The “In My Father’s Footsteps” devotions will return in September of 2019. Enjoy this devotion from the archives!
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, 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. 11 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.
The Sabbath Day in the Old Testament was Saturday – the 7th Day. First established as a day of rest by God Himself.
When Israel left Egypt, God began to set them up for the life in the Promised Land. Even though they were going to a land said to “flow with milk and honey” they were still going to have to work for a living.
Martin Luther said, “This commandment was given only to the Jewish people for this outward obedience, that they should stop toilsome work and rest. In that way both man and beast might recover and not be weakened by endless labor” (Large Catechism).
However, over time – especially in the four hundred years between Israel’s return from Babylon and Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension – the idea of “Sabbath” rest got messed up.
Again, Martin Luther: “The Jewish people restricted the Sabbath too closely and greatly abused it. They defamed Christ and could not endure in Him the same works that they themselves would do on that day, as we read in the Gospel” (Large Catechism).
11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
They missed the point entirely. They lost the meaning of “sanctifying” or “keeping holy” the Sabbath day. There’s really only one way to keep a day holy.
So how do we keep the Sabbath Day – whenever it is for us – holy?
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
This is how we keep a day “holy” or “sanctified.” The best day to do this is on the day that you do not have work. The vast majority of people – from Luther’s day all the way to today – have at least Sunday off from work in order to spend at least part of that day in the worship of Jesus and the meditation of God’s Word.
But it doesn’t have to be Sunday, as St. Paul pointed out in Romans 14.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
I’ve heard many people talk about how their week doesn’t seem to work out right or is missing something when they skip church and Bible study.
To see the result of worship and hearing God’s Word, take a look at the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 8:2-3, 8
2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
The people reestablished weekly worship upon completing the project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. They were able to defend the city and their nation for nearly 400 years (until the coming of the Romans). They reestablished the covenant of old and this paved the way for the coming of the Messiah.
What might your life look like if you were to worship weekly and participate in a Bible study weekly?
11 I have stored up your
word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
“Going to church” is not just sitting in a pew. “Going to a Bible study” is not just sitting here listening to me or any other Bible study leader.
Martin Luther again: “It is not only the people who greatly misuse and desecrate the holy day who sin against this commandment (those who neglect to hear God’s Word because of their greed or frivolity or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine). But even the other crowd sins. They listen to God’s Word like it was any other trifle and only come to preaching because of custom. They go away again, and at the end of the year they know as little of God’s Word as at the beginning” (Large Catechism).
This commandment is all about changing our lives by putting God’s Word in your heart and putting God’s Word into practice in your life!
What’s the big deal? What’s at stake?
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
One more word from Luther: “Let me tell you this, even though you know God’s Word perfectly and are already a master in all things: you are daily in the devil’s kingdom. He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all commandments. Therefore, you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. On the other hand, the Word is so effective that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not lazy or dead, but are creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity moves us, this truth out to urge everyone to the Word, because thereby the devil is put ot flight and driven away” (Large Catechism).
Going to church, participating in a Bible study, these are part of the modern-day equivalents of the Old Testament practice of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. But not because we must – but because God loves us and wants what is best for us!
Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy!
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