SERMON TITLE: Rest in the Lord
TEXT: Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here.
Take notes here.
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re in a preaching series where we’re looking at the Ten Commandments — taking a closer look as to how God’s top ten list is relevant and practical for our lives today. In a day and age where the news is filled with scandals and division and violence — in this series we’re seeing one thing that I hope is as obvious to you as it is to me: Our nation — our world even — would be a much better place if everyone followed the Ten Commandments.
But — the truth is — and this is humbling — all of us fail to obey the Ten Commandments. We might not be murderers or adulterers, but there’s that pesky commandment about lying that trips us all up. Or the commandment we’re going to look at today — for instance — is one that’s countercultural to our American values.
So let’s look at today’s commandment. A commandment that I guarantee will be challenging for all of us. Here are the words found in Exodus chapter twenty — verses eight through eleven.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 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 gates. 11 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.” (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)
For nearly two thousand years — God’s people have recited prayers — like the Lord’s Prayer — and creeds — like the Apostle’s the Nicene Creed — historic statements of our faith. That’s what creeds are — they’re historic declarations of our Christian faith. And these creeds have been passed down from generation to generation to generation as God’s people have wrestled with what we believe.
Similar to creeds are confessions. A confession is a group of statements communicating what we believe. So — if a creed — is a short concise statement of our beliefs — a confession is much longer and has more detail than a creed. And — in our denomination — we use the Westminster Confession of Faith as our statement of beliefs. In a couple of weeks — Dr. Larry Trotter — from Knox Seminary — will be visiting with us. And I’ve asked him to teach a Saturday seminar on the importance and relevance of creeds and confessions in our lives. He’s going to help us understand why we should read creeds and confessions — why should they be important to us — what benefit are they to us? So if you haven’t signed up for the seminar — be sure to do so — as these are important historic documents of our faith — but they’re not very useful if we don’t read and understand them.
Now — for us and our commandment for today — the relevance of creeds and confessions is found in the eighth paragraph of the twenty-first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith — where we read, “The Sabbath is kept holy unto the Lord when men prepare their hearts for it; arrange for their daily affairs to be taken care of beforehand; rest the whole day from their own works and words, and from thoughts about their worldly activities and recreations; and take up the whole time in public and private worship and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”
Now — if you were here last week — I mentioned that the first four commandments — of the Ten — are all about worship — they tell us how we’re to relate to God. And this fourth commandment is the longest of the Ten — it has more words in the Hebrew language than all of the other commandments — and it too is about our relationship with God. And — this commandment with the most words — is often the commandment that we American Christians justify not obeying — so we’re going to spend time wrestling with it today.
And our commandment is written in three parts — it has three sections to it — and we’re going to look at each section today. Verse eight shows us what this commandment tells us to do. Verses nine and ten tell us how we’re to obey this commandment. And verse eleven tells us why we’re to obey this commandment.
What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to do it? And why are we supposed to do it? And I’ll even throw in “who is supposed to do it” throughout the sermon as well.
So let’s begin by looking at verse eight where we find the answer to our question…what does this commandment tell us to do? What does this commandment tell us to do? In verse 8 we’re told to…“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8 ESV)
That’s pretty straightforward — our commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath. Which leads us to another important question and — that is — what does it mean to “remember” in this commandment?
The word “remember” — in this verse — means more than a simple cognitive — meaning “in your mind only” — kind of remembering. It’s not just a mental exercise — there’s action associated with this kind of remembering.
Men — I’ve shared this before in talking about the biblical definition of remembering — but remembering — in our commandment — is how we’re to remember our anniversary or our wife’s birthday. Your wife expects more than a mental remembering — something like — “Honey, I want you to know that unlike last year, I remembered that today’s your birthday.” What does your wife expect when she hears that you’ve remembered her birthday? Well I’ll tell you what she isn’t expecting — for that to be the end of your remembering!
Your remembering of her birthday — or of your anniversary — is supposed to include some type of action. A gift. A dozen roses. Dinner out at her favorite restaurant. Taking the kids out for the evening so she can have a quiet night alone. Biblically — to “remember” includes more than just thinking — action is to accompany our remembering.
And — our commandment — tells us that God’s people are to remember the Sabbath day — which is better understood as the “stopping day.” Not by simply thinking, “Hey, look at that. Today’s the Sabbath!” and keep going about life with business as usual. But — instead — you’re to remember the Sabbath by reorienting your entire life rhythm by taking a day to rest in the Lord — by worshiping him and being with him. That’s what it means to remember — that’s what we’re told to do in this fourth commandment. We’re to set aside a day to rest in the Lord by worshiping and being with him.
Now let’s look at our second question — which is — how do we obey this commandment? How are we to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy? Look with me in verses nine and ten. There we read, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any (what? On the Sabbath day we’re not to do any…) work, (And look at the extent of this commandment. Look at all of the people who are not to work on the Sabbath. The commandment to not work includes…) you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:9-10 ESV)
So how do we obey this commandment of remembering the Sabbath day? We obey this commandment both by working hard for the Lord and by resting in the Lord. We obey this commandment by working hard for the Lord and by resting in the Lord. Let’s look at both of these.
First, we’re to work hard for the Lord. Obeying this commandment begins by working hard for the Lord — during six days of the week — something some of us struggle with more than others. But — know this — hard work is good and biblical.
A few years ago, an individual — who worked for the town government in Menden, Germany — sent an email to his coworkers on the day of his retirement. In the email he wrote, “[For fourteen years] I have been present but not really here. So I’m going to be well prepared for retirement.” This guy was someone who did not work hard for his employer — much less for the Lord.
In one article I found, it’s mentioned that US employees spend 2.9 hours each work day on private — or non-work related — activities. (https://www.zippia.com/advice/wasting-time-at-work-statistics/#:~:text=U.S.%20employees%20spend%20an%20average,websites%20at%20work%20every%20day.) One study found that seventy percent of Internet pornography use happens during working hours (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/202109/the-impact-watching-pornography-work#:~:text=Research%20reveals%20that%2070%25%20of,viewing%20pornography%20and%20unethical%20behavior.) and nearly sixty percent of employees confess to making personal online purchases during the work day. (https://www.finder.com/working-hard-or-hardly-working)
But — if we return to our command — followers of Jesus are supposed to work hard because — no matter our occupation — we’re working for the Lord. The way we work — our dedication, our commitment, our work ethics — represent our devotion and commitment to God. Not just for those of us who are in ministry — this is true for all who are believers in Christ — no matter our occupation.
Now I know that some of us are out of work right now. And I know there are legitimate reasons for being unable to work — health being one of them. But I also know that some of us aren’t working because — well — dare I say it — you’re lazy. Plain and simple. You know it. And everyone else knows it too. And — please hear me as my intent is to say this as lovingly as I can — those of us who are too lazy to work are misrepresenting who God is by our laziness. God isn’t a lazy God. He’s an active, hard working God who commands his followers to work hard so they represent him well.
The second part — of how we keep this commandment — is by resting in the Lord. We work hard for the Lord and we rest in the Lord. Now one would assume that — since we’re a culture that’s found ways to waste time at work — we wouldn’t struggle with rest. But the truth is many of us struggle just as much to rest in the Lord as we do with working hard for the Lord.
And — the reason why — is because to rest in the Lord means to trust him. It means to set aside time to be with him. It means those things you worry about can wait for another day — because — this day is set aside to be with the Lord. And — in the original language — the word for “work” — what we’re to do for six days — is the same word for “work” — what we’re not to do on the seventh day. So there’s supposed to be a huge difference — in the rhythm of your life — for one day of the week.
So let’s pause — here — and ask a question: Is this true for you? Without even getting into the debate of should this special day be Saturday or Sunday — let me just ask — is there a day in your week that’s radically different from all the others? A day where your normal routine is set aside? A day dedicated to being with God in a more intimate way — not just filling up your work hours with something else other than God?
This is a challenging question, isn’t it? Challenging even for me, just so you know. Do I have a day that’s really a day of resting in the Lord?
And — parents — we have to watch what we’re teaching our kids when it comes to this commandment. You probably can’t imagine having one day a week where there isn’t a rehearsal, a practice, a game, a performance, or some place you have to get your kids to because of the activities you have them involved in. And you know what? Your kids can’t imagine what it would be like to have a day of rest from all of that busyness either. Why? Because you’re raising them up — discipling them — to disregard, dismiss, and disobey this commandment. And I understand that there’s a pressure of your child being benched if they don’t show up for every practice or rehearsal but — remember — Sabbath keeping is about trusting God. Will you trust God with your child’s coach or director and the outcome of you obeying this commandment?
Whether or not the work is for pay or pleasure — like kid’s activities — this commandment teaches us that we’re to work hard for the Lord — for six days of the week — and rest in the Lord — for one day of our week.
And this leads to our final question — which gets to the heart of this commandment — why are we supposed to obey this commandment? Why are we supposed to remember the Sabbath day? And — the answer to this question — believe it or not — is more than just “Because God said so.” Although that’s true — there’s a beauty to this commandment we often miss. Look with me in verse eleven. There we read, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and (what did God do on the seventh day? He…) rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11 ESV)
Why are we supposed to remember the Sabbath day by resting instead of working? Because resting demonstrates that we belong to God. Resting — in the Lord — demonstrates to the world that we belong to God. How so?
Well this is why resting on the Sabbath was to be important for the Israelites — the people who were originally given the Ten Commandments. You see — every part of their life was to demonstrate that they belonged to the One true God. And — resting on the Sabbath — distinguished them from the people of other nations and religions who did not rest. These other people groups — who did not belong to God — worked on the Sabbath day. They didn’t set aside a day to worship the one true God — but God’s people were to do so. And this distinguished them — it set them apart — which is what the word “holy” means — it means to be set apart. For — in obeying this commandment — by resting on the Sabbath — God’s holy day — God’s people demonstrated to the world that they belonged to God and were set apart as his holy people.
How so? Well it showed the world that they belonged to a God who specifically was a “working and resting” God. This commandment takes us back to the creation story in Genesis. For six days God created the Heavens and the Earth, the birds and the animals, the light and the darkness, the land and the sea. For six days God created and — then — on the seventh day — the Bible tells us that God rested.
Now why did God rest on the seventh day? Was he tired after all of the creating he did — did all of the hard work wear him out? No! He wasn’t tired or too exhausted to keep going — that wasn’t the reason for his rest.
It’s also important to understand that — when we read about God resting on the seventh day — we’re not seeing God in an idle state. Instead — what we see on the seventh day — is God actively appreciating all he had created. Remember — God declared everything to be very good and on the seventh day — God was satisfied with everything he had made. Which tells us — that not being able to rest reveals a dissatisfaction going on in our hearts. God was satisfied and so he rested. We don’t rest because we’re trying to find satisfaction in things or activities or whatever else — but satisfaction is something only Christ can give us.
And God declared the seventh day to be a day of resting and savoring — a day of taking in the majesty and beauty of his creation. And — you want to hear something incredible? Included in God’s creation — in fact, the pinnacle of God’s creation — is you and me. Mankind. Humanity. The only part of God’s creation made in his image. And — in resting — he delighted in having created us.
And — being made in God’s image — means we’re to reflect who he is to the world — a working and resting God. So the Christian who’s a workaholic isn’t reflecting who God is — for there’s no rest in their life. So to the person who’s a lazy worker — they’re not reflecting who God is — because there’s no hard work. And — as his image bearers — all of us are called to reflect who God is to the world — Christian or not — for the God who created you is a working and resting God.
And — specifically for those of us who follow Jesus — when we remember that God’s people — the Israelites — were set apart to live for God and to rest in him — we remember that this distinguished them from the people of other nations who didn’t worship the one true God. And — as we’ve seen — like them — God’s people today — are to be a working and resting people so we represent who God is to the world — demonstrating that we are his people.
And — all of this means — that if you’re looking for a loophole in this commandment — which a lot of Christians try to do — if you’re looking for a loophole — you’ve missed the whole point. This commandment — ultimately — isn’t about what we can or can’t do on this day of rest. It’s about who we’ve set this day aside to be with as we rest.
God tells us to work hard for him for six days and that one day is to be set aside for the most important work of all: extended time spent with him — spent worshiping him. And — when we fill our calendars with as much stuff as we can — we end up missing the greatest pleasure of all — which is fellowship with the living God.
As one pastor said, “Our problem is that we find it so hard to take genuine delight in the sanctified pleasures of God. Dare I say it? God bores us. We’re willing to spend some time worshiping him, but then we feel like we need a break, and so we go right back to the other pleasures. But the more we learn to delight in God…the more willing we are to keep his day holy…we discover that we’re able to answer the questions that once seemed so vexing: Can I take a job that will require me to work on Sundays? Is it okay to catch up on my work? Should we let our kids play Little League baseball on Sunday? Most of the practical applications of this commandment are easy when we want to honor the Lord on his day. The strain and struggle come when we want to use all seven days to do our own thing.”
Does God bore you — that’s the question. Does his Word bore you — while others books excite you? Are sermons boring — but you can’t wait for your favorite YouTuber to release — what’s basically — their latest version of a sermon? Or the old — “I don’t like to sing” excuse at church — yet we all have songs we sing out loud when they come on the radio. There’s the “we can’t serve and stay for worship — our kids would be bored hearing the same lesson in Kidway twice.” Really? They watch the same shows — even the same episodes — over and over again and don’t get bored. Please don’t use your kids as an excuse for your boredom with God and please don’t teach your kids to be bored with him. So — I’ll ask it again — does God bore you? An indication that there’s a passion for God in your life is that any conversation, sermon, book, Scripture passage, worship song — and so on — about God — will not bore you because the subject — God — excites you.
Ultimately, obeying this fourth commandment shows the world whether or not you belong to God — whether you’re his child or not — whether you’re part of his people. It shows unbelievers one tangible way how being a Christian is different than not being a Christian. For we live in a culture where no day is sacred — no day is set apart — all days are the same. But God has spoken and has said, “No! Not all days are the same. One day is for you and me to be together in a way that doesn’t happen the other six days.” Who will we listen to? The culture or our God?
Now there’s one final thing I want us to understand, but it’s not found in our verses in Exodus — it’s mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy — where the Ten Commandments are repeated. In Deuteronomy chapter five — the first part of our commandment is virtually the same — but the reason given for the commandment is different — so the answer to the question “why” is different.
In Exodus we’re taken back to the creation story — but in Deuteronomy — Moses reminds the Israelites of a more recent historical event. After giving them the commandment to remember the Sabbath, Moses tells them, “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.” (Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV)
What we see here — is that this commandment — of remembering the Sabbath — is meant to remind us not only of creation — but also of redemption. God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt. Remember — they’d been slaves for hundreds of years — and do you know what a slave doesn’t get? A day of rest. Every day’s a work day for a slave — every day is the same. And one of the benefits of being rescued out of Egypt was that — now — the Israelites didn’t have to work all the time.
Back in Egypt they had to work seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, without ever getting a day of rest. But now — they were free. And they were set free to live for God by working hard for him six days of the week. And they were set free to live for God by resting in him one day of the week. You see — the Sabbath was a day of freedom for God’s people. It was a day to celebrate that they were no longer slaves. It was a day to give glory to the God who rescued them by resting in him.
And — for us — a day of rest each week isn’t supposed to feel like bondage — for it’s a day of freedom! A day of freedom that many of us are in desperate need of because we’re chained down by the expectations of dance rehearsals, Little League practices, soccer games, and deadlines at work. We’re enslaved to bills, and clients, and bosses, and emails, and social media — and we need rest.
Like the Israelites — we’re made in the image of the working and resting God. We’ve all been created in his image — so we can look back to Genesis and see why this commandment is important for us — Christian or not. But a believer in Jesus has also experienced redemption. For — just as the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt — every believer in Christ has been rescued from their enslavement to sin. We were in bondage to our sin, chained down by our rebellion, having no rest as we tried to work our way out of the hopelessness and despair that was our destiny.
But we’ve received a greater deliverance and have experienced a greater rescue than the Israelites. For — we don’t look back to their Exodus story — of being rescued out of Egypt — for our hope and reason to rest in God. No — we look to Jesus Christ who’s made possible the perfect Exodus story — the story of God’s people being rescued from Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And the reason Jesus can offer us this true and better Exodus story is because he’s the only person who’s perfectly obeyed this fourth commandment.
You see — Jesus worked hard for the Lord. He worked hard by living the perfect life we were commanded to live so that he could die in our place — as our substitute — as a pleasing sacrifice to God. In the gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he came “to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34b ESV)
And — in his death — Jesus rested in the Lord. He rested for three days — trusting in God to deliver him from the grip of death — so we — who believe in him — might “find (what? Jesus worked hard on your behalf so that you’d find…) rest for your souls.”
(Matthew 11:29b ESV)
And that’s the point of this commandment — there’s the hope: Jesus offers rest for your soul — he’s offering you rest. Will you receive the rest he’s offering you?
Jesus offers true rest to everyone who believes in him. All you have to do is receive the gift of rest he offers. Rest based on the work he’s accomplished on your behalf.
Does your life reflect the working and resting God in whose image you were made? Are you living a life that shows you’ve been rescued from your slavery to sin and have been set free to live for God? Does your life look like someone chained down by our culture’s expectations or like someone who’s been set free by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross? The Good News of the gospel is that — through faith in Christ — you’ve been set free to live for God — and you now have the freedom to choose to work hard for the Lord and to rest in him. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, remind us often that you are the working and resting God — and you’ve called us to be a working and resting people. People set apart by you to show the world who you are and that we are yours. Father, we also ask you to forgive us for being bored by you — what fickle hearts we have.
Spirit of God, give freedom to those who are enslaved by leading them to receive this Good News: Jesus has worked hard on your behalf — and he’s done his work perfectly. And he’s offering you freedom from having to earn your salvation — something you could never have worked hard enough to earn anyway. And Jesus rested for three days in the grave — on your behalf — as he trusted in his Heavenly Father’s power to raise him from the dead. And — he did all of this — so that everyone who believes in him will find rest in his finished work on their behalf.
And — Jesus — for your glory may we — your people — truly distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world. May we demonstrate — through our work and rest rhythm — that we are your people. May our worship and commitment and — not bored — but passionate devotion to you alone be demonstrated in how we work and by how we rest. And it’s in your name that we pray. Amen.
May you go working hard for the Lord and go resting in him. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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