Sermon on the 2nd & 3rd Commandments:
Exodus 20:7-11; Revelation 5:8-14
TO WORSHIP GOD IS TO REST IN HIS PRESENCE
Prayer: O God, You command me not to take Your name in vain, and to keep the Lord’s Day holy. Grant that I would praise You not one day out of seven, but every day; that my prayers would rise to Your throne, acceptable to you; and that I would rest peacefully in Your presence. Amen.
Dear people loved and purchased by God to be His own:
The Second Commandment is about God’s name: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lordyour God.” The first time God’s name is mentioned in the Bible is the end of Genesis 4. There it says: “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord” – to pray to Him. This commandment about God’s name is about our prayers. What is God’s will for how we use His name? He wants us to “pray, praise, and give thanks.” It’s about our prayers and praises.
The Third Commandment is about worship. God said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” What happened on the Sabbath, the 7th day of the week? It would seem that nothing happened. The commandment said they were to “do no work,” to rest as God “rested the seventh day” after creating the world in six. It’s what the Pharisees obsessed over: not working.
But were His people to just sit around? No. They had a worship service. Of Jesus we hear that “as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day,” to attend the worship service. The seventh-day part was part of the ceremonial law; it only lasted until Jesus fulfilled the law. But the command to worship remains. It does have something to do with rest.
Resting from work was so they could worship God. Isn’t that interesting? This rest wasn’t so you could turn inward to yourself, so everyone would just leave you alone and stop bothering you. This rest was to turn you outward, to point yourself toward God. What God would do would be to give rest.
In the Old Testament, making sacrifices to God dominated the worship. But it was instituted by God. God so arranged it that these sacrifices, which centered in the shedding of blood, would blot out their sins and make it possible to be in His presence. The sacrifices themselves didn’t forgive sins. But they looked ahead to the one sacrifice that does take away sins: the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, what does Jesus say? “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”
How did Jesus give rest? He poured out His life-blood on the cross for all people. This is how He made peace with God for each person. This is how He provides true rest, rest for the soul, rest for the troubled conscience.
How does Jesus give rest? He has all this brought to you in church and in His Word. In true Christian worship the emphasis is that He is serving you. That’s why the church service with the Lord’s Supper is called the “Divine Service,” God serving you. And as for His Name – the 2ndcommandment – first He puts His name on you in Baptism, then you call upon His name.
This definition of worship is very God-focused: He commanded the Sabbath rest, He instituted the Old Testament liturgy, Jesus came and did what He did, and finally the church service is God serving us.
But that’s not how we experience worship, is it? It’s not how we experience prayer, either. Prayer is hard work for us. Prayer is a struggle. We don’t pray as we should. We don’t always pray from the heart. We don’t pray with confidence. We struggle to find the words. Our prayers feel feeble, weak.
When it comes to church-going, that’s a struggle too. The devil provides all these obstacles. It’s a struggle to get up, and to get the kids to church. At church keeping focus is a struggle. Maybe the kids are hard to handle. Maybe there’s too much commotion around you. Maybe you look around at others, people who disappoint you, people you didn’t choose to be with, people who wrong you, or don’t even notice you. Maybe you think over the last week and your anger gets stirred up again, or your guilt, or sadness. Maybe there aren’t enough people, or the music isn’t good enough. It doesn’t feel “spiritual.”
See what the devil does? God commanded the rest from work for them to worship Him, to turn them outward. What does the devil do? Shove us inward so we’re me-centered, not God-centered. This is what we worship most often: ourselves, our work. We want everything to serve us.
This tendency is seen far too often in actual worship services today. If it feels wrong but you can’t explain why, the reason often is: it’s not actually Christ-centered, but me-centered. The focus isn’t on how you can be forgiven, and receive peace with God; but it’s how super-spiritual you can be.
The reason this matters is that the rest that we need is: rest for our soul, rest for our troubled conscience. We have guilty consciences due to our sins. The point of God’s command to worship Him is so He’ll give us peace with Him, and rest for our soul. The reason He’s serious about how we use His name is that if churches use His Word to lie or deceive through false doctrine, they give a troubled sinner a false Jesus, false comfort, and – here it is – no peace.
But the Good News – the Gospel – is that this peace and rest do exist, and that God gives it to you. This is why we hear from Revelation 5 today. This is a picture of what’s taking place in heaven. But it’s not just about the church in heaven. This is the whole Christian Church – the church above in heaven and the church below on earth – but seen from a heavenly viewpoint.
We see the Lamb on His throne – our ascended Lord Jesus. He has finished the work. “He had taken the scroll” means that He has in His hand the book of life, all the names of everyone who will be in heaven.
The 24 elders represent all the believers in the Old Testament church – 12 tribes – and the all the believers in the New Testament church – 12 apostles – so this is the whole church in heaven and on earth. They are “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” – a multitude no one can number. What do they do? They sing the Song of the Lamb: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain …” They sing to Jesus. They sing of what He’s done.
We also see that in this heavenly scene they have “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” We see that the prayers do reach heaven. Our prayers are not feeble or weak. But Jesus’ blood purifies our prayers just as His blood purifies our praises.
Notice, they’re kneeling before Him. The Lamb, Jesus, is in the center. They look like we do at the Lord’s Supper. Turned toward Him. Resting content in the Lamb. In the Lord’s Supper we join with “all the company of heaven.”
The liturgy faithfully preaches the Law to you so you repent and confess your sins. It faithfully delivers the Gospel of your forgiveness to you. This will bring you to heaven where you will sing the Song of the Lamb forever. But it isn’t just a “will be someday” kind of thing. You’re worshipping with them now. They’re worshipping with you. They have Jesus, the Lamb on the throne, they are gathered around Him. But so do you. You have Jesus the Lamb. You rest in His presence. Your prayers reach Him.
This is true worship: resting in Jesus’ presence. He comes to bring you the forgiveness of sins. He gives you rest for your soul. He gives you rest for your troubled conscience. That’s what the divine service is for: He’s here to give you a clean conscience. He puts you at rest. He gives you joy.
But not just you. Not just one on one. But He puts you with others. You didn’t choose them; He did. He chose them to be with you on this road. He doesn’t give you rest for you to be left alone. Not only does He not leave you alone, but He puts you into a family.
Yes it’s your church family, but when you leave here and even move away you haven’t left this family because it’s the family of God. We worship together at His throne with the rest of the family, many of whom we haven’t even met but we will someday. The family He puts you with, His Church, it’s huge, it’s a multitude. At the same time it’s close and intimate. It’s the family where we’re honest with each other, we confess our sins together, we receive His forgiveness together, we’re the family that prays together, that praises together, and that receives His hand of blessing together. This is His worship.
True worship should always mean you’re hearing the voice of heaven, because you’ve been joining in with its psalms, hymns, and prayers.
This is peace. This is rest. This is joy. Amen!