A few weeks ago I preached on Deuteronomy 5 at our church. (audio. video.) It’s a fantastic passage where Moses takes the 10 Commandments, given to the first generation of Israelites out of Egypt, and applies them to the second generation. There was lots to say but I found what Moses does with the Sabbath command particularly interesting.
The first time the command is given, the reason to keep the Sabbath is because of creation – God set up the world that way. But in Deuteronomy 5, another reason is given – because they once were slaves in Egypt but now God had rescued them. There are a whole stack of things going on there but one reason for rest is because that’s what’s appropriate for redeemed people. Enslaved people don’t know rest; free people do. Resting is actually a sign that you’re a redeemed person.
I think this is super important for us to grasp. We can be so gripped by the urgency of gospel work that we neglect the important gospel statement that it is to rest. And by not resting, we can suggest that the God who set us free somehow can’t keep his world running without us.
Except, I am a terrible rester. Especially this semester. We have regular commitments 5 nights a week. It’s chaotic and there’s very little down time. And yet, I stood in front of our congregation and preached to them the importance of rest. What a hypocrite.
One of the tensions of preaching is that I rarely feel like a good example of what I’m exhorting others to do. More often, I feel like I’m just delivering the message and that I too am on its receiving end.
Some pastors talk about how the text has to change you before you can preach it. I’m going to put it out there: I read the passage, heard the call to rest and I still haven’t changed my busyness. It didn’t change me before I preached it. I heard it, but I didn’t do anything about it.
I don’t want to excuse my own sluggishness to repent. But nor do I think that preaching can only be done by those who have already learnt the lesson they’re preaching. I hate hypocrisy. I’m critical of others who do not practice what they preach. But I’m also one of them.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.