HABIT #4: MAINTAINING BALANCE (2 of 2)
10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 8
Almost thirty-five hundred years ago, on the dry windswept sands of the Sinai desert, God gave the nation of Israel what we know today as the Ten Commandments. It would hardly be a stretch to say that no other single document has changed the world for the better than God’s Ten Commandments. Nothing in all the world’s collective moral literature even begins to compare. Noted thinker Dennis Prager referred to them as the foundation stones of Western civilization. He goes on to say, Western civilization – the civilization that developed universal human rights, created women’s equality, ended slavery, created parliamentary democracy among other unique achievements – would not have developed without them… Each commandment is a moral tour de force. Together, they present the most compelling plan ever devised for a better life and good world (Dennis Prager, TTC, p. xiii, xvii). I would add, they are the most compelling plan ever devised for a better family and a good home.
This morning we’re going to continue to unpack the fourth commandment, the fourth moral tour de force, which in short says, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). It is interesting to me that contained within the greatest moral code known to man is the command to take one day off a week and devote it to God. Taking one day off a week hardly seems important enough to measure up to being placed in God’s Ten Commandments, but it does and for very good reason. God created us so that we need rest.
According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity. Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies.” The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” People are also like that. That’s why we all need to take time to rest.
Jesus understood this well when He offered, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NLT). God knows our greatest need for rest is ultimately not found in a day, but in a Person – Jesus. God ordained the day of rest as a symbol to point us to Jesus. Paul says in Colossians 2:17 the Sabbath was a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). Does this mean we no longer need to rest one day in seven? No. Our God-created need to rest didn’t go away, but now we can fully rest because Jesus gives us rest not just for our bodies, but for our souls as well.
This morning I want to briefly look at why God’s command to set aside one day a week for rest and worship is essential to our lives. Why God Gave Us the Sabbath
I. To remind us that our true identity comes from God, not our work. Your work gives you more than a paycheck, it gives you a sense of identity and value as well. Even if you don’t get paid, your work still provides you with a sense of identity and value. For the Jews, their identity and value had been directly tied to being slaves in Egypt, but not anymore. God reminds them in the fourth commandment their true identity and value comes from God, not their work. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the 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 (Exodus 20:11, NAS). Their identity and value came from being like God and following His example. He worked six days, then rested. Just as God rested on the seventh day, Israel now needs to do the same.
In Deuteronomy, where God repeats the Ten Commandments, He tells Israel, remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day (Deut. 5:15). God reminds them He rescued them from being slaves. They were now free. They did not need to work seven days a week, only slaves do that. The Sabbath was a continual reminder that God rescued them. They were free. Their identity was no longer tied to being a slave of Egypt. They were now God’s treasured people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6). Their new identity transformed their view of work. Work was no longer the source of their identity or their value – God was.
I recently read that in 2018, Americans left a total of 705 million vacation days unused. One report shared 61% of people feared looking for replaceable work, and 56% felt no one could do their job (Jeff Haanen, AUGTR, p.39). These numbers are saying many Americans’ have their identity and value is wrapped up in their jobs.
God wants us to set aside a day to realign our true identity and value with Him. If you are a believer, your true identity is that you are a child of God (Jn. 1:12). Like Israel, God rescued you from the domain of darkness, and transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You now belong to God and are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10).
This part of the fourth commandment says one more thing I want to point out. God created the earth in six literal days. The very first time God used the word “day” (יוֹם,Yom) He defined it as the period from light to darkness. The same word is applied to each of the following days of creation. Now, God reminds us, we’re to rest just as He did after six days of work. The fourth commandment makes no sense if there are millions or billions of years between each of the days of creation. Just as God worked six days and then rested on the seventh, we do the same. We need to separate from our work and take a day to realign our identity and value with God.
II. To remind us that our need for balance in rest and work come from God, not the world. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work (Exodus 20:9-10a, NAS). Balance comes from following God’s pace, work six days, rest the seventh.
Every culture in the world organizes their schedule around a seven-day week. Those who reject the Bible are puzzled why this is. A seven-day week does not fit into the 365 ¼ days of a solar year, nor the lunar month of 29 days. The reason is simple, the seven-day week did not come from the world. It came from God. Since God made us, He knew the ideal rhythm in which we need to pace our lives is a seven-day week. Those who’ve tried to change a seven-day week into an eight or ten-day week failed miserably. Both French and Russian revolutionaries tried at one time to abolish the seven-day week. Not long after they did, depression, suicide, civil unrest soon became unbearable. Society rapidly deteriorated and they were compelled for their own survival to return to a seven-day week. These communistic and atheistic cultures were forced to acknowledge the Creator in how they organize their days (Richard & Tina Kleiss, ACLAE, June 4). God has built us so that we need rest. Like a car that needs regular maintenance, we need regular rest – or we’ll wear out. Some people, writes David Guzik, are like high mileage cars that haven’t been maintained well, and it shows. Some of you this morning are probably thinking, That’s me! You came here feeling like a high milage car that hasn’t been maintained well. You’re in need of rest. God’s sabbath reminds us that our need for balance came from God, not the world.
Augustine of Hippo, said it best, You have made us for Yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. Augustine knew the only solution to our need for rest was offered by Jesus Himself, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Only God can give us the rest our hearts long for where we find security in our identity and value and balance in our lives. At the heart of Jesus offer to come to Him is a willingness to surrender our lives to Him as our Lord and Savior giving Him our heavy burden of sin and accepting His rest.