All of us know the importance of rest. The parents of a newborn know what it is like to go without sleep. Employee’s pressing for a deadline know what it is like to work long shifts without a day off. Most of us know the impact of the daily grind when we do not get in some vacation time. The Bible also reminds us of the most important reason for our times of rest.
Let me begin with a story. Most of you know that our church went through a major building project a couple years ago. We developed a 5-acre site starting with the acquisition of the property all the way through the purchase and installation of two buildings. I enjoyed the opportunity to be the lead person for the project. (I do want to get a shout out to our incredible team that made our dream a reality). But, at the close of the project in April 2021 I began to feel the effects from the land purchase that began March 2015. I was physically tired and needed a break. But there was something more important that kept me going. It is something that we often overlook. The strength that comes from our consistent personal and public worship.
If you are thinking that the purpose of the Sabbath was for man to rest, as God rested on the seventh day of Creation, you would be correct. You would also be correct in understanding that God ordained for Old Testament followers to take a specific day off from their labors each week. But what you may have missed is that the main focus of the command was not the rest from work, but the rest from working was so they could worship! It is in the Creation account we learn that God set apart this day, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,” (Genesis 2:3a). We also see that the first four of the Ten Commandments focus on worship. The first is to have “no other gods”. The second focused on no idols. The third on not using the Lord’s name in vain, and the fourth on keeping the sabbath. “Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11). God’s Word, through the prophet Isaiah, reminds us that the Sabbath was more than a day off for ourselves. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;” (Isaiah 58:13).
Today, in the age of Grace, the Sabbath principle can be profitable for us. The New Testament believer is not obligated to keep the formal Sabbath of Saturday worship. One of the only two references to the Sabbath outside of the Gospels and Acts reminds us: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Colossians 2:16). But the New Testament does encourage what could be called a “Sabbath principle” of regular personal and corporate worship.
The real source of my strength during that time of site development and even today, is a growing relationship with the Lord. It is a shame that many followers of Jesus fail to take advantage of the Lord’s help in our lives. The New Year is a great time to refocus on our personal spiritual development! “Let Us… do this!”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson