Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Resting in Christ

Second Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Resting in Christ
May 7, 2016

"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken." Isaiah 58:13,14

"But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." John 3:21

In this week's lesson, we are challenged to assess our views of the Sabbath - of work and rest. The works of Christ in Galilee, in those cities judged harshly for their unbelief in Matthew 11, included teaching and healing on the Sabbath. The inhabitants of those cities should have repented, and come to the light, as Jesus articulated to Nicodemus in John 3:21, so that they might take the easy yoke of the Savior, enter in to Christ's work, and thus have their work revealed as having been the result the Father's work.

When Jesus said in John 6:29, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent,"
He was speaking also to the nature of Sabbath rest, and the type of work from which we are to rest. We are to lay our burdens down - the burdens of working for our own sustenance, so we can remember who is sustaining us; the burdens of sin, so we can know who is our salvation and righteousness; the burdens of the pride, self-righteousness, and blindness of Laodicea, so we learn from the Master what He really values, and what work He would like to do in and through us, even and especially on the Sabbath.

The Jews seemed set on carrying the wrong burdens, especially those created by unbelief in the the covenant promise of God to write His law in their hearts and minds (Jer. 31:31-34). They also ascribed to the Sabbath the wrong kind of rest - that which focused on doing their own pleasure, speaking their own words, and making themselves the template for the proper Sabbath observance of others. They were constantly using their yoke and their accusing finger (Isaiah 58:9) to bring others in to line with God's Sabbath command, even in the simple matter of "food preparation" by the disciples.

Christ, on the other hand, entered in to the work of His Father - especially  when he was healing on the Sabbath. When challenged about working for others on Sabbath by healing, he replied, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." John 5:17.

      "The miracles of Christ for the afflicted and suffering were wrought by the power of God through the ministration of the angels." DA 143.

Jesus was working by faith in the Father - as we should, by the Faith of Jesus.

      "Christ would teach His disciples and His enemies that the service of God is first of all. The object of God's work in this world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath law." DA 286 

When Sabbath-keeping becomes a sacrifice, an end in itself, rather than a means of bringing humanity into closer communion with God, "its mere outward observance" becomes "a mockery." DA 287

Might we be at risk in similar fashion to the Jews? Perhaps we should contemplate the Sabbath healings of Christ in light of our own willingness, or lack thereof, to enter in to the work of God on the Sabbath, and thus restore with Christ its true purpose.

There are seven gospel records of healing on the Sabbath by Jesus. Three (Mt. 12:9-14; Mark 3:2-5; Luke 6:6-10) appear to refer to the same event of healing a withered hand. The other four (Luke 13:10-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-15; John 9:1-14) involve restoration of spinal alignment, of coordination,  of motor function, and of sight.

Furthermore, these healings of Jesus were not simply spontaneous, but planned, for a purpose:

      "'He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth.' Isaiah 42:21, 4. He had come to free the Sabbath from those burdensome requirements that had made it a curse instead of a blessing. 
     For this reason He had chosen the Sabbath upon which to perform the act of healing at Bethesda. He could have healed the sick man as well on any other day of the week; or He might simply have cured him, without bidding him bear away his bed. But this would not have given Him the opportunity He desired. A wise purpose underlay every act of Christ's life on earth. Everything He did was important in itself and in its teaching." DA 206

This begs the question: what healing ministry would God have us choose to do on the Sabbath as we proclaim the judgment hour message of Revelation 14? How should we be ministering to others on this day, the Lord's day? As Thursday's lesson so aptly puts it, "How do we understand the phrase 'repairer of the breach,' especially in the context of the three angels' messages?"

Here are some quotations for reflection:

     "Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me."--The Ministry of Healing, p. 143. 

      "The Sabbath was Christ's busiest day for healing the sick. On this day He could best reach those who were laboring during the week. Wherever He went, He was a medical missionary, an unerring physician, speaking words of comfort and love!  From Him flowed a stream of healing power, and the sick were made whole. He healed men and women with unhesitating willingness and with hearty joyfulness; for He was glad to be able to restore suffering ones to health."--Letter 168, 1902, p. 1.

      "The demands upon God are even greater upon the Sabbath than upon other days. His people then leave their usual employment, and spend the time in meditation and worship. They ask more favors of Him on the Sabbath than upon other days. They demand His special attention. They crave His choicest blessings. God does not wait for the Sabbath to pass before He grants these requests. Heaven's work never ceases, and men should never rest from doing good. The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no labor for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God ceased His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds. The work of Christ in healing the sick was in perfect accord with the law. It honored the Sabbath.  DA 207.2 

     "Genuine medical missionary work is bound up inseparably with the keeping of God's commandments, of which the Sabbath is especially mentioned, since it is the great memorial of God's creative work. Its observance is bound up with the work of restoring the moral image of God in man. This is the ministry which God's people are to carry forward at this time. This ministry, rightly performed, will bring rich blessings to the church."  6T 266. 

Note some cautions regarding sanitarium/hospital staff, likely with some broader application:

     "Often physicians are called upon on the Sabbath to minister to the sick, and it is impossible for them to take time for rest and devotion. The Saviour has shown us by His example that it is right to relieve suffering on this day; but physicians and nurses should do no unnecessary work. Ordinary treatment, and operations that can wait, should be deferred till the next day. Let the patients know that physicians must have one day for rest. The Lord says, 'Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations.' Exodus 31:13.  
     "Let no man, because he is a physician, feel at liberty to disregard this word of the Lord. He should plan his work so as to obey God's requirements. He should not travel on the Sabbath except when there is real suffering to be alleviated. When this is the case, it is not a desecration of the Sabbath for physicians to travel upon that day; but ordinary cases should be deferred." MM 213,214

     "Let there be no robbery of God in tithes and offerings, no desecration of His holy time. Man is not to do his own pleasure on God's holy day. He has six days in which to work at secular business, but God claims the seventh as His own. 'In it,' He says, 'thou shalt not do any work.' Exodus 20:10. The servant of God will call sacred that which the Lord calls sacred. Thus he will show that he has chosen the Lord as his leader. The Sabbath was made in Eden, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. God has placed it in our charge. Let us keep it pure and holy." --MS. 162, 1897.  MM 215 

And from E.J. Waggoner - to be read carefully and prayerfully (the entire article is best for context):
"Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath, and He did indeed break the
Jewish Sabbath, but not the Sabbath of the Lord. The Jewish Sabbath consisted
in formal cessation of all labour on the seventh day of the week, even though
human life was lost thereby. It was simply a yoke, a burden, an act of penance by
which they thought, to make themselves righteous. It had nothing in common
with the Sabbath of the Lord except that it was kept on the same day of the
week. The Lord's Sabbath is absolute rest in Him and His word,-dependence on
His life; and since His life is activity,-service for others,-it follows that true
Sabbath-keeping may sometimes involve severe physical labour. How can one tell what
works are lawful on the Sabbath day, and what are not?-No list of lawful and unlawful works
can be given, but this principle will guide - whatever labour is necessary for the welfare of 

suffering humanity, whether the disease be of body or of soul, and from which the
labourer derives absolutely no profit or benefit except the consciousness of God's
presence, is proper Sabbath labour. True Sabbath keeping is rest in God,-
absolute and unqualified acceptance of His word."
"Studies in the Gospel of John. Man's Rightful Authority. John v.
17-27" The Present Truth 15, 5. 1899.

~Todd Guthrie