feast: The Sabbath: Redemption
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 08-Oct-17; Sermon #FT17-04; 76 minutes
There are individuals who energetically serve to a fault, such as a woman in a congregation who assisted Stanley Rader in meeting his appointments. Stanley Rader, though grateful, found this woman "exhausting." God serves infinitely more than this woman, but in such unobtrusive ways that most of the world takes Him for granted. God supplies our food, clothing, and shelter, as well as sustains our health. Without these blessings we would die. On the spiritual level, God has blessed us with the Sabbath, a period of holy time, when He crafts our spiritual identity, redeeming us from the clutches of our carnality and this evil world. In the Deuteronomy rendition of the Ten Commandments, God reminds us that our forebears were slaves in Egypt, just as we too were slaves in bondage to sin. From that time up to the present, God has been working on His called-out ones incessantly, moving them in incremental steps toward the Kingdom. The Feast of Tabernacles reminds us that we are temporary, transitory pilgrims on our journey to a more permanent, glorious state. The Sabbath commandment, which includes the Holy Days, provides a time for meditation on what God has done to redeem us, fashioning us into members of His family. When we thoughtfully tally up all God has done to redeem us, we are compelled to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, responding to His Commandments, reciprocating the love He shown for us. The Sabbath is a time we reflect on our redemption from a previously hopeless state to the prospect of Eternal life as a member of God's family.
Have you ever been around a person whom you just cannot thank enough for all they do? These are the kind of people that are constantly helping you do this or that thing. Whatever it is, they are easing your way through the day. They are making helpful suggestions. They are taking care of whatever problems you may have. They make sure that you have enough food or drink, that you are comfortable. Is it too hot? Let me turn down the thermostat. Are you too cold? We will make sure that we get you some heat or a blanket or whatever it is. Here is a soft cushion.
I will make that reservation for you! Do not you worry about it; I have got everything taken care of. I know just the person to help you with that problem. Let me see if I can get him on the phone. Or I will get your clothes to the cleaner. I have a whole load of things that I need to take to the dry cleaners, so I will just put it in with my stuff and do not worry about paying me! I would love to do it for you, and would you like some homemade chocolate chip cookies?
While such people can be very helpful, they also tend to be really tiring. They are always so busy and engaged in doing all the things that they are trying to help you with. Just watching them do what they do and finding joy in it is just exhausting. But if they are truly helpful and glad to do it, smile on their faces just brimming with helpfulness and service because that is what gives them joy, you just end up saying thank you very much; I appreciate that, great. Thanks again; you are too kind. Thank you. I am grateful for all you do and the same sort of thing a thousand times a day.
My parents know that there was a woman like this in one of the church areas that my dad pastored many years ago. This little story that I am going to tell you is during the time of the receivership of the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1970s and 1980—that time around there. If you recall, if your memory goes back that far or maybe you have forgotten all about it since then, the church’s chief counsel, Stanley R. Rader, wrote a book in 1980 titled Against the Gates of Hell. It was about a conspiracy by several men—I think all of them had once been in the church—who tried to get control of the church's assets out there in Pasadena, California.
They got the state of California involved and the attorney-general said that the World Wide Church of God had to go into receivership so that the books could be checked. There would also be an outside man running the church, somebody that the attorney-general would appoint.
Stanley R. Rader’s book went through all of that including the legal defense of the church during that time because it was a first amendment case since they were trying to constrict our religious practices and our religious freedom. They took it to court, of course. It was also about the church’s reaction. Thousands of people flocked to Pasadena; they did sit-ins and helped church services. There were all kinds of things happening there to show the membership’s support for Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong especially and for God. God's church was not going to be crushed by the State of California.
This was going on at that time. I should mention here, just because I have opened this up to some of you who may not know that it happened, that all the accusations that were leveled against the Worldwide Church of God, against Herbert W. Armstrong himself, against Stanley R. Rader and anybody else, were all proven to be false. There was no basis for these accusations. It was just a strong-arm measure by the state [of California] and by these conspirators to try to steal the church right from under Herbert W. Armstrong and all the rest of us.
It was 1979 or 1980, I am not sure. Stanley R. Rader came through the south on a media blitz; he was going to be interviewed by radio, television, newspapers, and going to various places. He was going to talk about the travesty of justice that was being perpetrated against the Worldwide Church of God in this receivership that was going on.
I was about fourteen years old at the time, so my memory is a little bit vague on some of the particulars. Stanley Rader may have been coming about the same time as the book was released and might have been promoting the book.
Getting back to the very helpful lady from our local congregation…she offered to help Stanley R. Rader while he was there in her city, help him to the various interviews and help him along the way. Did she? She helped him a whole lot. He went up to his interviews. It was a long day of going to this newspaper, that radio station, or what have you. They were hustling to make it one place to another, but this particular lady was always there whenever help was needed.
She was there at every turn, offering her services, helping serve, doing this, doing that, whatever she could do to ease his way and to make things a little better that day. Once it was all over, a very tired Stanley R. Raider confided to my dad, “That lady is exhausting; I found I could not thank her enough!”
I think he was probably truly amazed at how helpful she actually was. She was quite a competent woman and knew her way around her city. She had a lot of contacts and really helped a lot, but realizing how indebted he was to her, for all her helpful activity, was just physically draining to him. I am sure she did not mean it all to be draining to him. She was being helpful, but it was just that kind open mindedness that makes sometimes another person really feel tired and indebted because of not being used to it.
We do not mind being served usually. When we go to a restaurant, it is really nice to be served. We like to be helped when we come across something that we do not know quite how to handle. We like to be made comfortable; that is our carnality saying, “Hey let somebody else do the heavy lifting. I would like this soft chair here and somebody else to give me these things that whatever it is I need.”
Most of us, though, tend to like it a little better when it is done unobstructively, low-key and calmly because otherwise all the hovering makes one feel just a little on edge. We as American people are not used to being served. We have purposely made this nation to be one of self-service. We are going to do it ourselves; we are self-sufficient.
We are not used to being provided for. We are used to going out there and doing it ourselves, so all this kind of hovering service makes us feel uncomfortable. For some people it makes them feel useless. “I could do that for myself, but I have nothing to do because this other person has already done it.” It makes you also feel very obligated to that person; you have to serve him or her in the same way that he or she did serve you, and like I mentioned several times, it can wear you out.
I want to make a contrast here in terms of service and providing for us. Our God does far more each day, each and every hour than the lady who assisted Stanley R. Rader ever did. Most, if not nearly all, of what God does for us is invisible. We never see it. It is unobtrusive. Most of the time, we do not even notice that it is occurring at all. I would have to say a good amount of the time we never notice it at all. It just happens. God provides for us; God gives us something; God clears the way, and we, in our humanity and our limited ability to understand what is actually going on in terms of what He does, just fly right through the day without ever noticing.
God maintains our lives constantly. He upholds our health. He supplies our food and drink. He keeps us in clothing, housing and work. God sustains a hedge of protection around all of us so that we do not get into car accidents, slip and fall down the steps, or what have you, or have others cause us problems. Of course, God maintains a hedge of protection against demons and all of those spirit beings out there who want us to fail. I am sure God does one hundred or a thousand or a million more things that we have no idea He is doing. We probably could not even name even if we tried to list them.
Most of these, which I have mentioned to you, are just physical blessings. I did slip in the one about protecting us from demons, but I have not mentioned all the gifts and the graces that God gives to us on a daily basis. Without these physical blessings that [God] gives to us all the time and in great quantity, there would be no hope of life. We would not be around, we would die if He did not sustain us, did not sustain everybody, did not sustain this planet, and did not sustain everything that is going on. There would be no hope of life for anyone.
One of God’s greatest blessings is one that occurs weekly. I am speaking about the weekly Sabbath. It is a time He gives us to rest, to reflect, to recharge and to re-engage in true spiritual worship and also in fellowship with Him and those He has called to the same path.
We saw on Thursday how the Sabbath links to creation. We went to Exodus chapter twenty and saw the link there. We went back to Genesis chapter two and saw the link there, but I want do not want to dwell on creation this time.
Today we are going to look at a second link between the Sabbath and something else, which is redemption and all that it entails. It covers a great deal of ground. The way God puts it in Deuteronomy chapter five; the redemption means all of what He provides…everything. Because without what God provides, there would be no redemption. In the last sermon, we looked at the Sabbath command in Exodus chapter 20, as I mentioned, where the reason for keeping the Sabbath revolved around God's example on the seventh day of creation. Remember at the end of the sixth day God pronounced the physical creation to be very good. When God was done with His physical creation, He rested on the seventh day and was refreshed.
Although God never stops creating, His resting indicates that His creative energies refocused. He stopped doing what He had been doing and was going now to rest. His rest was what He was going to do from then on. We understand that His rest is something a little bit different from our rest because God never gets tired. He never grows weary. When God says He rested, it gives us an idea that He was on to something else, some other creative activity.
The way I explained it last Thursday is that God refocused His energy on His spiritual creation. We could say that He stopped creating man in his physical image and began to create him in his spiritual image. God began a new creation. He began the process of making us all into new men and women. God wants to make us like Jesus Christ and therefore that part of His creative process began on the Sabbath. I will just remind you about Psalm 74:12 which says:
Psalm 74:12 For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
That is God’s job. That is what He is doing; He is doing the work of God—getting us to believe in the One He has sent.
Let us begin to focus on this idea of redemption in the Sabbath. Deuteronomy, chapter 5 is the review of the Ten Commandments that Moses gave the children of Israel before they entered into the land. So Moses spells out what God told him. In this telling of the Ten Commandments Moses, this time, changes a few things along the line. One of the most significant changes is here in the Sabbath command. Let us read this and if you want, you can flip back and forth between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 to see the difference. I will just read it as it is here:
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ‘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 the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you [and here comes the big change.] And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
In this second telling of the giving of the [Ten] Commandments, the Sabbath command is markedly different, especially on the last third. Just like in Exodus 20, the commandment here is in three parts. The first two parts are essentially the same but the third part is changed quite dramatically.
The first part, in both, is the commandment to observe the day and keep it holy. The only difference is in Exodus chapter twenty: It says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” while here it says, “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, which is pretty much the same.
The second part of this commandment lists, in both versions, those who are not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath day: from ourselves, our spouses, our children, all of our animals and any servants that we may have under our roof. God covers all that in the second part.
The third part of this commandment, in Deuteronomy chapter five, is no longer a command to keep it because God rested on the seventh day of creation, but this time we are to keep it because we were once slaves, yet God redeemed His people and brought them out mightily.
God put a lot of work, effort, and power into taking His people out of slavery and giving them freedom and all that they were able to do once they were out of Egypt, including all the things that God was leading them toward.
I think it is very obvious that this does not negate what God said back in Exodus chapter twenty. God did not decide after forty years, “Oh that other reason was not really good. I think I will give them a better reason and changed it here.” No! This is an additional reason, one that is parallel with the one about creation.
Deuteronomy chapter five adds another reason to keep the Sabbath. It is actually a more personal one. The creation is big. There is a big universe out there, big planet, lots of animals, and lots of things that God did; and of course, there is mankind that He created. This one, however, hits home because it is talking mostly about God's work on his people’s behalf specifically.
We understand what God did for Israel, from our yearly rehearsal of the story of the Exodus that we do before Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Every year we go over the same scriptures and talk about all the things that God did. I am going to give you a little summary of what God did just to give you an idea of how much work He did, how much effort He put out, how much power He used, and how many things He did in order to bring His people out of bondage.
I have a list here of about nine things that cover a lot of ground. I could have listed many, many more, but I did put this list in a general chronological order.
God, many years before, had Moses born and sent in a little arc down the Nile River to land at the feet of the daughter of Pharaoh who took him into her house. She brought him up, educated him, and gave him very top government work to do. Moses became a General who did all sorts of things. God worked with Moses to help him understand that His people were enslaved.
Moses made a few mistakes along the way and finally was exiled from Egypt. God continued to work with Moses for forty years out in the wilderness until he was eighty years old. Then God called him to the Burning Bush and gave him his marching orders before sending him back to Egypt.
The subject of most of what I just said was about God or Moses. God did all of that: bringing Moses to the point where he could return to Egypt and contend with Pharaoh for the Israelites’ release. God called and prepared His prophet Moses, the leader of Israel.
Soon after Moses was ready, God sent plagues upon Egypt to bring the country to its knees. The first nine plagues that God sent destroyed the Egyptian economy. It disheartened and demoralized its people. It was also wearing on the pharaoh, but God would keep hardening his heart. It went on and on as Pharaoh’s people would have to suffer more until finally it reached to the tenth plague: the plague of the first born.
God sent this most destructive plague upon Egypt as the final straw that broke the camel's back, killing all of the first born of Egypt, not just of men, but of animals as well. Finally, Pharaoh relented and commanded Israel to leave Egypt. “Get out of here! You are just causing too many problems. What kind of nation do I have left?”
Next, God caused the Egyptians to pay the children of Israel their wages. We call it the spoiling of the Egyptians, but they took out of Egypt gold, silver, precious gems and all kinds of wealth, thus further destroying Egypt's economy and its people's wealth.
And out the Children of Israel went into the desert. God then led them to the Red Sea and put them in a position where they had to either fight or trust Him. Their backs were against the sea; Pharaoh's chariots were coming from the west, and they were hemmed in by mountains. They could not go one way or the other. It was either back through the Egyptian army or into the sea.
God then opened the Red Sea; the children of Israel hustled across and as soon as the Egyptians were in the midst of the sea, God sent those waters back crashing. Not only was Egypt's economy destroyed, but now their military as well. All done by God.
A little down the road, the children of Israel’s rearguard was attacked by the Amalekites, but God gave them victory over them. God led them to Sinai, where He gave them His law and His Covenant. God gave the children of Israel manna from heaven. God gave them water from the rock. He covered them with a cloud by day and watched over them with a pillar of fire by night.
God healed them of snake bites, fed them with quails, provided them with skilled leaders, not only in their tribes, but by raising up men that He had chosen and gifted to construct the Tabernacle. God gave them various military victories and finally brought them to the Promised Land, opening up the river Jordan for them to cross over, once again on dry land.
We could go further and talk about what God did as the children of Israel were entering the land. God was doing all these things all along every step of the way. He was clearing out the enemies, He was providing for them. God was making their way as easy as possible through a great wilderness like Sinai. And time and time again, He was the One Who would stand in the gap as it were and give them the things that they really needed as they were moving forward.
For more than forty years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, God helped the children of Israel and provided for them. All of these things that I have been talking about over the last few minutes played a part in their redemption from Egypt. It was not just the fact that God caused what happened there on Passover and out they came. But it was far more than that, because their redemption was not truly accomplished until they entered Canaan.
It was a package of things. It was not only release from their Egyptian slavery, it was also their journey to the Promised Land and their entering the Promised Land because they were not really fully free as a nation on their own until they were in their own land; until the promises had been received. This is what God says in Deuteronomy 5:15 that He wanted them to remember.
Deuteronomy 5:15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
All of God's works on their behalf were a fitting subject for the Sabbath day. He wanted them to remember, on the Sabbath day, all the things that He had done for them. You could say this was their text or work order, if you will, for the Sabbath day. The children of Israel were to remember God's mighty acts on their behalf.
Let us go back Leviticus 23 and look at the Feast of Tabernacles’ command because we have a little bit of a tie in here as well. We only read verse thirty-nine on Thursday, so we will finish up the command here:
Leviticus 23:39-43 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’”
We have here a tie in or a bit of a link between the Sabbath day and the Feast of Tabernacles. Our living in temporary housing throughout the Feast of Tabernacles is a reminder that God brought Israel out of Egypt to dwell in the wilderness in booths, in tents.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, we are also supposed to be reminded about what God did in this scenario of redeeming them from Egypt. We look at the booths, the temporary dwellings that we are supposed to live in during the Feast of Tabernacles as a symbol of our temporary state in this world.
God is moving us through this world, just like He moved the Israelites through the wilderness and brought them into the Promised Land. Our promised land, of course, is the Kingdom of God, and we are here as transitory people moving through this world, learning what we can, and overcoming the tests that Satan throws at us or whoever is throwing these things at us as we are moving steadily forward toward the Kingdom of God.
It is also a symbol of God's ability to provide for us, even under the worst of certain circumstances, or the most difficult and unusual ones. God is able to give us what we need in whatever the situation is. The Israelites asked the question,
Psalm 78:19 [Yes, they spoke against God: They said], “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
They are always worried about their bellies. Can God give us what we need out here in this howling wilderness? Of course He can. He provided for them very amply over forty years, giving them the manna the water, the quails, and whatever else He may have supplied along the way.
God did not allow their shoes or their clothes to wear out. He just gave them whatever they needed to get them to the Promised Land. From that example, we can understand that we do not need to be concerned about having the so-called permanent things that we want: the big house, the nice car, and all the material things that most people want in this life. We do not need to be concerned about that because God provides for us exactly what we need. We may turn our backs on Him if we got that nice house or this nice car because our heart would be shown as wanting that and not God.
God makes us go through this transitory state in this life so that we can learn to depend on Him. He will provide what we need right now; but more importantly, God is giving us what we need for eternity. God has all the boxes checked. He is done and has covered all the bases. God has given us every gift that we need. If we think that we need more, we probably should check our attitude.
When it really comes down to it, we find that we owe God everything. There is nothing that we have that we have not been given. Paul says that in one of the letters to the Corinthians. We are on the receiving end of blessing after blessing, gift after gift, and help after help. God’s providence is never ending, and this is what He wants us to think about on the Sabbath day.
What is this remembrance of God's redemption and all the things that He has provided to do that? What kind of reaction is this supposed to illicit from us? Let us go back to Deuteronomy chapter eight. I find this particular chapter to be a very important one to be thinking about. As we just saw the links between the Sabbath and the Feast of Tabernacles, it is a very good time to go over this particular chapter.
All of the things that God is given us, all of the providence that is helping us move toward our ultimate redemption, have been given freely to us and require from us to respond in an appropriate way; so let us read this chapter with that in mind:
Deuteronomy 8:1-5 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.
How much detail God puts into His providence for these people? He did not even let their feet swell.
Deuteronomy 8:1-6 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. [This is part of His providence as well.] “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. [That is a very important scripture: Remember that.] For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
What God is telling them here is, I provided you all these things during the wilderness, and you are going to cross into the land, and I am going to provide you even more. It is going to be so bountiful, you will hardly have to dig into the ground to find all these medals that you need for your industry. You can pluck off fruit of the vine or off these trees. It is going to be there in abundance.
Deuteronomy 8:10-19 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget [That is the opposite of remember.] the Lord your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; Who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He Who gives you power to get wealth that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget [Here is that word again as opposed to remember.] the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God.
What kind of response to all of God's providence in terms of His redemption is supposed to elicit from us? The first thing should be to have great gratitude for God, for all His works on our behalf and all the blessings that He has bestowed upon us. We should understand that all these blessings have made our current state and condition possible. We are immensely thankful and appreciative of what God has done to bring us to this point and to the knowledge that we have, to the appreciation of Him that we may have, thanking Him for being able to be thankful.
We recognize that these things have been revealed to us as coming from God. I am not talking about the Israelites here but about our own situation. We understand that everything God has ever done for us He made it happen.
Bringing us to Himself, causing us to be called and drawn near to Him, to be given the understanding that we have by opening up our minds. Giving us grace that we did not deserve by any means, forgiving our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ His own son, raising us to a new life out of the waters of baptism, bestowing upon us His very own spirit so that we have a conduit, not only to do right, but to have a relationship with Him, and finally leading us through trials: little ones, easy ones, bigger.
Normally we do not think of thanking God for those horrible trials, but we should because God was, as He says here, trying to find out what was in our hearts so that He could move the process along. That is why we have trials. God tests us every once in a while. Are you in 3rd or 4th grade? I am going to give you a little harder test to find out whether you can “do the math” to make it through this trial and go on to 4th grade.
Among many other things that God has given us, He gave us the hope of eternal life through the resurrection of the dead, so that we have something to look forward to. We are moving toward a real goal. It is not some fairy tale. It is not something that some old man, thousands of years ago, wrote down on cowhide or goat hide and has become somehow scripture.
This is something that God Himself has inspired those men to write down and has come down to us as truth, as a real hope guaranteed by the resurrection of His very Son. Because Jesus Christ rose, if we believe in Him, we will also rise and inherit what He inherited: all things.
We can thank God daily for all these blessings and many, many more that I have just talked about. We should be thanking Him for as many of those things, as many as we can remember, as many as are current in our thoughts and appropriate to our situation. The most important thing we can do, when we think about these acts of God that He has done for us, is to focus our attention on God Himself and not on the things that He has done for us or the things that we have because of it. Our gratitude for the gifts focuses our attention on the Giver and that is the most important thing.
When we keep the Sabbath day, God says that our minds need to be remembering His good works and all the things that He has done for us so that on that day, we focus on Him and all that He has done. Focusing on our redemption, from our former state, magnifies God and His role in our lives. We should come to realize, “Wow, Look at all God did! I was a scumbag; I was terrible; I was not worth anything; I should have been put in jail; I should have been executed; I should have not been able to have any of these things and now I am a Son of God.” How did that happen? Only by the grace of God and all His gifts, all His works, and all of His providence have we come to this point now. God and His works in our behalf is the overwhelming factor in where we are today.
Deuteronomy chapter eight is what God wanted the children of Israel to continue to remember: How much God had done to keep them close to Him, to keep them focused on why they were even there in the Promised Land. ONLY because of God.
Because of our overwhelming sense of gratitude for what God has done for us, this grateful Sabbath focus, that we are supposed to have, leads us to the actions found in verse six. Remember that I said it was an important verse, so let us read that again. Therefore, after God talked about all the things that he had given them, here comes God’s conclusion:
Deuteronomy 8:6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
The Sabbath focuses on God and His works. It leads us to gratitude and to make a decision, a choice, about what we are going to do about keeping the Sabbath. What God wants us to do is threefold: 1) Keep the commandments 2) walk in His ways and, 3) fear God. There is obviously overlap among those. God says these are the three things that it leads us to, if we truly have this focus on God and what He has done for us in bringing us to this path.
We owe everything to God and beyond our gratitude our true response to Him should be to do what He says. My life should follow the course that He has laid out. I need to reverence God with all I am worth, to fear Him in terms of reverence and also to fear Him so that we do not disappoint Him.
It makes us acknowledge this remembrance. This focuses on being grateful for God and for His works. It makes us acknowledge that we only have what we have; we only are what we are; we only will be what we will because of Who our God is and what He has done and what He will continue to do for us.
With this acknowledgement comes the realization that we have to put our all into the relationship. We do not want to lose this. If we are smart, this is how we are thinking. “God has done so much for me. I have all of this; all this is promised, and if I forget any of these things that He has done for me; if I let myself wander, I am not going to receive what He has promised.”
The very next step in our thinking has to be, “I have to keep God’s commandments. I have to walk in His ways. I must fear Him and fear disappointing Him.” This should be our only logical spiritual response. It is the only thing that makes any sense. God does make sense; we thank Him; we follow Him; we obey Him; we fear Him. This is the only way it is going to work. Let us go back a couple of chapters in Deuteronomy chapter four:
Deuteronomy 4:32-40 “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. Out of heaven He let you hear His voice that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire. And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day. Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
This is the conclusion that we have to reach by remembering that we were once enslaved to this world, enslaved under Satan the devil, and that by God's hand alone, we were redeemed and brought into the freedom of His way of life. He bought us with His Son's own blood. He kept us alive and thriving. He has brought us to the point where we can see His Kingdom just over the horizon. Just as they were on the banks of the Jordan River and could look across the water and see the glorious land that He had given them. Our only rational response is to do what God says, to live as He has instructed and reverence Him as our God and King.
If this response does not seem rational to us, we are, like the children of Israel proved themselves to be, still carnal. We are thinking like man. It is telling us that we have not given ourselves over to Him fully or enough.
Let us look at this from a New Testament perspective. I would like you to see bits and pieces of Paul's argument as he leads to the same conclusion. This is however from a New Testament, New Covenant, and Christian point of view rather than from the way it was to the Israelites. I would like you to get the gist of what Paul is telling us here.
Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Romans 6:15-23 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us skip Romans chapter seven and go to chapter eight:
Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out “Abba Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Romans 8:29-39 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things. Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ Who died, and furthermore is also risen, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Finally, Romans 12:1, after going through all of that and more, Paul says:
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you [I beg you, I implore you.] therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable [logical] service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
I tried to hit the high points that lead to this clear conclusion in Romans 12:1-2. Because of what God has done so abundantly, our only reasonable or rational service, our only logical response, is to give ourselves fully to Him. That is the only thing that we can do; not only give ourselves to him, but be willing to do whatever He asks of us.
A lot of people say: “I gave my heart to the Lord”, but do they do what He asks of them? Do they keep the Sabbath? My major point is being here, about keeping the Sabbath and how we keep it. They are not willing to do what He has asked them to do, but they are so sure that they have given their hearts to the Lord!
I guess that is all they have given; they have not given their head, arms and legs, or the rest of their torso that would lead them to Sabbath services. None of those things. All they have done is given this kind of mystical, ephemeral, whatever heart that they have to the Lord. But nothing else, since all the rest of it is theirs, and they are going to do what they want.
This is what our study, our prayer, our meditation on the Sabbath day is supposed to produce: a weekly rededication to God and His way. Every Sabbath, if we truly remember the Sabbath day in the proper way and remember that God as our Creator has redeemed us from this world, our response will not only be to keep the Sabbath better, but to truly give ourselves to God because we remember how much we owe Him.
Every Sabbath, we need to think about where we were before God intervened in our lives; when He initiated contact with us and compare then-us with now-us, the difference is Him. It always leads back to God. The difference between the way we are now and the way we were then is God.
All that we now have, all the growth that we have done is a result of God's grace, of God's providence, of His works in our lives, of the things that He has done to make us the people we are now. If we are thinking and judging by His spirit, we will be truly, literally, and eternally grateful. We will pledge with deepening conviction to grow further in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is what we are supposed to be doing on the Sabbath day, remembering His works. Remembering what we were as compared to the way we are now; being grateful and very thankful for what He has done while refocusing and rededicating our lives to Him and to His way.
Let me give you an example of something that could be done on the Sabbath. Psalm 103 could make a very good template for you to go over on the Sabbath day and remember just like God wants us to remember on His holy day. This Psalm is chocking full of God’s works, of His blessings and His benefits that He has given to us. We can review this and see how it applies to ourselves and come to the conclusion: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
Psalm 103:1-22 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him, as far as the east I from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him, For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them. The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless the Lord, you His angels, Who excel in strength, Who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
I do not know how many parts or aspects of God’s providence are in this chapter. I did not count them all; I probably should have. I tried to mark them in the margins of my Bible and around Psalm 103 it is quite well marked. He gives us a listing of what God has done: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, food, health, long life, and justice, God’s way in his law, his revelation, grace, forbearance, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, understanding and faithfulness.
It is hard to read my small writing even with my glasses on, but I think it says His sovereignty and there are many more. This makes a good template that we can open up on the Sabbath day so we can consider what He has done for us.
We can consider His providence toward us. He provides everything, all these benefits and blessings, many of them daily. He provides others at low points in our lives or high points in our lives, depending on what the circumstance is, but it is always at the right time that God provides what we need.
David lists those physical blessings and spiritually blessings, past blessings, future blessings. He talks about God's attributes, His constant character and holiness that we can learn from to produce righteousness. He even mentions that He strives with us and He is angry with us; and normally we do not consider these things to be very good things. He also tells us that His anger and striving with us are mercifully brief, that He cares for us and knows that we are dust.
Did you notice David's blatant hints about who receives these benefits and blessings? He mentions “those who fear” Him three times in this fairly short Psalm of twenty-two verses. He also mentions “those who keep His commandments” and “those who keep His Covenant and do His word.” Is not that something? Is not that the same thing that Moses said back there in Deuteronomy 8:6? From dwelling upon the providence of God and His redemption of us from where we were, should not our response be to keep his commandments, live his way, and fear him?
Two righteous men, some of the greatest Saints that have ever been on the face of the earth, came to the same conclusion. When we think about all that God has done for us, especially on the Sabbath, it leads to commandment keeping, walking the Christian walk and fearing God. I think they were on the same page, do not you? Would not you like to be on the same page with them? Are not both of them mentioned as heroes of faith? Are not they going to be in the kingdom of God? Do not you want to be the same place as they will be in the resurrection? The response and conclusion about being thankful for God's blessings and benefits is always the same. Our gratitude for God's works in our behalf should lead to commandment keeping, walking in his ways, and fearing him. That is just the way it is supposed to go. Let us conclude in Psalm 111. I am just going to read this song without much commentary.
Psalm 111:1-10 Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the Lord are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity [truth] and justice; all his precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
This is the God we serve: A God Who cares for us, Who provides for us, Who has redeemed us from the confusion and destruction of this world to inherit eternal life in His kingdom. How awesome is that? That is reason enough to remember His Sabbath day to keep it holy.