Focal Passage: Exodus 31:12-17
Everyone needs a break from work. Even God rested on the seventh day. How many Americans begin a job enthusiastically only to have their spirit crushed by long hours leaving little room for rest? How many take stressful work home with them? Even at home their mind is on work because of pressing deadlines, unresolved issues, etc... There must be a healthy balance between work and rest. Without rest we (yes pastors even YOU) are destined for burnout.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath means “to cease” or “to rest.” Recently I called a church member who assured me he would be back once “the busy season” was over at work. Knowing this person to be genuine I was concerned. If he’s too busy to worship with us on Sunday then work is consuming his life. Where then is time for God, family, and the abundant life Jesus wants for us (John 10:10)? We cannot have a spiritually abundant life if all we do is work. In Exodus 31:12-13 God wants Moses to tell the Israelites to observe the Sabbath so that they will know Him. How can I know God and His plan for my life if my thoughts are always on work but never on Him? A man or woman who works constantly may make a lot of money and be very successful by worldly standards…but to what end? “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:36)? When I take time to rest and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, I am reminded of the covenant I made with Him and what’s truly important in life. All the money in the world isn’t worth losing sight of that.
Christians in today’s work force don’t live with the pressure of Exodus 31:14-15. Israel was under the law but we are under grace because of Christ. Still, we must recognize what God was saying in this passage. In Moses’ time, failure of an Israelite to properly observe the Sabbath could result in exile or death. God wanted them to have at least one day free from work so that they would not burn out, neglect their families, or neglect worship of Him. He knew that failure in these areas would weaken His people spiritually, morally, and physically. Those who worked anyway would be cut off because of the poor example they were setting.
To profane the Sabbath was another matter entirely. Profane meant to “defile, pollute, or desecrate.” If someone comes to your place of worship on your day of worship cursing, inebriated, exhibiting lewd behavior, and indulging in revelry how do you respond? I’d be angry and rightly so (Matthew 21:12-16, Luke 19:45-47, John 2:13-16). Most Christians are on our best behavior come Sunday. It’s where we recharge our spiritual battery, feast on the Word, and remember that we must live Christian the other days of the week also. Behavior that would distract us from this is cancerous. Those who would disrupt private or corporate worship today need to sit down and be silent or get out. In Moses’ day they’d be killed. Taking time to rest and worship God with no distractions is very important to our Heavenly Father. He knows how desperately we need this day, even when we do not.
In Exodus 31:16-17 Israel is reminded that God rested and so must they. Without rest I’ll be stressed, unproductive, and unkind. I’ll neglect my family. I’ll burn out and be worthless in service to my King. His command to rest and remember Him is for the “good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Rest up Christian … and garner strength for the battles that lie ahead.
— Cort is senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Greenbrier.