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Sabbath Principle 1. Why do we need a Sabbath rest?

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Sunday, June 1, 2008 – Communion Sunday

Why do we need a Sabbath-rest?

Exodus 16:1-36; Exodus 20:7-12; Deuteronomy 5:11-16

28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep My commands and My instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day He gives you bread for two days.            Exodus 16:28-29 NIV


This morning I begin a 5 part series on the topic of the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” If ever there was a time to apply the principle of the Sabbath to our lives personally and corporately, it is now.

As an introduction to the subject of the Sabbath, we are looking at Exodus chapter 16 where the word Sabbath is first mentioned in the Bible. The concept of the seventh day as a day of rest goes back to creation. So, just because this is the first mention of the word Sabbath does not mean it is a new idea.

God called Abraham to leave his home and follow Him to an unknown place that would become his new home and a place where he would be the father of a new nation.

Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

That nation would become known as Israel. To Abraham was born Isaac. To Isaac was born Jacob. To Jacob was born Joseph. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and eventually became second in command in Egypt.

In this position, Joseph was able to bring his family to Egypt to survive during a great famine. But, as Joseph’s family grew, Pharaoh became threatened by them.

Exodus 1:6-14 (NIV)

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”


11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

Eventually, God provided Moses to lead His people out of Egypt to the land that would be theirs; the Promised Land. The Pharaoh at that time did not like the idea of letting God’s people go. But, after 10 plagues of persuasion, he finally relented. The final plague was the death angel. To counter the effects of the death angel, God provided the festival of Passover. It was the redeeming act that set the Israelis free from the oppression of Egypt.

One of the most spectacular miracles of God came when the Israelis came to, what looked like a dead end, the Red Sea. But, God opened up the Sea so the entire nation could walk across on dry land.

When we come to the story in Exodus 16, Israel had been out of Egypt for about 45 days, time enough to have forgotten how awful the conditions had been for them in Egypt. Well, actually, it only took 3 days after crossing the Red Sea for them to start complaining for lack of water to drink. And God provided.

I found it interesting that last week’s sermon text in John 12 led us to look at Numbers 21 regarding the origins of the phrase, “the Son of Man must be lifted up” and in that text we see God’s response to the Israelis complaining was to send them snakes that bit them. Then, God provided a means of healing through faith by requiring them to look toward the bronze snake lifted up on a pole.

In our text today in Exodus 16, we will see another response of God to the grumbling of the Israelis.

At the end of Exodus 15, we see Israel camped by the springs of Elim for several weeks, lingering under the palm trees and taking long drinks of cool water. Then it was time to move on. God was going to give them more opportunities to trust Him. Those opportunities would be tests of their faith.

Exodus 16:1-2 (NIV)

1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.

2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Grumbling was second nature for Israel. They complained when it appeared that Moses was failing to get Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt. They grumbled when facing the Red Sea, accusing Moses of intentionally bringing them out of Egypt to die in the desert. When they got thirsty, they grumbled. In fact, they grumbled most of the forty years they wandered in the wilderness. Now they were grumbling about their meal plan.

Folks, we need to pay close attention to what this text is telling us. Grumbling is not a testimony of trust in God. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Philip Ryken says this about grumbling. “Our complaints really are never caused by our outward circumstances. Instead they reveal the inward condition of our hearts. The Scripture says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Phil. 4:4). Our joy in the Lord should not be circumstantial but fundamental.”

So, did the Israelis really have something to complain about? They said they were starving. But that wasn’t true. They still had livestock and herds that they had brought of our Egypt.

No. So characteristic of complainers is that they exaggerate. “Remember the good old days? Remember how stuffed we used to get? Remember when we used to belly up to Pharaoh’s buffet.” Yah, get real.

What’s terribly sad here is how their exaggeration goes to blatant lying. Here they accused Moses and Aaron of intentionally bringing them out into the wilderness so they would die of starvation. These men were dedicated men of God and their motives were being impugned by whiners and complainers.

When you are tempted to grumble and complain, give it up. Count your blessings. Renew your commitment and relationship with Jesus Christ. Let Him transform your complaining spirit to that of a joyfully grateful heart.

You see, ultimately, our complaining is against God. He hears it like He hears our prayers, only, instead of approaching Him as His servant, we approach Him as though we are His boss and He is our servant. A complaining spirit always indicates a problem in our relationship with God.

I am amazed how generous with grace God is towards them. Four times our text says that God heard their grumbling. In verses 7, 8, 9 and 12. He not only heard them, He responded with generosity towards them.

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

God made good on His promise. He provided food that very night, and then again the following morning.

13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

Let’s not miss that there are two miracles here: The provision of the quail and the provision of the bread of the Lord.

These miracles were not just to satisfy the complaints, but to show His glory. God’s objective was to convert the hearts of His people to fully trust in Him, to fully obey Him.

Back up to verse 6f.

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when He gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because He has heard your grumbling against Him.

God gave His people bread to show them that He was Lord. It does seem like they needed multiple demonstrations of this truth, however. But so generously gracious is God that He gives them multiple demonstrations of His glory that verifies that He is Lord.

10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

That cloud was God’s presence among them. He was assuring them that He would take care of them with adequate instructions through His servants Moses and Aaron and through His provision of generous helpings of food each day.

God’s involvement with His people is instructive and nurturing. In other words, He tells us what to do and as we obey, our lives are transformed from the inside out.

God is far more interested in our obedience than in our talent. He is far more interested in our surrender than in our strength. Our worship theme states it this way: God desires loyalty, not sacrifice!

Hosea 6:6-7 (NIV) 6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 Like Adam, they have broken the covenant— they were unfaithful to Me there.

I have posted on the wall in my office the words to the hymn, The Strength of the Lord.

It's not in trying, but in trusting,

It's not in running, but in resting,

It's not in wondering, but in praying,

That we find the strength of the Lord.

That’s the objective God has for us, that we would trust Him, that we would rest in Him, that we would bring our requests to Him and then obey His instructions. That is the spirit He is cultivating in our hearts, not the spirit of complaining and grumbling.

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions.

The instructions were simple enough, yet, some had trouble following them.

16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ”

17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.


19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Their disobedience demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s promise.

A large part of what’s going on in Exodus 16 is God working to get Egypt out of His people. He succeeded in getting them out of Egypt, but it was quite a different thing to get Egypt out of their hearts.

One of the most significant changes God brought to His people He had taken out of Egypt was to give them a day of rest. Unlike Pharaoh, who made the Israelis work all the time, God gave them one day of rest in seven. He graciously provided the gift of the Sabbath.

It’s interesting to see how God combines the gift of the Sabbath with His gift of manna.

21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 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. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of 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.’ ”


24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”

Let’s jump ahead to the last verse of this chapter, verse 36. Here is what is nearly equivalent to an ephah. (show bucket) 36 (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)

Now, did you notice yet another miracle in God’s provision of manna, particularly on the sixth day? Ordinarily, manna did not keep for an extra day. But, that which was collected on the sixth day would last an extra day so there would be food to eat on the seventh day, the Sabbath. It’s the same manna, but, because God was showing His glory in His provision and in His instructions, the manna collected on the sixth day would last for an extra day. That’s a miracle.

It should also be noted that these instructions about the Sabbath are given before God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.

Here is how the fourth commandment reads:

Exodus 20:8–11

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor 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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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.

So, could it be that the command to “remember” the Sabbath day is a link back to Exodus 16 when God prescribed it in the context of providing manna for the people? That makes sense.

So, for those who would suggest that the fourth commandment has been done away with because Christ fulfilled the Law, one good reason to be cautious about dismissing the fourth commandment is that its principle predates the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.

Did you realize that keeping the Sabbath is one of the things that distinguishes us from every other creature? We alone are able to imitate our Creator by following His pattern of work and rest. Furthermore, as a command that is rooted in the creation of the world, it is a command intended for the whole world to obey, for all people are made in God’s image. And God Himself rested on the seventh day.

As a gift from God to His people, He was establishing a new rhythm to their weekly schedule. Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh you shall rest. This is a gift from God.

But not all gifts from God as seen are gifts in our eyes. The Sabbath principle is one such gift. We will talk about this more in the weeks to come.

27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep My commands and My instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day He gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Just a side note: Did you notice the position Moses is in? He takes the heat from the people and he gets rebuked by God for the disobedience of the people.

God had saved a people for His glory, but they were unwilling to serve Him even one whole day out of seven. But God also lamented the damage His people were doing to themselves. He knew that keeping His commands brings life. In this case, keeping the Sabbath would bring spiritual life. So God said, “Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day He gives you bread for two days” (Exod. 16:29a). God was reminding His people that the seventh day was for their benefit. He had given them the Sabbath. The Biblical view of the Sabbath starts with the recognition that it is a gift from God.

31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ”


33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept. 35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.

Resting on the Sabbath distinguished Israel from Egypt. The Israelites immediately would have seen that rest was one of the major differences between serving God and serving Pharaoh. Certainly the God of Israel recognized the importance of work. He is a working God who calls His people to work, but not all day and not all the time. So God gave His servants a Sabbath.

The Sabbath was a day to remember. Each week, as God’s people enjoyed their rest, they recalled God’s mighty work in salvation and His majestic work in creation.

It is so appropriate that we underscore this sermon with the celebration of the Lord’s Table. For what the Sabbath and Communion share in common is the commemoration of our redemption. The Sabbath commemorates God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, commemorates our redemption by Jesus Christ going to the cross to die for our sins.

Table talk questions:

Does God have the right to define how we get our rest?


Had the Israelites not grumbled, would God still have given them the Sabbath?

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