Saturday, March 5, 2016

the ten: stop... rest... be still... exalt Him! (part 6)

"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." (Exodus 20:8-11)

When God created man, he formed him from the dust (dirt) of the ground. So, in essence, our material makeup is really the combination of only a few simple elements. It is no coincidence that dirt needs time to rest. In fact, a truly good farmer knows that land benefits from a time of rest. Many farmers will allow tracts of ground to lie fallow for a season before moving forward and replanting again. By allowing the sun, wind, rain, snow to nourish the untouched earth, the farmer's future crop will yield a greater, more bountiful return. The earth, like people, works healthier when it takes time out to rest!

Ladies, God gave us the fourth commandment knowing full well that mankind has a self-destructive tendency to let his work and efforts consume him. I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "You are what you do." In addition to that statement, I'd also ask you to consider from a spiritual sense that, "You follow who you obey" and "You reap what you sow." In order for us to follow God, we need to take time to understand and obey His commands. God considers our rest so critical, so beneficial for our well-being, that He included this commandment alongside other seemingly more important commands such as: do not murder, do not steal. Why? God knows what is best for us. He holds the plans that will make us prosper and flourish. In those plans, He has deliberately told us to stop and remember the Sabbath before moving forward with our work.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

So, what is the Sabbath? There is so much information I could write about the Sabbath that we would be here studying for months on end. However, the short answer is this... the Sabbath was considered a holy time of physical rest and spiritual reflection. It was a time for God's people to stop all work and seek refreshment for their body and blessing to their soul. It was a time of restoration and thankfulness directed toward Jehovah God, and mirrored the timeline of God's own act to rest after completing the six days of creation. Every seventh day (Saturday), the Jews would celebrate the Sabbath. God gave them the Sabbath as a sign that they were His special covenant people belonging to the Creator of the universe (Exodus 31:12-17). Also, every seventh year was considered a Sabbath Year (Deuteronomy 15:1-11), and every fiftieth year was the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55). Although there is much that we could study on this topic, in the interest of time I will simply say that God gave Israel these holy days as a sign that they belonged to Him (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Nehemiah 9:14).

It is important to note that the Sabbath was not initially set apart as a day of formal assembly. That resulted from the scribes and Pharisees who imposed all kinds of restrictions to the Sabbath observance. If you study the actions of Christ, you will note that Jesus deliberately violated Sabbath traditions, though He honored the Sabbath day. By no means do I point this out to criticize assembling together... for we are indeed to gather together and worship. Jesus tells us in Luke 11:23, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." Look at the actions of the early believers in Acts 9:31, "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord." I do want to point out, however, that God never once intended for the Sabbath to be turned into a time of bondage under the rules of mankind. Rather God meant for the Sabbath to be followed under His guidance... His law. As such, He gave it to us as a time for blessing and restoration in His holy name.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

To commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus, Christians have traditionally kept Sunday, the first day of the week, as their weekly day of rest. This is in adaptation of the Jewish observance. Originally, the seventh day of the week (Saturday) was set apart and consecrated as the Sabbath. However, after Christ's resurrection, which took place on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1), we never find Jesus meeting with his disciples on the seventh day. Instead, He made a point to honor the first day of the week by manifesting Himself to them on four separate occasions (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:34, 18-33; John 20:19-23). Then again, on the next Sunday, Jesus appeared to his disciples (John 20:26). Also, some have calculated that Christ's ascension took place on the first day of the week. Lastly, there can be no doubt that the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1). This concludes that Christ was instituting a new day to be observed by his people as the Sabbath, a day to be henceforth known amongst them as the "Lord's day." The observance of this "Lord's day" was the general custom practiced by believers since the early church was formed (comp. Acts 20:3-7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2). So, under apostolic sanction and authority, and following the example of Jesus after His resurrection, the early Christians began to honor the Sabbath on the first day of the week, rather than the last. Irrespective of the day set apart for its observance, the Sabbath should remain a perpetual obligation as a sacred institution. It cannot be abrogated.

"There remains, then, a Sabbath — rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall... For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:9-13)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus shows us that we each need time to stop and rest... time to relate with Him in stillness. In order to know Him, we must remember to take out this scheduled time to regroup and stay in alignment with our Creator, rather than run ahead of Him. In fact, if we don't take out this time, God has the authority to make us stop... to "make us" lie down in green pastures so that our souls may be restored.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." (Psalm 23:1-3a)

When we forget to take time to rest in the Lord... when we refuse to stop the busyness, we are basically telling the Author of Life that we know better... that our "to do's" are more important... that there are more lofty needs out there that we must attend to NOW or they just won't get done. But ladies, there is no greater need than our first relating and being fulfilled and restored in Christ. We are no good to anyone (even ourselves) if we are broken down and living without the spiritual fuel of His presence. He is our nourishment and our guide. He is our Shepherd. He is the only One we need to look to in order for things to be accomplished and for us to maintain a proper sense of direction. We must accept His authority over our lives. Our Shepherd is ultimately in control of all things, so He will insure that whatever needs to get done will be accomplished in His timing - not ours! Because of this, we must follow His call to, "Come. Stop. Rest. Be with me."

"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)

Take a look at the circumstances of your life and consider what condition you are in. Are you sick a lot? Does God seem distant in your life? Perhaps this is because you have not followed God's command to stop and rest in His presence. Or, perhaps you have physically stopped, but have not spiritually used the time to seek after Him in renewal and thankfulness. I know many people who bodily show up for church on Sunday stating that they are there to observe the Sabbath. But in truth, they are "checked out" mentally, emotionally, spiritually. They have not come to seek restoration. Instead, they are just going through the motions to meet another appointment, another obligation. They are caught up like the Pharisees and scribes in traditions and expectations. Is this you? For if it is, you are not really seeking a relationship with your Lord. You have not stopped to rest and be with Him.

When we do not deliberately seek to know the presence and renewal of our Father, our labors will compound into burdens. Satan will do everything he can to distract us farther and farther away from our healthy Master. We must turn back and seek God's healing restoration and be present with Him. Our pace must deliberately be maintained to match His pace so that we are in tune to His will and always present in His ways. We must take the necessary time to focus on Him without distraction or obligation. Only then are we in agreement with His teaching and receptive to His direction. This is remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.

I challenge each DW to stop... rest... be still and know Him... Exalt Him! He is God. The One we should center our entire lives around. Let us follow His command to frequently stop and take a spiritual inventory with Him. Then He will replenish our supplies and restock our spiritual shelves. Let's not only give Him lip service as Lord of our lives. Let's follow through and trust His management over our work, our tasks, our health, our families. Let's remember to put Him first - before all these other things and people that demand our attention. Let's keep Him holy... set apart... hallowed. Most important, let's remember that everything does not depend upon our ability. Rather, let's lay it all down on His altar and acknowledge that everything depends upon God's authority.

Stop... Rest... Be Still... Exalt Him!

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

1 comment:

  1. Thanx Victoria for this.....i read your blog daily and for sure God is dealing with me everyday i read the commandments...may God bless you dear! Winnie.