************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 38 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 1, 2018
Lord's Day 38
"The Fourth Commandment"
I was cycling up Rocky Hill. I caught up to the cyclist in front of me. "What did God do on the seventh day?" "Huh, where did that come from?" This is not the normal way for people to greet me. It took me a second to recognize him. He is a Seventh Day Adventist and we have had previous discussions. "And what did God declare about the seventh day?" And the great debate raged all the way up the hill.
This morning we are looking at what the sound doctrine of the Catechism says about the fourth commandment. Sound doctrine. In other words, what the Bible says and NOT what man wants to hear.
I When was the Sabbath Ordained
One of the most hotly debated points concerning our observance of the Sabbath is whether it has its origin in creation or in the Ten Commandments. In other words, do we observe the Sabbath because God instituted it as a creation ordinance or because God instituted it as a special sign of His favor to Israel? If God gave the fourth commandment to humanity as an institution of creation, then it is universally binding on all people everywhere. But, if God gave it at Mt. Sinai, then it is a unique privilege and possession of God's people.
The first time the Sabbath appears in Scripture is at the end of the Creation story:
(Gen 2:2-3) By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (Sabbath) from all his work. (3) And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested (Sabbath) from all the work of creating that he had done.God enters into this rest but we aren't told any of His creatures do. The Sabbath is holy to God but it isn't until after the Exodus that we are told it is holy to God's people.
What am I saying? Our observance of the Sabbath has its origin in the Ten Commandments. It isn't until the days of Moses that God invites and commands His people to share in His rest and to make the Sabbath holy.
II The Meaning of the Sabbath
A God created Sabbath rest because He had finished His work. God did NOT create Sabbath rest because He was tired. I repeat: God did NOT create Sabbath rest because He was tired.
Nor was the Sabbath created because we are tired and need rest. In one of the churches I served as pastor, I was asked to speak to city council about the importance of businesses remaining closed on Sunday. I was asked to argue that Sunday as a day of rest is good for families and that it only makes sense for employees to have a day off from work.
If this is our reason for observing the Sabbath, we are on the wrong track. This is a man-centered rather than God-centered and Christ-centered view. There is more to the Sabbath than the "good" we get from it.
B So what is the point of the Sabbath? What is its purpose? What is its meaning? The answer of the Bible is the word we translate as "rest."
We are told God rested on the seventh day. Do you realize that nowhere in the Bible are we told that God stopped resting. In other words, ever since God finished His work of creation, He has been resting.
What does this mean -- that God rested, that God is resting? Because God is Spirit, we know God does not get tired; therefore, He did not lay down and sleep on the seventh day of creation. Obviously, "rest" does not mean being tired or exhausted and needing to lay down and sleep. God's rest does not mean He ceases His activity. In His rest, God is still active as Preserver, Provider, Redeemer, and Judge.
What does it mean that God rested. It means God enjoyed, God took pleasure, in what He did the first six days of creation. And He put peace on all that He made. Wherever God is, there is peace and rest. There is peace and rest in God's holy city -- Jerusalem. This is peace and rest in God's holy time -- the Sabbath. There is peace and rest in God's holy land -- Canaan.
The psalmist understood this. Listen to what he says in Psalm 62:
(Ps 62:1,5) My soul finds rest (Sabbath) in God alone ... (5) Find rest (Sabbath), O my soul, in God alone ...
What would have happened if Adam and Eve obeyed God? They would have entered into God's eternal rest. With God they would have enjoyed the works of His hands. And, further, they would have enjoyed God Himself. The Westminster Catechism asks about the chief end and purpose of man. Why are we put here? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That is the definition of rest. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To delight in God and His works. But Adam and Eve fell into sin. They were removed from the Garden. They were removed from God's presence. And they did not enjoy rest anymore. They did not enjoy God anymore. Instead they feared God.
But God is gracious and kind. What does He do? He promises a future day of rest that is coming through the Messiah. And the sign and symbol of that future day of rest is the Sabbath. The Sabbath is meant to be a sign and symbol of life with God. The Sabbath, then, becomes a call to salvation, a shadow of the Gospel. A call to come to God and glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. So when the Jews celebrated the Sabbath, they looked forward to the final and perfect rest that would come with the Messiah.
Central to their celebration of the Sabbath was God's command not to do any work on the Sabbath. Do you know why God did not allow any work on the Sabbath? The Sabbath is meant to be a statement: that salvation and rest and life with God is not by working; rather, it is by grace through faith.
When we look through the pages of the Old Testament we see other signs and symbols of the future rest. There is not only a Sabbath day, but there is also a Sabbath year -- every seventh year is to be a Sabbath year for the land. And, every fiftieth year is to be a major Sabbath, a Year of Jubilee, in which prisoners and slaves and debtors go free. Like the Sabbath day, the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee, point to the future Sabbath in which God's people glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We know that Adam and Eve were not the only ones who lost rest. Consider the people of Israel, journeying to the Promised Land. When they didn't find drinking water, they murmured against Moses, and they were almost ready to stone him. At the command of the Lord, Moses struck the rock at Horeb and brought forth water. Moses named the location Massah and Meribah -- meaning "Testing and Contention" because the Israelites put the Lord their God to the test (Ex 17:1-7). Now listen to what the Spirit-inspired Psalmist says about this:
(Ps 95:7-11) Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. (10) For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways." (11) So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."Did you hear how it ends? "They shall never enter my rest." An entire generation of people were not allowed the peace and rest of the Promised Land. Yes, they were disobedient. Yes, they were complaining. Yes, they tested and tried the Lord. But their main problem was a lack of faith. Their main problem was unbelief. So, they were barred eternally from God's rest because of unbelief. They refused to find their rest in God alone. They refused to declare their salvation was entirely in His hands and refused to believe they were at God's mercy and that God would graciously provide.
Now, fast forward to the New Testament. Do you know what Hebrews says about the promised rest? It tells us that "the promise of entering his rest still stands" (Heb 4:1).
C The message of the New Testament is that in Christ our rest, our Sabbath, has come.
(Mt 11:28-29) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Jesus invites you, congregation, Jesus invites you to find rest in Him. Jesus promises eternal rest for our souls -- that is eternal life in the presence of God. That's the point of the fourth commandment.
Jesus is our Sabbath. We find our rest in Him. Our rest is not found in a day or in a land or in a city or in a year. Our rest is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our focus is Jesus. Which is why Jesus invites us and commands us to come to Him.
But, to enter this Sabbath rest we can't be like Israel at Massah and Meribah. Says Hebrews:
(Heb 4:1) Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.Be careful that you don't have Israel's unbelief. Be careful that you don't stray from Christ Jesus. Be careful that you trust in Jesus. Be careful that you have faith. Because it is only those with faith in Jesus who enter God's Sabbath rest.
III Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
A Notice what happens next in our Bible reading after Jesus invites people to share in His rest: there is conflict with the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were blind to the purpose of the Sabbath. They were blind to Jesus as the fulfilment of the Sabbath. Rather than find rest in Christ they chose to approach the Sabbath in a legalistic manner. Rather than find rest in Christ they chose a works-righteousness.
Look at them. They were disturbed -- highly disturbed -- that Jesus' disciples picked some heads of grain on the Sabbath. "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath" (Mt 12:2). The Pharisees tied up the Sabbath with their hopelessly complicated system of human traditions. They actually had a list of 1521 do's and don'ts for the Sabbath. Some of their Sabbath don'ts: don't rescue a drowning man; don't light a candle (but a Gentile can be hired to do this); don't walk more than 2000 paces; don't pluck heads of grain; and, what is my personal favorite, don't give birth.
The sound doctrine of the Catechism tells us the Sabbath is meant to be a "festive day of rest." But the Pharisees turned it into a joyless day of rules.
B Jesus reminded the Pharisees that David and his companions ate consecrated bread -- something the Law said only the priests could do. And, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the priests were busy working on the Sabbath. "Haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?" (Mt 12:5).
To make His point, Jesus walked to the synagogue; we need to understand He walked further than the 2000 paces the Pharisees allowed. And, in the sight of the Pharisees, Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand.
What was Jesus doing? Jesus was proclaiming Himself as "Lord of the Sabbath."
Doing all of this on the Sabbath so enraged the Pharisees that they began plotting His death. Isn't this awful? Isn't this terrible? Standing in front of them is the whole reason for the Sabbath. And they reject Him and despise Him. They choose a works-righteousness instead.
IV Keeping the Sabbath Today
A What does the fourth commandment mean for us today?
We are sinners living in a sin-filled world. We desperately need to hear God's Word proclaimed. We desperately need that Word confirmed through the sacraments. We desperately need to be pointed to Christ Who alone is our rest and our peace. Which is why the early church gathered together on the first day of the week, every week, for public worship.
B This is the approach taken by the sound doctrine of the Catechism. The sound doctrine of the Catechism tells us that the primary purpose of the Sabbath is to advance the Kingdom of Christ. What is God's will for you in the fourth commandment? The Catechism speaks of ministers and seminaries and the assembly of God's people. And it tells me to already enjoy my rest in Christ -- namely, life with God.
C An article was sent to me as I was working on this message. The article starts with this statement: "I'm a pastor and I want you to quit church. Now!"
This pastor is tired of people in church who are not committed to God and Christ and Christian principles. He is tired of people in church who do not serve, give, and share the Gospel message. He is tired of people in church who don't grow. He is tired of people who want church their way.
I agree this is a problem. But the solution is not to quit church. The solution is to do what the Catechism says: to regularly attend the assembly of God's people to learn what God's Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor. The solution is not less church but more church.
Our rest is in Christ. Christ is our Sabbath. But never forget, congregation, never forget the price Christ paid. He Who brings us peace and rest suffered and died on the cross.
(Isa 53:3,5) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not ... (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.This is the price He paid so ours is rest.
Come to Jesus, congregation. Come to Jesus and find your rest in Him. Come to Jesus and find peace with God. Come to Jesus and have life with God.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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