26 July: Enjoying a “Sabbath Rest”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
26 July 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

A huge thank you to everyone who supported me trying to raise money (by doing press-ups) to send to needy people in India. £770 was raised through ‘Just Giving’ and money was also sent direct to ‘Barnabas Fund’ but they don’t know how much in total.

Back to Bethel

As well as continuing to send out this Service @ Home a number of us will be returning to Bethel for Worship Services on Sunday mornings.

Testimony

(Thanks Nick)

Nick says life goes on as normal for him:

“I normally spend a lot of time on my own and it is time I spend sitting in my chair waiting on the Lord – that has not changed. The only thing I find disconcerting is that people look too scared to even acknowledge me on the occasion I go to the local shop. I am still praying and witnessing to April in Vietnam and they have been one of the most successful countries in dealing with Corona Virus – while other countries announced lockdowns to deal with existing crises, Vietnam enacted one to prevent one.”

Worship

(Thanks Nick)

Word

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

If we were to ask a group of Christians what is it that the Lord is trying to teach the nations through allowing this Corona Virus, there would I am sure be a whole multitude of answers (send yours on a postcard to me if you want!). For me a vital matter is “rest,” “sabbath rest” in the biblical sense. Here in the city of Manchester we have enjoyed hearing the birds singing, the stillness, the quietness, especially as a result of not hearing the continual drone of traffic in the background. I always remember going on a Church Weekend away to Blaithwaite House in Cumbria. It involved a 3 hour drive in a DAF Mini-Bus with the engine at the front and the engine cover not properly secured (due to a broken fastener). So it was noisy, really noisy! I can remember arriving there around 6pm and turning the engine off to the beautiful stillness and the sound of silence. Ahh the bliss of that silence – you could hear the silence as they say. There is so much noise, so much rush, rush, rush, in life in general! And the Lord is offering us His rest, His sabbath rest. 

The subject of “rest” is very important in the Scriptures, beginning in Genesis and developed right through to Revelation. We read in Genesis 2:1-3:

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.

Genesis 2:1-3

The word for “rest” here is “shabbat” which is where we get the word “sabbath.” This word is used later on when the Lord provided “manna” for the Israelites:

On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much – two omers for each person – and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, ‘This is what the Lord commanded: “Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.”’ So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. ‘Eat it today,’ Moses said, ‘because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any’.

Exodus 16:22-26

This “shabbat” becomes an integral part of the ten commandments:

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

The Day of Atonement was to be a sabbath:

Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God … It is a day of sabbath rest for you and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.

Leviticus 23:28, 32

There was even to be a sabbath for the land:

The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards  gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.

Leviticus 25:1-5

The sabbath was blessed by God: “The Lord blessed the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:11) and was to be enjoyed (even by the land!): “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests” (2 Chronicles 36:21).

But as we look more into this subject of “rest” we see it has a much deeper meaning than simply a day of rest, a year of rest, even the rest the people of Israel would enjoy as a result of entering the promised land under Joshua:

But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.

Deuteronomy 12:10

“In the context of the Pentateuch and the conquest, “rest” meant refreshment and prosperity in the land God promised them. God’s presence in their midst, and security from their enemies all around. Psalm 95 shows that entrance into the Promised Land could not have been entrance into the ultimate rest of God”

Fanning

The writer to Hebrews takes this up in a passage Hebrews 3:7-4:11 where the word “rest” appears 14 times in 22 verses, e.g.

For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all his works’ … There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.

Hebrews 4:4, 4:9

We can see from Hebrews and other NT passages that “God’s rest” is entered into in a deeper sense by departed saints who enjoy that “rest” prior to the Second Coming e.g. Heb. 12:23: “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” i.e. “at rest” (Guthrie); is also entered into in the fullest sense at the final consummation, of God’s future restoration of His creation e.g. Hebrews 13:14: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (i.e. “rest” = “the city to come” – Guthrie). But clearly this “rest” is also for the believer “today”, e.g.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it …Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest” … Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today’. This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’ … There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.

Hebrews 4:1, 3, 6, 7, 9

So what can we learn about entering God’s “rest”?

  1. To enter God’s rest is to rest from our own works – we cannot save ourselves by our own good works only by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. We are not saved to do our own works but the works of Him who has saved us: “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His” (Heb. 4:10); “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
  2. Hebrews was written to believers who were in danger of falling away, and so, as well as the encouragement to believe today, there is the encouragement to do so with an enduring faith, we must persevere to the end to ensure we enter that eternal rest: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11). In this we need each other and the encouragement we can give each other: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness … do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 3:13, 10:25)
  3. We need to continually fix our thoughts upon Jesus (Heb 3:1) who is gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29) whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:30). This is the “rest” we have been called to. An example of the “rest” of faith is demonstrated by Jesus Himself. In Mark 4:35-41 we read the well-known account of Jesus calming the storm. The disciples are terrified and even rebuked the Lord, (who is asleep at the time), with the words: “Don’t you care if we drown.” If only they knew how much He cared for them, even to die in their place. That “rest of faith” and fear are mutually exclusive in the Bible. Hadn’t Jesus said to them at the start of the journey: “Let us go over to the other side of the lake” (Mark 4:35). Jesus doesn’t lie or change His mind (cf. Numbers 23:19). Like the people of Israel before them, no matter how many mighty and wonderful acts God had done before their very eyes they still refused to believe Him. It was now time for Jesus’ to rebuke the wind and the waves and then His unbelieving disciples: “He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40).

Something goes wrong, a crisis! What is your first reaction? To panic or to pray? To worry or to worship? To become restless or to rest? There is a deep satisfaction in resting in Jesus who is calling us to Himself and to His rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” – Amen!

Quote of the Week

You have created us for Yourself, and our heart cannot rest, until it finds rest in you.

Augustine of Hippo.

Verse of the Week

Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:16

Let’s Pray

Our loving heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for this wonderful rest in You. Lord help us daily to live in that rest, to so trust you, to believe in you, to obey you, to keep our hearts tender before You, that we may walk with You through the blessings and storms of life, and of everything else that comes our way. Father, make us more like Your Son Jesus Christ, who was so full of trust in You that He could sleep through that storm and then speak Your peace into the situation.

Father as we prepare to go back to Bethel to worship You protect us and all Your people form this Corona virus. Lord may You reveal Yourself to all our families and friend, neighbours and colleagues, that they too may come to enjoy this resting in You.

Fill us afresh with Your Holy Spirit in and through Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.