NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Joel Park, a staff at Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, who oversees its administration. A graduate of New York University (BA) and Fordham Law School (J.D.), he is currently pursuing a M.Div. degree at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Nehemiah 13:15-18 (ESV)
In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food.  Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself!  Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?  Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
I recently felt a strong desire to watch some classic 90s action movies. Plenty of movies come to mind, but after having seen some videos of Tom Cruise’s stunt work I knew I had to watch the first Mission Impossible. While it certainly isn’t as revolutionary as The Matrix, as gritty as Heat, or as funny as Rush Hour, it scratched the itch. After all, the idea of a super elite team of spies taking on impossible missions was strong enough to support five sequels! There’s something about striving for and achieving the impossible that strikes a chord.
Well, hacking the CIA definitely sets a high bar for what is “impossible”; but these days honoring the Sabbath can certainly approach that level of impossibility. As we work from home, work odd hours, or look for work, the idea of resting from our occupations, while nice, is a practical nightmare. Video conferencing and virtual messaging have provided easy pathways for work to flood into our lives at all times of the day and night. Work from home is simply work all the time. And if you’re unemployed during this season, then that pressure to find work is magnified all the more. How do we rest and obey God’s command in a moment like this?
Thankfully, this passage in the last chapter of Nehemiah addresses the Israelites struggle to fully understand the importance of the Sabbath commandment. Nehemiah points out two violations: treading and selling of wine, and the gathering and selling of groceries. Now the Bible is very clear on the holiness of the Sabbath—after all, it is the third commandment (Ex. 20:8-11). But for some reason, the Israelites historically disobeyed this command constantly. And the source of their disobedience? A fundamental misunderstanding of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath isn’t just about rest. We see in Ezekiel 20:12 that the Sabbath is also a sign. A sign? Yes, a sign that God is the one who sanctifies. You see, the Israelites were meant to observe the holy Sabbath day as a lifestyle declaration that God is the one who makes things holy. Because the Israelites are God’s holy and chosen people, they were meant to live it out by spending 1/7 of their life dedicated to observing the Sabbath as a faith statement. So when Nehemiah sees the people disobeying the Sabbath, he knows it’s not about rest, but about their hearts. That’s the reason why he goes to the nobles because it’s their greed and security in money that hinder the people from faith and obedience.
So like Ethan Hunt, for whom failure is not an option, Sabbath for us is not optional. We must conform our weekly activities as a declaration of faith and obedience to the God who makes us holy. We cannot let the Sabbath slide because of our circumstances.
Prayer: Father, I submit my work to You and declare that You are Lord over my work week. My identity as Your child matters more than my identity as an employee or job seeker. God, I ask that You meet me in my time of rest and remind me of Your love. Fill me up and renew me. Amen.
Lunch Break Study
Read: Luke 6:1-4 (ESV): On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.  But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”  And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:  how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?”  And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Questions to Consider
- Jesus and the Pharisees obviously have different views on work and Sabbath. What are their views and how did the Pharisees get it so wrong?
- What is the example of David supposed to imply about the application of the law and its impact to Sabbath rest?
- If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, how do we rest and observe the Sabbath to reflect Jesus’ lordship?
- Sabbath law grew immensely during the intertestamental period. Several documents found dating back to the first and second century, show a rapid expansion of prohibited acts.
- Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath are actually quite extensive, with this exact story also appearing in Mark 2 and Matthew 12. It is worth reading those versions to have a full picture of this teaching.
- Personal response.
In view of the theme of Sabbath shared in the morning, we often forget the significance of Sabbath and wind up overlooking the primary purpose God had in mind in the first place: taking sufficient time to rest and relax; finding relief from the stress; pushing away from our computers; leaving the responsibilities of work; giving our bodies time to refuel; allowing our minds to be renewed; and letting our emotions be refreshed and restored.
Do you deliberately and regularly take time each week to rest?
When you’re taking time to relax, do you mentally release yourself from your responsibilities?
*Prepared by Pastor Bruce Yi, Lead Pastor of Remnant Westside Church