I’m getting geared up to preach on Genesis 2.1-3 tomorrow morning, so I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on how Christ helps us keep the Sabbath.
First by His Example
Along with Father and Spirit, the Pre-Incarnate Word, the Logos or Eternal Son, rested on the seventh day, as the climax of Creation. The Agent of Creation did not press the pause button. The term that is used indicates total completion and fulfillment of His task. The ‘work’ mentioned twice is also a slightly unusual choice: it has been suggested this term, which is usually otherwise reserved for human employment, was chosen by the Spirit to remind human beings of the need to down tools on the Sabbath; this expression ‘work’ is a close relative of the Hebrew word for ‘angel’ or ‘messenger.’ The key thing to note, in connection with an angel, is neither a shining body nor flapping wings, but the duty to complete the messenger’s God-given commission or task. Is it hard to prove that this is the reason the term ‘work’ was used in this instance? It still remains true that, as in the work of Redemption, so also in the work of Creation, God the Son received a commission by God, to do work for the Father, in an allotted time span, in this case, of a six-day-working week. Nothing was left half-baked, undone or requiring finishing touches, by the Son, as He settled down with Father and Spirit to well-earned enjoyment of the Sabbath. As at Calvary so in Creation – He completed the work God gave Him to do: the Mediator’s works of Creation and Redemption, are perfect, finished works. If Christ met the Creation deadline, can you not learn from that? Don’t take on eight days work when we only have time for six! Avoid undue leisure during the week that distracts us from finishing our God-given tasks! Let the example of Christ be a gracious spur to clear up your week’s work in time for Saturday midnight! Imitation of the Son, drawing on God’s power through union with Him, will allow you to be better composed and prepared to enjoy the Sabbath with your God.
Second by His Heart
There are many reasons why you might not have a heart for Sabbath-Keeping. You may have been reared by parents who used the day for worldly pursuits or sports. Other Christians may have influenced you and taught you Sabbath-keeping was wrong, legalistic, or a day only for observance by Old Testament Jews. Perhaps the reason is you just find it hard to get into a good pattern or practice – or the working week has left you so tired you just stumble through the day. Family pressures can also be a distraction – those who manage homes should make this day a treat for children. Then there is the flesh, which never lets up, waging war against the Spirit – Old Adam seeks any excuse to diminish or distract from proper joyful Sabbath-Keeping. How the Devil wants to steal away the sweetest, richest, blessing that Creation’s time-out brings. The chronology of Genesis 2.1-3, with respect to redemptive history, is important: note how the Sabbath was not instituted at the return of Christ, nor from the time of Pentecost, nor after the ‘Giving on the Law’ through Moses: this day is not just for the Redeemed in glory, or Christians in the Church, or Jews before Messiah – the Sabbath was God’s gift to the whole of Creation, for every tribe and tongue, on every continent and island, who through Noah after the flood, directly descended from Adam. The heart of the Son, along with Spirit and Father, made space for all subsequent Sabbaths in the history of the world. Christ gifts a Sabbath heart to all those born of God. If you are a new creature, fan core desire to flame. Follow heart-desire to honor your Lord’s Day.
Third by His Obedience
Moses is teaching Israel how the Sabbath first began. He wants them to understand why Sabbath-breaking is such a sin. The 4th article of the Decalogue is only rivaled by the 2nd in length. This fact alone should remind us not to forget, and to remember that Sabbath keeping is something taken seriously by Christ. Don’t be deceived by those who said Jesus did away with the Sabbath. Such a thing is impossible for at least two reasons: for one thing Jesus was gainsaying the minute, legalistic, side-stepping, Pharisaic additions to the Sabbath plain and simple; for another thing for Jesus to break this command would be to charge God’s Son with sin; if anything was abrogated in relation to the Law of Moses, it was only the temporary, typical, ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath, which Jesus Christ fulfilled; in other respects not one iota of the command was ever suspended but remains in full force – Jesus kept God’s Day blamelessly, joyfully, entirely, with a delighted, determined will, which refused to deviate. Christ, in truth, was the only One who ever kept the 4th command in entirety from His cradle to the Cross. We often break the Sabbath, on account of ignorance, negligence, legalism or sloth. If all our Sabbath acts are polluted, blood-stained, rags, Christ’s active Sabbath obedience, by grace, through faith, is our cloak of Lord’s Day righteousness. Are you truly thankful for Christ’s imputed Sabbath-keeping? In gratitude pant and pray for His imparted Sabbath-keeping, that you might grow in determined delight to enjoy the full-fat of God’s feast.
Fourth by His Death
It is a tragic, sombre, thought, that when there is a final separation of sheep from goats, that the fiery pit will be filled with those who mocked and broke the Sabbath, and refused to relent or repent. Like the rest of the human mass, this was the just location we had earned by our repeated Lord’s Day breaches. It is only by God’s mercy, that we received the grace, to be convicted of our Day-defying acts, and were drawn with ropes of love, to the Cross where Christ was cursed. Here an infinite measure of righteous anger, for the totality of guilt, for all future believer Sabbath sins, in every age and place, was borne and endured by the Mediator’s healing stripes. Please don’t be mistaken on this point – the anathema and penalty for 4th commandment breach was a chief contributor to the death-pangs of God’s Christ. It was your Sabbath guilt and mine that produced the Sabbath-Sin-Bearer’s bloody sweat of Gethsemane, the deep scourging of Gabbatha, and the forsaken, darkness of Golgotha. The Sabbath-broken flames of the pit incinerated the head once crowned with thorns and drove cruel hellish nails into His crucified limbs. If this doesn’t break your heart for lax attitudes to the Sabbath, you should pray in earnest, ‘Lord show me the sufferings of the Sabbath-broken Christ, that, in your mercy, I might, according to my station, give this whole day to Him’.
Fifth by His Act
We are told by the text, along with Father and Spirit, that the Son, on the 7th day, first blest then hallowed the Sabbath. This blessing seems to have been in the form of benediction. God appointed this day for blessing from the start to the end of the world. It is true that every day in one sense belongs to the LORD. Yet we must avoid the danger of being super-spiritually wiser than God. The Spirit reveals through Moses that one 24-hour period was demarcated, delineated, consecrated – the verb ‘sanctified’ in the bible always indicates a setting apart from common use and devotion to God for sacred use. As the barrier erected around the base of Sinai designated the mountain of God as Holy, so one entire day of the week, for the rest of human history, was marked out as God’s and for God – this holy time and space was to be blocked out in the diary of Creation to Consummation, for all the world millennia, for the benefit of the Creature, and the activity of worship. The revelation of creation was a wonderful mirror of the Glory of the Creator, along with law-imprinted conscience, as a means to draw forth worship. Continuous wordless testimony shone forth to the ends of earth. Here was a means of grace to lead the creature to thankfully contemplate the divinity, eternity, power, justice, goodness, kindness and holiness of the Creator, in all His handiwork. What joyful worship there must have been on the first Sabbath Adam kept. How much more, with Christ Crucified as our focus, should this be a day to soak our spiritual senses with the Love of God in Christ in all its unfathomable length, height, depth and breadth. For the Old Testament Church this was the last day of the week. For the New Testament Church, Jesus, as Son of Man and Lord of the Sabbath, appointed His resurrection Lord’s Day as the first day of the week. This is a day for mandatory and merciful work, as Christ makes abundantly clear, by his many Sabbath cures. Yet, the main, chief, business, is the assembling of creatures to hear God’s Word of Grace – above all it is the Sabbath on which sinners are converted and saints are conformed to Christ. If the Lord of the Sabbath draws near through the means of grace, whether legible, preached or sacramental, we are always the losers if we miss out on His feast.