Summary: God gave the sabbath command not to restrict us but to free us for rest and faith in Him to provide.
A Sunday School teacher was telling her children about the importance of observing the Sabbath Day. "I never go FISHING on a Sunday!" piped up little Johnny. "VERY GOOD, Johnny!" said the teacher. "Won’t you tell the other children why you don’t go fishing on a Sunday?" Johnny replied: "Because my Daddy won’t let me go along!"
A certain minister had a weakness for golf. But he had no time for it. Searching his busy schedule, he found one day in a year’s time when he could play. Unfortunately, that day fell on the Sabbath. The minister apologized to God and traveled some distance to a golf club so that no one who might know him would see him. As he teed up the first ball, an angel looked down from heaven aghast: "A minister playing golf on the Sabbath!" He immediately told the Almighty about it. On the third hole, God sent down a gust of wind that made the minister’s ball sink into the cup. . . a hole in one! The angel watching was puzzled. "You call that punishment?" “Think about it," the Lord replied . . . "Who can he tell?" - [Hopewell Herald, June/July 1997]
This morning, we come together to examine the 4th of the Ten Commandments – “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy”. On this command especially, it would seem that this is a message that needs to presented to everyone who isn’t here. You are here, so obviously you are at least attempting to follow this command in your own life. Some of you may have grown up in homes where your parents were very strict about what could and could not be done on Sunday. Church was obviously the way that you began your day. There was no point in arguing about it. Mom would fix dinner on Saturday night so as not to have to work on Sunday afternoon. The only activities that were allowed on Sunday afternoon were sleep and maybe reading. You couldn’t play ball, couldn’t watch TV – couldn’t do much of anything. Fact is that there wasn’t a whole lot that was available to do on Sunday. Everything in town was shut down. Things have changed a lot over the years. I remember when I was growing up how unusual it was to see a business open on Sunday. Now, it is unusual when a business is NOT open on Sunday. Sunday has become just another day of the week. Let me suggest something to you though: this command that we come to today is not just about coming to church on Sunday. It has far greater implications than that. There is much that I learned this week as I studied this command in Scripture. I would go so far as to say that you can be in church every Sunday and not fulfill this command in the eyes of God. And I hope you’ll understand what I mean as we go through.
Before we begin, let me say this: My purpose here this morning is not to make up some list as far as what is and what is not allowed on Sunday. Should you go out to eat on Sunday? That way you don’t work fixing a meal, but then you are forcing the employees of the restaurant to work. Should you go shopping at Wal-Mart or the mall on Sunday? Should you wash the car on Sunday? Should a Christian work on Sunday? I’m a Christian; I work on Sunday. I’m not going to answer those questions this morning. But what I am going to do is to help you see some of what God wanted to accomplish in the lives of the Israelites through this command and what principles related to this command need to govern our everyday lives not just our Sunday lives.
What did the command mean in the lives of the people of Israel?
It meant no work.”. . .on it you shall not do any work . . .” (Deut 5:14)
What would you say should be the penalty for breaking this command? A good talking to – “Man, don’t you know that you’re supposed to rest today? What are you doing working when you could and should be home sleeping?!” Maybe a slap on the wrist or a fine. We’ll fine you all the money that you made on that day and put it in the building fund. God wasn’t joking around when He gave this command. He said that the penalty for breaking this command was to be death (Exodus 31:15). That puts this command right up there with “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The first test case came along not long after the commandments were given. One day, a Jewish man went out into the wilderness to gather some sticks for a fire. Nothing wrong with that except for the fact that he did it on the Sabbath. He was spotted doing it, and was confined to quarters until Moses could consult God about it. God said that the man was to die, and so the community took him out and stoned him (Numbers 15:32-26). And you thought your mom’s punishment for playing ball on Sunday was severe!