Practical Blessings: Blessed Rest
Pastor Darryl Bentley
Midland SDA Church
August 27, 2011
Homiletical Idea: The Sabbath as given by the Lord in Genesis 2 contains three governing principles that help us to understand the very nature of the Sabbath. When we understand these three principles we can not only know what’s appropriate to do on God’s holy day, but we can also know how to share it with others in a practical, life-changing way.
1. Opening Illustration: A need to understand, assembling furniture.
2. Transition to the Topic:
a. God wanted us to be aware of and to enjoy the Sabbath from the very beginning of creation.
i. Think about it. Adam and Eve’s first full day together on this earth was also spent with God over the Sabbath hours. We might even say their wedding gift from God was the Sabbath. It is in Genesis 2 that we discover the three governing principles of the Sabbath.
1. First it says that God rested after He had completed His creative work. The word translated rest here is Shabbat which means “to cease or desist and rest”. God was not tired and in need of recuperation, but rather He was setting an example that He wanted us to follow in that we too should come to the end of each week and cease or desist from our usual labors.
2. Heading back to Genesis 2 we find the second governing principle of the Sabbath. The Bible says that God blessed the seventh day. Now here is where it gets amazing to me. The word translated as blessed here is barak. This Hebrew word means to not only bless but to kneel.
a. Some around the world argue that there is no mandate in the Sabbath command that says we are to worship God on the Sabbath, yet right within the Hebrew text we find barak which carries the meaning of kneeling. No, God did not kneel down to worship that which He had created, but rather He set up a blessing that is received when we come to worship. In other words God placed a special blessing on the seventh day, which we can also call the Sabbath, and that blessing is only received when we come and worship God on the seventh day or the Sabbath. That’s an awesome discovery to me.
b. This opportunity of worshipping God is not only given in here in Genesis but is later on commanded in Exodus through the word “remember”. Let’s look at this loving commandment. Exodus 20: 8-11.
i. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. What does it mean to keep something holy? The Hebrew word here is qadash which means “to be set apart or consecrated”. What does it mean to consecrate something? It means that it is dedicated for God’s use or used to glorify and honor God. The only way we can set apart or consecrate the Sabbath is to come to God with a surrendered heart each week and worship Him. The Bible says Him who “made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.”
ii. The Sabbath command wraps up with the blessing that is received through kneeling. Yes, we are told that the Lord barak’ed or blessed the Sabbath day and qadashI’ed it or made it holy. It does not say that man made the day holy, it explicitly says that God made it holy.
c. Over and over throughout the Old Testament (OT) we find that God wanted His people to keep His Sabbath holy. In the New Testament (NT) we discover that Jesus and even His disciples long after His death and resurrection kept the Sabbath and taught others to do the same (See Nehemiah 13, Exodus 31:14-16, Deut 5:12-15, Luke 4:16, Acts 13:14-42; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). Jesus is even quoted in three of the gospels as calling Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. It’s in Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, and Luke 6:5.
d. I want to briefly point out too that we have a Biblical inclusio. An inclusio is where you have the same or nearly the same words that surround a larger body of text. This bracketing of a larger boy of text is significant because it lets the reader know that the larger body is presented within the framework of the wording that is used to bracket off the larger body of text. In other words, when you have a repeated phrase around a larger body of text the larger body of text can be understood within the context of the smaller phrase.
i. We have already looked at the Exodus commandment that reminds us to keep the Sabbath holy and we are even given evidence of why God has the right to call us to worship Him; because He is Creator of all including us. The language in the fourth commandment that tells us why God has the right to command our worship is found in “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.” Here is the first part of our inclusio.
ii. We find the second part of the inclusio in the last book of the Bible: Revelation. In Revelation 14:7 we find the first angle’s message to humanity in the last days. This angel cries out with a loud voice to fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven, and earth, and the fountains of water. This is almost the exact wording found in Exodus 20. This is the last part of our inclusio.
iii. All of Scripture can be understood to have been presented in the context of worshipping God because He is the Creator of everything including us.
1. Why do we pay tithe? As an act of worship to the Creator.
2. Why do we embrace the teaching on the state of the dead? As an act of worship to the Creator.
3. Why do we come each week on the seventh day to church? As an act of worship to the Creator.
e. We also see that God intends for His people to worship Him on Sabbath throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. In Isaiah 66:23 the Lord says through the prophet that “all flesh” shall come to worship Him “from Sabbath to Sabbath”. Clearly the blessing associated with the Sabbath comes only through engaging in worship to the One who created us: the Lord God.
3. The last governing principle that we see emerge from the Genesis account is that God sanctified or made the Sabbath holy. Again this word sanctified means “to be set apart for a holy purpose or to be associated with that which is sacred.” Consecrated and sanctified can be used synonymously.
a. There are a few things that we need to keep in mind regarding this concept.
i. We cannot make anything holy. Only God has the power to make or declare something holy.
ii. Our act in this drama is to offer ourselves to God that He might then use us to further His holy purposes.
iii. Lastly, no one has the right to change or alter that which God has declared holy. If God has declared a certain day holy then that is the only day that can be holy. This does not mean that we cannot draw near to God on all other days, but it does mean that we cannot receive God’s special blessing promised earlier unless we worship Him on the day that He has declared holy.
b. In keeping in harmony with this concept of a sanctified day we can also learn that God expects us to expand His holy purposes on the Sabbath. In other words, the Sabbath is not about doing and seeking after the things I may selfishly desire. Quite the contrary, the Sabbath is about seeking to do God’s will as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Sabbath should be about serving others, sharing the Word and enjoying Christian fellowship.
3. The Practical blessings:
a. Most all of us here likely have no problem accepting that the seventh day of the week commonly known as Saturday is in fact the Sabbath of the Lord our God. But how do we share the Sabbath in such a way that is attractive to the hustling, bustling world around us? How do we share the Sabbath with a devoted Sunday goer so that they see the need to worship God on His Sabbath instead of a man-made day of worship on the first day of the week?
i. I always like to focus first and foremost on the fact that as Christians we are to discover and heed the example that Christ gave us in Scripture. I always remind people that Jesus worshipped on the Sabbath and He expected His followers to do so after His return to heaven. I show them Matthew 24:20 where Jesus said pray that your flight be not on winter or the Sabbath day. Of course here He is speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem that took place in 70 A.D.; nearly 40 years after His departure to heaven.
ii. After telling people how Jesus worshipped I simply remind them of the three principles associated with the Sabbath:
1. God rested and ceased from His usual labors and He gave us the awesome gift of the Sabbath so that we can do the same. I always tell people how I look forward to the Sabbath that I can have a change of pace, how I can engage in other activities that help me experience true rest.
2. God blessed the Sabbath day and His special blessing is only found when we worship Him on the day that He blessed. Yes, I may receive some sort of blessing on any day that I spend time with God, but I cannot receive the special blessing associated with His Sabbath unless I come and worship Him on His Sabbath that He made Holy.
3. God sanctified or made the Sabbath Holy so that His creatures might also be made holy and thereby help expand His holy purposes.
4. Lastly, I simply tell people that I want God’s rest. I want His special blessings, and I want to be used to further His holy purposes.
5. Then I ask them, “Don’t you want God’s rest, blessings, and to be used for His holy purposes?” I have never had one person tell me no, that they do not want all of that.
4. Wrap-up and appeal.