Saturday, 3 December 2011

Sabbath and Redemption/Deliverance

And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.  Deut. 5:15

While the Sabbath’s original purpose was to commemorate and celebrate the creative work of God, which would take place before the entrance of sin, it had the versatility to still be applicable to the post sin era.  It not only continued to celebrate God’s creative work, but it would also come to serve as a way of celebrating God’s work of redeeming mankind from the slavery of sin and death.
Discussions on deliverance or redemption usually take place in the context of contending with issues of being in bondage, or of finding oneself trapped in a situation that has terrible implications for ones future wellbeing.  To be in bondage is to be bound to a situation over which you have no control.  You may wish to get out, but you cannot, because you are held captive by a power superior to yourself.  To be delivered from that situation requires the intervention of a power source superior to yourself and to the power of your captor as well.  Then to be redeemed, while related to deliverance in some ways, gives more detail about the relationship of the deliverer and the redeemed.  Redemption suggests prior ownership of the redeemed by the redeemer, who now reclaims the one who has been captured, having wandered away from the boundaries of the owner’s protection, and is held captive by a source that is more powerful and that is unwilling to release the captive.
The experience of the Israelite nation becoming slaves in Egypt served as an opportune object lesson to illustrate the kind of deliverance that God seeks to grant each of us who live under the tyranny of sin.  For as through the instrumentality of Moses He delivered Israel from Egypt, so through Jesus Christ the possibility for the entire world to be liberated from sin was achieved.
In Deuteronomy 5:15 deliverance from Egypt was given as the reason for observing the Sabbath.  Did that in any way negate the celebration of creation as the original reason for Sabbath observance?  Not at all.  Although we are only but the offspring of God’s original creation of the human species, this is reason enough to submit to the sovereignty of God.  Granted, creation could never be as personal to us as it was for Adam and Eve who came from the very hand of God.  Adam, we’re told even helped in the naming of the animals, which was how he realized his lack without a companion.  Things could have hardly gotten any more personal than that, if indeed it could.  To have been delivered from the Egyptian bondage, or to be delivered from sin, however, gets as personal for us as would the creation experience be for Adam and Eve.  The point not to be missed in both instances however is that in both cases the basis on which God asserts His sovereignty is adequately validated: (1) you are a product of my creation; (2) I redeemed or delivered you.  In Psalm 100: 3 we are challenged to know that the LORD is God, it is He that made us, and not we ourselves, and as such we are HIS people and the sheep of his pasture.  Therefore come into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.   Why?  Because He is our Creator.  The Apostle Paul says that we are bought with a price; and therefore we should glorify God in our bodies and our spirit, which are GOD’s. 1 Cor. 6:20.  And he further says that as such we should not be servants of men (1 Cor. 7:23), implying that our allegiance should instead be toward God our Redeemer.
As our Creator God is our life giver.  But then sin came, and with it death.  Psalm 51: 5 tells us that we were born in sin.  In other words we were born to die, for the reward of sin is death.  The coming of Christ as our substitute who died our death has delivered us from the death sentence of sin. This is not a mere deliverance from death it is a deliverance from the works of sin.  Rom. 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”  In fact in verse 14 we are assured that sin will not have dominion over us.  Praise God for His Grace through which our redemption is assured.
As we accept the invitation of God to walk out of the Egypt of our sinful bondages, we gain that very personal reason to acknowledge the right of the One who is the source of our deliverance to require our worship, in the way He requires it.  So Deuteronomy 5:15 resonates personally with us when it is read in the context of our deliverance from sin.
As we seek to obey God’s command care should be taken that we do not get into a mechanical mode of making the Sabbath a part of our worship experience.  Because much like creation preceded the call to observe the Sabbath in celebration of that experience, so is deliverance a prerequisite to answering the call to worship.  True Sabbath observance as a commemoration of God’s delivering us can only take place when we have been delivered.  Anything short of such an encounter with God would make us vain law keepers (legalists) who are trying to work their way to the Kingdom.   Salvation comes only by faith in Jesus, and not by works of the law.  So there is no salvation that will come from keeping the Sabbath.  Rather we keep the Sabbath because Salvation has come; because we have been redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; delivered from bondage of sin; exonerated from the death sentence into which we were born.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We all need a savior.  The Good News is that there is a Saviour!  He has in the flesh achieved the righteousness of the law, which righteousness He wishes to share with all of us.  As we come to Him He imputes His righteousness to us and declares us righteous; He justifies us.  Then He imparts His righteousness to us and makes us righteous; He sanctifies us.  When God is satisfied that sufficient has been done to redeem mankind then the declaration will be made by Jesus: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.  And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Rev. 22: 11, 12.  At the glorious second return of Jesus Christ the redeemed ones will all be given new bodies – the corruption will gain incorruption and the mortal shall put on immortality.  Jesus will glorify us. 2 Tim. 2: 10.
How should our worship of God be characterized by the fact that we have been delivered? An instructive observation occurs when we look at how persons who have been delivered from certain negative situations have responded.  Again we look at our object lesson – the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  In Exodus 15: 1-19 we see Moses’ song that exalts God for the marvelous things He has accomplished for his people.  A true worship of God involves giving testimonies of God’s His divine intervention into our lives and experiences; He is always exalted.  We then see in verse 20 how Miriam chimes in with her timbrel, while drawing a following of women with her, who themselves had their timbrels too, and they danced and sang unto the Lord.  The worship of God is to always be a joyful experience as we celebrate the triumph that God has afforded us over our challenges.
Then there was the crippled man at the gate called Beautiful, whom Peter and John healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  The scripture says that following his healing; his deliverance from the restrictive bondage of paralysis that held him from his birth, he entered with them into the temple, leaping and jumping and praising God.  To experience God’s deliverance is to be propelled into spontaneous praise and worship.  This is how Sabbath should be observed.
As was the case before the fall that Sabbath was instituted to celebrate God’s creative work, so after the restoration, according to Isaiah 66: 23 the Sabbath will be continue to be a part of our worship experience, “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.”  This will be the experience of the redeemed.  Considering all of this, wouldn’t it be fitting that as we enter into a saving relationship with Christ that we celebrate this redemption by obeying His call for Sabbath observance?