Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day of Rest - #4 in a series on the Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words:

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

"You shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Do you know that there is one thing in particular that can drive people nuts?

There is one thing in particular that can drive the most sane person insane.

There is one thing in particular that makes people nervous, anxious and uncomfortable.

And I’ll tell you what it is.





       Being still.

       We don't like to be still and do nothing.

       It's bad enough when we know that we will have to wait, and we are prepared with "things to do."  A book we read while waiting in the doctor’s office.  Papers to work on while waiting for our plane to land at the airport.  CD music piped into our ears while we wait for the teacher to finish the class.

       But to wait with nothing to do, almost drives us to insanity. 

       It is guilt that makes us feel uncomfortable.  Somewhere we have learned that we need to be busy.  If we are living the full life, that must mean that we are busy.  If we are living a productive life, that must mean that we are busy.  If we are serving the Lord, then we must be busy.

       And if we are not busy, then we must not be serving the Lord.  And we must not be very productive.  And there must be something wrong with me.

       Most of us feel like we need to be active every minute of the day.

       A generation or two ago, the life of the family was going to be revolutionized by the automatic washing machine. Up until then, washing the family's laundry literally took an entire day. People referred to one day of their weekly routine as wash day.

       Then technology came through with the washing machine, and you could throw the clothing into a machine, and then leave it and go do something else. What a time saver.

       So what happened? Did we get more time to relax? No, we filled our time with other duties.

       The computer was the same way. It enables us to do more our work in a lot less time. But do we get off work early? No. We simply do more work.

       There is something within us that compels us to fill up every moment of our time.

       Even if we are not talking about work, our families are stretched to the limit with activities as we go from ballet classes to soccer to outings at the beach to concerts to this and to that.

       It is as if we are afraid of what might happen if we would just be still for a moment.

       The Old Testament book of Psalms says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Ps 46:10)

       Be still, and know that I am God.

       Be still.

       In the New Testament, there is a wonderful story about Jesus visiting the home of his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  Jesus comes to their home. Mary is content to be still and silent, and to be with the Lord. Martha can't do that. She has to be busy. In the words of the New Testament, she becomes "distracted and upset at many things."

       And so it is with us.

       Jesus is in the midst of our life. 

       But we become distracted and upset at many things.

       Our world is so busy, our lives are so full. Wouldn't it be nice if we could slow down just a bit, and be still, and simply experience the presence of God in our lives.

       There was a time when people had a time to be still.  To be quiet.  To rest.  To pause.

       It was called Sunday.

       Or more appropriately – the Sabbath Day.

       I remember as a child growing up that there was nothing open on Sundays.

       Do you remember that time?

       The grocery store was not open.

       There were no community sporting events for youth.

       Even the pharmacy was closed.  If you really needed some medicine, you had to know the pharmacist’s home telephone number and meet that person at the drug store.

       Today, the only place that is closed on Sunday is Chick Fil A.

       A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet the founder of Chick Fil A at the company’s national headquarters, which is located on the fringe of Atlanta, Georgia.  The founder is a man named Truett Cathy.  He is a fascinating person.  He collects cars and in the lobby of the Chick Fil A headquarters is one of the Batmobiles from one of the Batman movies.  Anyone who has his own Batmobile is alright in my book.

       He is also a Sunday School teacher, and has taught class for over 50 years.  His faith permeates his business.  On the front of the corporate headquarters is an engraving in stone – it is the company’s official mission statement, declaring that Chick Fil A exists “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick Fil A.”
       The Chick Fil A stores are always closed on Sundays in obedience to the Ten Commandments.

       Truett Cathey once said, “Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business.  If it took seven days to make a living with a restaurant, then we would need to be in some other line of work.

       We live in a society that has lost touch with that sense of the Sabbath.  There was a time when all of society took a Saturday off.  As Christianity grew, the Sabbath became observed on Sunday.

       It never really worked for all of society to take a day off on the same day, at the same time. 

       Even decades ago, when all of the grocery stores were closed on Sundays, and all of the drug stores and shopping centers were closed on Sundays, you still had hospitals open, and fire departments operating.

       Come to think of it, how many churches ever closed on Sunday?

       But we live in a society that desperately needs to take some form of day off.

       A day of rest.

       Sunday?  Saturday?  Whatever the day, every seven days, there needs to be a day for you to rest.  To pause.  To reflect.

       It was a century or more ago that in the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Natives of the area were hired to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. When asked about the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

       There are times when our lives move so fast, that we need to slow down and let our souls catch up with us -- not literally, but figuratively.

       “Six days you shall labor and do all of your work, but the seventh is a day of rest.  On that day, you shall not do any work.”

What is it that God is giving us here?  A day of rest.  A day to relax.  A day off. 
God made the universe in six days, and He rested on the seventh.  Throughout Scripture, we are called to pattern our conduct after God's and thus we are to do our work during a certain period, then rest.
In the Ancient Near East, no other society had a day off.  This was a radical concept.  They would work six days, then on the seventh, they would work some more.  And unfortunately, that is the pattern that many of us have.  We don't take any time to rest.  But it is God's desire for us to work, and at certain intervals, to rest.
Let's not get bogged down in what constitutes work and what doesn't.  For one person who works at a desk throughout the week, rest might be found on the tennis courts in a time of physical exertion.  On the other hand, a person who works at physical labor throughout the week, rest is found on the sofa or in an easy chair. 
This may be the most personal of all the Commandments.  How we interpret what is rest and what is work comes down to the individual life style.  There must be a cycle of work and rest, but we have to be careful.  If we become too legalistic, the Sabbath becomes a burden.  But if we allow ourselves to do anything and everything, then the Sabbath becomes like any other day.  Each of us, however, has some form of middle ground in which we find that cycle of work and rest.

God gives us a gift in the Sabbath.  Let's enjoy the gift.

Copyright 2016. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.