The Day Man Needs

One of the methods recommended by the church growth gurus is the policy of preaching to felt needs. Men and women feel the need of comfort, companionship, self-worth or acceptance. Therefore, a pastor is to tailor the Gospel to meet these felt needs.

I would like to address a different kind of need. You may call it an unfelt need. Modern man has the need but does not know it. Hence, my title, “The Day Man Needs.” I will proceed by asking four questions about the day man needs. Let’s address the first of these.

What does the Old Testament say about the day man needs? Four truths stand out. God ordained the day man needs as a part of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 tells us:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

The first time a day of rest was observed was the seventh day of the world. The two basic purposes of the day are established in this first reference. It is to be a day of rest. It is to be a holy day. When the text says that God sanctified the day, it means that he set it apart as a special day for holy things. The day was not established by Jewish law, the Pilgrim fathers or state blue laws. The day was set apart by God himself.

Think another thought at this point. God is omnipotent. He has unlimited strength and does not tire as we do. Why, then, did He choose to rest? It was as an example for His creation.

God observed the day man needs in His provision of manna. We find the rules for the use of manna in Exodus 16:23-26. A reading of that passage shows that manna was not to be gathered on the day man needs because God would not provide it on that day. Further, the manna which would not keep if kept overnight for any other day, kept just fine when kept over for the rest day. Notice that these rules are established in Exodus 16, several chapters before the law in Exodus 20.

God legislated the day man needs in the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8-11 gives us the longest commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Again, the day is specified as both a rest day and a holy day. When it states that God hallowed the day it means that God made it a day for holy things. In the remainder of the Old Testament you will find that the day was strictly enforced by the death penalty. Exodus 31:14 and Numbers 15:32-36 bear this out.

God promised blessings on the day man needs when it was observed and judgment when it was not. My favorite passage on the subject is Isaiah 58:13, 14.

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable: and shall honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

Man likes to view observance of the day as a restriction on his right to do as he pleases. God instructs us to view the day as a delight, something good, blessed, and honorable. The promise is that when we keep it as a delightful spiritual day God will add his blessings to it.

Let’s move to a second question. What does the New Testament say about the day man needs? In the New Testament we gather what we learn from the conduct of Christ. Christ used the day as a day of worship. Luke 4:16 tells us: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” On the day man needs he went into the synagogue and took part in the worship. This was his habit.

Christ also used the day man needs as a day for merciful deeds. Mark 3:1-5 tells the story of the man with the withered hand in the synagogue. He was probably a plant. The Pharisees thought they knew what He would do and they were not disappointed. He asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life or to kill?” Then, he performed the deed of mercy.

Christ stated that the day man needs was made for man. In Mark 2:23-28 the disciples were walking through the wheat fields on the day of rest. They were stripping heads of wheat, rubbing the husks loose with their hands, and blowing away the chaff. Every farm boy has done it. The Pharisees interpreted their action as harvesting and threshing on the Sabbath. They made the day a burden rather than a blessing. Verse 27 is Christ’s commentary on Genesis 2. “And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” God did not create the day and say, “Here is something you must keep.” Rather, he made man and said, “Here is something you need.” The Sabbath was designed, not to be a burden, but a blessing. Christ, in His words and actions, never spoke against the day of rest and worship. He only spoke against the burden the Pharisees had made the day with their nit-picky additions. He certainly never suggested that the day was made for the sports teams and the golf course.

Think about a third question. Should we observe the day man needs today? The argument heard from many is that the Sabbath was a part of the Jewish law. We are not under law but under grace; therefore, we do not need that holy day of rest. Our dispensationalism is sometimes used to excuse us from the blessing of the day.

The day man needs was established before the law. It was introduced on the seventh day of creation— before the Jewish law, before any Jews. It was given as a day of grace for tired men.

Also, the Ten Commandments have never been repealed. The Old Testament has three kinds of law. The ceremonial law, which pointed to Christ, has been done away for it was fulfilled in Christ. The civil law, given as a constitution for Israel, is filled with permanent principles; but was never to be kept by any nation save Israel. Then there is moral law. The Ten Commandments are a concise expression of the character of God. They are unchangeable. If the other nine commandments are still necessary, why would you not say the same of this one?

Since this commandment is still part of the ten should we all become Seventh Day Adventists and worship on the Sabbath? No, God deliberately changed the day man needs from the seventh day to the first day. We read in John 20:1: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” Who chose that day for the resurrection? God chose it. God could have arranged the schedule of the crucifixion and the resurrection so that Christ came out of the tomb on the Sabbath. He did not do that. He deliberately made a break from law-bound Judaism to make the day man needs the first day of the week. The first real believer’s meeting after the Gospel was complete, was held that same night. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week…” (John 20:19). In all the rest of the New Testament you never find the church meeting on the seventh day. Paul and his companions went to the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath and preached the Gospel; but the believers met on the day of resurrection. In Acts 20:7 we read: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…” In I Corinthians 16:2, where Paul spoke about giving, he said, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…” Why gather your money on the first day of the week? That was the day the believers met and took the offering.

What apostle or church council changed the day of worship from the seventh day to the first day? The answer is, “God did it.” The twin principles of rest and worship were never changed; but God changed the day. The Old Testament name for the day was the Sabbath. The day on the calendar is Sunday. That comes from ancient Roman mythology. The proper name for the Christian is, “The Lord’s Day.” That comes from the resurrection. The Sabbath was the day when creation was complete. The Lord’s Day was the day when salvation was complete.

A fourth question needs to be addressed. How should we observe the day man needs? By now it should be obvious that a day of rest and worship does not depend on the law but on a permanent need in the nature of man. It was always to be a blessing, not a burden.

Make it day of rest. God ordained the day because man would need rest. Fulfill that purpose. Take a nap. You probably know the story of Eric Liddell. He was Great Britain’s 400 meter finalist in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. When it was decreed that the finals would be on the Lord’s Day he withdrew. After much ridicule the race was postponed until Monday. As he toed the starting blocks, his trainer slipped him a note which said, “Them that honor me, I will honor.” God did as he won in 47.4 seconds.

Don’t allow it to be a day for self. Remember Isaiah 58:13 where God said, “Turn away your foot from your own pleasure.” Put away the golf clubs, ball gloves and bikes. I have heard about worshiping the Lord on the golf course. Our home looks out on the tenth hole of a golf course. When we leave for Sunday School the devotees are already there. Worship seems to be rather lacking. Put away your tools. Sunday is the day for millions of Americans to fix their homes and mow their lawns. Many a good man has ruined his family while fixing his house. Turn off your television. It is not a worship aid.

Make it a day for spiritual profit. Be present in every service. You don’t discharge the purpose of the day by being present at 11:00 A.M. Our local paper recently carried an ad touting the early service of one of our new evangelical churches. It spoke about the 8:00 A.M. service, featuring a continental breakfast. The punch-line was, “And best of all you’re on with your day by 9:15.” Where is that verse which says, “Remember the Lord’s Day to keep it holy until 9:15?”

Catch up spiritually. Have you ever said, “I never have the time I need in my daily devotions. I always have to rush off to work.” The Lord’s Day is your spiritual catch-up day. You don’t have to go to work or iron shirts.

Teach your children. Children are used to activity. The Lord’s Day will not be good for them unless you plan to make it so. This might be a subject for a future article. I will only summarize. Read some Bible stories. Assign some memory work with a reward while you take your nap. My Father always got his nap and we children learned a lot of Scripture. Play some Bible games. In our home we always had some games which were reserved for Sunday. They were Bible quiz games. If your family is musical bring out the instruments and gather around the piano. I learned to transpose from B-flat to the key of C in those sessions of playing through the hymn book. Take a walk with the kids and point out how God created things.

Christ specifically sanctified the day for deeds of mercy. Visit the rest home. Drop in on a shut-in. Read a chapter of Scripture and have prayer. You will serve the Lord and brighten someone’s lonely day.

As Dr. Charles Goodell said: “The church and the Lord’s Day are of vital necessity in the development of the religious life. Without these the whole community would soon become a pagan community where all spiritual life would disappear and a godless materialism would triumph.” How far along is America in fulfilling that dark prediction?

Our fundamental churches need revival. Could it be that part of our problem is that we use the Lord’s Day as the world uses it? When we use the day for our own pleasure, drought comes to our hearts. It is a step toward revival to reclaim the Lord’s Day as God meant it to be. We can’t do that for our world. We can’t shut down the mall, the ball teams, and the golf courses. But, we can say, “As for me and my house, we will make the day man needs to be what God intended it to be.”

July 2003

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