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?