Sermon – April 30, 2017
The Sabbath is one of the most divisive theological issues in Christendom. Believers throughout time have disagreed on whether we are to keep it today; some believing that the mandate is as old as creation, while others see it as a ceremonial relic from the law. Today, we look at the fourth commandment as it is explained in Deuteronomy 15-16:17, and attempt to focus on the hope this command is meant to foster in us.
1. Release from poverty
Deuteronomy 15 sets two distinct precedents: the release of debt at a set seven year period, and the release of Hebrew slaves after seven years of service. In doing so, God is commanding that his people “open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in your land” (15:11). God’s people are always to help the poor and needy, the male and female servants, and in this way to help them “rest” from their toils (Deut 5:14).
2. Remembrance of purchase
The first portion of Deuteronomy 16 (vv. 1-8) is given over to the Passover remembrance. Again, the focus on seven days is predominant (vv. 4, 8). Here, the people remember that they are indeed the LORD’s, and that he brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deut 5:15).
3. Rejoice in provision
In Deuteronomy 16:9-17, several more sets of seven appear (vv. 9, 10, 13, 15) in both the Feasts of Weeks and the Feast of Booths. These feasts are times of rejoicing in the provision of what God has so graciously provided (16:17).
4. Rest in perfection
In the text of Deuteronomy, there is a connection of the Sabbath to perfection, hinted at if not always explicitly stated. The continual repetition of “sevens” points in this direction, but so do other statements. There is a pressing for perfection in the eradication of poverty (15:4), and in the blessing of God poured out over an obedient people (15:5-6, cf. 16:15, 17). Much like Adam and Eve, Israel’s sin keeps them from ever truly entering the rest that the Sabbath was a sign of (Exo 31:12-17). We, then, because we have a great high priest, are to enter that rest, after doing the work that we have been commissioned to do (Heb 4:11-16). Therefore, do not be disobedient, that you might enter into Christ’s earned rest!
The Sabbath is a difficult commandment for Christians. The manner and means of “keeping” it has been under debate since the earliest days of the Church (Col 2:16). But, while we have avoided that issue, one truth can be affirmed by all: it is only through the work of Christ Jesus, in forgiving sins and making a new creation, that we can ever truly rest. A perfect rest, for those purchased by Jesus Christ, where there is true joy in the abundance of provision.