Lesson 3

Sabbath: A Day of Freedom

(Exodus 16 & 20, Luke 13, Mark 2, Matthew 12)
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Introduction: I love the Sabbath! My life is a series of deadlines. When I'm home, I have work to do on the house and the lawn. I'll bet you know what I'm talking about. When I was a young man, the pressure cooker of law school brought the blessing of the Sabbath into clear focus. While other students were studying, I was able to have a guilt-free time to go to church, eat with friends, and read and relax. Let's plunge into our Bibles and see what other blessings we can find in the Sabbath!

  1. Manna Plan


    1. Read Exodus 16:14-16 and Exodus 16:21. When it came to being fed, what responsibility did the people have? (They had to get out of bed and collect the food. If they did not, it would melt.)


    2. Read Exodus 16:17-18. Why did everyone have just the right amount? (God told them how much to gather, they obeyed, and everyone had what they needed.)


      1. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that an omer is about two quarts. What about hearty eaters? Those who need more calories? (These verses talk about how much everyone needed. I think the point of how it all worked out is that God supplied what was needed for each person.)


      2. Does this teach us anything about economics today? (I suspect that however much you have, you always need more than you have!)


    3. Read Exodus 16:19-20. Why would a person try to keep more? (They did not trust God. It made no sense to try to store it up if you received fresh supplies each morning.)


    4. Read Exodus 16:22-25. What does this teach us about the Sabbath? (God intended us to rest. No need to go out early and gather food.)


      1. What is the practical lesson for us today? (We will not miss out by resting on the Sabbath. This was a lesson I learned early on. Those fellow law students who studied diligently on Sabbath did not receive better grades than mine.)


      2. What does this teach us about putting God's interests first? (I'm reminded of the days when we were building our church. I had just bought a used Mercedes Benz and I was excited about changing its oil. Instead, I put God first and worked on our new church. When I got home I immediately started working on the Benz, and found that it had an unusual oil drain plug. It required a huge allen wrench. None of mine would fit it, and I doubted any were sold locally. Then I noticed that the leather nail apron that I used at church had a nail puller with a handle shaped like a huge allen wrench. It fit perfectly! Had I not put God's business first, I would have wasted my time working on the church by looking for the right wrench!)


  2. Sabbath Rest


    1. Read Exodus 20:8. What is God asking us to do when He says "remember?" (He could be telling us to "keep it in mind," but it is more likely that God is telling us to remember Genesis 2:2-3.)


    2. Read Genesis 2:2-3. What does this tell us about the Sabbath and rest? (The history of the Sabbath is that our Creator God made everything in six days and memorialized His work by a Sabbath rest.)


      1. How would you rate the world in remembering our Creator God? (Instead of being reminded every Sabbath that God is our Creator, the popular culture tells us that God had nothing to do with the creation. It came about by chance and competition.)


    3. Read Exodus 20:9-10. What is the main point of the Sabbath? (The debate is between "rest" and "remembering God." I think both are important.)


      1. Why do you think that servants, animals and foreigners were also to rest? (This shows the importance of the rest component of the Sabbath - everyone and every animal was entitled to rest.)


      2. Over the years, I've contemplated what is appropriate on Sabbath. I recall that once my church decided that on Sabbath they would do some good by helping some poor member by moving their belongings out of their house. After all, Jesus says we can wrestle an ox out of a well on Sabbath! See Luke 14:5. I'm rather sure I helped! What do you say about this? (I think this ignores the rest component of the Sabbath. It is hardly rest to move furniture. Unlike the ox, this is not a situation in which the furniture was in distress.)


    4. Read Exodus 23:12. I read an article about a farmer who did not use his automatic irrigation equipment on Sabbath. He reported that it lasted much longer than the equipment of his competitors. What do you think about that? (A pump is not like a human, an ox, or a donkey. However, Exodus 23:10-11 says that we should not farm the land on the seventh year.)


    5. Read Luke 13:10-11. Was this an emergency situation? Was it like an ox falling down a well? (No. It had been going on for 18 years.)


    6. Read Luke 13:12-14. Healing is part of Jesus' normal work. Why is this appropriate on the Sabbath?


    7. Read Luke 13:15-16. The issue with the ox or donkey is giving it something to drink, not untying it! Can you defend Jesus' logic? (I would have responded that this was not work. Following the logic Jesus used, the lady was set free on the Sabbath.)


    8. Read Mark 2:23-27. Jesus' says that King David set an example of violating the law. David also committed adultery and murder! Is that also acceptable? Are David's unlawful actions a reasonable defense? (I don't think Jesus is telling us to act like King David. Rather, He is making a more sophisticated argument. He points to a balance between human needs and the Sabbath. The "Sabbath was made for man," meaning that it was made to improve our life. There is a hierarchy, and curing personal hunger is more important than the Sabbath.)


      1. What if the disciples started working in a soup kitchen on Sabbath?


      2. What if the disciples started working in a restaurant on the Sabbath?


    9. Read Mark 2:28. What is Jesus' point here? (That He gets to say what is appropriate on Sabbath!)


    10. Matthew records more of this conversation. Read Matthew 12:5-6. My regular job is to teach and try to persuade. I'm teaching nearly every Sabbath and I preach sometimes. I have often taught and then preached that same Sabbath - which is a lot like my regular work. Jesus says that I'm "innocent" of Sabbath-breaking. Why?


      1. Is it because I don't charge? Paid clergy charge. (Think back to my soup kitchen/restaurant question.)


      2. Is it because of the subject matter? I teach at a religious school and often litigate religious liberty cases.


      3. What does Jesus mean by "something greater than the temple is here?" (He is referring to Himself.)


        1. What is Jesus stating? (That the disciples are attending Him, and therefore their work is like that of the priests in the temple.)


          1. The disciples were just with Jesus, they were not collecting grain for Him to eat. What other activities could the disciples engage in the presence of Jesus on Sabbath and still be innocent?


    11. Read Matthew 12:7. I've asked a series of questions that show the difficulty of drawing lines. Some may say that drawing lines is "legalism," but Jesus never said, "forget the lines." Rather, He seems to say that the Jewish leaders were drawing the line in the wrong place. This text provides a standard for line-drawing. How would you explain this standard? (Here is a non-traditional explanation: to make the disciples go hungry would be a sacrifice on their part. Jesus says that showing mercy on the hungry disciples is more important than the sacrifice of making them go hungry. Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, in which the context is different. There, God says that He prefers to have us obey, rather than offer a sacrifice for our disobedience. That context is difficult to explain here, which I why I suggest a new explanation.)


    12. Friend, the Sabbath is important for both our physical and spiritual health. When you decide what is consistent with the Sabbath, will you remember that Jesus says it was made for our benefit? Ask the Holy Spirit for God's insight!


  3. Next week: Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs.

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