Now it came to pass that spring turned to summer again. God’s people raised their voices and said: “Recreation is my shepherd. I shall not stay at home;
He maketh me to lie down in a sleeping bag: He leadeth me down the interstate each weekend: He restoreth my suntan; He leadeth me to State parks for comfort’s sake. Even though I stray on the Lord’s Day, I will fear no reprimand, for Thou art with me; my rod and gas tank runneth dry. Surely my trailer shall follow me all the weekends this summer, and I shall return to the House of the Lord this fall.” But then it is hunting season, and that’s a another psalm.
Many people hope to be elected to heaven who are not even running for the office. Excuses abound for not attending church. The Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia ran an ad targeted for excuse-prone professionals living in downtown. The lead line read, “Jesus Hated Church, Too!” “It’s boring. The people are phony. The politics are less than righteous. Jesus hated the same things. But he never used it as an excuse not to worship. Maybe he knew something you don’t.”
When we talk about “stewardship” we always think, money. In this stewardship series we know that we are called to be good stewards of the earth and this body. A steward is a manager or superintendent of another’s household. Today we are talking about the stewardship of the “Sabbath.” Sabbath in Hebrew means “rest.” It was the day of rest for all God’s people.
The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. If we were to be honest with ourselves we would confess that we are not very faithful in giving God our tithes. And the tithe is not even one of the Ten Commandments. Here is a Commandment and so many of us are less than faithful to it.
The Sabbath was distinctive and was treated at length in the Bible. The account of the creation states that God “rested on the seventh day” (Gen 2:2).
The Sabbath was a means of binding together more closely the chosen people and keeping them apart from the rest of mankind. Two reasons are given for its observance in Israel-God’s resting on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20:8-11; 31:16-17) and Israel’s having been a “slave in the land of Egypt” and having been brought “out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm” (Deut 5:15). In other words, the Sabbath defines who we are and reminds us to whom we belong. It goes without saying that “rest” is important!
A Hassidic story tells of a little boy playing hide-and-seek with his friends. For some unknown reason they stopped playing while he was hiding. He began to cry. His old grandfather came out of the house to see what was troubling him and to comfort him. After learning what had happened, the grandfather said, “Do not weep, my child, because the boys did not come to find you. Perhaps you can learn a lesson from this disappointment. All of life is like a game between God and us. Only it is God who is weeping, for we are not playing the game fairly. God is waiting to be found, but many have gone in search of other things.”
There is a blessing for those who give this time to God. Three things happened to the bread [the manna] in Exodus 16. First, everybody had enough. But because Israel had learned to believe in scarcity in Egypt, people started to hoard the bread. Secondly, when they tried to bank it, to invest it, it turned sour and rotted, because you cannot store up God’s generosity. Finally, Moses said, “You know what we ought to do? We ought to do what God did in Genesis 1. We ought to have a Sabbath.” Sabbath means that there’s enough bread, that we don’t have to hustle every day of our lives.
A Christian man was once urged by his employer to work on Sunday. “Doesn’t your Bible say that if your ox falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, you may pull him out?” “Yes,” replied the other; “but if the ox had the habit of falling into the same ditch every Sabbath, I would either fill up the pit or sell the ox.”
In the present dispensation of grace Sunday perpetuates the truth that one-seventh of one’s time belongs to God. As Paul writes to the young church in Roman he says, One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (Romans 14:5)
What Paul is saying is that it is not so much the day as it is in giving the time to God.
The day is not as important as the time we give to God. The reality is that a little bit of every day should belong to God. God may require 1/10th of the money that passes through our lives, but He requires 1/7th of our time. Time is more important than even money to God.
The Mayfly lives only six hours! It gets its name from the fact that it hatches in the month of May. Yet the eggs of the Mayfly do not hatch for three years!
A six-hour lifetime seems mighty brief, but then 90 seem short to the human who has reached them. If we could compare our longest life-span with eternity, we’d have a real sense of perspective. We’d know what is important and what is insignificant. And we’d know how best to use our years.
The oldest living things on earth are the bristlecone pines in the Iyno National Forest in California. They have endured for over 4,900 years. The oldest dates from 2900 B.C. These trees were growing when Moses was given the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. They were already ancient when Christ was on earth. Remarkable they still produce seeds that germinate and grow. But man will live longer. Eventually the bristlecone pines will die, but the human soul was made for eternity. Maybe it is worth giving God some time!