Is “Sabbath-keeping” Today Really A Big-deal?

POST SCRIPTURE – Luke 6:1-10

I have been residing in the small town of Lynden, Washington now for almost fifteen years.  It is a small rural town south of the Canadian border.  I have been hearing stories from residents and have become interested in how the town’s history all began with the early pioneers.

There Are Really Two Lynden’s –

The historic downtown part of the city was settled in the 1870s by Baptists, Methodists and THREE DUTCHMEN who, legend has it, wrote back to their families in the Midwest that LYNDEN was “just like home.”

They were right and by the early 1920s, the Dutch were the majority. Soon. Lynden stores closed on Sundays, reflecting the Christian Reformed church belief that one day of the week should be set aside for rest.  And boy, did they “set aside the day”; abstaining from all other activities was as-much-a-part of observing the Sabbath Day, as was, going to church.

At one time, the city of Lynden held the world record for the most churches per square mile and per capita although unsubstantiated.  [Lynden History Museum]

I heard long time residents tell me stories of the “Christian Dutch Mafia” who would respond to church members reports of “mowing lawns” on the Sabbath or reading the newspaper on front porches; checking out the reports, then telling the so-called ‘violators’–“The Sabbath is holy, so you should be holy.”  No strong-arming–just a verbal warning.

Front Street in Lynden, Washington

Things are different in this small little Dutch town today.  On October 20th, 2008, liquor is now sold on Sundays in local grocery stores and local restaurants. And even the local Family Bible Book Store opened its doors for business on Sundays.  [Note: The Family Bible Book Store has closed their doors.]

Before I go any further…let me say that these particular church members of their day were no legalists.  The didn’t make and keep rules just for the sake of making and keeping rules!

SABBATH DEFINITION:  Google online Dictionary defines “Sabbath” this way:  “A day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians (my add: ‘whatever “most” Christians mean’) on Sunday.”

Somehow…some way, these THINGS had become commitments for them; deeply rooted personal commitments that emerged in the course of living and applied their faith day-to-day, week-to-week.  And I think that’s what we wanna do!  Having FAITH,…believing in God,…trusting that God has forgiven us through the redemptive work of Jesus: that’s the one thing.

And what about life and living when it comes to the Sabbath?

What difference does it make how I spend my days…how my time is organized and spent during the week?

That’s what SABBATH is all about!

We don’t keep the Sabbath in order to be a Christian; …But we keep the Sabbath because we already are Christians!

In other words, …the motivation, …the impulse to recognize the Sabbath doesn’t arise from a desperate hope to be acceptable to God; …but it springs from a HEART OF GRATITUDE that we’ve already been accepted by God.

QUESTIONS arise when investigating what the SABBATH is all about:

  • What was God thinking when He established a Sabbath-day?
  • Why should we observe the Sabbath in today’s society?
  • What does it mean to “keep the Sabbath”?

Looking up in my Bible concordance, I found the word “SABBATH” appearing 151 times!  94 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament.  So, I’m thinkin’ that it was pretty important to the biblical writers.

The Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8)

Bible scholars have pointed out that the first 3 commandments given deal with our relationship with God…and the last 6 deal with our relationship with others. The 4th Commandment becomes a bridge.

So if “keeping the Sabbath” is in the Top 10 of God’s Commandments, it must be important.

I thought about that for a while and reasoned why it’s an important thing for us to practice because, by the time Jesus stepped onto the scene of human history, Sabbath-keeping is an issue that keeps coming up.

Over and over again, JESUS is answering questions, providing new teachings, handling complaints, and the SABBATH is one of the main points of argument between himself and the religious leaders of the day.

If Sabbath-keeping was something Jesus talked about a lot, it must be a pretty important thing for us to understand.

My whole purpose of this exploration of “Keeping the Sabbath” is to challenge and to inspire us all to a greater appreciation…a deeper understanding…a stronger commitment to Sabbath-keeping.  And by-the-way, I had to do some soul-searching as I hope you will also, in getting a clearer picture.

We may find some stuff that has been working beneath the surface,…that really has held us back to embrace the GIFT of the Sabbath.  When we don’t observe the Sabbath,…we are really subjecting ourselves to BONDAGE–SLAVERY!  Does that sound pretty harsh?  Well…it is!

But as Galatians 5, verse 1 says:  “IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].”  (Amplified Bible)

SABBATH-KEEPING IS A BIG PART OF EXPERIENCING FREEDOM IN CHRIST  (Luke 6:1-10):

TWO incidents happen…involving JESUS and those who were considered “religious leaders” of the day.

The FIRST involved picking and eating some grain (verse 1); the SECOND involved healing a crippled man’s hand (verse 10).

Both times, Jesus was put on the spot.

Both times, the implications was:  JESUS was breaking the Sabbath command.

Both times, Jesus used the opportunity to shed new light on what Sabbath-keeping was really supposed to be about.

Giving the Pharisees the Benefit of the Doubt –

The prize of the Ten Commandments was their greatest desire and not to break any of God’s commands.  And so, in order to protect the commandments, they designed an elaborate and detailed system of additional RULES,…not so much because they liked a bunch of rules, but because they really didn’t want to break the BIG ONE!

Look at some of the RULES that we’ve come up with at home.  We don’t want our children to get their hand burned by touching a hot stove.  But, we add RULES so they are protected from ever getting close enough to the stove to get burned.

So we tell the children they can’t come into the kitchen when Mom is cooking.  The KITCHEN is off-limits!

Is the kitchen such a bad place for kids that we have a RULE saying they would have to stay out?!  NO!  The only reason why the kids must stay out of the kitchen is to make sure they don’t break the really big rule:  “Don’t touch a hot stove!”

That’s the kind of attitude that the Pharisees had.  They started coming up with layers and layers of RULES & TRADITIONS.

And so, when we read about them getting their feathers all ruffled with Jesus picking grain, or healing a man’s crippled right hand on the Sabbath…we must realize that they had developed these extensive, and elaborate rules to guard against breaking the Sabbath Command!

If you pick a handful of grain as you walk through the fields, the next thing you know, you’ll break out the combines and open a 24-hour bakery on the Sabbath!

If you heal one crippled hand on the Sabbath, the next thing you know, you’ll open an emergency care clinic on the Sabbath!

The Pharisees saw it all as a slippery slope.

They weren’t going to stand for Jesus and His disciples flaunting their “disregard” to the traditions and the laws of their fathers!

In their efforts to protect and preserve the LAW, the religious leaders added greater burdens that obscured the BLESSINGS that God wanted to give through the covenantal Law.  Their intentions were initially good. But, over time, the pharisaical restrictions…their interpretations became the focus, rather than the HEART of the Law.  And because they had lost focus, they ended up arguing with and despising Jesus.

So was Jesus then a RULE BREAKER?

Was He a trouble making, rabble-rouser?  Did He snub His nose at the good rules that had been in place for generations?  Did Jesus think He and His disciples were better than them?

Keep in mind that JESUS came to fulfill the LAW, not to abolish it!  (Matthew 5:17)

So how do we understand these events, and particularly Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath?

JESUS GIVES US THE BOTTOM LINE.

He says that He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 5).  In other words, the SABBATH is all about Him!

Keeping the Sabbath is all about walking with Him; it’s about submitting to His Lordship.  So, whatever else it means to “keep the Sabbath”, this we can be sure of:  JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE DAY, He is the focus!

JESUS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT.  It is a “holy” day because we treat it differently from all the rest!

IT’S A “HOLY” DAY BECAUSE GOD, MADE IT HOLY (Exodus 20:8-11):

AND…that’s why we should treat it differently from all the rest.

We keep it HOLY when it is distinct from every other day.  It has a HOLY origin…really going back to the SEVENTH DAY of Creation:

It is a HOLY day, …with HOLY beginnings, …and a HOLY purpose.

And, Keeping It Holy!

So back to my earlier question:  “Was Jesus a rule breaker?”  Well, if you’re talking about man-made rules and traditions…I guess He was.

But when it comes down to it, how can He, …be a Sabbath-breaker, if He is the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’, as Scripture tells us?

It begins with Him; it focuses on Him, and it ends with Him.

The Pharisees had done the old ‘switcheroo’!  Instead of putting the emphasis on the One who instituted and established the SABBATH, instead of focusing on the One who gave humanity this gift, instead, their focus had shifted to man-made rules and regulations and traditions.

Those things are fine for what they are.  We all set up these kinds of things in our lives, in our households, and in our work ethics.

BUT, our RULES, TRADITIONS, AND REGULATIONS…

Being more specific…the particular ways that we practice Sabbath-keeping are not more important than the One who gave us the SABBATH and blessed it!

MY MESSAGE in this Post regarding the SABBATH is a simple one:

#1.  It is to get our focus in the right place…or better yet, on the right Person!

We start exactly where we need to start:  on the Lord Jesus!

We don’t start with man-made rules or traditions.  We don’t start with our own personal preferences.

We start with the Lord…the Lord of the SABBATH!

The SABBATH is a gift from God for us to enjoy.  So let’s CELEBRATE the Giver of this good gift;

Let’s CELEBRATE the Lord of the SABBATH!!

____________________________________________

CREDITS & SOURCES:

The Seattle Times:  Change Comes to Lynden by Robert T. Nelson.

Lynden History Museum.

The NIV Complete Concordance by Edward W. Goodrick & John R. Kohlenberger III

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

Enochlophobia: The Fear of Crowds

Rally To Restore Sanity
Overwhelmed!

Albert Einstein once said, “I hate crowds and making speeches“.  There’s a common feeling with Mr. Einsteins called “enochlophobia”–the fear of crowds. Those who suffer with this anxiety go out of their way to avoid places such as malls, theaters, or any event that crowds would regularly attend; no matter who  the center and focus of attention for the throng.   Many times in my experiences, I too had anxiety in a crowd.  Maybe NOT fear, but felt hemmed in; crowded and nervous about being so close.  All the touching became too much.  I didn’t need a REASON.

A few things will happen when FEAR arises in a crowded area:

*  Being trampled to death.

*  Contracting a deadly virus.

*  Getting lost in a massive crowd of people.

*  They themselves feel small and insignificant when surrounded by so many people.

BUT, there is definitely a CHOICE that can made in overcoming standing out in the crowd.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING “HEMMED IN”  AND TOUCHING JESUS:

Immanuel – God with Us (Isaiah 7:14)

The writer of The Letter To The Hebrews in the Bible had this to say about ImmanuelGod with us:

“For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning”  (Hebrews 4:15 AMP).

*  No longer was he a God that was way up in the heavens somewhere.

*  No longer was he a God that was impersonal.

*  No longer was he a God that was distant.

*  No longer was he a God that couldn’t be touched.

Have you witnessed up close how a newborn baby’s hands reach out in eagerness to touch their mom or dad when they come near?

My wife and I just became great grandparents for the first time this past summer.  It was Deja vu— seeing Jaxon for the first time and remembering when our children were babes.  Smiling, reaching out in need for a touch!

Anticipating A Touch
Anticipating A Touch  when becoming great grandparents for the first time.  So it was Deja vu moment from our own children when they were babes.

But on a day in Bethlehem, JESUS burst on the scene in a manger, longing for and crying out for somebody to TOUCH HIM!  I have GOOD NEWS for you today.  In fact, He is here right now!

The devil thought he had killed Him, but the fact is…

I feel Him in my hands…

I feel Him in my feet…

I feel Him in my Soul..

I feel Him all over my life.

GOD IS NOT DEAD, HE IS ALIVE AND WELL!

Right now where you are sitting as you read my thoughts, He wants for someone to reach out and TOUCH HIM in faith.  He is as close as the mention of His name–JESUS.

He is still able to…

*  Heal your body.

*  Mend your broken heart.

*  Fix your messed up life.

*  Put your marriage back together.

*  Save your children.

*  Work on your behalf.

*  Make the impossible situation where you might find yourself…POSSIBLE!

He can do it if you TOUCH HIM where you are today.  Unless, you are intimidated by crowds.  “What will other think if I step out in faith?”  They might even think I’m a religious fanatic.

BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “THRONGING” AND “TOUCHING”

Thronging means:  “A large group of people gathered or crowed closely together, a multitude; to PRESS IN ON.”  ~ Online Dictionary.

The Bible tells us a story about a man who we refer to as, “rich young ruler”:

Mark 10:17-22:

[17]  And when He was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him,  Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?  [18] And Jesus said unto Him,  Why callest thou Me good?  There is none good but one, that is, God.  [19] Thou knowest the commandments,  Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.  [20] And he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.  [21] Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him,  One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  [22] And he was sad  at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions.  (King James Bible)

Let’s ‘zero in’ on this story and see if this young man TOUCHED JESUS, or just crowded or “thronged” around Him:

The FIRST THING I noticed about this man, was he was…DISSATISFIED – vs. 17-20:

*  HE CAME RUNNING.

*  HE KEPT THE LAW…BUT WAS NOT HAPPY.

*  SOMETHING WAS STILL MISSING.

(So many people I run into are unhappy with the way things are turning out or not turning out in their lives.)

The SECOND THING I noticed about this young man is…DISAPPOINTED – VS. 21-22:

*  The TERMS WERE DISAPPOINTING in his HEARING.

*  “GO AND SELL”.

*  COMMITMENT TO FOLLOW.

*  TRAGEDY.

*  SO CLOSE TO JESUS and yet…

*  WENT AWAY SORROWFUL WITHOUT TOUCHING.

The THIRD THING I noticed was DENIAL:

*  In the present – Life of joy and peace.

*  Future – Eternal life; a life in Heaven.

This is a man who never really touched Jesus.  Maybe shook His hand, patted Him on the shoulder, but never really TOUCHED JESUS; never took the time to have a relationship with JESUS.  (Many people know how to play in church but never TOUCH JESUS because of their relationship.)

THE TEXT today is from MARK 5:24-34 ~ NIV…  “A Woman in the Crowd”:

[24] A large crowd followed and pressed around Him.  [25] And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  [26] She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  [27] When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak,  [28] because she thought,  “If I just TOUCH His clothes,” I will be healed.”  [29] Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”  [30] At once Jesus realized that POWER had gone out from Him.  He turned around in the crowd and asked,  “Who TOUCHED Me?”  [32] But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  [33] Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet and, trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth.  [34] He said to her,  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” 

This Bible story tells us about a woman with the issue of blood:

Distressed – vs. 25-26

12 years of suffering, sickness, pain, discomfort.  Not all of her problems were according to the religious Laws of her day.

A woman with her sickness:

–  Sexually – she could not touch her husband.

–  Maternally – no longer could bear children.

– Domestically – anything she touched was considered unclean and she couldn’t take care of her family.

– Socially – considered unclean.

– Spiritually – was not allowed in the temple [church].

She was physically exhausted and socially ostracized.  She tried many different doctors without her desired results.  The Talmud gives 11 different cures for her condition and one of them was carrying the ashes of an Ostrich Egg in a linen cloth.

She was broke–spent all she had and she was getting worse!

Determined – vs. 27-28

550px-Overcome-a-Social-Phobia-Step-5
You Must Reach Out and Touch

The news had spread from all around of Jesus’ healing, casting out demons across the Lake of Galilee and here He was…in Person, getting out of a boat, on not any beach, but on this beach–her beach.

Even the local pastor was the first to greet Jesus after He set His feet on the warm sand.  His name was Jairus, whose little daughter was at the point of death.  And as Jesus went to go with the father, “a great crowd kept following…pressing Him from all sides [so as almost to suffocate Him]”  (Amplified Bible).  EVERYONE gathered…WANTED TO SEE JESUS!

A DECISION HAD TO BE MADE:

*  It was therefore obvious, the woman heard about Jesus.

*  If He could do it for them, He could certainly do it for me.

*  She had Heart FAITH.

*  Went to where He was.

*  I’m not going to WAIT for Jesus to come to me, but I’m going to TOUCH HIM, crowd or no crowd!

*  She TOUCHED Him!

Psychiatrists sometimes say, that if a person is diagnosed with Enochlophobia [women are said to outnumber men considerably in being diagnosed], all that is needed when in a throng is,,,a CALMING TOUCH by someone close to relieve the anxiety.

Did this woman, diseased with a ‘blood disorder’, have Enochlophobia?  I don’t know, but she was definitely DETERMINED to TOUCH JESUS, regardless of her condition or what others might think or do to her.

STAND –  She Was Delivered!  In the Midst of a Crowd!

This woman who TOUCHED Jesus’ garment; the fringe on His Tallit or prayer shawl; wherever the TOUCH was instantly and completely healed.  God recognized a simple TOUCH OF FAITH  among many people who were in the crowd that day.  They too probably had personal needs they wanted met just like this lady but didn’t want to chance what their neighbors might think if they did.

What was the difference?  She was delivered because she had TOUCHED Jesus.  Her fears of being in a CROWD (reasons already stated) had disappeared.  Not because of her close proximity to the Master, but because of her up close and personal TOUCH.

The Difference Between Being in a Congregation or Church Assembly…and Simply TOUCHING Jesus.

FAITH ALWAYS TOUCHES JESUS–

He knows the difference between bumping against someone in a crowded room and a TOUCH OF FAITH of a soul in need.  BUT you have to TOUCH Him first.  He is here where you and I are right now, but it is our job to reach out and TOUCH HIM.

JESUS was on His way to an important man’s house.  What are the odds that Jesus is ever going to stop by and touch this lady in fear–not very good. But she…but she touched Him.  Rank had no importance to Jesus when it came to a personal trust of faith in Him.  As you read on further in the chapter, Jesus didn’t forget the need of Jarius and his daughter.  But in the right now…this woman became the example because of a TOUCH.

In the Right Now!

JESUS is here right where you are sitting.  Doesn’t matter what your condition is:  no matter your fears, no matter what people might think when you step out from where you have been in life.

Need healing in your body?

Need healing in your spirit?

What is your NEED?  The sharing of that NEED in a crowd, taking a STAND, stepping out in FAITH… might bring you FEAR!  All you need is a gentle touch of faith where you are and any phobia will melt away.

YOU CAN STRETCH FORTH YOUR HAND AND TOUCH HIM.  A TOUCH OF FAITH!

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