Passage: Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Sermon Summary: To flourish this winter, Christians would benefit from practicing the Sabbath. God gave Israel the Sabbath commandment (Fourth Commandment), after he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and, like all of his commands, it was meant to establish Israel in their freedom and to set them apart as a compelling “contrast community” to a watching world.
We too need a Sabbath today, and not only for refreshment from exhaustion, but because the Sabbath helps challenge the very mindset that exhausts and enslaves us in the first place, rooting us once again in God’s created purpose for our lives. By “ceasing” our work (shabbat) and “settling in” restfully (nuakh) to God’s goodness once every seven days, we are joining God in the pattern he established from the very beginning—a pattern of “ceasing” when his work was complete, and “entering in” to the enjoyment of it. When we refuse to cease working, despite being given the permission to, it’s a sign that our true master is “the slave driver within,” rather than our Lord, who is gracious and who sets us free. Israel, whose identity had been defined by generations of slavery, needed to learn the freedom to be restfully human again, just as we do today. Christians, of all people, are free people—people set free from the need to earn a standing with God, and free to enjoy God and the world he created.
Practically, then, practicing the Sabbath involves ceasing from work once every seven days— and not only from actually working, but from thinking and scheming about work as well! Having “ceased,” we should then “enter in” on the Sabbath day to activities that give us life— things that make us more worshipful, thankful, renewed, and whole. The Sabbath is also a communal command, and we need each other’s help in practicing it, exhibiting special care to make sure that the marginalized are able to truly rest as well (Ex. 20:10).
Ultimately, the Sabbath is a day of worship, and the “substance” of the Sabbath is found in Jesus himself, who is the “Lord of the Sabbath.” Throughout his life, Jesus worked miracles on the Sabbath that blessed people by “giving them their humanity back”—which was, of course the purpose of the Sabbath command to begin with. On the cross, he labored so that we might experience the ultimate rest.
- Our Need for Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Deut. 5:15)
- Practicing the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
Our Need for Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Deut. 5:15)
Q) Intro questions: Have you ever had a season in your life when you regularly practiced a Sabbath? What did the Sabbath look like practically for you? What effects did it have on your life? AND/OR As Christians, we believe that Jesus has both fulfilled and transformed the law. Should Christians, therefore, practice the Sabbath today? Why or why not? How does a Christian practicing the Sabbath today look different than an Israelite in the days of Exodus & Deuteronomy?
Q) Read Exodus 20:1-2, which is the “prologue” to the Ten Commandments. Why is it significant that the Ten Commandments begins with a statement of who God is and what he has done? How does this shape the way we view the Sabbath command?
Q) How do you think that Israel’s 400 years in slavery would have affected their understanding of, and ability to practice the Sabbath commandment?
Q) Reread Exodus 20:8-11. The word Sabbath (Shabbat) literally means “ceasing.” How easy or hard is it for you to “cease” working? And: What are some ways that you see our culture encouraging a mindset of constant work?
Q) How does the gospel give us the power and the motivation to “cease” working?
Q) The sermon mentioned that when Exodus 20:11 says that the Lord “rested” on the seventh day, the Hebrew word is nuakh, which means not “cease,” but “settle into” or “enter into restfully”? How does this nuance shape or enhance your view of what true rest is?
Q) What do you imagine would be some characteristics of a whole church community who practices the Sabbath? What would be the effect on their witness to a watching world?
Practicing The Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10)
Q) The sermon said that the Sabbath is not only a day to cease working but a day to cease “thinking and scheming about work” as well. Have you ever felt yourself still thinking about work even when you’re not physically “at work”? What concrete steps might you take to increase your ability to lay off thinking about work?
Q) What might you need to do during the week, on order to more truly practice a Sabbath day?
Q) Ben said that the Sabbath can be a day full of doing what “gives us life”—that is, what makes us more worshipful, thankful, renewed, and whole? What do you do that “gives you life”?
Q) Re-read Exodus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 5:14. What do these verses teach us about who the Sabbath is for? How might this have challenged the Israelites’ notion of who the Sabbath was for?
Q) Can you think of ways that our lifestyle choices force the marginalized into a life of unceasing labor? What are some practical ways that we can allow the marginalized to cease (shabbat) and “settle in” to (nuakh) the enjoyment of God’s gifts?
Q) Read Mark 2:23-28 and Mark 3:1-6. What is Jesus teaching about the Sabbath here? How does Jesus transform the way we view and practice the Sabbath?
Q) Read Colossians 2:16-17. How is Jesus the “substance” (ESV, NASB) or “reality” (NIV) of the Sabbath?
Taking a next step: Try to think about how you’d like to try practicing a Sabbath, and designate a date to try it.
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.