Get Some Rest

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

As I was studying for the sermon today, I was reminded of an article that a friend of mine had sent me some years ago. It was entitled, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” by economist John Maynard Keynes. Actually, the article was entitled, “The New Rules of Work.” Sorry, I skipped a line. “The New Rules of Work.” And in it, he referred to the article by John Maynard Keynes, who said this. This is in 1931. “Within a few generations, man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem, how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” In short, what Keynes was saying was that within a couple of generations, our time, the biggest problem we were going to have was how to use all the time and all the money that we had. Because we were going to have so much time and so much money on our hands. How do we figure out how to use all that time? How many of you think that’s the way it’s worked out? Not so much. And the article went on to discuss it. The article went on to discuss how the average number of sleep hours that each adult is getting per night has dropped from, I think it was 10 hours per night back in like the 1920s to 8 hours in the 1970s to 6.5 hours today. And more alarmingly is the number of people who are waking themselves up in the middle of the night to check their email or their text messages or other things on their phones. I see a number of you shaking your heads like that’s crazy. I agree. It’s just reality. God has knit us together in such a way that we need rest. We need to sleep. You think about it, how much of your lifetime is going to be spent sleeping? Quarter of it? Third of it? More than that? It’s a crazy amount of our life that we actually spend sleeping. Why? Because God’s knit our bodies together in such a way that we need rest. And so what does God do? In wonderful grace, God gives his Old Testament people the Sabbath day command. On the Sabbath day, which was Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, that’s the way Jewish people keep time. They keep it from sundown to sundown. So right now we would be in Sunday, but it would be fairly late in the day Sunday for a Jewish person. Make sense? So Monday would start about 6.30, 7 o’clock, something like that whenever sundown hits. The Sabbath has always been that day, it will always be that day. On the seventh day, God rested. And on that day, the Israelites were to do no work. Now, what Jesus meant by that, or what the scriptures mean by that, is they were not to do their occupation. God was not forbidding every aspect of work, which is why when the disciples were going through the fields and picking pieces of grain and eating them, the Pharisees accused them of working. You’re breaking the Sabbath because you’re harvesting those grains, but the disciples weren’t farmers. That was not their occupation. All they were doing was getting some food to eat. And so they weren’t breaking the Sabbath at all. But for most of the people back then, their lifestyle was agrarian. So on the Sabbath day, no plowing, no weeding, no reaping, no storing away in the barns. It was a day for them to take off from their occupation and get some rest. And I would guess they even spent a good time of that day sleeping. Why not? You wouldn’t have a whole lot more to do, right? That is, once you got back from synagogue worship or the temple worship because that was the other aspect of the Sabbath day. It’s not in this text, but other places in the Old Testament make it clear that the Sabbath day was to be a day also of worship. Why? Because as much as we need rest for our bodies, we far, far, far more need rest for our souls. That’s what we need more than anything else in the world, is rest for our souls. The rest that can only come from knowing that our sins are forgiven, that can come from knowing that God loves us dearly. As the Israelites went to worship at the synagogue or at the temple, what were they going to be reminded of? One of the things that they were going to be reminded of was that you were a slave in Egypt. That’s what the Hebrew literally says. By the way, every time the word “you” is in this text, it’s singular. Get it? In other words, God is talking to you singularly. And even when it says, “You were slaves in Egypt,” it’s singular. You were a slave in Egypt. And what did God do? He rescued you. He brought you out. Can you imagine how frustrating it must have been for those Israelites when they were in slavery? How frustrating would it be to have to work hard all day long, but not for your advancement, not for the advancement of your family, but for the advancement of the master, or in this case, the advancement of the Egyptian government? And if you didn’t do it to the standard that the overseer expected, you’d feel the whip. Can you imagine how frustrating? How stressful? It must have been awful. And maybe that’s why God uses slavery as an analogy for what sin does to us. “Anyone who sins is a slave to sin,” Jesus says. That makes every one of us here a slave. And it’s frustrating because you know what happens. As you examine yourself to come to the Lord’s Supper today, how many of you found that you had sins that were exactly the same to confess this Sunday as you confessed the last time you came for the Lord’s Supper? Every single time! Isn’t that frustrating? Oh, I’m guessing you probably had a few new ones besides. And isn’t that frustrating? And then, of course, there are the results. “As husbands and wives fail to talk to each other with patience and kindness and love, what happens? Their relationship struggles. As we fail to interact with our neighbors with love and joy and peace and patience, again, there’s strife and turmoil and struggle. Sin brings frustration and stress and turmoil.” Which means we need what? We need somebody to set us free. Free. And whoever believes in the Son of God is free indeed. That Jesus has set you free with his life, with his death, with his resurrection, he felt the eternal whip of God’s punishment that we should have felt eternally. Jesus took every lash so that you could have the glorious freedom of no longer being slaves, but being children. Children of God! Because that is who you are. And so we can understand why God said to the Old Testament people, “Observe the Sabbath day.” Hebrew detail. You know I love to give you a little Hebrew and Greek stuff. The English word observe, not an inaccurate translation, but it doesn’t have much tension in that word, does it? Yeah, I observed a person walking across the street. You don’t think twice about it, right? The Hebrew word that’s used there has more the idea of keep, guard, hold fast. In other words, it’s saying guard the Sabbath day. See it as a day which is holy. You and I can’t make it holy. God made it holy because he rested on the seventh day. So God made it holy, to begin with. You and I can do nothing to make it more or less holy. God did that. But God wants us to guard it. He wants us to guard our worship time, and oh yeah in the New Testament, it’s different for us. No, you don’t have to worship on Saturday. No, you don’t have to set aside a whole day away from your, away from your occupation. You can if you want. You don’t have to. No, it doesn’t have to be done on a certain day. It can be done any day. That’s why Paul says let no one judge you in regards to a new moon or a Sabbath day. Those were shadows of the rest that was to be found in Christ. So we can worship whenever we want, but God wants you to guard it. God wants you and me to hold fast to our word of God time, to hold fast to our worship time, to hold fast to that time when we get to listen to him. Why? Because he wants you and me to have rest. God doesn’t want you and me to be driven by the horror and the stress and the pain of sin. Instead, he wants you and me to come to him, where you will find rest for your souls. And where do you find that? Every time you open the book, you are finding rest for your souls. Every time you are here in the house of the Lord, you are finding rest for your soul. Every time you come to the Lord’s table and he gives you himself his true body and blood together with the bread and the wine, God is giving you rest for your soul. Every time you’re reminded of your baptism, it’s rest for your soul. Observe the Sabbath day. Remember the Sabbath day. Guard the Sabbath day. Guard the Sabbath day. Because what does God want to give to you? God wants to give you rest. The eternal rest that only he can give. Amen? Amen.