September 7, Thursday

The AMI QT Devotionals from September 4-10 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 21 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 2:1-3(NIV)

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 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.

The biblical understanding of the Sabbath rest comes primarily from the account of the creation. For six days, God created the universe, and after its completion He rested on the seventh day. But consider this: God—who never tires, gets burnt out, or has need of sleep—decided to take a break. Many of us could only dream of having that kind of energy. If we were God, we would have worked that seventh day and made creation even better. But this is the motivation of God behind His decision to rest: He rested because He saw that everything He had done was very good. The reason why the majority of people are tired is not because of the physical work they do but because of the perpetual restlessness of their souls. They can’t look at anything in their life and say for even a moment, “That is good.” We never allow our souls to come to rest because there is no sense of contentment in what God has done in our lives. We constantly find ourselves striving to prove that we are good enough, smart enough, or capable enough.

Most Christians today think about the Sabbath rest as an archaic, obsolete regulation that is out of touch with our hectic and competitive work environments. I would say to you that the Sabbath was designed exactly for this. For a short moment in the week, we can allow God to remind us that our lives belong securely in His hands, that we are not the authors of our own success, and we can rest from that unreachable goal. The problem is compounded by the fact that we often view church not as a place of rest but just another place to strive. We do this by reducing the Sabbath to another obligation that we need to fulfill in order to prove that we are good Christians. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of; and to them and to us, Jesus reminds us that “man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man”—meaning, God requires the Sabbath not for His benefit but for our own.

One of the great benefits for those of us who are committed to the Sabbath rest is the flourishing of our relationships. When you rest from the daily grind of making a living, getting ahead in this world, and trying to prove your worth, you can focus on the more important things of life—such as your relationship with God and people. This was the heart cry of the early church. Although, it is not written in the book of Acts explicitly, it would seem that many people in this church took time off from work in order to meet day by day, to break bread, to pray, and learn from the apostles. All Christian fellowship is dependent on cycles of rest because you cannot establish deep relationships if you are otherwise consumed by your work and your ambitions. Our God desires this balance in each of our lives and He set the example from the very beginning.

Prayer: Father, You know what is best for us. We acknowledge the temptation to forsake the Sabbath and to live out of our own personal ambition. Help us to take seriously Your command to rest from all of our striving and to trust in Your abundant provision. Teach us how to rest and to take upon us the yoke of Christ that is light and easy. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 28


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 11:28-12:8 (NIV): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What was Jesus’ main dispute with the Pharisees in regard to the Sabbath rest?
  2. What reason does Jesus give for rejecting these traditions?
  3. How is Jesus the “Lord of the Sabbath”?

Notes

  1. The Pharisees had completely forgotten the main purpose of the Sabbath, which was to provide rest for man. Instead, they heaped on all sorts regulations and traditions that made the keeping of the Sabbath a burden rather than a blessing. Due to the proliferation of these man-made rules, people lived in constant fear of breaking the many restrictions surrounding the proper observance of the day. Jesus took offense at this misuse of religious authority by the Pharisees.
  2. Jesus goes to the Scriptures to prove that His disciples did nothing to break the Sabbath. First, Jesus refers to an account in the Old Testament where David, as the king of Israel, is allowed to bend the rules of the Sabbath. In an indirect manner, Jesus is indicating that the true King of Israel has arrived. Second, He refers to the priests who technically had to “work” in order to prepare things for the proper observance of the Sabbath. Through this, Jesus revealed that a legalistic view on the Sabbath could not be biblically supported.
  3. It should be noted that this conflict with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath comes right after Jesus’ famous statement that His yoke is light and easy. The religion of man leads to more burdens and heaviness while Jesus promises us a faith that leads to rest. Ultimately, we find our true Sabbath rest in Christ.

Evening Reflection

As you prepare to end the day, have you considered the appropriate cycles of work and rest in your life? Are you feeling burnt out or dry spiritually? Perhaps, you haven’t allowed your mind, heart, and soul to rest in the Lord. Make a commitment to observe the Sabbath this weekend and allow the Lord to free you of your burdens.

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