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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:The Lord God Gives us Time to Celebrate His Rest
Text:LD 38 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 4th Commandment (Resting)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 92:1, 2, 3,

Hymn 1B      

Sing: Psalm 100:2, 3, 4

Read: Psalm 92

Sing: Psalm 92:4, 5, 6

Text:  Lord's Day 38

Sing: Psalm 127:1, 2

Sing: Hymn 7:1, 2, 5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:


Today is a day of rest. In the original German version of the Heidelberg catechism it is called a fiertag, a feast day, a day of celebration. That's what we confess on the basis of God's word.  But is that also the case with us?  Is it also for us a feast day? Sometimes this day is the cause of some great frustrations. The day of celebration often does not start that way, especially when you still have teenagers in the home who are indifferent about this day. You have a hard time getting them out of bed so that they can be in church on time. Every Sunday is the same old story.


When you have small children, Sunday doesn't always start off in such a celebratory manner either. The kids need to be dressed and fed and made ready on time. This can result in a lot of yelling and frustration.


The day of rest can also be a contentious issue within the home with regard to what you are and what you are not allowed to do. Some of the older teenagers will want to go to the beach on a hot Sunday afternoon, rather than going to church. And as the ice cream cart comes along on your street, what do you do then? What's wrong with buying an ice cream? And so, these kinds of issues become bones of contention. Not everybody agrees how you are to behave yourself on the Sunday.


And what do you do when you are on vacation and there is not a church nearby? Do you read a sermon? What about the rest of the day? And so, rather than the Sunday being a day of celebration, it becomes a day of contention.


In our sister churches in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe, the fourth commandment has especially become a controversial issue. The general synods have had to deal with this time and again. In Europe you have an economy that knows no day of rest. Factories operate in such a way that they run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are set up in such a way that you cannot shut down the machines. As a result the Sunday is no longer a distinct day as it was in the past. Now also other businesses do business seven days a week. They have to accommodate the population. They have to go with the times. That makes it difficult for Christian businessmen and workers to keep the Sunday as a day of rest.


But now the Lord God says to us that six days you shall labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. How do we deal with this in our modern day and age? That's what we will deal with in the message about the fourth commandment. The theme for the sermon is as follows:

The Lord God Gives Us Time to Celebrate His Rest.

He gives us:

1. A weekly rest;

2. A spiritual rest;

3. An eternal rest.


The first commandment that God gives us tells us that we should have no other gods before him. That means that we should only serve him and him alone. And in the last few weeks we have seen what that entails. It entails that we have not been created in order to be self-serving, in order to seek our interests outside of the interest of God or of others. No, God comes first in our life. He is number one. And if we serve him in the way that he commands, then, and only then, can we have true freedom.


How then does that relate to the fourth commandment? Well, we tend to think that the time that God gives us here on this earth is time that we can apportion out in the way that we wish. During the week we are all very busy. And we need some time for ourselves. We need some time for relaxation. We need time to spend with our children, or with our wife or husband. We also need some time for a vacation. And we also should set some time aside for worship.


But is that the way we should look at it? That worship is just a block of time set aside for God? Who is the one who gives you the time that you spend here on this earth? Isn't that the Lord your God? He gives you time here on earth. He gives you hours and days and months and years to live your life here on this earth. That is his free gift to you.


That was the gift that he gave first of all to Adam and Eve. The Lord God created the earth in six days. It was evening and it was morning; another day. And so the days continued. They piled up. Day after day God makes the sun to rise and to set. When creation was complete he gave Adam and Eve the time to cultivate the earth, to make it beautiful.


But what did Adam and Eve do with their time? Instead of thinking about how to please God through their work; instead of thinking about what he wanted, they thought about themselves and about Satan. They sinned. They used their time wrongly. At that time God could have put an end to his creation. He could have put an end to the time that man would have here on earth. But instead, through his grace, he continues to give man time here on earth.


But now our time on earth is more difficult. Listen to the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90. He says in verse 15, "Make us glad for as many days that you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble." Our times are now full of troubles. There is hardship and pain. And there aren't enough hours in the day to make things right. To get things the way we want. We always want more and we always want better.


When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they became slaves to time. They knew that they would have only so much time on this earth, and then they would die. They knew that their time was limited. That is the way it is for mankind.


And so, what does man do? Well, he tries to pack as much as he can into the time that he has. Some people become clock watchers. They can't wait until their day at work is over so that they can have the time to spend on themselves, on their own passions, so that they can do with their time what they want. Others become workaholics. They want to acquire as many possessions as they can and to be as successful as possible. They want to make a name for themselves.


But, brothers and sisters, the time that the Lord God gives us here on earth is not to spend it on our own passions. God created us to worship him, not only on the Sunday, but on every day of the week. He gives us two things, both mentioned in this commandment. He says to us that we have six days in which to do our work, and one day for rest. When we deal with the fourth commandment we often only think about that last part, the day of rest. But this Lord's Day also gives us the command to work.


There are those people who do not like work. They would rather hang around a golf course all the time or a vacation resort or a beach or laze around the house. This modern culture promotes early retirement as something to aim for:  "Freedom 55". And the unions promote as short a workweek as possible with as little work as possible. Work is seen as an evil necessity, as something to avoid.


Brothers and sisters, the Lord God gives each and every one of us work to do. He commands us to work six days a week. Work is a blessing from him. It is not something to avoid.  No, it is something to seek.


That is also what Paul says to those Thessalonians who are lazy and who are hanging about because, they say piously, they are waiting for the day of the Lord. They even quit their jobs. No, says Paul, that's not right. You have to work. You're not allowed to be idle. If you don't need to work for yourself because you have enough money, then you work in order to serve others. Ultimately work is something you do in the service of the Lord your God.


That doesn't mean that during the week you cannot have time for pleasure, or that you cannot have any time for vacation, not at all. But it does mean that even in those times we are responsible to God. It is a time that God has given you. And it does mean that you have a responsibility to God and also to others.  God wants us to have a proper balance.


Work is a very important part of our life. Even once you are retired. It is through your work that God will bless you. If you take this commandment seriously then the Lord will also bless you materially. He will give you the means to be able to be a blessing to others. For a Christian, work is something totally different than it is for an unbeliever.


Because of sin, there is pain involved in work. As the Lord God said in Genesis after Adam fell into sin, "by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food." Work is not easy. But, that does not mean that now we should avoid it, or do as little of it is as possible. No, the Lord commands us to work. It is even so that he will not bless you if you do not work. That is what he says to the Thessalonians as well. When you work, you serve him. God made it so that through work he also gives you a sense of accomplishment, especially if you do it because you love God and your neighbour.


But, he also gives time for physical rest. Since we are finite, fragile human beings we need rest. We are weak, and our bodies need to be recharged. For that reason he gives us a day of rest every week. What a blessing!


In the Old Testament it was on the seventh day of the week, on the Saturday. It followed the order of creation. But now in the New Testament we celebrate re-creation. We celebrate the fact that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. If the Sabbath was a celebration in the Old Testament, it certainly is so now. We celebrate the gift of life, eternal life through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


Look at how the author of Psalm 92, which is a song for the Sabbath day, describes the Old Testament celebration. In that psalm we confess that we celebrate, not our work in the first place, but God's work. He says, "For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands." "How great are your works, O Lord."


On the first day of the week we come together, not in the first place to celebrate the work that we have done, but to celebrate the work that God has done. He has created this world with everything in it. And he gave man a task in this world. He gave each one of us talents to be busy with a certain aspect of his creation. That's God's doing. The farmer has to plant the seed, and he has to hoe and to weed and he has to harvest the crop. But who is the one who makes the crop grow? Who made the seed in the first place? Who makes the sun shine? Who gives the rain? It is God's doing.


The same thing is true of every aspect of our work-related activities. It is only because God made it possible that we are able to work. And on a day of rest we celebrate the wonderful miracles that he performs every day in his creation. In Psalm 92 God stands in the center and we praise him.


That is why the people of Israel went up to the Temple. There they give glory to God's name. They also had their celebratory gatherings on the Sabbath in the synagogues. The Lord Jesus also took part of such celebrations. We read in Luke 4:16 that on the seventh day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. The worship in the synagogue was not much different than our worship today. Although it was an Old Testament celebration, nevertheless the liturgy had many of the same elements as we have today.


But in those days they were still looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. They read the Scriptures to point to his coming. That's also what the Lord Jesus did when he read the Scriptures in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth. He showed that the Scriptures point to himself. But now our celebration is what the Lord God has done through his Son Jesus Christ. Through him we are given rest. And that rest is a spiritual rest. We come to the second point.


2. The catechism says that I must rest all the days of my life from my evil works. After Sunday, comes the Monday, and the other days of the week. As we saw, the fourth commandment does not just have to do with the first day of the week. No, it has to do with all the days of the week. What happens on a Sunday continues to make its effect felt on the other days of the week. Today the Sunday, the Lord's Day, has become more and more just another normal day of the week. Many stores are now open. Factories continue to produce their goods. If there are businesses that are not open on a Sunday, it is only done in the service of man, not in the service of God.


That is why especially we need a day of worship; to remind us why God has created us; to remind us what our daily work is about; to give us focus during the week. And so, the Sunday works as yeast in the dough. It permeates every aspect of our daily living.


When you are under the regular preaching of the Word of God, then you are reminded time and again what it means to be in a relationship with the Lord your God, the Maker of heaven and earth. Also the children of the congregation are reminded of this, and the older that they get the more they understand so that in due time they may make promises of their own at their Public Profession of Faith. You are reminded to love the Lord your God with everything that is in you. For you are made to think about the great works that he has done, especially the great works that he has done through his Son Jesus Christ.  That is why we all belong here in church, also our children. We must hear God’s word regularly.


For it is on the Lord's day that you are told about the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. If there is anything that gives you rest, it is that knowledge. For you know that your daily work is permeated with sin. It is full of frustration. It is full of anxiety because of the great struggles that you have each day to lead a godly life. On the Sunday you are reminded that peace has been restored through Jesus Christ. Through him you are made righteous. That is the wonderful news that we need to hear time and again. We all have our frustrations during the week. We need the message of the Sunday to put things in perspective again.


Psalm 92 says, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green." Palm trees can become 200 years old or more. They are always green. Even when the tree is old they can still bring forth an abundance of fruit. Some palm trees produce some 600 pounds of fruit per year.


And the Cedars of Lebanon? These trees are the most renowned natural monuments in the Near East. They are majestic. The tree had an imposing trunk with a diameter of 9 feet that could support a height of 120 feet. The tree also had many uses. For example, Moses ordered the priests to use the peel of the Lebanese Cedar in circumcision, and treatment of leprosy. The Egyptians used its resin to mummify their dead and thus called it the "life of death." The wood was used to build ships, and the wood was used in David's and Solomon's Palaces. It was also used in the temple.


The Cedar was a symbol of healing, of power and strength and endurance. That is what the righteous are like, says the psalmist.  They grow strong. They last. They have many uses. And they receive their strength from God. It is on the Sunday, especially through your churchgoing, that you receive such strength, that you receive such a lasting power. So don’t stay away. It is on a Sunday that you become like a fruit-bearing palm tree, and like a mighty Lebanese Cedar.


And so, that puts a totally different light on the worship on the first day of the week. Without that you could not become strong or fruitful. Without it, you are a withering plant. If you realize the wonderful works of the Lord and what he does for you, then you will also want to worship him. Then it is not a block of time that you reluctantly set aside for the Lord. No, then you realize that all your time belongs to the Lord. And that he especially gives you a time in the week to be charged spiritually. To be told over and over how much he loves those who believe in him. To be reminded that you can be strong only in the Lord.


Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, teenagers, parents, how do you prepare for the Lord’s day? If you prepare properly, then you will create a desire within yourself to worship him on his day. Then you will create the desire also in others. If your whole week is dedicated to the Lord your God, then it is only natural for you to be here on a Sunday, twice even. You would not want to stay away. Certainly there may be times that you are not able. We may not be legalistic. There may be circumstances that prevent you. But then as much as possible you still worship him. And then you will not have endless discussions about what you may and may not do. No, you want to go to church. You want to worship him. The Lord God has given you a special day for you to do that.  In the New Testament the slaves did not have the riches we have. They had to work on the Sunday. How they would have envied us that we have a day that we can worship him, that we do not have to work. That is his gift to you. That distinguishes you from people of the world who are busy laying up treasures for themselves here on earth. That's not what you and I are about. We are laying up for ourselves heavenly treasures. And we are looking forward to our eternal rest. We come to the third point.


3. The catechism says that I must "let the Lord work in me through his Holy Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath." Every Lord's Day is a step on the way to the eternal rest. Every Sunday points to the final rest that we will have in the life hereafter. It is a step to a life where there is no more sin. No more anxiety. No more pain. The author of Psalm 92 says in verse 11, "My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes." The enemies of God are going to taste their final defeat when Christ comes again for a second time. Sin will be done away with. The Israelites knew that already, and now we do too. We especially know that for the Lord Jesus has already defeated sin and evil. He has already slain the dragon, namely Satan. He has already conquered death for he rose from the grave. And he is now seated at the right hand of God. There he is gathering his people around him. He will continue to gather all his believers until the number of the believers is complete. Then Satan and his army will taste the final defeat.


Can you imagine the kind of rest that God is going to give you? Sin is no longer going to disturb you. Death will no longer make you afraid. You will be with your Lord and Saviour forever.


Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, young people, what a wonderful gift God has given you. He has given you a party, a feast. Do you want to be part of his festivities? Do you want to have eternal rest?  You need to show that now already. That has to show in your attitude towards the Lord’s Day. For he gives you a foretaste of his rest already now here on this earth. He shows you that rest, especially on the first day of the week.


Take part. Serve God. Keep his commandments, also the fourth commandment. And God will make you strong so that you can serve him into eternity. Amen


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2009, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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