Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

20. Holiday or Holy day? – Part 3

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Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”
It’s here after we have looked at the worshipper that we can talk about the:
2. THE WORKER
As we look at the worker, we see first the:
A. Responsibilities
While the first half of the 4th commandment is “Keep the Sabbath day..” the second part is “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” The 4th commandment requires both worship and work. The full value of being a human being as God intended cannot be experienced without both WORSHIP and WORK. A society that fails to realize that their citizen’s sense of self-respect comes only from a Worship ethic and a Work ethic will fail to develop a strong society. Their loss of spiritual foundations results in a lack of a sense of purpose and direction. A society that institutes welfare without work strips its citizens of dignity and purpose. Work was a part of Adam’s humanity BEFORE he sinned, as Genesis 2:15 reveals:“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Man was not created to JUST worship, but to worship and work! It is for this reason that any system to help the poor that avoids both elements, a spiritual context and a creative one will leave those who receive help “dignity poor” and lacking true self esteem. Welfare is destructive not productive because it makes people dependent while stripping them of dignity. Welfare focuses on the problem instead of the person. And because it focuses on the money instead of the mission it places the value on the purse instead of the person. When we look to the Old Testament in Leviticus 23:22: “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” What we discover is that unlike our welfare system God’s Word deals with both the spiritual context and a creative one. The spiritual context said the poor were valuable and as such those with resources had a responsibility to help them by leaving the edge of their fields for the poor to harvest. While the poor didn’t have the land, money, or means to plant a crop they could work to harvest one. Because the poor had to work to gather in what was provided it meant that work was a part of the process thus preserving their own dignity and self-respect. In this way there was responsibility and dignity for both the rich and the poor. Each had to DO something. Instead of a handout it was a hand up. The New Testament provides a similar emphasis as we look at 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” Failure of humans to worship also leaves them without true dignity and self-respect, for there is no larger context to what they do than themselves! Too many people assume that activity or work alone will fulfill them. It is not activity that proves anything of value, only activity within a context of an eternal perspective that can add meaning. Activity in and of itself proves nothing, the ant is praised, the mosquito swatted. It’s not about being busy it’s about Gods business. Many today are miserable in their work because their motive revolves around me. Work for me leads to misery but work for the Master is meaningful. Not only is there a responsibility to work but also:
B. Rewards
Nehemiah 13:15-22
15 In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16 Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that! 17 So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18 “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!” 19 Then I commanded that the gates of Jerusalem should be shut as darkness fell every Friday evening, not to be opened until the Sabbath ended. I sent some of my own servants to guard the gates so that no merchandise could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 The merchants and tradesmen with a variety of wares camped outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I spoke sharply to them and said, “What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!” And that was the last time they came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and to guard the gates in order to preserve the holiness of the Sabbath.

Nehemiah understood how easy it is breaking the 4th commandment, and also how quickly God’s blessings disappeared when Judah did break it. So, he goes into action to restore the Sabbath in order to restore God’s blessings on them as a nation, a nation that was recovering from captivity as a result of rejecting God. While they may be free again, captivity can come in other ways, and their neglect of the Sabbath was setting the stage for a new kind of captivity. Since Nehemiah knew that the biggest battle was going to be with the merchants and the buyers, he starts with them by forbidding the doors to the city to be open on the Sabbath. We have the same capitalist’s consumer problem today. And because Nehemiah understood that leadership was needed to restore the proper place of the Sabbath in the life of Judah, he leaned on the nobles those who had influence through their position and power. Dads, are you taking leadership in your homes to restore the Sabbath principle for your wife and children? Nehemiah didn’t just preach a sabbath principle he practiced it. Look stay at home parents do not produce go to Church children. I want to encourage you to get involved. While we emphasize to our children and society the importance of “Thou shall not kill, steal and commit adultery” I wonder if we do as much to say, “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”? Why does the sabbath matter, because without sabbath we end up in slavery. Nehemiah’s concerns were simple, their forefathers had neglected the Sabbath and God had allowed calamity to fall on their nation. If they wanted to live in the rewards and not regret, they needed to return to worship before work. Reward came with responsibility. There is a story about a man who was criticized for making his sons work in the cornfields while their peers spent the afternoon at the swimming hole. They scolded the father saying, “Why do you make those boys work so hard? You don’t need all that corn.” The wise father replied, “Sir, I’m not raising corn. I’m raising boys.” Just as skipping too much work has consequences, so skipping the Sabbath has spiritual consequences. We are called to be faithful in both worship and work. How well do you keep the Sabbath? Are you good at only “half” of this commandment, “6 days you will work…”? Why settle for only half a blessing? If we want to reap the rewards, we need to put God first. So let me ask you is your worship fueling your work?

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