The Sanctity of Sunday: Does It Really Matter?

If you want to push my buttons, and I mean really push my buttons, then all you have to do is tell me all soccer games will be played Sunday afternoons (which I’m not too excited about anyway). And then go and schedule a game for 10:15 on a Sunday morning. My fuse will light faster than a torch in a hay loft.

Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:8-11
Key Verse: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

Because excuse me, there are still people in this world who GO TO CHURCH. Which is exactly what I told our local soccer club in the nicest but most straight forward way I could; with smoke blowing out my ears and all engines on red.

Sadly, in a society rapidly straying from God, Sunday is no longer a day set aside for rest and worship, but merely the second day of an already too short weekend.

But God (two of my favorite words by the way) didn’t set the pattern of six days of work and one day of rest just for kicks and giggles. He intended it as a gift. A gift I’m afraid we’ve gone and shoved back in His face. (Present company included.)

He mandated the idea with Israel through the fourth commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gate” (Ex. 20:8-10).

Then the LORD goes on to say why he’s giving such a command. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:11).

In other words, here’s the pattern, now follow my example. Not just because it was best for their bodies to take a break and have a breather. But by doing so it identified the Israelites with the true Creator of heaven and earth, the LORD God Almighty.

This was His story. He’d made the earth and heavens and all that is within them in six days and rested on the seventh. Therefore, His people were to do the same that the world might know the Israelites didn’t depend on Ra the sun god, or Baal or Asherah, or any other false Canaanite god they’d be introduced to in the years to come but in the LORD God. The one who created everything in six days and rested on the seventh.

It was about identity.

And boy was God serious about this. Just before handing Moses the tablets of stone with the law written on them, God says to him, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths…Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.’” (Ex. 31:13-14).

Above all else, God said, they were to keep the Sabbaths holy. Now that’s saying something. I probably would have chosen a different commandment to highlight. Like the first one. “Above all else…you shall have no other gods before me.”

But God knew their obedience to the other commandments hinged on this one. If they kept the Sabbath they would serve Him above all other gods. If they kept the Sabbath they would serve Him in the right way. If they kept the Sabbath they would be careful to respect His name. They would teach their children accordingly and they would strive to love their neighbors as themselves.

It all hinged here, with the Sabbath. Because it’s with the Sabbath they remembered who they were and who God was and what He had done for them. And remembering is the catalyst to obedience.

Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

The pendulum of their commitment to God hung right here with whether or not they kept the Sabbath.

“Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever” (Ex. 31:16).

Yet Israel didn’t keep the Sabbath. And so they didn’t remember and chose instead to identify themselves with Baal and Asherah and other false gods. Ultimately, there worship went elsewhere.

Now we could sit and argue about whether or not as Christians today we’re still mandated to keep the Sabbath by way of the LORD’s day, Sunday, the day Christ arose from the dead. We could agree to disagree about what kinds of things we should or should not do on Sundays. We could look down our noses on those who work or do things we don’t agree with.

Or we could set aside the arguments of what and when and how and consider the why. Why God gave it to Israel in the first place. Recognizing it was for their good and His glory. It was so they’d remember and identify themselves with Him.

And then maybe we’d realize setting aside Sunday as the LORD’s day does the same thing for us. Going to church every week isn’t just for kicks and giggles. Setting that time aside, making it a priority no matter what else arises, marks me as a Christian. It’s an initial step in identifying myself as a Christ follower.

Secondly, making Sunday different than the other days of my week, gives me a weekly reminder of who I serve. The LORD God is His name. It’s Him I trust. It’s He who’s redeemed me. And if I make it a priority to remember such things on a weekly basis, surrounding myself with the body of Christ, the church, I’ll be less likely to wander.

It’s for my protection and it’s for God’s glory. And it’s a gift. A time to rest and take a breather. But Hebrews 4 gives believers an additional reason to celebrate the LORD’s day, setting it aside as holy. It’s a picture for us (and the rest of the world) of ceasing from working for one’s salvation and instead by faith trusting in Christ.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10). Could there be any better reason?

Yet if we don’t heed one day a week as God’s day, if we don’t make the day any different, if we don’t set it aside, then what kind of picture are we painting? One in which we don’t need God? One in which we need to work, instead of trust? One in which worshiping God is optional?

I don’t think it’s just a happen so that as our country has scooted further and further from the sanctity of Sunday, it’s scooted further and further from God.

He is the LORD and there is no other my friend. And setting Sunday aside is one way we identify with Him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you set aside one day a week to rest and remember? How so?
Why above all else, do you think this commandment was so important for the Israelites to follow? What does that mean for us?

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Is Church the House of God?

When Jacob left home I don’t think he expected to find God. A wife perhaps, but not God. After all do any of us really expect to find God when we’re out and about? Usually I’m just hoping to find a sucker or two in the bottom of my purse. Encountering God would be an incredible bonus! But in all seriousness don’t we tend to categorize God? He’s here (because I’m doing good) but not over there (because I don’t want him there). Or we imagine him in places of grandeur, as he undoubtedly deserves. Holy spaces dedicated to just Him. Churches. Little white ones with steeples and mega ones with coffee bars. Places where people gather to worship and pray and recite Scripture…that’s where God is right?

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 28:18-22
Key Verse: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

So when Sunday rolls around we spruce up! And not just in the areas of hygiene. Hearts, minds, mouths…it all looks a little different come church time. Because we be visitin’ the house of God!  But does God dwell in a church building? Do we have to go to church to find God?

It certainly seems logical in light of the Old Testament. When God needed a place to dwell among the Israelites He said to Moses “And let them build me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8). Then after establishing themselves in Canaan the Israelites (i.e. Solomon) built the temple. Giving God a permanent residence. Solomon actually calls it God’s house in 2 Chron. 2. He adorned it with precious stones and overlaid everything with gold – “it’s beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors” (2 Chron. 3:7). Just as one would think God’s house should be.

Now vying these examples it seems perfectly reasonable that God would dwell in a church building. A place where we can go and worship and meet with God. Even Jacob made a correlation between God’s presence and the need for a house. Waking from his dream he proclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17).

He even named the place Bethel, meaning house of God. He also took the stone he had used as a pillow “and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on top of it.” Saying, “and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house” (v. 22).

God’s house? What did Jacob know of God’s house? There was no tabernacle yet. No temple. No one particular place to go and sacrifice. In all honesty I’m a bit taken back by Jacob’s proclamation. But what really blew my hairs out is the similar use of wording in 1 Peter 2:5. Writing to believers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter states, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.”

Jacob may have set up a stone to be God’s house. But in Christ we are the stones of God’s house! Us! Believers! Anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).

We are His house! Not a little white building with a steeple. Or a large one with a coffee bar. Us! Please tell me your hairs just blew out! I pray we are not bored with this idea. It’s truly amazing! God went from Beersheba, to Bethel, to the intricately woven tabernacle, to the gold over layed temple, to us! I just…I mean…there are no words. Me – his dwelling. You – his house. Not a tent or a building or a place – us!

So is God at church? Indeed! If you are in Christ and you are at church. But when the building is empty…it’s empty. We are his house! A mind-blowing revelation with mind-blowing responsibility. What’s the one thing that always went on in God’s house? Sacrifices. Constantly. At the tabernacle, and the temple, and even at Bethel. If we jump ahead to Genesis 35 we see upon his return to Canaan, God told Jacob to go back to Bethel and make an altar. If you’re gonna call it my house then go back and do what’s necessary for it to be my house.

And Jacob did. He went back and offered up his sacrifices. Do we? Not physical bloodshed, Jesus took care of that. But spiritual sacrifices. Like offering our lives to God (Rom. 12:1). And our stuff (Phil 4:18). And our praise, “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Phil 13:15). Striving to live a life of holiness, at whatever the cost, because He is in us and we are in Him. 1 Peter 2:5 goes on to call us a holy priesthood. And what did the priests do? They took care of God’s house.

Maybe…I mean I’m just wondering…if we got a little housework to do. And I’m not talking about the endless parade of Fruit Loops under the kitchen table. I’m talking about God’s house. I’m talking about us. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Would God be proud to call you his home? Why or why not?
What evidence is there of spiritual sacrifices in your life?
2 Corinthians 6:16 says “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Anything we set between us and God is an idol. Anything we hold in higher regard than him. Are there idols in your “house” that need to be removed? If you aren’t sure ask Him. I know it might be scary, but I promise it will be well worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Pixabay