This is a great time of year for a lot of people. School is out. The weather is warming up. Summer arrives officially next week. This is the time when people think about slowing down, if not slowing down, at least taking some time off…get out of the desk…get out of the office…get out of the house…take a vacation…enjoy a little diversion from what we do throughout the year.
We need to rest. People are not machines. We need time to recharge, rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. Sometimes you might think that if you didn’t work all the time, you would find yourself even more behind in your work, but in reality, taking a little time off makes you more effective when you work.
Jesus rested. Rest is godly. Rest was commanded in the Old Testament. This morning our text tell us: Get Your Rest. To understand our text we have to know what the history is that surrounds it. And then we talk about the kind of rest God wants us to have.
1. Observe the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. The Third Commandment deals with the Sabbath, which is the Hebrew word for rest. God wanted His people to get their rest – both physically and spiritually. In fact, He demanded that they get their rest and if they didn’t get their rest, it was a capital crime.
Why should they get their rest? 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. God is concerned about the well-being of his people. What this tells us is that God was concerned about the physical well-being of all His people. And not only the Israelites were to abstain from work, but this applied to their servants as well. One day a week they were not to work hard. God did not want his people exhausted from constant hard work.
Later in Israel’s history the Jewish people began to misinterpreted this command., as is shown in the gospel lesson. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had focused on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. The result of this was that they focused on what they were doing, instead of what God was doing for them, physically and spiritually, on the Sabbath.
They went to great lengths to determining what was work. And over time an exhaustive system of rules governing proper Sabbath observance was developed and put down in writing. Almost every conceivable situation was covered. Here are a couple of examples.
It was not lawful to boil an egg on the Sabbath. It was not lawful to climb a tree or swim or dance. It was lawful to pick up a chair, but it was not permissible to drag the same chair along the ground because it might produce a rut. Here’s a good one: Women were not allowed to look in the mirror on the Sabbath because they might discover a white hair and attempt to pull it out.
It had to be exhausting to try and figure out how they could or couldn’t rest. Why would a person who claims to be a child of God go through so much effort to rest? What happens when you work when you’re supposed to rest? You don’t get your rest.
These manmade rules were designed to keep people from violating the Sabbath. But these manmade rules distracted from the true meaning and purpose of the Sabbath. What happens though, when the focus is taken off God?
In the gospel, you have the religious leaders accusing the disciples for breaking Sabbath because they harvested grain when they shouldn’t have. Today, you get people who say, “I go to church. I gave an offering. I’m not perfect, but at least I’m here. I do more than most people do.” brought my envelope. I may not be perfect, but at least I’m here. And as long as I do what I’m supposed to, as long as I do just enough, as long as I do a little more than the person next to me, then I’ll be okay.” If you are concerned about putting in your hour, or if you’ve ever compared yourself to others, you have taken God out of the picture and put the focus on you…That’s not the rest God has in mind for you.
A focus on the sinner is poison for our souls. It’s sweet poison, but its poison. It tastes good going down, it feels good to focus on myself, but in the end the poison of focusing on myself can only kill. Everyone tastes this deadly poison. The person who never went to prison says, “At least I’ve never gone to prison.” Can you imagine what the prisoner says, “At least I know my sin.” And we all are dying because of our sins.
Even preachers have this trouble. In Montana, we had Bible Class and Sunday School at 8 and worship at 9:15. I was usually out of church by 11 a.m., which meant one thing. I was grilling by noon: my boys have always loved burgers on the grill. So I’d change clothes, and ride my bike to the closest grocery store. When you walk into church at that time you walk in with Christians wearing their Sunday best. On many Sundays I would get looks like: He didn’t go to church. He’s not dressed like us. Here’s where I focused on myself: I was just waiting for someone to say something to me and if someone did I could say, “I just preached on the epistle lesson for the Second Sunday in Pentecost. What did you preach on?” I never found rest in comparing myself to someone else.
There is an antidote for this poison. Jesus. He actually gave us to the Law so we would see what we have in him as our Savior. And this one who established the law that we could never keep has also kept the law in our place.
Jesus observed every Sabbath. In fact no one ever preached like Jesus, taught like Jesus. Jesus proclaimed the prophesies of the Old Testament as he preached in the synagogues. Jesus proclaimed spiritual truth in the form of parables. Jesus also fulfilled every prophesy about him: born of a virgin. He would come out of Egypt. He would be sold for 30 silver pieces. He would be pierced. He was be assigned a grave with the wicked. He would rise again. He would ascend into to heaven. And because he did, Jesus has provided true rest, spiritual rest, and eternal rest.
You don’t have to wonder if you have gone to church enough in your life—if Jesus did it for you. You don’t have to wonder if your guilt is gone—if Jesus has won your rest. You don’t have to worry about what will happen when you die—Jesus kept every law, including the Sabbath, so you can rest. You don’t have to wonder what God is thinking about when it comes to you—he speaks to you in His Word.
From the book of Exodus we learn a second reason God had His people keep the Sabbath had to with the fact that He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Israel was to observe the same pattern in their lives as God did in Creation. But it was more than mere imitation; this is the day they were told to "keep holy." In other words, they were to set this day apart and make it special. This was the day that was to be devoted to reflecting on God and His Word. This was the time set aside for public worship and praise. They were to rest from the physical so they could concentrate on the spiritual.
The Sabbath requirements were only for the people in the Old Testament. The Sabbath laws do not apply to us New Testament believers. The Sabbath pointed to Christ, and because he has come, the Sabbath is no longer needed.
But the principle behind this command still remains. God wants us to spend time with him and His Word and enjoy true refreshing spiritual rest. “Come to me all you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." You don’t have to wonder if you’ve done enough to get into heaven. You don’t have to wonder if you will stand before God and give an account for sins, Jesus already did that. You don’t have to doubt if your sins are forgiven—Jesus rose again and lives.
Get your rest—take a trip to Calvary and see divine blood shed for your sin. Get your rest—open up the Psalms and pour out your heart to the Lord, and then, refreshed, wait for his deliverance. Get your rest—open up your Bible and see Jesus keeping the Sabbath. Get your rest—see Jesus’ love for the Word of God is your love for the Word of God, through faith in Jesus.
God wants you to have that rest for your souls. He told Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people…Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
Perhaps you didn’t take what you feel is enough time in God’s Word this week and your conscience bothers you. God hasn’t withdrawn his message of forgiveness. It’s still there for you to read and find rest in. Perhaps you were a bad example for your family this week. The Lord has taken that sin and thrown it into the depths of the sea where it cannot be found. And you may have another opportunity to be a good example this week.
Get your rest. Will there ever be a day where you won’t want this rest? Will there ever be a day when you won’t need this rest? And for us Christians, every day is a Sabbath. The Sabbath provided God’s people with an opportunity to recharge their physical, and more importantly, their spiritual batteries. The Word of God provides us believers today that rest, here on earth, and forever in heaven, is found in Jesus. Get your rest. And enjoy. Amen.