June 18, “Sabbath”

Sabbath

The most fundamental law of the Covenantal worship of Jehovah concerned honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy.
The critics of Jesus, scorekeepers every one, watched for the slightest violation of Sabbath principles. It never occurred to them that Jesus might be Lord of the Sabbath but they were about to discover this.

First Offence
His men were hungry. Regular meals were not a feature of following Jesus. They passed through some fields of grain just when the wheat was right for the picking. It was the Sabbath and harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath. Score one for the Pharisees.

“Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

Their frowns were deeper than rows plowed deep. The disciples stopped harvesting and rubbing out the wheat in their hands, but several of them had already filled their mouths. Trying not to chew, they waited to see how Jesus would respond. The smile on His face told them all they needed to know. When He started speaking they went back to munching. Jesus gave the guardians of the Law a Bible lesson.

“Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry…how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him…?”

The Pharisees had no answer. Was that really in the Bible? They exchanged glances until the most informed among confirmed the story Jesus told. It was just a warmup for the thing Jesus really wanted them to know.

“The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

The scorekeepers were stunned by this heresy. No one was Lord of the Sabbath, no one but God Himself! They could never have anticipated this statement and they had no answer for it except the noise of their ignorance.

Second Offence
Probably a week later, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. The Pharisees couldn’t stop Him but they could watch Him and take notes. A man with a withered hand was in attendance. It was his habit to hide his short arm within the sleeve of his robe. The last thing he wanted to do was attract attention. The scorekeepers saw their opportunity. They somehow drew the attention of the people to the unfortunate man. He tried to find a place to hide and tucked his mangled arm out of sight.

Jesus called the man out.

“Arise and stand here.”

He smiled at the man to assure him that He was not being cruel. He turned to the Pharisees with a question:

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”

To the man He said,

“Stretch out your hand.”

Suddenly, accompanied by the snap of bones and the surprised cry of the man, the withered hand filled out to its proper length. The man flexed the fingers and stared at the one hand now made whole and began to clap both hands together. Worshipers joined in and the clapping became a beat and then the beat became a song.

The Pharisees didn’t feel like singing. What were they supposed to do with a man with this kind of power who claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath?

Scriptures:
Luke: 6:1-11

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I love Your holy day! This is the central organizational point of the week. It is Yours, not ours. It is a gift from You. I repent of the times when I felt like it was my day, to spend or waste or use as I pleased. Not true. It is Your day for all its 24 hours. I will join Your church to minister unto You giving You the glory due to Your name! I will worship and I will rest, for this, too, is the Sabbath. You are indeed the Lord of the Sabbath! Thank, You, Lord!

Song:
This Is the Day

Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Thomas Augustine Arne

1. This is the day the Lord has made;
He calls the hours His own;
let heav’n rejoice, let earth be glad,
and praise surround the throne.

2. Today he rose and left the dead,
and Satan’s empire fell;
today the saints His triumphs spread,
and all His wonders tell.

3. Hosanna to th’anointed King,
to David’s holy Son.
help us, O LORD, descend and bring
salvation from Your throne.

4. Blest be the Lord, who comes to us
with messages of grace;
who comes, in God His Father’s name,
to save our sinful race.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 13 “Sabbath”

Sabbath

Knowing it would be grist for the mill of opposition, Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
It was about more than some hungry disciples; this claim was about staking out His rightful place as the Son of God. Jesus and the twelve passed through some grain fields on a Sabbath day. His men were hungry and the food was right there, so they each had a personal little harvest and ate some of the grain. The watching Pharisees saw their opportunity.

“Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

Jesus knew more about the Sabbath than these experts in the Law. He knew that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He reminded the legalists of times in the history of the nation when to stave off hunger holy men had violated the laws of the Sabbath to feed themselves.

“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

There was no response from the Pharisees. They had conveniently forgotten scripture stories that did not suit their purposes. Jesus went on;

“Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?”

There is no record of their response to Jesus so they probably had none. Jesus seized the moment to begin to try to tell them the meaning behind all the wonderful things He was doing right before their eyes. He was not just a gifted Rabbi. He was more even than a great prophet, teacher and healer. He was greater than all of those marvelous offices. He told them this:

“Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.”

He was not only visiting in the Temple—it was His Father’s House! The Temple was temporary but He was eternal. He was the Messenger of the New Covenant prophesied by Malachi. He asked them what they thought of mercy—was it also a part God’s plan for them? Had not the Lord said, mercy was more desirable to God than sacrifice? The Sabbath was about rest, merciful rest, not just about rituals and laws. Jesus told the people He was the Lord of the Sabbath!

The Sabbath Today
After the resurrection of Jesus on the first Day of the week, the church combined the seventh day of rest and worship with the first day of the week celebration of the Resurrection into what is now called the Lord’s Day. In this way Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Old Covenant Sabbath and the New Covenant of new life in Christ. Indeed, all things are fulfilled in Christ. The Lord’s day is both a day for the sacrifices of worship and the merciful act of preaching the Gospel to the world. It is also a day of rest! In our culture, based on Judeo-Christian principles, the weekend combination of rest and worship orders the rest of the week for us.

Scriptures:
Matthew 12:1-8
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 28:1-2
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
Acts 20:7-8
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
1 Corinthians 16:2-3
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your day! The Lord’s Day is the central organizing point of our schedules. Thank You for rest and thank You for helping us prioritize worship. Help me to always be faithful to gather with Your Church to worship You on Your day! This is Your calendar, so I will honor it. You are faithful to be enthroned upon and to inhabit the praises of Your people; help us be faithful to give You praise to be Your throne and Your holy habitation. All for Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
This Is the Day the Lord Has Made
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Thomas Augustine Arne

1. This is the day the Lord has made; He calls the hours His own;
Let heav’n rejoice, let earth be glad, And praise surround the throne.

2. Today he rose and left the dead, And Satan’s empire fell;
Today the saints His triumphs spread, And all His wonders tell.

3. Hosanna to th’anointed King, to David’s holy Son.
help us, O LORD, descend and bring salvation from Your throne.

4. Blest be the Lord, who comes to us with messages of grace;
who comes, in God His Father’s name, to save our sinful race.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 6 “Rules”

Rules

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.
Just as so many suffering folk were ready for His healing touch, many humble minds were open to the teachings of Jesus. Other minds were locked tight, threatened by anything from outside of their limited experience be it message or messenger. These were the “people of the rules.” To keep the rules required no thought and certainly no creativity. Since rules were at the surface of things, there was never any need to dive into matters. To alter the scriptures for them, “Deep did not call to shallow.” (Ps 42:7)

Rule Number One: Call the Right People
Beyond shallow rules, Jesus brought the truths of Kingdom of God to the regions of Galilee. He encountered the Rules People time and again. Passing through the multitude of hungry, humble souls, He spied one Levi, also called Matthew, a tax collector, and called to him just as he had the four fisherman, “Follow me.” Like those fishermen who left their businesses to follow Jesus, Levi abandoned his tax rolls to take up with the least political public figure he had ever seen.

The results of Levi’s obedience to the call were immediate. He invited his associates, an unseemly if prosperous lot of crooks, to dine with Jesus and His disciples in his own home, surely a sizable one acquired in the usual manner of those in his profession.

When the news of this dinner became known to the Rules People, the scribes and Pharisees, they had the evidence they needed to discredit Jesus. They approached His disciples with the 1st century equivalence of a smoking gun.

“How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard about it, His answer went beyond surface rules to deep principles:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Rules by Comparison
Certain Rules People who followed both John and the Pharisees noticed that the four fisherman were not joining them in fasting. They wanted to know why their rules were not everyone’s rules. The answer lay in the identity of Jesus Himself. He was Messiah, not forerunner. This was a day for feasting not fasting. Those times would come when He was gone from them. Here was the principle: Something new required new preparations:

…new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Grainfields and the Sabbath
Jesus and the five disciples walked through a field of grain. Hungry, the men ate some of the ripened grain. No problem; except that it was the Sabbath. The score-keepers marked their cards and complained. The rules were more important than the hunger of the men. Jesus answered them with a story from the Scriptures. David and his men ate bread dedicated to the priests when they were pursued by King Saul. In their hunger this was an approved action, not a sin. In this case, the Rules People called it reaping and condemned Jesus and His men.

To answer their charges, Jesus introduced one of the most important facts about the Kingdom of God: Jesus is Lord of all—including the Sabbath! He is the ruling principle!

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.

Scriptures:
Mark: 2:13-28
Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me a hunger for You today. Bless me with a thirst for Your Living Water, truth direct from the Throne of God, a River of Life. As my spirit feasts on Your Word and as my soul deeply drinks of Your Spirit, impress upon me the principles behind the rules. You, Lord Jesus, are Rule Number One! Your life-giving principles demand much of me, but they supply so much more! Give me that hunger and thirst for righteousness that results in a full heart. Amen and Amen.

Song:
As the Deer
Words and Music: Martin Nystrom

1. As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

Refrain:
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

2. You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a king
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

Refrain

3. I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved