Summary: God intended the Sabbath for blessing, we’ve turned into burden; meant for enjoyment, we’ve allowed it to enslave; created for our pleasure, we corrupt it into added pressure.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES!
The newspaper editorialized:
The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain, to keep pace.…and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure much more.
That sounds like something from today’s Press Enterprise. It actually appeared in the Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833. Life goes on at a breathless pace, constantly accelerating. I read about an elevator manufacturer attempting to reduce the seconds spent waiting. Lasers count the number of people waiting on any floor and a central computer determines how many elevators to send to that floor. Sensors near each door determine whether people are moving toward it as the elevator stops. If no one is approaching, the doors close quickly, saving several seconds.
One of my favorite Baptist preachers, Vance Havner, said, “We all need to come apart to rest before we come apart, period.” God established the Sabbath because He knows our need for rest and worship. He created it for our delight. It is His word of grace for those who are driven and harassed. It says to housewives and to account executives, to welders and to attorneys, “You may stop now—no you must stop now—at least for a day.”
God intended the Sabbath for blessing, we’ve turned into burden; meant for enjoyment, we’ve allowed it to enslave; created for our pleasure, we corrupt it into additional pressure. The fourth Commandment, like the others, is designed not to limit us, but to liberate us.
I. GOD’S PURPOSE IN THE SABBATH
The Sabbath had its beginning in the great creative week described in Genesis 1 and 2. God created for six days, and then sanctified the seventh day by resting from His productive work. Genesis 1:31-2:3 describes it:
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The word “Sabbath” doesn’t occur in that account but it is clear that God established a weekly sacred day. Exodus 20:11 explains, “The LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
The word “Sabbath” comes from a Hebrew root word meaning “to cease, desist or rest.” God was not exhausted or tired out from His creative activity. In love, He established a pattern for humanity because He knew we need a “stop-what-you-are-doing day,” a time set aside for rest and restoration.
Important as rest is, that is not the only reason for the Sabbath.
Another goal for the Sabbath is identified in Deuteronomy 5: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (v. 15). God knows our need for peace and withdrawal, but He also recognizes the necessity of praise and worship. We should remember our redemption and delight in our deliverance. A day for rest and worship will make a major difference in your life and productivity. “There is no day of rest for a driven person. Everyday can be a day of rest for the called person.”
II. HUMAN PERVERSION OF THE SABBATH
The Sabbath was perverted even before it is mentioned in the Ten Command-ments. Humanity needed times for relaxation and reverence to be set apart. From the creation people were to “Remember the Sabbath.” The word is first used in Exodus 16:23 where God instructs the people about manna. They could gather and prepare as much as they needed each day, but they were not to store it. Greedy by nature, some hoarded extra supplies, only to find it rotten and stinking. Yet, on the sixth day they were to gather double portions be-cause the seventh day was the Sabbath. Moses wrote:
“This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’“ So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” (Exodus 16:23-26).