Monday, December 29, 2014

Rest: The Discipline of Sabbath. Alive Student Ministry 12/28/14

Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Life is exhausting. Even when joining God in His work, people can get worn down and burned out if they don’t stop to rest. God has always called His people to rest, not just for rejuvenation but also so that they might take a break from their daily grind and focus intentionally and intensely on Him. He set forth the Sabbath in His Ten Commandments, and it is a commandment that continues to demand our obedience today. Too many of us get caught up in our busyness and lose out on the great opportunity, privilege, and blessing of resting in God.

Intro: The same God who rested after creating the heavens and the earth wants us to rest in Him. Too often, we bog ourselves down with the details of our lives: school, work, sports, friends, music, movies, concerts, recitals, church, and more. While we might take time for naps and even breaks to physically recharge, God desires for us to continually rest in Him.

1. God wants to bless us when we rest in Him (Ex. 20:8).

In His commands, God explained to the nation of Israel how they should relate to Him. Within the Ten Commandments, He commanded His people to set aside a day to rest and to keep that day holy. God wanted to bless Israel and make the people holy—like He is holy. Observing this day of rest showed their faith in Him because they did not work but trusted Him to continue to provide even when they took a day off from tending crops and doing other work. God wanted Israel to trust Him by resting in Him. He blessed them in their rest and faith in Him. Too often, we are like Eve. We work diligently to do all the right things. Life, though, is restored when we rest in God and refresh and refocus our hearts on Him. God wants to bless us with life. He wants to bless us and make us holy. This can only be done when we trust and rest in Him.

2. We should deliberately set aside time to rest in God (Ex. 20:9–10).

God does not want His children to avoid working and providing for their families. He instructed Israel to work diligently for six days a week. However, He set aside the seventh day for the people to rest from work and focus on and rest in Him. God commanded them to be deliberate in their actions so that they could set aside time to rest and focus on their relationship with Him. Parents, siblings, teachers, girlfriends, boyfriends, just friends, bosses, coworkers, people we just met, people we don’t know yet––Facebook counts the people we know. For most of us, this number is much higher than the actual total number of deep relationships that we have in life. Why is that? Because intimacy and depth require time. It is only by spending time with others that our relationship grows and our fondness for each other increases. If God is truly our most important relationship, then we will make time for Him first. We don’t squeeze God in our schedule wherever we have an empty space. We must pause to spend time with Him in His Word, in His house, and with His people. We might have to dedicate time to NOT scheduling anything so that we have time for us to rest in Him without the busyness of life. Sometimes we have to say no to things in order to de-clutter our busy lives and have the opportunity to rest in and focus on God. What are some things that you need to remove so that you can have time to rest?

3. Our rest is mirrored in God’s rest (Ex. 20:11).

Follow the Leader—it was a simple game that we played as children. Everything the leader did, we did too. The more crazy the leader, the more crazy stuff we had to do. Whatever we did was a reflection of the leader. Patting our heads, acting like an airplane, hopping, mimicking a monkey—whatever we did, it was because the “leader” did it too. When we follow God’s commands, we reflect Him. Everything that we do is a reflection of our Leader. God made all things and then placed Adam and Eve in His Garden. He saw that all of this was very good, and then He rested. Adam and Eve were able to dwell with God in the Garden and enjoy rest in Him. The Israelites were likewise called to set aside a day to rest, not only to recharge physically but also to remember that God desired to dwell with them. Their observance of rest reflected their identity as God’s people. In understanding God’s desire for us to rest in Him, we should know that His true desire is not for us to take a nap but to deepen our love and relationship with Him as we dedicate time to just “be” His child while no other activities are going on. When we rest, we build our relationship with Him instead of trying to “do” lots of things for Him. As a result, we better reflect Him to the world as our relationship grows.

Conclusion: God’s desire for us to rest in Him reveals His desire for a deep relationship with us. God wants us to know who He is and what He’s done for us in Christ. This can only be done by stopping what we are doing and regularly focusing on Him. As Christians, we should love Christ and desire to spend time with Him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we are sitting alone in silence, but it does mean that we have to say no to some things in life so that we are not so consumed with running from one activity to another that we never have time to rest and refresh our hearts in God.

In the book of Exodus, Moses chronicled God’s miraculous work of bringing the nation of Israel out of Egyptian enslavement and into the Promised Land. This journey, however, was plagued by Israel’s continual failure to remain faithful to God. Despite Israel’s failures, God still made and kept a loving covenant with them. In fact, God stated that He wanted Israel to be a nation of priests through which He would bless all of the nations (Ex. 19:6).
The giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 crowns a larger section of laws that God gave to Israel so that they, in their sinfulness, could relate to a holy God (Ex. 20–23). The Ten Commandments were divided into two main sections. The first section describes the covenant relationship between God and Israel (vv. 2–11). The second section describes the nature in which Israel should treat others in light of this covenant with God (vv. 12–17). The passage from this lesson falls at the end of the first section and was meant to serve as a reminder for the Israelites to show the nations that they belonged to God because they imitated Him in every way.

God is holy and desires for His people to be holy. Believers are not made holy by the things that they do or do not do. God alone makes His people holy, and He alone gives them rest in Him. God created all things in six days, and on the seventh day He rested (Gen 2:1–2). As part of God’s people, believers are to imitate His holiness, which includes observing rest. As the Creator of the universe and the intimate Creator of people, God created rest. When His people rest, they not only imitate Him, but they also set aside time to intentionally reflect on Him and His holiness.

Exodus 20:8 God commanded His people to remember the Sabbath. John Durham explains that the intention of remembering in this instance means to “observe without lapse” or to constantly be in remembrance (Durham, 289). The Sabbath, then, is something that God’s people were to continually and purposefully observe.
The word Sabbath comes from the word meaning to cease or rest (Mackay, 349; Stuart, 458). The Sabbath day is meant to be a day of rest when God’s people cease from toiling and working. It was intended to be a day for peace in which God called His children to set themselves apart from the rest of the nations and rest in God. As when He provided manna, they relied on Him to provide for them without this extra day of work. Keeping the Sabbath, then, meant that God’s people set it apart from all other days—just as they were to be set apart (holy) from all other nations. They set it apart by resting in God and reflecting on His holiness and provision.
Exodus 20:9–10 God told Israel to do all of their work in six days. This notion of toiling work alludes back to the cursing of the ground in Genesis 3. Why must people work? Because the land is cursed. Israel was living in the same spiritual land that required humanity to work by the sweat of their brow in order to survive. However, on the seventh day the labor was to cease. No one, including servants, children, guests, and animals were to be allowed to work. All of one’s life was meant to rest; everything was to be devoted to God’s rest.
Exodus 20:11 Moses tied together the reason for rest in this verse. God reminded Israel of the Creation account; just as God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh day, so should His people rest. However, the connection is deeper than a mere memorial to the Creation narrative. When God set aside the seventh day, He blessed it and sanctified it. God’s establishment of the Sabbath day in the Ten Commandments was meant to remind His people not only of God’s rest but also of the rest and faith that they were always meant to have in Him. Each aspect of their lives was to reflect that they were a holy nation—a nation set apart by God for His purposes. In imitating God, they told the world that they belonged to Him.
In Matthew 12, Christ revealed that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. It is in Him that believers have ultimate and final rest because they belong to Him.

The call to remember the Sabbath is a call to remember that God always intended for us to dwell with Him. Dwelling with God is rest and peace. As Christians, we continue to keep a Sabbath day as a living testimony to God’s promise to restore us to His dwelling place and as a demonstration of our relationship with Him. We are busy people. God created us to need to rest in Him. Our rest in the Sabbath should be a chance to physically catch up. However, it is also a time for us to focus on God’s covenant to bring us to Him. It is a time for us to be a living symbol of this promise to our friends, family, and coworkers.
It is easy for students to use the weekends for a time to catch up on schoolwork and cram in extracurricular activities. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being diligent and taking time to hang out with others, we should also realize the testimony that our lives have because of the gospel. Encourage your students to be mindful of God’s love and desire for us to dwell with Him. Remind them of our need to stop and rest so that we might focus on God and His desire for us to be called good and holy. We set apart a day both as a testimony and a time to be refreshed by God. It is in this refreshing that we can set our minds toward the peace and love of God and His ultimate desire for us to rest in Christ.

Deeper Discussion
Learning Goal: Students will identify ways to reduce busyness in their lives and renew their commitment to rest.
Lead your small group using the following questions:
  • Why are silence and solitude so odd to us today?
  • Why are resting and focusing on the Lord so important?
  • What types of things might you do to focus your Sabbath time on God?
  • What aspects of your relationship with God would you not be able to enjoy if you did not have times of rest and focus on Him?

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