Church for many of us can be a ho-hum activity. Yes we love the people and we like church but we sometimes leave church underwhelmed and uninspired. I think we leave church this way because we forget why we meet together. The Ancient Israelites had a day set aside for rest and the worship of God. So let us look at what God said their day off of worship was all about:
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour 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 male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-14
The first word in this sentence is be careful. The whole point is we must carefully ensure that the Israelites obeyed the Sabbath. There is scrupulous care here. Did you also notice that it was a holy day. The Sabbath being holy meant that it was sanctified, separated from the rest of the week and given by God. The idea is that this was to be a special day. Why? Because God has designed for us to work for six days and then we have a day of rest and worship. I think the word “holy” here implies that a Sabbath for Israel was meant to be a day which, at least part of it, was devoted to God. It was a day where you would go to the temple if you could. And one of the ways you showed you worshipped the true and living God was to take one day off. No other religion in the ancient world had this practice. But the Israelites showed they served God by taking a day off to rest and worship.
Now thinking about the day we meet together, which some Christians regard as a Sabbath. Wee see from this passage that the Sabbath is meant to centre us once again. As we take a day off and meet together and sing and praise God’s name. As we hear God’s word, read and preached and prayed we are recentered on what matters and we are reminded on what doesn’t matter. Corporate worship is meant to remind us that there is something better than things of this world – sex, power, money fame, status – and that thing that is better is Jesus. Corporate worship is about your heart, that’s why we sing because music has a way of engraving words that we sing onto our hearts, that’s why we preach because we are trying to communicate this book in a way which grips your heart. You see as you go out into the world so many things are after your heart’s affections and yet today when we meet together your heart gets recentered. Your life gets recentered.
A few years ago I went to a chiropractor because I was very sore. I thought there is no way he needed to crack my back or neck or anything. But when I got there that is what he did. He pulled my neck in this weird way and it cracked and then pressed on my back and it cracked. And the cracks were loud and I was scared and I was like, “what are you doing?” He said that my spine was out of whack and he was realigning it. I told him that my spine didn’t feel out so I didn’t think I needed it. He said that all of us use our bodies in such a way that take our spines slightly out of whack. We can’t feel it but they are and unless they are realigned one day we will feel it.
Do you realise that the way we live causes our hearts to become our of whack? They love the things that they shouldn’t love and are drawn away from God. What corporate worship does for your heart is like what the chiropractor does for your back it brings it back into line. God is a good God he knows we need realignment every week and so he commands one day where this will happen.
Are you valuing and treasuring the time you meet with other Christians? Do you come to church expectant that you will hear from God through his spirit in his word? At this church, as the bible is being sung, taught, prayed and preached, God is doing eternally significant work. Do you come expecting that, anticipating that? We are called to join in this work as we sing praises to God which will encourage those around us. We are join in this work as we encourage each other as we remind the person who is down of the hope they have in Jesus. As we encourage the person who is struggling with sin that Jesus has dealt with their sin and that they are forgiven. God is doing eternally significant things every week at Church.
Now what would happen if got this vision of Church? Wouldn’t we be so excited to get here? Wouldn’t we be so pumped that we would get speeding tickets on our way to church? You see God is a great God and this commandment to have a day of worship and rest is one of the his most beautiful gifts to us because on that day we are brought into line with who he is and what he has done. Let’s accept this day as it has come from a good and loving God.
This is an excerpt from a sermon preached at Resolved Church called “The Freedom to Rest” which was based on Detueronomy 5:12-15. You can listen to the sermon in ITunes here