12 “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.
If you own your own home, I’m sure you’ve realized that home ownership doesn’t always mean you have a peaceful place to come home to for rest. Owning a home brings with it all the maintenance, bills, mortgage payments, honey do lists and endless home improvement projects. And even if you can pay all your bills and have finished all your projects, there are still the unforeseen disasters to worry about…whether its foundation issues in Texas, hurricanes in Florida, pipes bursting up north, earthquakes in California or a volcano in Hawaii. Home ownership may not always give the rest it promises, but there is good news for the weary homeowner, renter or any other situation. Today in our first lesson from Deuteronomy 5, we are all encouraged to make time for God and he will give you rest.
It was finally time for the Israelites to enter the promised land as we pick up in our first lesson from Deuteronomy 5. Moses is giving the Israelites a reminder of the Ten Commandments after their forty-year march through the desert. The Israelites would have been in the promised land decades earlier if they had kept God’s law when they first left Egypt, but they hadn’t. They had rebelled and God punished them with wandering around in the desert until all those who rebelled against God by making and worshipping a golden calf idol had died. This new generation needed to be reminded of their parent’s sins and encouraged to avoid those same temptations.
Moses reminded the Israelites that they were no longer slaves in Egypt because God saved them. He said,
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.
God freed Israel from Egypt with his ten plagues and parting of the Red Sea in order to give them a home and make them a free people. God promised to remove all the people from the land of Canaan and give it to his people Israel to be their new home. The time of slavery and wandering around the desert was over. God’s power to deliver Israel was so clear, but they still managed to fall into the temptations of their parents by taking God for granted and giving up his rest.
Many times, great blessings from God are taken for granted. How many of you have worked or are working at a job that is boring, tedious or labor intensive? Perhaps you worked this job in college or are working a job like that now because it pays the bills. How many of you have experienced what it feels like to get a promotion or a job at a new company, anything that gets you out of that old job. It’s exciting when the prospect of a new job becomes reality. It’s exciting when it means other major life changes like moving out of mom and dad’s basement, from an apartment to a rental, from a rental to your own home or selling a house and moving across the country to a new one. All of this is very exciting, but then as you moving boxes or driving across country, how quickly do you get tired or your seat isn’t comfortable or there is road work leading you to complain? And how often once you get that new job, better income and better housing situation do you become restless by forgetting the joy that new job gave you?
That was Israel and that is us when it comes to God’s rest. Israel took God for granted because he had delivered them from Egypt and instead of worshipping him for it, they made a golden calf to worship. Israel failed to make time to recognize and worship the one true God bringing God to punish them with a 40 year walk in the desert till that generation was all dead and unable to enter the rest God had waiting for them in the promised land. Their history was characterized by stubborn unbelief, punishment and war. You and I take God for granted when we know that God has saved us from our sins and death through Jesus, but then we don’t make time to learn about the other blessings God has for our lives.
God wants us to spend time with him so that he can give us rest in all aspects of our lives. God knows that your life is a roller coaster of emotions. He knows that you may wake up happy and eager to start your day, but that each day you are met with setbacks and frustrations that leave you feeling drained, sad and over time, even depressed. Those feelings are overwhelming to us and block us from enjoying things in our lives, but Paul tells us that God is,
“the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,”
in 2 Corinthians 1:3. When our bodies are weak and tired from work or school or kids or parents or sickness or exercise or housework, God says,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
When life just doesn’t seem to make sense and you don’t understand why things are happening in your life, your loved one’s life or in the world, he says in Philippians 4:6-7,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When God asks us to remember the Sabbath Day, he reminds us that we need to stay connected to him as he says in John 15:5,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
God asks us to set aside time to remember all he has done for us because without him we have nothing. With God we have life and purpose for our lives.
When God first gave his command to remember the Sabbath, he asked Israel to set aside a full day to do no work and remember him. God said,
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.”
God’s original command served many purposes for Israel. It gave them rest from their physically demanding lives, time to share with one another what God had done for their people in the past and it gave the chance to trust that God would take care of them even if they took a day off from working in their fields and with their livestock. These moments also gave them the chance to share the hope of a Savior who would give a lasting rest to his people.
God’s command for us to set aside time to remember the Sabbath Day looks different than it did for Israel. In our second lesson today from Colossians 2, Paul reminded them of their freedom to set aside any time to be in God’s Word saying,
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
God’s commands for Israel were all put in place to point to Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s rest he wanted for the people of Israel. In Jesus there would be an eternal, lasting and forever rest from the hardships of this fallen world in the peace filled halls of heaven.
We need the rest that Jesus gives because of our sins. Without Jesus, the debt of sin that we feed each day will never be paid off. It’s like giving a toddler a movie star’s multi-million-dollar mansion in Hollywood and expecting the child that’s too young to work, write checks or understand what a mortgage even is to pay it off. God gave us his entire creation and our lives, but we are dead in our sins and unable to pay God back for them. We can’t pay God back, because the only currency he accepts is goodness, which we don’t have because we were born in sin. Jesus is our only hope because he was not sinful. Jesus’ bank account of goodness, righteousness or sinlessness is unlimited as God, so his sacrifice on the cross paid off all of your sins once and for all. Now you own a place in heaven by faith to rest in peace forever.
If you own your own home, I’m sure you’ve realized that home ownership doesn’t always mean you have a peaceful place to come home to for rest. Owning a home means bills, endless projects and even the threat of natural disaster. The only true rest that we can find in this world is in Jesus. In Jesus, you have a paid for home in heaven that is yours. In Jesus, you also have rest from your feelings of guilt, weakness, worry over your life and the course of the world. In Jesus you have rest from just being tired living in this sinful world. I pray you make time for God in devotions, Bible Study and worship and he will give you rest through your Savior Jesus. Amen.