Deuteronomy 5:15 “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
If you wanted to assure someone God loves us deeply and unconditionally, what historical event would you point to? If you longed for that assurance yourself, where could you best find it? At Jesus’ death on the cross, right? Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is the greatest evidence of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”
But if you lived when God first gave us the commandment about the Sabbath day, that event was still a hazy promise for the distant future. The historical event that best proved God’s love for the people of that time was the Exodus from Egypt. In it God rescued the nation of Israel from death and set them free from their slavery. Time after time Old Testament psalmists and prophets refer to that event to remind the people of God’s love for them. This was food for their faith. This was God’s “I love you.” It fostered a stronger relationship with his people.
This was something for God’s people to remember on the day they gave God for worship. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
Why should we give God a day? Because God has given us no less evidence of his love for us to remember. It runs through our Sunday worship. Early in the service the pastor assures you, “God our heavenly Father has been merciful to us, and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” There God is whispering, “I love you” in your ear. A little later we confess the creed together: how Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. Again God is demonstrating how dear you are to him. Peppered throughout the sermon are reminders that you mean more than the world to him. He considers you so precious that he was willing to sacrifice the life of his Son for you.
And do you note that he asks you to remember more than words or statements, but events from real life? Just a couple of years after I arrived at my first congregation, I celebrated my golden birthday. When I came to the office that day I found that the faculty had arranged for themselves and all the children to wear gold in recognition of the day. A couple of years later, when we had to rush our son Nathan to the hospital in the middle of the night, members of the congregation got up at 2 a.m. to watch our other children so that we could take him for help. When cancer struck our family, we were overwhelmed with the outpouring of cards and gifts and food and visits and prayers and offers of help fellow Christians showed to us. When I received my call to serve the church, one of the last statements on the document read, “We will receive, honor, and love you as our pastor.” I believed it at the time. But it was the expressions of love from the members, genuine gifts and acts of service, that left no doubt in my mind that it was true.
Likewise, on the day we give God for worship each week, we are remembering more than words written in a book. We are remembering the story, the real life story, of how he loved us so much that he came to save us. We are remembering events and gifts and acts of service he has shown each of us personally. This is quality time, quality time with Jesus, and it leaves no doubt in our minds that, when he says “I love you and forgive you,” it is really so.