Robert Morris — The Principle of Rest
So we're in this series, talking about "God's Top Ten List", the Ten Commandments, but I want to remind you that I think there's a principle behind each commandment that will enhance our relationship with God and others. So this week, I believe it's the principle of rest, and we're talking about the fourth commandment. Exodus 20:8, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy", or to keep it set apart, to keep it separate from the other six days. "Six days you shall labor and do all" your e-mails. Just bringing it up to modern day language here.
"All your work", notice the word all, "but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For", in other words, this is the reason, "in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it", or called it holy, called it set apart. Okay?
So, we don't keep the Ten Commandments to be saved. We're saved by grace through Jesus. But there are blessings if we keep the Ten Commandments, and there are consequences if we don't. But, here's what's amazing to me about this commandment, the fourth commandment. It seems like that believers today believe that we should keep nine of the Ten Commandments, but we don't need to keep this one. I want you to think about it. We believe we should not have any other gods before Him. We believe we should not have idols. We believe we should not take His name in vain. Let's skip the fourth one. We believe we should honor our mother and father. We believe we should not lie, we should not steal, we should not murder, we should not commit adultery, and we should not covet. Everyone agree with that? So, why do we think we shouldn't keep this one?
I think we should, and I'm going to give you some reasons why this is a principle that will help us to rest. It's a principle of rest, all right? So, here's number one. There are reasons God said to rest. There are reasons, and I'm going to have two sub-points under point one, and then I'll have point two and point three, all right? There are reasons God said to rest. Here's the first reason. It gives God the opportunity to provide for us supernaturally. It gives God the opportunity, when we don't work seven days a week, to provide for us supernaturally.
If you want to flip back, you can, just a few chapters, Chapter 16. This is when He provided the manna in the wilderness. Exodus 16:23, "Then he said to them, "This is what the Lord has said", so this is Moses, talking to the people. "Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil, and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning". So they laid it up until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it".
Stop just for a moment and let me say this. If you remember, when they started doing the manna, he said only gather what you need for one day. But the people didn't believe that it would be there the next day, so they kept more, but what they kept more than they needed, think about this. When they kept more than they needed, it began to stink the next day, and it had worms in it. See, they weren't trusting God still for provision. So then he said, on the sixth day, you gather it in, enough for two days, and the next day it didn't stink, didn't have any worms. God did something, a supernatural provision.
Look at Verse 25 now. "Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord. Today", watch this, "you will not find it in the field". Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath", watch this, "there will be none. Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day" to send e-mails, "to gather, but they found no provision from God for working on that day. And the Lord said to Moses, 'How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws'? See! 'For the Lord has given you' this is a gift from God to get a day off, 'the Sabbath, therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place. Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day'. So the people rested on the seventh day". No provision.
Now, this is Exodus 20. We read it, but remember I told you the Ten Commandments are also in Deuteronomy 5. Exodus 20 uses the word remember, Deuteronomy 5 uses the word observe. Jewish people remember and observe the Sabbath day. But in Deuteronomy 5, He adds something. He says you don't need to work on this day because you used to be slaves, and I redeemed you. So, let me explain something to us. Slaves don't get a day off. Only the wealthy, the elite, or royalty got days off. We are children of the King! He's saying to Israel, you didn't get a day off when you were in bondage. Think about this! During the week, we're slaves, slaves to schedule, slaves to commitments, slaves to appointments, slaves to provision, slaves to work. But He says, one day a week, you're free. You don't have to work. I'll provide for you. I'll take care of you.
I mean, it's all through Scripture, what God's saying I'm trying to give you a day off. This is like tithing to me. God can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%. Okay, listen to me. God can do more in six days than you can in seven. If you want to know how much He can do in six days, look around you. He can create the galaxy, the universe, in six days. He can do it. So, it gives God an opportunity to provide for us supernaturally. Here's the second reason why, under point one here, a sub-point. It gives us the opportunity to rest and be refreshed. It gives us an opportunity to rest and be refreshed.
Exodus 31:14-17, "You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death, for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath" remember, we've been drafted into the nation of Israel, "to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations", watch, "as a perpetual covenant". How long is perpetual? Forever, thank you. "It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever", there it is, "for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed".
You've got to understand too, that the Sabbath was the greatest sign to the world. He said it's a sign, so it was the greatest sign to the world for thousands of years, because no other nation before Israel rested one day a week. So what they would do back then is they would be doing business with Israel, and to bring it up to modern terms, they would e-mail them and say, listen, I'm going to be in town on Saturday, the seventh day, and so we'll finish up this contract. They would e-mail back, Israel would e-mail back. We don't work on the seventh day. They would e-mail back. Why don't you work on the seventh day? And they'd say, well, because it's the day that the Lord rested after creating the world in six days. They'd e-mail back, the Lord who? Are you all following me? And it was a way to witness! It was a way to share their faith!
Hey, you mean, and they e-mail back, you mean, we weren't created by a big bang? No, God created us in six days, and rested on the seventh day. It's a sign that we, as believers, don't have to work seven days a week. It's a sign about what God did, so it's all through Scripture that it's a sign. Now, there's a word here that I have to explain. It says "God rested" God rested and was refreshed". Now, that is tough for a theologian to read that. How could an omnipotent, all-powerful God be refreshed? And I want you to think about it. A God who never gets tired, never sleeps. He says, I never get tired, never sleep. How could God be refreshed?
Well, obviously you always try to go to the original language. In the Hebrew, this word, refreshed, means took breath, and God breathed in. What had He been doing for six days? He'd been creating, but how does God create? He speaks. What do you do when you speak? You breathe out. "Let there be light". "And He breathed into man, and man became a living soul". Do you remember this? So, for six days He'd been breathing out. On the seventh day, He breathed in, and He was refreshed. I have a real simple question for you. If God refreshes Himself, why don't you?
I read this from a Jewish person about an average Shabbat, Sabbath. So, there are other things that could have been a lot longer, so I condensed it to the gist of it, okay? Because there are prayers that are spoken and things like that, but let me just read this to you. Shabbat begins at sunset because of the story of creation, it says, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day". Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited no later than 18 minutes before sunset. Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments. In other words, the fourth commandment recorded in both places. Exodus 20 says to remember, Deuteronomy 5 says to observe.
The family then attends a brief evening service. After services, the family comes home for a festive, leisurely dinner. By the time all of this is completed, it may be 9:00 p.m. or later. The family has an hour or two to talk, study Torah, and then go to sleep. The next morning, Shabbat services begin around 9:00 and continue until about noon. After services, by the way, our services are shorter than that, so you can thank God. All right, so. After services, the family has another leisurely, festive meal, then the family studies Torah for a while, talks, takes an afternoon walk, plays some checkers, or engages in other leisure activities. A short afternoon nap is not uncommon.
It is traditional to have a third meal before Shabbat is over. Shabbat ends at nightfall when there are three stars visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. At the conclusion of Shabbat, a blessing is recited regarding the division between the sacred and the secular, between Shabbat and the working days. As you can see, Shabbat is a full day when it is properly observed, and very relaxing. You really don't miss being unable to turn on the TV, drive a car, or go shopping. It sounds like a relaxing day, doesn't it? I mean, it sounds like just sitting around and eating a lot. It sounds like Thanksgiving to me, once a week. What's wrong with that? What is wrong with resting one day a week?
So, number one, there are reasons God said to rest. Here's number two. There are consequences when we don't rest. There are consequences when we don't rest. Numbers 15:32, "Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man", now watch what they found him do, "gathering sticks on the Sabbath day". They found a man gathering sticks, not murdering someone, gathering sticks. "And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation". Now, this is kind of funny to me. "They put him under guard". Well, of course! He was a stick gatherer! Better hold a gun on him so he doesn't gather any more sticks. "Because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, "The man must surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp".
So as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died". That's pretty severe for gathering sticks, and the Lord said it. Four, and I've heard five according to ceremonial things, but four main things required death, caused the death penalty in the Old Testament. Murder, not keeping the Sabbath, adultery, and here's one, rebellious children. I'm telling you, the next time, you just tell them. Listen, you'd be dead, pal, if we were in the Old Testament. Murder, adultery, not keeping the Sabbath, and rebellious children.
Okay, but why would not keeping the Sabbath be up there with murder and adultery, and continued rebellion? Okay, remember there's a principle behind each commandment, so let me just ask you something. Are you putting yourself to death by not resting one day a week? Are you killing yourself? There are consequences, remember? 2 Chronicles 36:20, this is when they were taken out of the land for 70 years. "And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah", watch this, it's strange, "until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths". "Until the land had enjoyed", I didn't even know a land could enjoy, "her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfill 70 years".
So, what happened here? Every seventh year they were supposed to let the land rest, but they stopped doing it. Israel stopped doing it. And so, seven years went by and they still plowed the land and planted the land. In heaven, apparently God has a big chalkboard, and He made a mark, and when seven years went by, He put one. Fourteen years, two. Twenty-one, three. Twenty-eight, four. Thirty-five, five. Okay, so for 70 years, 70 Sabbaths, they do this, but they did it more than 70 years, because it was every 7 years, so if you're mathematical you will get this. They went 490 years not letting the land rest. If you did something for 490 years, would you begin to think that you were getting away with it? You don't get away with it.
God took His children out of the land, and they were slaves for 70 years, so that the land could enjoy its Sabbaths. If God is concerned about land, how much more is He concerned about you? There are consequences. I'm telling you, some of you may be dying quicker than you want to, because you just won't receive a gift! God gives you a gift, a day off. This is not a bad gift! It's a good gift.
And here's the third thing I want to tell you about the principle of rest, there are blessings when you rest. There are blessings! Now, I want to show you a principle here, Mark 2:23. "It happened that He", Jesus, "went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and as they went, His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, "Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath"? But He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him, how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar, the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him"? And He", Jesus, "said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also the Lord of the Sabbath".
Okay, so why did I read that to you? Because I'm trying to tell you this isn't legalistic with God. There's Jesus, and here's what He's saying. He's saying, listen, we didn't make man for the Sabbath. We didn't make you to serve the Sabbath. We made the Sabbath to serve you. Do you realize that God could have had a six day week? He's the one that came up with a seven day week, and one of them as a day of rest. So, the Sabbath is a gift to you. Okay, here's an old Jewish saying I love. More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel. Just resting one day a week.
Now for me, Sabbath is on a Saturday, and again, I think it's a principle, so it may not be the same day for you which is the end of your week. For me, you may not notice, I work on Saturdays. Praise God! So, there's another day that I rest. Now, here's the number one question that I get asked when I teach people on Sabbath, and I teach pastors at pastors' conferences all the time. Number one question, what do you do on your day off, or what do you do on your Sabbath? And this is what I say. That's the wrong question. The question is not what do I do, the question is what do I not do. I don't do anything associated with work. I don't write messages. I don't write books. I don't answer e-mails.
So, I learned at this the hard way. Years ago, I was going real strongly. I wasn't understanding this principle. I had just gotten back from a trip for Life Outreach, where I'm visiting children that are starving to death. I'm looking into a camera, communicating, so that people will help feed them, and drill water wells, and things like that. I got back, I was absolutely exhausted. I'd had about a month of that, things like, just very busy. And, I took a shower. I was going to get dressed to go to the office. I walked in and I'll just tell you what happened. I opened my underwear drawer. There was one pair of underwear left, and I thought, what am I going to wear tomorrow? I'm not going to have any underwear tomorrow. Pastors should wear underwear!
And I could not think, I can wash. My mind was so tired! I can go to Walmart and get 14 pair for $1.97. I could not think. I was so tired, I was so exhausted! Anybody ever been there? I was just exhausted! Put the underwear on, opened the sock drawer, had no socks. I sat down on the floor in my underwear and started crying. And now, while I was crying, I had this thought. You're losing it! You're losing your mind! You're crying over socks! So, I went to lunch that day with Pastor Tom Lane, and I told him, Pastor Tom, I'm losing my mind. So, I told him what happened. He said, you're not losing your mind, you're exhausted. Anyone would feel this way if they kept your schedule.
So, I started talking to the elders and praying. We started getting very rigid about my time off, scheduling time off, and that's when we came up with our sabbatical policy, where all of our pastors get a sabbatical every five to seven years. So, that was my fifth year. So, Debbie and I went on sabbatical. The elders gave us eight weeks sabbatical, because it's just not your body that needs rest. When you're creating content that goes in books and things, your mind has to rest. All of us have to rest.
So, I took this time. Now, 8 times 7 is 56 days. I'm telling you that because something happened. On the 53rd day, I was sitting there thinking I woke up feeling normal again. I felt normal. And I said, Lord, I feel normal again! I haven't felt normal in five years, since I started the church, and that was our five year time. I said, I haven't felt normal. I feel normal! And the Lord said to me, what day is it? And because I like numbers, I said it's the 53rd day out of 56. I knew I only had a few days left, you know? I said, it's the 53rd day. And just like that, He said to me, you owed one year of Sabbaths. You owed 52 days. And I said, Lord, you mean I owed you 52 days?
And the Lord said, no, no, no, no, no. You didn't owe Me 52 days, you owe you 52 days. And He said, don't ever go in debt again with your time and with your energy. Listen, God gives you a day off! If you don't take it, the root is because you don't trust Him. That's the root. It's the only reason you would work seven days a week.
Isn't this a great principle? It's a principle through "God's Top Ten", but it's also a blessing. It's a gift from God to get to rest one day a week. Now if you're like I am, probably if you've heard this today for the first time, you got convicted about working seven days a week, not letting your mind rest. I'm asking you, do something about it. Start this week. Take a day off.