Ge 8 20-22 No Sabbath on Providence (CLICK FOR AUDIO)
Try out the two links above–especially the NEW AUDIO!
Providence is an unnecessarily fancy English word. It sounds sort of scholarly and thoughtful, but all it really is is provide with an -nce on the end. And that’s all it means, too. Providence refers to the way that God provides for us day after day. Providence is all the ways that God brings to us all the stuff that we need for our body and life.
The problem with providence—or, should I say, our problem with understanding providence—is that we too easily dismiss everyday things as things that would happen all on their own whether God were willing them to happen or not. That means that, at times, we think that God isn’t personally and actively working for us in any kind of powerful way when we get our food, clothes and other things, as though the earth would spin, the sun would shine, the rain would fall and seeds would grow even if God were to take a vacation or suddenly cease to exist.
We don’t think enough about God’s work of providence, then, because we think of God’s power as only being necessary to accomplish what we classify as “supernatural” things, and not at all necessary to accomplish the starting of a motor or the moving of my arm or the signing of a paycheck.
Shameful, isn’t it? I mean, who gives us arms? Who gives us strength? Where does the seed come from? Why does the seed do what it does? Who gives us the power even to think about or to ask these questions? Do these things come from us “naturally,” or do they happen because it is God’s will for them to happen—his continual, ongoing and active will?
You see, providence—which is just a fancy way to say, “God providing for us”—doesn’t take a break. It is a continual work of God. It is something he is actively and at all times doing. That’s really the point of today’s text. When the Flood was over, Noah wanted to thank the Lord for not wiping out the entire human race despite the fact that they deserved it. So he built an altar and made what I personally classify as a shockingly generous and trusting sacrifice. With only seven pairs of sacrifice-worthy animals available on the entire planet, he burned some of them up. I’d have probably thought to burn velociraptors, but I’m not as trusting. Regardless, when the Lord caught wind of this shockingly trusting sacrifice, he was pleased and said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
This, my friends, is the reason why it is so easy for sinners who do not trust the Lord to take their food and daily supplies for granted. It’s because the Lord made a promise, and he never breaks a promise. Do you hear what I’m saying? We take these things for granted because we think of them as happening on their own with or without God’s involvement. But it’s not the unbreakable rules of physics that keep these things going. It is God’s promise. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease,” because God actively keeps his promise each and every minute of each and every day, even though it would be just and fair for him to cease because the evil inclinations of our hearts that are always before his eyes.
Tomorrow, as tonight, we will put time aside to honor the Lord for keeping that promise. We will put time aside for giving thanks to him for continuing nonstop in the keeping of that promise minute after minute, hour after hour, day-in and day-out for century after century after century since he first caught the scent of that divinely inspired sacrifice. Tomorrow we take a holiday—a “holy day”—for thanksgiving to the provider of daily providence.
By the way, I inserted that term holiday, or “holy day,” right at that spot in our meditation tonight for a reason. I want to use it as a hook for you to use tomorrow so that you can more easily recall this meditation and use it to enhance your Thanksgiving. I mean, we all know that Thanksgiving is a holiday. We’ll be thinking about it all day tomorrow because most of us will have the day off. That’s how we got the word holiday in the first place, as it so happens.
Just think of the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Or, if I want to translate the commandment much more naturally and fluently for the English-speaking person, I’d simply say, “Observe the Day of Rest by taking it off in God’s honor.” The point of the command, you see, was to take a day off each week as a way of remembering that it wasn’t by your own strength and effort that you provided for yourself and your family. It was by the promise of God, who said he would always and ceaselessly provide seedtime and harvest and all that we need for living off the earth.
You see, providing for you and your family is God’s work, not yours. When you take a day off from working, you demonstrate that fact. You say, “I could keep working. It’s logical that if I get food and clothing and all good things from working, I would have even more good things if I worked on every possible day that I can work.” But that’s a godless attitude that does not acknowledge this promise from God in Genesis 8. The logic of the Sabbath Day is, “I work because it is a privilege from God to be involved in the actions of his providence, but I am not the Provider. So if my loving Provider, who wants only the best for me, tells me to take a day off, I will happily do so knowing that I will have even more of the good things he desires to give me when I don’t work at his command, just as I trust that I will have all that I need when I do work at his command.”
Do you follow that? Is that making sense? A Sabbath Day is a holy day, a day that God has “set aside” (that’s what holy means) for his purposes—in this case, the purpose of remembering that he provides for you through his work, not you through yours.
Genesis 8 has an interesting way of bringing that to light, actually. When it says, “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease,” it uses the Hebrew word for Sabbath. Do you see where? “…seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Do you see it?
That’s right. It’s the word cease. We take days off, and God wants us to take days off. These are good things. The point of this promise, however, is that God never will! We get seedtime and harvest, day and night, season after season not because things have to work that way. They didn’t during the Flood. We have these because God never takes a Sabbath—never takes a day off or holiday—from making it happen. There is no Sabbath, no day of rest, for God’s providence, and he loves it that way!
So what does that mean for your day off tomorrow? It means everything! It gives real meaning to the day! In fact, it gives meaning to every day, whether it’s a “Sabbath Day” or a working day. Why? Because we will have peace on all days knowing that it is not we who provide happiness, blessing and daily supply to the people in our lives. We can rest secure without worries no matter what the day holds because there is no Sabbath—no ceasing, no rest—for the providence of God!
And do you know what’s the best way to illustrate that? It’s right in front of you, right at the front of this church. For just as you are powerless to make a seed grow if God does not bless it and bring it forth from the ground as a plant of providence, so you are completely powerless to break free from sin, distrust and rebellion toward God. Now, he can describe to you the way that a spiritually alive and trusting soul behaves, but you cannot be by your own efforts like the person he describes. Even our best efforts by nature are little more than make-up on the deceased. Make-up and embalming is not life.
But God is, and there is no Sabbath for his providence, no rest for the God who supplies our life. Look to the front of our church! Look at that cross! Jesus would not quit until he had lived that life in your place and died the death of a sinful rebel in your stead. He took no days off from his mission. He shunned every easy path. Why? Because that’s who the One, True God is. He enjoys working ceaselessly at giving you what you need, whether it be food, rest, or forgiveness and salvation. He never gets tired of it, and that’s why you are forgiven, why you are provided for.
Your Thanksgiving, brothers and sisters, is more than a holiday; it is a Sabbath. Set aside a day with his blessing to enjoy being well and unceasingly provided for, to his glory. Amen.
Thanksgiving Eve No Sabbath on Providence November 25, 2009
Pastor Aaron C. Frey Genesis 8:20-22