Top Ten Words STOP! — Remember the Sabbath Day

Top Ten Words STOP! — Remember the Sabbath Day

Apr 27, 2015

Top Ten Words STOP! — Remember the Sabbath Day

Sermon Series by Pastor Dusty Mackintosh,

Next Step Christian Church, Thornton, CO

Whenever someone yells “Stop!” I am torn. I never know what it is. Is it “Hammer Time”? Is it time to “Collaborate and Listen”? Or is it “In the name of love”? This is one of the great questions of life. (More about that later.) This sermon is all about Sabbath. But “Sabbath” is a church word. It’s actually a transliterated Hebrew word “Shabat” with its roots in the idea of “STOP!” So every time they discuss “Sabbath” in Hebrew, everyone knows they are talking about “STOPPY” time. “Ceasing time.” We call it “weekend” or how about “work-end.” So mentally, whenever I say Sabbath, you can replace it with your favorite of “closing time,” “work-end,” or, my favorite, just “STOP!”


Two representative stone tablets with the ten commandments inscribed on them on an isolated dark ethereal background


God’s Day

Exodus 20:8-11

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Very simple and very familiar concept. Six days of work, the seventh day is a Sabbath, a “STOP” day. It is holy, or set apart, in distinction to the activity, the work, of all the other days. This applies to everybody within your sphere of influence, your whole family, anyone who works for you, any guests in your care — no loopholes. This is actually pretty remarkable. God cuts right across gender lines, generational lines, class lines, and racial lines. This Sabbath thing applies to everyone.

Rooted in Creation — Shared with His People

This holy day is not a recent invention of God, though it is possible the Israelites were ignorant of it prior to God teaching it to them through the manna…but it is actually rooted in Creation. We know that because God, speaking to all the people of Israel, writing it in stone with His finger, says this:

11 “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Well, that’s pretty clear. Very specific. A specific blessing, an act of Creation, even, on the Sabbath day. Clearly intentional, for God did not need to rest. God lays down a model of Sabbath at the very root of Creation.

He blessed it…and He made it holy.

To bless it is to fill it with good things, to make it goodly, favorable, full of great and desirable stuff. To make it holy. To make something holy is to set it apart. God takes an arbitrary slice of time. It is arbitrary before He does something with it. At this stage, He has created all the cosmos; it is ready for life; He has created mankind, men and women; and then He slices off a portion of time. This seventh part, this bit at the end, “I am going to set this apart.” It is now considered holy. It is important, to me, both that humans were around for this and that it comes at the end. We will get to that later.

But first, He made it holy. He did something special about this day. I think Adam and Eve knew all about this, but humanity lost this knowledge and this experience. But God held on to this slice of time…and He waited. He waited until He could share it with people again. Then, having delivered the people of Israel out of slavery, in the context of His relationship as Savior to the saved (you will be my people, I will be your God)… He shares the Sabbath with them. To share it with them requires that they too set the day apart. So step 1 is STOP.

Stopping is only step 1

You have to STOP! You have to interrupt the cycle of work: it is the tyranny of the urgent. It will consume your attention.

Have you ever run until you were gasping for breath, until your lungs were starving for air, and then, you finished…you got to stop? How beautiful was that? Or

at the end of a day that is just too long, draging on and on, and you are stumbling around — finally, you get to the end and you collapse into bed and you get to just stop. It is a truly beautiful thing.

The people of Israel were slaves. What is the work week for a slave? All of the days, all of the hours it is possible to work. Why not? No labor laws, no Department of Labor to mandate 40 hour work weeks. Here…God literally invents the weekend. Yes, because here He makes Saturdays off a thing. That’s not all. The people of Israel were slaves; now they are barely subsistent migrant desert wanderers…not a life of leisure. They are eking out life, living day to day on miraculous mystery scrapings off the desert ground in the morning. Ridiculous. Soon they will be fighting

superior armed and trained forces, then waging war. So we have as our contexts: slavery, wilderness survival and war. None of these are excellent contexts for a day off. There is a tyranny of the urgent here. Everyone could say, “If we don’t work hard, every day, we will die.” So they need permission, a command even, to STOP! Cease from your labors. I know they are important and urgent, but you have permission and a command to stop for this one day.

There is refuge in this command that removes or transfers all the guilt for the consequences of stopping. I remember going through seminary while working, for awhile, a couple of jobs. There was more to do than could ever be done, added to the responsibility of being a husband and father. To be able, on Sabbath, to set it all aside: I have permission and a command from on high to just STOP. And it feels so good.

We have this command to STOP. It is at the root of what the word Sabbath means. By Stopping, by ceasing our work, in distinction to the other six days, we set the day apart as something special — as something holy. We keep it holy in response to His command and in echo of Him making it holy.

Invited Into Holiness

But our STOP is not the point of Sabbath. As beautiful as the break and the rest and the calm and peace and restoration of it…that is not what Sabbath is all about.

It is a Sabbath to something: Yahweh, YOUR God. You remember it and keep it holy — in echo of the holiness of the first three commandments. Those commandments establish the holiness of God, the set-apartness, the eminence and transcendence of God. God cannot be replaced, controlled, or used for your purposes. God is above and beyond, incomprehensible. We use this word transcendent to say He is simply too high, too lofty for us to attain. Now He invites us into his holiness. He creates space, literally sets apart a moment in time. He slices off this particular seventh of time, and He reserves it. And here, he is going to invite us into relationship. It is a

Sabbath to Yahweh, YOUR God.

He is going to teach us what that means. He is going to teach the people of Israel what it means to stop. First, in the desert, by way of the manna, He will make it impossible to gather food on that day. Second, in the coming ritual and civil laws, He will outline what that looks like in the daily life of an Israelite, sketching out what “stopping” looks like. But better than that, He is going to teach His people to worship on His holy day. To gather together and worship. To bring sacrifices in offering to Him. To sing songs and to pray. It starts with a manual of procedures, like worship training wheels…but He is ultimately teaching them to worship in spirit and in truth. He invites them into His holiness.

God invites us into His holiness. And so, in Sabbath, we have the invitation to God’s imminence. That is His closeness, His self-revelation, His revealing of Himself and who He is to us: Spend a day with me. Get to know me, learn to love me.

The Beginning and End of Sabbath

Perhaps we should take a look at the origins and ultimate end of Sabbath. Man was made on the sixth day, so on the first Sabbath, man and woman were there. We only get the play-by-play on the day of the fall, but I imagine Sabbath days, even the first Sabbath day, before that: walking with God in the cool of the day; spending time, talking, connected, and discovering Him as Person and worshiping, discovering more and more. We recognize in Sabbath the intent of Creation — God inviting us into His holiness.

Then at the end of the book: Sabbath as a type of the Eternity with God, the fulfilled REST, and the ushering into His holiness. Sabbath at the end of time — even as we practice Sabbath at the end of the week — the summation of all creation. God invites us into His holiness. Jesus corrects and teaches how Sabbath is to be practiced

(Why spend so much time correcting a practice if you are about to abolish it in a few weeks?) He corrects Sabbath practice…He calls himself Lord of the Sabbath. What a beautiful name! Jesus has the authority to teach, correct and model Sabbath-keeping. Even as the Sabbath is God’s invitation to get to know Him, His invitation to love, His invitation to Holiness — so Jesus is everything that Sabbath hinted at. This is where some see this as a present fulfillment of Sabbath in Jesus, the rest that we find in Him. I disagree. I have one powerful life reason. It is pretty obvious that I am still in the cycle of labors. Not in the “striving for moral purity” sense, but the literal, “working for a living in a fallen, sinful world” sense. I still desperately need that slice of divine rest, that “Aaaah… Stop.” And I still need the simple time spent with God. A Sabbath to Him, in response to His invitation: I am invited into His holiness.

The Relational Issue

How does Sabbath teach me to love God with all my heart, mind and soul? Sabbath is the school of love. It is where we create and set aside time to meet Him. It is our appointed time, our day together, our date together. It is full of good things, blessed and set aside for this purpose from the very beginning. There can be no guilt for setting aside the time — it is the command of God, so He takes responsibility for all that. I have more to do than I can ever get done, everything is urgent, and I am afraid everything will fall apart… But it’s Sabbath. So I set all of that aside. I “stop, in the name of love.” In our fellowship, in our worship, in our prayers, in our sermons, in our afternoon naps, in our meals, in our activities, echoing from evening to evening even as God’s people have done for millennia: we remember. We have to remember and remind ourselves, and remind each other, that everything we do on Sabbath day is about Him, is for Him, is worship. We remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. We STOP our labors, all of us, and all those we are responsible for. We set it all aside for the LORD, Yahweh, our God that we might learn to love Him with all our heart, mind and strength. God invites us into His holiness on His Sabbath. Let’s accept the invitation.

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