Sunday, October 16, 2005


Today I preached on Sabbath at church.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6...
the timer counts down in anticipation. Nervous. Excited. A wedding day. The day exam results are published. Waiting for a call after an interview. The last day of the Ashes series. Or simply that feeling as the clock ticks towards 5pm on a Friday afternoon...

The things we hope for spill backover into our lives. The things we do pointing towards the hope we have.

An athlete rises early to train in anticipation of one day crossing the finish line at the Olympics.... a student rises, slightly later, to study in anticipation of getting their degree. Ambition shapes our actions. Patterns of life reveal our priorities.

Let's turn to Genesis 2v2-3....
1. God's Rest – Hope of Heaven!
2v1 - Thus the heavens and the earth weree completed in all their vast array... v2-3 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Three brief things for us to see here about God's rest:

It's complete
After six days of creating that which is good God is finished. After six days of good work God looks and says: it's done. He stands back and looks at his masterpiece and downs tools.There is nothing more to add. Job well done.

It's blessed – fruitful
With the job done, God then blesses what he has done. He declares that it is blessed. He declares it fruitful. Not to commemorate the six days, but to mark the completion. This is a state of fruitful completion. It is full of life.

It's God at Rest
No more is God at work. This is God at rest. A simple description. God at the climax of creation, at rest.

There is no instruction or command here. It's not about us. We're not here. This is all God. Approved by God. Ruled by God.

We recognise it don't we? It's heaven! Perfect creation where we know that perfect relationship between man and God is possible. A place where God is most honoured.

We'll think about “God's rest” and “Heaven” interchangably this morning. Genesis 2 gives us a first glimpse of heaven – and as we read on signpost after signpost will point to this.

2. For Israel rest points to Entering God's Rest
This place: God at rest is “the world we all want”. This is the world where everything is “all as it should be”. Complete. Fruitful. And yet this is not the world we all know.

In the 1990's novelist Alex Garland told the story of young travellers who dreamt of finding paradise on the beaches of Thailand. Searching to find The Beach. Searching after paradise.... paradise in the same beaches that we saw engulfed by tsunami last Christmas.... somehow the pursuit of paradise fades. Paradise lost.

As we read on in Genesis the story is somewhat similar. And yet paradise is not so much snatched away as thrown away. Deliberately destroyed. There is treason in paradise as God's word is rejected.

Paradise is fractured beyond human repair. And humanity is excluded from God's rest. Cursed. Shut out.

But all is not lost. As the story continues through the Bible the hope of entering into God's rest remains. As Israel are released by God from slavery in Egypt the offer of rest remains for them.

Turn with me to Exodus 20v8-11 on page 78 of the Bible.
Genesis 2v2-3 is quoted, explained and applied to Israel. And modified slightly..
Genesis 2v3: God blessed the seventh day and made it holy

Exodus 20v11: The LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The LORD establishing a pattern of weekly work and rest for his people.

Why? So that they would look to “God at rest”. The LORD draws their attention to their hope of heaven. V8--- they must work six days and then rest for one day. This will point them --- v11 – to the hope of heaven, to God's completion of creation. A signpost, hardwired into life, pointing to heaven

What is God doing? He is not teaching good “work-life” balance. The events of Genesis 1 were not a cycle of creation, but a one off. Creation doesn't point to weekly life – its the other way round --- Weekly life reminds us of creation and rest. A signpost to the hope of the world we all want.

Israel had the signpost but tragically they didn't follow it. They stood and worshipped the signpost. And so we're told they missed out on God's rest, they missed the hope of heaven.

3. For Christians believing in Jesus points to Entering God's Rest

So, what about us? Its common for Christians to presume that anything that applied to Israel applies to us. We often draw a line from Israel to the church. But we cannot and must not do this. Christian application of the OT needs to have reference to Jesus Christ.

And actually Israel don't give us a pattern we really want to follow – they missed out on the hope of heaven... they enshrined the sign... they hardened their hearts...

Our situation is different. Now Jesus has come and lived the perfect life, died the perfect death and risen to sit in heaven, resting at God's right hand.

So what does this mean for us?
Turn with me to Hebrews 4v1-11, page 1203 ---- Let's explore this: Hebrews 4v1 tells us that the hope of entering God's rest remains! Hope of heaven still stands! And we're told to be careful not to miss out on it.

Why? V2 –----- because like Israel, the gospel has been preached to us.... they heard it and it had no value to them because they did not combine it with faith. They heard God's promise and offer of rest and did not believe.
But ------- v3 – we who have believed do enter that rest. V3 ---- God said that faithless Israel would not enter rest – but we do!
V9. We are told there remains a sabbath-rest for God's people. Not the great hope of a weekly day off – no, something greater the hope of heaven.Available. Accessible.

But we're not asked to keep Sunday special. The laws that God gave to Israel don't apply to us. We're saved by grace to live by grace. Everything is about believing in Jesus – not about doing things.

But we do love the idea of laws to obey. We seem to be able to invent them for fun! But those old laws are gone – now we live by the Spirit, we live by grace!
---------- Sabbath was a signpost for Israel pointing to heaven. Jesus is our signpost to heaven. Sabbath was a shadow. Jesus is the reality.

Some argue that a weekly sabbath is written into creation.
But Genesis 2 portrays sabbath only as the climax of God's work... not part of a cycle.... While human wisdom tells us to take time off it is not a biblical mandate.

It's true that work might become an idol. But idolatry is not remedied by law. Enforcing a weekly day off cannot change the heart of a workaholic. It will only frustrate us. And actually if we want to insist on copying God's creation then many of us need to increase our work from five days a week to six!! :)

Some want to insist that a weekly sabbath remains in force for Christians. We may differ on this, but when the Bible tackles the subject we get some strong answers.

In Galatians 4v9-10, he calls is gospel denying slavery to be observing special days. In Colossans 2 he says that observance cuts us off from Christ. Deadly. And in Romans 14v6, observance is something that could be tolerated where faith is weak...

Do you get the picture? Law only distracts us from Jesus. Law keeps us from heaven. No holy days – not sundays, not christmas, not easter.... we have no recourse to opt out of work. The early church couldn't opt out of their obligations to their masters – neither can we
-----------The hope of heaven: God at rest. The goal of our lives. Israel observed sabbath to point to it. We believe in Jesus. The Hope of Heaven.
---- How does that work?
---- What does it mean?

>>>> First, every day can point believers to heaven.

It's not the case that Sundays point us to heaven, but that the rest of our time doesn't. Every day can point us towards heaven as we believe in Jesus. ----- As every new day dawns we remember God's mercy... we remember that heaven is a day nearer...

--------- Whether we work, rest or play life points to heaven. We don't need a pattern of work and rest to point us to heaven – we only need Jesus.

Its said that some people are so heavenly minded that they're of no earthly use. ---------- The simple truth is that only the heavenly minded are of real earthly use.

>>> Second, meeting together points believers to heaven.

And we do gather on Sundays there is a particular purpose to our meetings – pointing us to Jesus as we preach the gospel to each other... as we look to sharing heaven together. Our meetings should always be heavenly minded.

>>>> Thirdly, all work points believers to heaven.

It's really tempting to think that people like Piers, Tim and myself are the ones who do holy work. By holy we're meaning things that matter to God, that are able to honour him – And we are set apart to teach the Bible, but that doesn't make our work more important than yours.

We might think that “normal work” are only useful to fund us “gospel workers”. It is needed for that but it is so much more than that.

We might think that “normal work” is only useful when it creates opportunities to “talk about Jesus”. It is needed for that but it is so much more than that.

All “Men at Work” is a signpost to heaven. Whatever your job it is a way of living out your belief in heaven, whether that means looking to the removal of curse on hard work, or expressing God's concern for people, truth, the design of God's world, looking beyond the weekend and the paycheque...

Everything we do is of interest to God – all of it can be heavenly minded activity. How can we do that?

The climax of creation is God at Rest – the hope of heaven. And God invites us to share in this.

Not just on Sundays, but every hour of every day of every week, whatever we do, as we believe in Jesus.


In pursuit of the truth - Derek Bigg
Sabbath - Andrew Shead
Tithing - Jack Heald