed? What does God want us to do with the first day of the week? Should we be keeping the Sabbath for a day of rest? Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday?
I am going to try and answer these questions this morning by looking at the principle of the Sabbath in the Bible, and by taking a closer look at Jesus and His approach to the day.
Theme: Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
1. Why a Sabbath?
The word Sabbath, or in Hebrew – Shabath, literally means to rest, or to cease from your labors. This concept of rest goes all the way back to creation. God created the world in 6 days, and on the 7th day God rested. In setting apart the 7th day as a day of rest, God declared that the 7th day of the week was to be a Holy Day unto the Lord.
On the 7th day God enjoyed His creation. He declared that all that He had made was good. Adam and Ever were in the Garden. They were enjoying the ‘rest of the Lord’. They were at peace with God and with each other. This didn’t mean that Adam and Eve did not work. God had placed them in the Garden to be fruitful and to multiply. Adam named the animals, and together with Eve they tended the Garden. But they were in a state of rest. Their work was not laborious, but a joy.