Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What trumps worship?

The Ten Commandments are given to us twice, and the slight differences between the two accounts are beautifully enlightening.

Take the 4th command for example.  Here it is from Exodus 20:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.
And here it is from Deuteronomy 5:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 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, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Note that the first reason given for practicing Sabbath is creation—that for which you were made; a fundamental, God-given structure of human life.

And the second reason given for practicing Sabbath is redemption—you are not your own; you've been bought at a very dear and precious price.


And yet, overlooking both creation and redemption, Christians so often let just about anything trump our commitment to gather with other saints to worship our God on the Lord's Day (which is now Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, the day the New Testament sets apart as holy, the day the New World broke into this Old World, which in theology is sometimes called the "Christian Sabbath").

But back to this point: what trumps worship?  Chores, sports, travel, general busyness, neglected school projects, a unique opportunity to do something special, getting ahead on an upcoming project, vacation, checking off something on a to do list, a hobby, an entertainment, an amusement, etc., etc., etc.

I'm not referring to works of necessity; that's a different topic.

I'm simply referring to opportunities to do something else that are offered to us (not forced on us), and we willingly surrender, forsake, jettison, disown, forego, & set aside that which God commanded to be "remembered" and "observed."

But the deal is... what God commands to be remembered and observed is not just "more busyness for Jesus' sake"—some stale religious to do list.  Practicing sabbath is a gift.  You see that in the very command itself.

It's a gift given from the father to the son and daughter.  From the master to the male servant and female servant.  From the farmer to the ox and donkey and any other livestock.  From the native-born to the sojourning guest.

From God to you.

And when we think we don't need that gift, we're badly mistaken.

Feeling dry, used up, spent, lonely?  Remember creation.  Observe redemption.  Worship.


Perhaps it's the fear of missing out on something "better" than being in God's Presence with his people that pulls us in these other directions.

Consider God's promise in Isaiah 58: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

There is surely no scarcity in worshipping Christ with the assembled saints.  There is only abundance and grace.  There is the Promised Presence of God.  Do not fear.


Practicing Sabbath makes us different from many of our neighbors.  It makes us different, first of all, because we're living a life of trust, faith, and belief in God's Word.  We are consciously saying, "He made me, he redeemed me, he knows what I most need.  I trust him more than I trust myself.  It's not what I do that gives my life meaning; it's what God has done for me."

And in this way practicing Sabbath becomes a powerful sign and mark of living in covenant with God.  See Exodus 31.12-17.

And again, like all signs and marks of living in covenant with God, it's a gift.  It's the grace-and-peace-filled rhythm of work and rest, creation and redemption.


A final related thought: some of my greatest joys in worship have come when providential circumstances have kept my family and me from worshipping with our normal church family.

On vacation?  Traveling?  Out of town on business?

No matter!  Find a faithful church and worship!  I've delighted at times to intentionally take my family to a faithful church that is as far different from "our" church as possible on those occasions:  a 4,000 member African-American church... a hip, inner-city church... a Psalms-only, no musical instruments church... a ginormous mega-church... a tiny rural church...

Stretch yourself.  Remember that not all Jesus-followers are like you, and that's a good thing.  Explore the kingdom.

Or... have some work of necessity that prevents Sunday morning worship at your regular time?  Find a church that holds an evening worship service.  Or find a church that holds a much earlier Sunday morning worship.  It's all great joy if it's Christ.

But come to Christ, answer his call.  He will give you rest.  Remember creation.  Observe redemption.

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