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EXODUS 20:8-11

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 1, 1996

Since this is Labor Day weekend. I thought it would be interesting to find out how Labor Day got started. Until last week I had never really tried to find out. I have celebrated Labor Day with out actually knowing where the holiday came from. Does anyone know where Labor Day came from?

In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, suggested a national holiday to honor the country’s working people. In September, 1882, workers staged the first Labor Day parade in New York City. Organized labor then campaigned to make the day a national holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed a bill in 1894 making Labor Day a legal holiday. Labor Day - holiday honoring working people - observed as legal holiday on first Monday of September.

This morning we want to focus on Labor Day - not because it is a U.S. national holiday - but because God speaks about labor - In His word, gives us specific guidelines to help us as employers, employees, as the “one person show” in a self-owned business, as working at home mothers - whatever our labor - God gives us guidelines to have a healthy attitude toward labor and rest.

Actually, Labor Day is sort of misnamed. Nobody is suppose to actually “labor” on Labor Day. Labor Day is a day of rest and recreation - a holiday. In fact, this morning we are going to spend more time looking at rest than work.

Here’s our main focus this morning: Our ability to work is dependent on our freedom to rest.

This is a common struggle for all of us. Most of us do not need to be told to work more. Most of us need to feel the freedom to stop working and rest. In fact, if you came this morning with the expectation of being told you need to work more, you are going to be very disappointed.

I invite you to turn with me to our text, Exodus 20:8-11, which is the fourth of the 10 commandments.

Exodus 20:8: “Remember the sabbath day - sabbath comes from the Hebrew verb "shabath" which means to rest or cease from work - remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but on the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” Or, we can read verse 11 this way: "Therefore, the Lord blessed the seventh day and set it apart - it is different than any other - it is a day of rest."


1) God expects us to rest because He commands it.

God says “Remember the Sabbath.” “Remember” doesn't just mean let it jog our memory, “It’s the 7th day.” But, set it apart. Its a holy day - a day to cease labor - to rest.

To the People of God the Sabbath is a day of commemoration - To the Hebrews it was a day to remember God’s work of creation. The Sabbath was also set apart as a day to remember God’s work of deliverance - freeing the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. For the New Testament Christian, the Sabbath is a day to remember God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is why our Sabbath day is the first day of the week - Sunday - because we commemorate Jesus’ resurrection.

On the Sabbath day God commands us to rest. To stop focusing on our lives, stresses, struggles, upcoming work - and to focus on Him. To rest in Him.

Let me put this in a more practical sense. Have you ever gone on a vacation - and come back needing a vacation? Or taken a day off and felt like you would have liked to have actually had a day off? It is so hard for us to really rest.

So often we work on our day off - we need to do just one more little thing - or catch up on all the other stuff we were suppose to do during the week but didn’t have time for. Even at night, when we should be asleep - I’ve done this too often - at night I seem to do my best thinking - while I really would like to be asleep. What kind of rest is this if we spend time thinking about problems?

We take vacations and pack them so full of things to see and do - so that our vacations are more hectic than our regular lives. A real vacation is when we get away from it all and not have to think or do things - to go to a place with no T.V., no FAXes, no phones.... (Why does the theme from Gilligan’s Island go through my head - “no phones, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury, like Robinson Crusoe it’s primitive as can be....”)

God says, take a day off and think about me. Think about everything I have done for you. - your physical preservation and spiritual salvation.

The more we focus on God, and see His great continuing love and care for us the less crazed and stressed out we become - thinking that everything depends on us and what we do today and tomorrow.

Now, someone will say, “Steve, you don’t understand all the stuff I need to do. If I did what you say I would never be able to keep up. I'd go broke. I could never stay in business. Its a rat race out there and the rats are winning. Let’s face it we live in a real world.”

The bottom line is that God created the “real world” - and God has set the standard for taking time off in the “real world.” And, God - who created the real world expects us to rest - first - because He commands it.

And secondly, God expects us to rest:

2) God expects us to rest because He has set the example for us of taking time to rest.

In Exodus 20:11 God gives us an example of His own employment - His “real world” and how we can keep the Sabbath. No one is busier than God. Anyone here got a creation to run? And, if God can take time off, so can we.

Exodus 20:11 says, “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.”

The example God gives us of taking rest is the first six days of creation recorded in Genesis 1:

On Day One: God creates light and darkness / day and night
On Day Two: God creates heaven and separates it from the waters covering the earth
On Day Three: God creates dry land, seas, and vegetation
On Day Four: God creates Sun, Moon, and stars
On Day Five: God creates swarms of living creatures - those in sea, land, and air
On Day Six: God creates cattle, beasts of the earth, and creeping things (some people probably wish He had not created the creeping things) - and God created Mankind - male and female - and gave them stewardship over the living things.
That's a pretty busy week. Then Gen. 2:2,3 “And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation.”

On the 7th day (Genesis 2:1-3) God takes a complete day off and does NOTHING.

What kind of God is this? I mean isn’t God suppose to watch over us 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days out of the year? Some of us could become very jealous of this. How many of us bring work home - or work from early in the morning until late at night? How many of us have said, “Why didn’t God create 8 days with 26 hours in them.” How can God justify taking time off?

Time is like a garage. - In the old days, when people were niave, people built garages to put their cars in. Today, that's what a driveway is for. Today, the household garage is a really an axillary storage facility - and, the amount of stuff we store in our garages is directly proportional to the amount of space we have to store it in. More space = more stuff.

Time is like this. If God gave us more hours in our day we would fill them with more stuff. Pretty soon we would be asking God for 28 hours or 30 hours. If we want to rest, the bottom line is to know when to stop filling our time with more stuff. How much stuff is too much stuff? I would like to suggest that if it seems as though you have too few hours in your day, it is time for a garage sale.

Do you know what the greatest difficulty in having a garage sale is? The greatest difficulty in having a garage sale is figuring out what to sell. In this one area, garage sales make me the most nervous. If I really wanted to get rid of this stuff I never would have kept it in the first place. I know I need to get rid of somethings because there isn’t enough space for us to live in the house anymore. But I really can’t let go of it. I’m literally addicted to stuff. I can remember, once or twice - well actually several times - bringing things back into the house that I thought I wanted to sell and then decided I wanted to keep.

One of the most torturous - and most effective ways - to decide what to get rid of is to let someone else make the decision. Of course this involves a lot of trust. Just yesterday, Karen said to me, “We need to go through your closet and get rid of some of your old clothes.” I thought I was going to die. My stress level went through the roof.

Put differently - if all the stuff we occupy our time with seems like indispensable stuff then we need to trust God to make the decision for us as to what to get rid of.

It is important to understand what stuff is our stuff and what stuff is God’s stuff. In other words God knows what things are important for us to occupy our time with. God would never ask us to break His commandment (law) to keep the Sabbath - so God would never give us more stuff to do than He has given us time to do it.

We place tremendous demands on our lives and on our time - we shoulder burdens - which God never intended us to have.

Many in our congregation are self-employed - self-employment brings its own special challenges - If you don’t do it, who will? I can especially relate to those who own their own businesses. 1) because I grew up in a home where my father was self -employed, and 2) because in many ways the pastorate is self-employment. Often times the pressures are very similar.

One of my favorite cartoons shows a pastor on vacation - standing on a beach holding a seashell - listening for the sound of the ocean. Instead he hears a voice from inside the shell, “What kind of pastor are you... don’t you have any dedication to your congregation? What are you doing relaxing on the beach? You should be back at the office working!”

If we are working late into the night - 6 days a week - and coming up on the seventh day with no hope of resting - if our time with God is non-existent - our time worshiping Him, our time in service to God - our time with our family - even our own personal rest time are being cut short - all of which are priorities for our time, priorities given to us by God - chances are very great that we are occupying our time with stuff God never intended us to have in our garage.

All this means that we must cling more tenaciously to the command of God. And to not expect more of ourselves than God does.

So, what does God expect of us?

First: You need to ask God that. I cannot tell you what God’s plan is for your life. But, I can encourage you to seek Him in prayer. Perhaps write out a list - of all the important stuff in your life - and bring that list before Him. Lay it out on your desk, kitchen table, or bed - and ask Him to show you what He thinks is important. He will, especially if you are willing to surrender and let go of the rest.

Second: The Bible tells us that anything we are involved in which keeps us from living according to the revealed will of God is sin. It’s not of God. It’s idolatry - since it holds a greater priority in your life than God. We should confess it and let go of it.

Third: Make changes in how you spend your time based on what you know God wants you to do for Him.

Now, the second thing we wanted to talk about this morning was Labor. Our Main Focus this morning this: Our Ability to work is dependent on our freedom to rest. So...


One thing I have noticed about myself is that if I work more than 60 hours in a week some very strange things begin to happen. For some your threshold may be 40 hours or 90 hours. I have found out the hard way that somewhere around 60 hours a wierd transformation takes place - like Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde.

First: My mind begins to turn to Jello - and I can’t think straight.

: When I finally come home my kids don’t recognize me. When we do have time together it’s not quality time but “getting reacquainted time” - and quite frankly, I’m usually so stressed out and tired that it’s hard to spend time with them.

: My body begins to do weird things. I get these muscle spasms.

: My tongue detaches itself from my brain. I mean when I get stressed out I become ugly in what I say to and about people.

If our mind is jello and our body is falling apart - how can we be good workers? How can we produce anything of quality for ourselves, our employers, or God?

Rest - recreation - time with God - is essential to our ability to work. Being here for Sunday worship - or at a Bible Study - even though some think that this is a great sacrifice or an extra if time allows - these are some of the best things we can do for ourselves and our ability to work.

This morning - on Labor Day Weekend - consider this: When it seems impossible to slow down or take time to rest - Rest. Its a commandment of God - given by God who has given us the supreme example of what it means to rest.

God expects us to rest - so let’s not argue with God. Let's obey Him.