Sermon on Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Text: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
Do you have any vacation plans this year? It is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of life for a while. You use this time to rest and recuperate. For this reason, we can be very protective about our time away. We don’t want anything to disturb our rest. For that reason, some may turn off their cell phones, for at least part of the time. You may tell only a few people where you are going, so that you will not be disturbed. We might even get upset, if something disturbs this time away. We guard our rest. God spoke to his people, Israel, about rest, as well. This morning, we are going to turn our attention to the Third Commandment. As we study these words, we are reminded to KEEP THE LORD’S REST HOLY. 1. Observe Rest’s Requirements. 2. Enjoy Rest’s Blessings.
In this commandment, God taught his people about the Sabbath Day. The word “sabbath” means rest. This is very clearly shown from the requirement that God placed on his people. It says, “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 male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. (Verses 13-14) This rest on the Sabbath harkened back to the seventh day of creation. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3) So, on the seventh day, Saturday, the people were to rest from their work.
However, there more involved for the people of Israel than just taking a day off from work. God said, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Verse 12) This day was to be a holy day. It was to be a day that was spent with the Lord, learning what he had done for them and what he promised he would do for them. Yes, physical rest was important. More important, however, was their spiritual rest. The Lord showed his concern for the spiritual welfare of his people. This observance would involve worship, as well as, physical rest from their labors.
We want to take note of a key difference between the Third Commandment as it is recorded in Exodus 20 and here. In Exodus 20:8 it says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Here it says, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” There is an intensity difference between “remember” and “observe.” Remember has the idea of thinking about it. You keep it in mind. The word “observe” in the Hebrew has the idea of guarding zealously. It is the same word that is used to describe the angel’s activity as they guarded the way to the Tree of Life, so that Adam and Eve wouldn’t eat from it. In the same way, the Israelites were to zealously make sure that they kept the Lord’s Sabbath. Observe the Sabbath Day. Make absolutely sure that you keep it.
However, as you go through the pages of the Old Testament, you see many instances when the people of Israel failed to observe the Sabbath. They thought of it as a nuisance for their commerce. “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” (Amos 8:5) It is also clear that there were many times when the people were just going through the motions. God says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13) God also alluded to the fact that they were only concerned with the outward motions, the rites, and the man-made rules that were added. We saw this in our Gospel Lesson for this morning (Mark 2:23). In spite of God’s clear command, though they may have taken the day off on Saturday, the people of Israel failed to observe rest’s requirements.
In one respect, we are free from observing this commandment. Since Jesus came and fulfilled the law in our place, we are no longer required to observe a particular day as a day of worship. We are free to worship him on whichever day we choose. However, the spirit of the Third Commandment, that we spend time with him in his Word is still intact. As you read through the Scriptures, you find many references that being in God’s Word in to be observed. Dr. Martin Luther offers this explanation to the Third Commandment, “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy, and gladly hear and learn it.” Do these words always describe our attitude toward God’s Word? Do we hear echoes of what God pointed out about the Israelites and see how we have done similar things? Just as the Israelites couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be finished so that they could engage in their commerce, do we find ourselves wishing that our time in God’s Word would be over soon so that we can go and do what we really want to do? Is it so easy for us to just go through the motions, but our hearts aren’t really in it. Do we make the rituals of the worship service more important than what they are teaching? God commanded that this time with him be observed, guarded zealously. Do we do this, or do we allow other things to take the place of our time with him in his Word? ‘I can’t read God’s Word today, because I am too busy.’ ‘I can’t come to Bible Class because I am too tired.’ In spite of God’s clear command, we must confess that we have not always gladly heard and learned his Word. We have failed and deserve God’s just punishment because of this. We have failed to observe rest’s requirements.
To motivate the Israelites to observe this command, God reminds them of something. He says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Verse 15) He takes them back forty years ago to the exodus. The people had been in slavery in Egypt. It was a miserable existence. They cried out to the Lord for deliverance. So, through a series of ten plagues, the Lord brought the mighty nation of Egypt to its knees. They let the people go. These former slaves were now free, free to be their own nation, free to go back to the land that God had promised their forefathers that they would occupy. God showed his mercy to the people of Israel. He had done all of this for them. How could they praise him? How could they thank him? Verse 15 concludes, “Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” They could live in the freedom that God had given them by observing this command.
You and I were also slaves. We were held in captivity in our sins. We would have remained in that state and been eternally separated from God, if it were not for the deliverance that he brought forth. God spoke of his “mighty hand and outstretched arm.” We see this in the work that Jesus did to bring about our delivery. The almighty Son of God took on human flesh and blood to be our Savior. He kept the law perfectly for us. There are many instances in the Gospels that we read that Jesus went into the synagogue, as was his custom. How many times don’t we read that Jesus was in the temple in Jerusalem. We, also, read about the many times that he went off by himself so that he could spend time with his Father. Jesus did what we could not do. Then, out of love for you and me, he went to the cross where an epic battle took place. To the naked eye, it might seem as though Jesus was weak and beaten as he suffered and died on the cross. However, when you look behind the scenes, you see that Jesus was fighting for us on the cross as he paid for our sins. He cried out in victory, “It is finished.” The devil has been beaten. No longer can he accuse us of sin, because Jesus has paid for them all. He further showed his mighty hand and outstretched arm when he rose from the dead. You have been freed. You now have the rest that Jesus won for you.
This is what motivates us to want to spend time with him, resting in his Word. We find our rest there when we feel overwhelmed by our sins. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When life’s problems, cares, and concerns seem so large that they are blocking out the sun, we find God’s comforting word that he will always take care of us. “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31-32) We find rest in knowing that he hears all of our prayers and answers every one of them. We look forward to that time when we will rest in God’s presence forever in heaven. God promises and he gives us true and lasting rest.
This is the one who loved you so much that he did everything necessary so that you would have true and lasting rest. He, also, gives us opportunity to get to know him better in his Word. There he reminds you again and again of his love for you. There he shows you how he cares for you. There he tells you what is waiting for you when you get to heaven. Again and again he tells you about the rest that is yours.
We began our sermon talking about vacations. Vacations can be wonderful things. However, sometimes we try to cram so many things into our vacations that we come home exhausted. We, also, know that even the best of vacations come to an end, and it’s back to the day to day grind. Earthly rest is only temporary, at best. The rest that Jesus gives to us does not end. It is ours now and will last for all eternity. As we go through life, we need our breaks. God gives us these rests as we spend time with him in his Word and in worship. Our loving Savior invites us, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31) Amen.
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