PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 31:12-18; Enter Into Rest

06/24 Exodus 31:12-18; 35:1-3 Sabbath Rest

Six Times in Exodus

Whenever God speaks we should listen. When God repeats himself, we had better pay close attention. But if God were to say something six times, wouldn’t that be an indication that this is something dear to his heart and important for us to hear?

Exodus 31:12-18 is the fourth of six times in Exodus that the Sabbath is addressed.

The first, in chapter 16, came shortly after God saved his people, bringing them out of slavery, conquering their enemies, providing for their needs in the wilderness. When they grumbled, he supplied them with bread from heaven six days out of seven as a test, to see if they would walk in obedience to their God or not. He said:

Exodus 16:23 … “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.”’ …26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

Of course, the people failed the test.

Exodus 16:27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

This was before the law was given, and this was a gift! God’s gift to his freed slaves; the gift of rest.

In commandment #4 of the ten commandments, God said:

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

In chapter 23, where God is expanding on what life lived in relationship with him should look like, he reiterates:

Exodus 23:12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

Then this passage, here at the end of his instructions for building his tent,the place where he will dwell in the midst of the people, after he designates the workmen who will do the work on the tabernacle, he reminds his people of the primary importance of the Sabbath rest.

Exodus 31:12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” 18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

In chapter 34, after the people violated God’s covenant, after Moses had broken the two tablets, after the people repented and as God was graciously renewing his covenant with his sinful people, he says:

Exodus 34:21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Finally, in chapter 35, as work is about to begin on this portable worship center, a place that in every detail would point to Jesus,

Exodus 35:1 Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. 2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”

This issue of Sabbath rest is apparently very important to God, important enough to repeat it six times in this foundational book of the Old Testament.


When we were in chapter 20, studying God’s ten words to his people, we saw that there are differences of opinion among believers in Jesus on how to apply these scriptures to our lives today. We learned in Galatians 4 that to observe a day as a way to gain favor with God would be turning away from the grace of Christ to a different gospel. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, and not by any observance or effort on our part.

We saw in Romans 14 that there is room for differences of opinion among Christians on secondary issues like food and drink and days of the week, and we are not to violate our own conscience and we are not to pass judgment on our brothers and sisters who see it differently.

In Colossians 2, it is pointed out that we are all lawbreakers who receive forgiveness because God nailed the record of our debt that stood against us to the cross of our Lord Jesus. We are cautioned to

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Here we are clearly told that the Sabbath was a shadow of things to come, and that the substance, the real thing that casts the shadow, is Jesus Christ. So let’s examine the contours of this shadow to see what it teaches us about our Jesus, and then let’s look up from the shadow into the reality of the face of our Lord.

Observations in Exodus 31

Just a few observations in our text in Exodus. First, in verse 12 there is an emphatic word that is translated ‘above all’ in the ESV; ‘verily’ in the KJV; ‘surely’ in the NAS. This is important. If you don’t get that I’ll highlight it by repeating it six times in this book alone. If that isn’t enough to get your attention, I’ll attach the death penalty for ignoring the Sabbath. If there is something that God takes seriously enough to make a capital offense, that should be an indication that this is something he wants us to pay attention to. It seems that the threat of death is one thing that tends to get a human’s attention.

Notice how God talks about the Sabbath. He says it is ‘my Sabbath’. He says it is to be holy for you and you are not to profane it. He says is is for ‘solemn rest, holy to the Lord’. This is not just a day off, a weekly vacation day from our regular routine. This is a day set apart, set aside for something; or rather for someone. This is ‘my Sabbath’. This is not just a day of rest but ‘solemn rest’, and it is to be set apart ‘to the Lord’.

It Is God Who Sanctifies

Notice also that through the shadow of the Sabbath, God wants us to know something. He says in verse 13 that ‘it is a sign between me and you …that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.’ In Exodus we have seen a lot of sanctification. Everything in God’s tent was to be sanctified or set apart, consecrated, made holy, designated for God’s use alone. Even God’s servants the priests were to be set apart or sanctified to him. In chapter 29, we are told that it is the glory of God that will set apart this tent for his exclusive use.

Exodus 29:42 …at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

It is the glory of God’s presence that sets everything apart for him. The Sabbath is to be a reminder that ‘I the LORD sanctify you.’ You do not sanctify yourselves. You do not sanctify each other. You are not sanctified by some special rite or ritual or thing. You and I are set apart for God by God himself.

How is the Sabbath rest a reminder that it is God who sanctifies us? Remember what the Sabbath means. ‘Shebat’ means to cease or stop. You are to labor or work for six days and then stop. Cease. Desist. Nothing that we do can sanctify us. It is the Lord that sanctifies you. So stop! Stop trying to set yourself apart! Stop trying to impress God with your moral uprightness and personal holiness. Stop thinking that there is anything you can do to make yourself acceptable to a holy God. God invites us to rest in him, to depend on him, to trust him.

God Is the Giver of Every Good Thing

But if I stop working, how will I eat? Who will provide for my needs? This stop work day is a reminder that it is God who provides for my needs every day through my obedient work, but that God is not dependent on my work to provide for my needs. God is provider, whether through my efforts, or in spite of my efforts, or altogether without my efforts. This stop work day is a reminder that every good thing comes to us as a gift from God.

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

We have an awesomely generous God who loves to give. For our good and for our pleasure, he wants us to know that everything comes from him. In Old Testament books like Ezekiel (16) and Hosea, God likens his people to a wife that takes the thoughtful gifts of her generous husband and hawks them to pay for lovers to sleep around with. What you are searching for in the emptiness of repeat affairs, I am offering in the satisfaction of rich and exclusively intimate relationship. So that we do not destroy ourselves searching for pleasure in things that will bring ruin, God invites us into relationship with him, and points us to the fact that every good thing comes from him.

Working is Different from Waiting

The prophet Isaiah highlights the difference between the one true God and every false God.

Isaiah 64:4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

Every false God asks us to work for them, to serve them, to give them things that they need. Requirements are extensive and demands are high. We worship the all-sufficient God, who lacks nothing and needs nothing from us.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Who has ever heard of a God like this? Who has ever heard of a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him? Stop working and receive. Stop working and rest. Trust. Depend. Allow God to do the work for you. Allow him to do his work in you ‘that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you’.

This contrast between working for and resting in is spelled out in Romans 4.

Romans 4:1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

If you work, then what you get is wages, and you have every right to be proud of yourself for earning them. If you do not work, but instead beg, then anything you receive is a gift, and you have no right to boast except in the generosity of the giver. We are in the position of a disabled beggar, unable to work, but dependent on the benevolence of our most generous God. We can boast only in his greatness.

In fact, if we look back to our text in Exodus, we see that anyone who attempts to work when God commands us to rest will surely die. Our work profanes or pollutes or desecrates or defiles God’s rest. Ephesians tells us (2:8-10) that we are God’s workmanship, and that our salvation is a gift of God’s grace, not our own doing, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Titus tells us (3:5) that God our Savior, he saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. Galatians tells us that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, and that by the works of the law no one will be justified’ (2:16); that we receive the Spirit by hearing with faith and not by the works of the law (3:2); that we do not boast in the flesh but only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:13-14); that to attempt to be justified by the law is to nullify the grace of God and to say that Christ died for no purpose (2:21). Jesus “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk.10:45). Jesus cried out from the cross “it is finished” (Jn.19:30). Any attempt to add our efforts to his finished work is to negate grace, to despise Christ, and to scorn God’s generosity.

Invitation to Enter and Enjoy

Hebrews exhorts us to enter in to the rest of God by faith (Heb.3-4).

Hebrews 4:10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Our passage in Exodus tells us that ‘in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed (31:17); literally, he stopped and took a breath. God was not winded when he completed his work. Instead, he stopped to enjoy what he had made. He saw that it was very good. He took pleasure and delight in his finished work. Now that Jesus has finished the work of redemption on the cross, he invites us to enter into his rest. He invites us into his presence to enjoy the fruit of his finished work. He invites us to ‘enter into the joy of your master’ (Mt.25:21,23). Jesus desires that we be with him where he is, to see his glory (Jn.17:24). We are invited in, where ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ (Ps.16:11). Listen:

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Jesus says ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ (Jn.7:37). Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Stop working. Come. Rest. Find satisfaction. Be refreshed in the finished work of Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

June 24, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | ,

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