Friday, 1 May 2020

NOTHING IS POWERFUL

NOTHING IS POWERFUL
How much do know about nothing? Usually not much is said about nothing, but today I am going to say a lot about nothing. After all, we are all acquainted with nothing. In fact, nothing is largely responsible for most of the good in this world. 
‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is You who have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for You.’
Jeremiah 32:17
NOTHING LIKE WINTER GARDENING 

 As Autumn fast draws to a close, Kim and I are considering what winter vegetables we should plant. Winter is a strange time for gardening. In winter, most flowering plants are flowerless; all deciduous trees are leafless; and pruned roses look like thorny sticks. In winter, what looks for months like nothing — just bare soil or even, simply, grass — may actually be a hive of daffodil activity. Spring reminds me that what often what appears to be “nothing happening” in winter was not the case at all. In fact, this is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn from nothing: what we can see (nothing happening) is not always the true picture.

NOTHING LIKE RECUPERATING
My son recently had surgery. Kim went down to Hobart to collect him so that he could recuperate with us in Legana. He was in a lot of pain after his operation and was unusually tired. He spent a lot time resting which he found frustrating. For five of the seven days that he was with us, he did nothing. But if we asked his surgeon if Tyrone was doing nothing while he recuperated, the surgeon might respond with a medical lecture about how, after surgery, the human body is very busy rebuilding muscle tissue, reestablishing blood flow, repairing skin cells, and producing sufficient T-cells as part of it auto-immune system to prepare for any resulting early-stage infection. “Nothing?!” he might retort, “A person recuperating from surgery is hardly doing nothing!” This then, is our second lesson about nothing: inactivity is not the same as doing nothing.

NOTHING LIKE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
A couple of years ago I was referred to a specialist pain clinic. The pain specialist examined me and gave me some not-so-good-news. But, he said, one of the best ways to reduce your pain levels is to get more sleep. Obviously he didn’t know how busy I was and just how impractical it would be for me to waste what little time I had in my day by napping and sleeping. Perhaps perceiving my unspoken reply to his suggestion, he went on to explain how therapeutic sleep was. While we are asleep, our body’s get to work repairing what it can, sometimes even rebuilding what it can, and helping stressed muscles trying to do what the spine is no longer able to do, he said. When you are always tired, he informed me, your body is having to divert its maintenance systems into sustaining you. This then results in further injury and pain. Despite my unwillingness to comply with this specialist’s directives, I soon found that my body was involuntarily complying (which is why my weekly Pastor’s Desk is now much later than it used to be). Since then, I have learned that despite sleep appearing like I was doing nothing it was actually an important part in my body’s recovery — not to mention that it was an invaluable occasional spiritual encounter (have you ever noticed how often God came to people in their dreams?). Thus, the third lesson we can learn about nothing is: sleep might appear as if we are doing nothing and that nothing is being achieved, when in fact, it is while we are asleep that we can sometimes see things more clearly and that some of our bio-systems are at their busiest.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for He gives to His beloved sleep.Psalm 127:2

NOTHING LIKE WAITING
 I have mixed feelings about waiting. There are times when I don’t mind waiting. I especially feel this way at the moment about supermarkets. With the current social-distancing restrictions in place, waiting in the checkout queue is now even longer. But I’m OK with this as I consider that there are parts of the world where they either don’t have supermarkets, or their supermarkets are nearly bare. (But there are times when nothing bugs me more than waiting on hold to business or government agency. A week ago I think I was on hold for two hours before I eventually hung up.)  It might surprise many though, who get to know me, to discover that I generally don’t mind waiting. This is especially the case when what I am waiting for has great value. I waited to get married. I waited for us to be able to have children. I waited seven years to complete my doctoral studies. Today I went into Koorong to find a book I need for some research I am doing. Laura told me that her store didn’t have it, but she could it from another Koorong store and sent directly to me. “How long would that take?” I asked. “About two weeks” she replied as her face resigned to the fact that I would baulk at such a wait. “Fine” I replied, “I’d like to order it then.”
I’m trying to teach Ruby how to wait. We bought her something for her birthday (at her request) which arrived a few weeks ago. When it was delivered she excited unwrapped the package and was interrupted by Kim who told her, “You’d better ring Dad first.” When she rang me she asked if she could start using it now as an “early birthday present” (her birthday was not for another two and half months). As any dad would who wants his children to develop sound character traits, I said, “No, you can’t have it until your birthday.” To which she replied, “But Dad!…” (you don’t need to know the … was). Because waiting for something is a measure of its true value, I know that when her birthday arrives she will appreciate it even more. This is the fourth lesson that we can learn from nothing is: it may appear that waiting is achieving nothing, but waiting fosters the virtue of patience and magnifies something’s value.
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

NOTHING LIKE GOD’S PLAN
There are times when it seems like God is doing nothing. The Psalmist expressed this frustration in Psalm 10 –      
¶ Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1
Even in the Law, it seemed like God was commanding His people to have sacred moments of nothingness –
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.
Exodus 31:15
But the sabbath was never about doing nothing. The sabbath was about recuperating, resting, waiting, and worship. It is in the times when it seems that we can do nothing that the God who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4) is often at work on our behalf even though we cannot immediately detect His activity –         
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:14
And perhaps when we tie all of these lessons about nothing together, we begin to realise that our very salvation is based on nothing –
  • Nothing but the work and sacrifice of Jesus can save us (Hebrews 9:26)
  • Nothing can we add, contribute to, or bring to, the salvation that Christ offers us (2Tim 1:9)
  • Nothing did we do to merit, earn, or achieve this salvation that God offers us through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8)
  • Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39)
  • Nothing can be achieved unless the believer remains connected to Christ (John 15:5)

Nothing more needs to be said except to make a correction to the title of this post. Rather than Nothing Is Powerful, I should correct it to read, Nothing Is As Powerful As God, but now I think about it, both titles are equally apt for these few thoughts about nothing.
 Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 18 April 2020

WHY GOD? HOW GOD? WHERE ARE YOU GOD? WHEN WILL THIS END GOD?

WHY GOD - HOW GOD - WHERE GOD - WHEN GOD?


 Leading up to Easter, we’ve been considering the events surrounding the last week of Christ before the Cross. As we’ve seen, one of the major events that occurred during this time, just days before the Holy Weekbegan, was when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And while we read this account with the benefit of hindsight, those involved at the time — who were caught up in the moment — weren't so fortunate. Because they didn't yet know what we now know, they had questions—both intellectual and emotional! There are many parallels with the questions raised in this account and what many of us are asking and facing now as we come to grips with the impact of COVID-19. We can well imagine what Martha and Mary of Bethany must have been experiencing especially after the tragic death of their brother, Lazarus, and the apparent indifference of Jesus to their plight. 


So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
John 11:6
¶ Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
John 11:17

 Their questions may well have included some that many are asking today- “Why did God let this happen?” “Why didn't Jesus prevent this?” “Why didn't God answer my prayers?” “Doesn't God love us anymore?” “Why is Jesus taking so long to respond to our cries for help?”


Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
John 11:18-20

When Lazarus was unwell and it soon became obvious that he was dying, Martha and Mary of Bethany sent word to Jesus asking Him to come quickly. When word reached Jesus, He didn't respond. In fact, He intentionally delayed going to them, and to make matters worse in the eyes of those trying to understand Christ's apparent carelessness, He told His disciples that He was waiting for Lazarus to die before He went to Martha and Mary of Bethany!


Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” After saying these things, He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He meant taking rest in sleep.
John 11:7-13


CONFUSING TIMES

The questions that Martha and Mary of Bethany asked during their grief over the loss of their brother are questions that many of the psalmists asked as well, especially when God also seemed to them to be indifferent to their predicament and silent during their time of distress.


¶ To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 28:1

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1

Interestingly though, as we study the history of the Church, we notice that the Christians of the earliest times weren’t as inclined to ask these tough questions of God as the psalmists did or Christians of later times have (and do). Professor Glenn Sunshine (Professor of History of Central Connecticut State University) makes the point that in the 2nd century AD the Roman Empire had a plague sweep through which was killing people by the thousands. The chief medical officer of the Roman Empire, Galen, left Rome for his country estate in the hope of avoiding the deadly epidemic. He noted that most of Rome's physicians did the same. Professor Sunshine, referring to the records of Galen, notes that not everyone fled Rome at this time though. He writes


There was one exception to this.
Christians—an unpopular and sporadically persecuted religious minority—ran to the plague-stricken areas instead of away from them to care for and comfort the sick and dying. Galen, who found Jews and Christians interesting, though gullible, notes that Christians acted this way because they had no fear of death, believing that if they died, they would pass into a better life.

A century after Galen's Plague, Professor Sunshine continues, there was another even deadlier epidemic sweeping across the Empire.


A century after Galen’s plague, another horrific disease spread across the Empire, known to historians as the Plague of Cyprian. It was named after a bishop who described it in detail. He explained that when people became ill, their families would take them out and throw them into the streets to die, as if by hiding their deaths the families could avoid death itself.
Once again, the exception was the Christians, who went out and ministered to those dying in the streets, once again at great risk to their own lives, once again in confidence that if they died, they would go to Heaven. One Christian noted that death was inevitable and martyrdom common, and it made little difference to him if he were martyred by the sword or by disease.

The pandemic of the mid-1300s was actually a deadly stew of three related diseases—bubonic plague, septicaemic plague and pneumonic plague, which infected the lungs, according to historian Norman Davies. “The result,” writes Davies in Europe, A History, “was mass mortality.” At the height of the plague, 800 people died each day in Paris, 500 in Pisa and 600 in Vienna. Half of Siena died within a single year, as did 50,000 of Florence’s 100,000 citizens. Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, a classic of western literature, contains 100 stories told by 10 people sheltering from the plague. “One man shunned another,” Boccaccio explained, and father and mothers “were found to abandon their own children to their fate, untended, unvisited as if they had been strangers.” SOURCE: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/you-think-ebolas-bad-try-the-black-death-112985


 Sociologist, Professor Rodney Stark, notes that nursing traces its roots back to the times when Christians ministered to the sick and dying during Europe's bubonic plague of the 4th century. Even the very basic nursing care provided by these caring Christians was sufficient to save many lives even when it led to these Christians laying down their own lives. Professor Sunshine notes that this Christian tradition continued through to the 14th century when Europe's deadliest plague wiped out 48% of it population. This plague became known as The Black Death. But the highest rate of mortality occurred among Christian pastors who selflessly tended to the sick and dying.


When the Black Death arrived in Europe in 1347-51, it killed about 48% of the population based on the best current research. Plague was no respecter of persons: people died without regard for social class or standing. The only group that stands out is the clergy: they died at a greater percentage than the general population because they went to comfort the sick and dying and thus exposed themselves to the disease knowing that they could contract it themselves.


CONFUSING THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS


Before Jesus arrived at the home of Martha and Mary of Bethany, He was met by Martha who had what might be understood as angry questions for Christ. These questions sounded like — “Where have You been!?” (Hurting and grieving people nearly always experience an anger that is often directed at God.)
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
John 11:19-21



Professor John Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, has been one of the first Christian apologists to respond to how Christians should think about COVID-19 in his book WHERE IS GOD IN A CORONAVIRUS WORLD? He refers to this episode in John 11 with Jesus meeting Martha as He approached their home in Bethany. Martha, Professor Lennox argues, seems to switch her line of questioning to a very intellectual level (as if she was almost embarrassed that she had shown any emotion to Christ). Sometimes people who raise intellectual objections about God are simply putting up a smoke-screen to hide their emotional ache.





Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John 11:23-27

But when Mary of Bethany comes to Jesus, she is distraught and wearing her emotions on her sleeve.


Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.
John 11:32-33

Christ’s response to Mary of Bethany was quite different to His theological response to her sister, but no less appropriate, Professor Lennox points out. Mary came weeping, and Christ's response to her was tender.


And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
John 11:34-35






But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” ¶ Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” ¶ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him.
John 11:37-45 


Jesus ministered to Martha's intellectual questions with profound theology. In a reflective moment, it's worth considering the enormous implications of what Jesus said to her about the eternal state and destiny of all who put their trust in Christ as their Redeemer. No matter what intellectual questions or objections people might proffer against God's goodness, there is always an intellectually and theologically satisfying response to be found in God's Word. And Jesus ministered to Mary’s emotional questions (notice how similar sounding hers was to her sister’s) in a way that shows some questions don't need answers—they need a hug and someone to weep with them. But Jesus did more than answer Martha and weep with Mary of Bethany. He did something.


TRAGEDIES COME TO PASS BUT ETERNITY IS HERE TO STAY




What Jesus did for Martha and Mary of Bethany (and for Lazarus) was a foreshadow of what He will do for all who put their trust in Him as their Saviour. F.W. Boreham writes that Jesus wept outside of the tomb of Lazarus—not just because He was deeply moved by Mary’s tears, but because of what He was about to do to Lazarus! (Jesus knew where Lazarus really was while everyone else thought he was a corpse in a tomb.) This reveals a profoundly different perspective on suffering and even death. For those who turn from their own self-reliance to trusting in the only offer available to enter into eternal life, what was said of Lazarus to Martha is also true for them- “Your brother will rise again.”  (John 11:23)  


As this coronavirus kills thousands everyday around the world, we may well be asking God -"Why?" or, "How did You let this happen?" or, "What have we done to deserve this?" or, "Where are You God?" or, "When will this end?" But perhaps a better question is "What would you have me do to help others in this trying time Lord?"

This pandemic is not the first one the world had endured, and it probably won't be the last one either. It's natural though that we and those around us ask these why/how/when/where questions of God during such times. But as we draw strength and insight from God's Word we are reminded that the things of this life are just "momentary light afflictions" and our ultimate destiny is to receive a body that will never perish or wear-out which will be perfectly fit for a dimension where time will always be today.


He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

About two weeks after Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, He, after He had suffered a horrible and humiliating treatment by the authorities which led to His execution, was also raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 1:4). But, unlike Lazarus, Christ's resurrection was a lasting one and the "firstfruits" of all who trust in Him (Col. 1:18). Therefore, as the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians about the resurrection that awaits all believers, "Comfort one another with these words" (First Thessalonians 4:18). This is why those who are called to heal — doctors, nurses, specialists, therapists — are ministering the grace of God in a long line and tradition of how those who have been inspired by Christ. As with previous pandemics, this current pandemic is yet another example of how Christ calls His followers to minister to the hurting, confused, suffering, and dying. (The next time you see a nurse, a doctor, a surgeon, or a specialist, thank God for them!) 


Throughout all this, Christians were following the example of Jesus: He was a healer, so we too should tend the sick. Bodily health is important because this body is important, and so everywhere the Gospel has gone it has brought hospitals. But our bodily life in this world is not of ultimate importance, and so in love we are called to lay down our lives for our neighbors in need.
Professor Glenn Sunshine

-Pastor Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 28 March 2020

AN ESSENTIAL SOLEMN SABBATH

AN ESSENTIAL SOLEMN SABBATH
“to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
Second Chronicles 36:21
There’s a debate among some theologians about the relevance of Old Covenant laws for New Covenant believers. One of the most contested aspects of the Old Testament’s moral law is how we should understand the sabbath. On the one hand, there are those who point out that where an Old Testament law is not repeated—or is actually repealed—in the New Testament, it is not binding on the New Covenant believer, and the sabbath is not repeated in the New Testament (and arguably it is repealed). This also includes the Old Covenant’s food laws, Israel’s civil laws, and the priestly ceremonial laws. Added to this, it is pointed out that the Old Covenant was made with Israel, not other nations, and therefore it has never applied to non-Jews.
But on the other hand, there are theologians who point out that the Old Covenant was an invitation for other people from other nations to enter into which many did — we think of: Rahab (Matt. 1:5), Ruth (Ruth 1:1ff), the 600 Gittites who went with David from Gath (2Sam. 15:18), Uriah the Hittite (2Sam. 11:2), as examples of Gentiles who became proselytes of Judaism. Added to this, it is argued that the Old Covenant laws form principles for New Covenant believers to live by, and that Christians should not be too quick to dismiss them. How then should we regard the sabbath today? And could there be a divinely enforced global sabbath happening as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”
Exodus 16:23 (Given before the Ten Commandments)

THE SABBATH WAS A WITNESS
“to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
Second Chronicles 36:21
Ezra’s re-telling Judah’s history and its eventual downfall is described by him as the consequence of Judah not keeping the sabbath. There were at least two types of sabbath that God required of Israel. The first was a weekly sabbath, and other was a sabbath which occurred every seven years.
but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.
Leviticus 25:4
Ezra described Judah’s downfall and exile to Babylon a penalty for not keeping this every-seven-year sabbath. Judah’s forced seventy-year exile was a kind of catch-up for their missed sabbaths of which Israel were warned about in the Law of Moses –  ¶ “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34).
“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
Exodus 31:13
But why did Yahweh make such a big deal about the sabbath? It seems that the answer was both natural and supernatural. The supernatural aspect was to be a sign and witness to the nations (Exo. 31:13). In the natural, it didn’t make sense that 6-days-of-work-plus-one-day-of-rest could be as productive as seven-days of work. But God promised that it would be, if His people rested on the sabbath.
And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Exodus 16:28-30
By taking a day to rest and worship together on that day, it set Israel apart from all other nations and declared that God was worthy of their full attention, surrender and devotion. This was to be an integral component
Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.
Exodus 31:16
This is why the sabbath was so important to Jews and after they returned from the exile to Babylon it became even more important, as evident by the fuss that the pharisees made about it during the ministry of Christ.
“But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:2
Therefore, the question worth considering: Is this aspect of the sabbath — as supernatural sign to non-believers — a principle for Christians to apply today?

THE SABBATH WAS A GIFT
The natural aspect of the sabbath was a physical refreshment as people ceased from their ordinary toil. This is why Jesus told the pharisees that the sabbath was made for mankind (Mk. 2:27). Thus, the sabbath was Yahweh’s gift to mankind which gave the under-privileged such as the working-poor, slaves, and hired farm workers, some respite from their arduous toil at a time when this concept was unheard of among other nations. We should also remember that the sabbath was given to mankind at a time when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt under cruel hard task masters.
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27
Therefore, the question worth considering: Is this aspect of the sabbath — as gift from God for all people to have at least one day a week to rest from their ordinary toil — a principle for people to apply today? And if it is, what are the consequences for people if this principle is ignored?

THE SABBATH WAS A FORESHADOW
The sabbath was described by the writer to the Hebrews as a shadow of Christ’s atonement which would bring an end to the requirements of the Old Covenant’s ceremonial laws which demanded strenuous works to be performed. That is, by Christ’s finished work on the cross, there is now no requirement for us to ‘work’ for our salvation. The writer to the Hebrews sees parallels between Christ’s finished work of redemption with the sabbath. Firstly, he argues, there is a foreshadow of Christ’s redemption in the description of God resting on the seventh day from His creative work. Secondly, for the believer who receives the merit of Christ’s finished work, they too enter into a ‘rest’ achieved by God’s grace. 
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.
Hebrew 4:9-10
This makes Christianity unique among the world’s religions. While each man-made religion promotes the need for mankind to strive to be acceptable to God in the hope of entering into His heavenly paradise after leaving this dimension of life, only Christianity—established by God Himself—promotes mankind’s utterly helpless plight and reveals to mankind that God in His grace and mercy has reached down to us with a free offer of salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9
Because the Old Covenant sabbath was a foreshadow of rest that Christ would bring, it explains why Yahweh was so emphatic about its near-central role in His covenant with Israel. Again, I remind you, that God implemented the command for the sabbath before He gave Moses the Ten Commandments, or established the Mosaic Covenant to officiated by the Levitical priests. Its penalties were severe, and sound shocking to our 21st century ears. But as Moses discovered when he struck the rock (instead of ‘speaking’ to the rock as Yahweh commanded, Numbers 20:812), disobeying God is never a trivial matter and sometimes carries unimaginable consequences—even when the command was ‘just’ a shadow of the New Covenant’s work of Christ.
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in Me, to uphold Me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
Numbers 20:12
We now live in the reality of what the sabbath foreshadowed. This truth reveals the utter nonsense of any religious idea that elevates mankind to a level of divine moral purity—including any claim by misinformed Christians who may teach that a person’s salvation and reconciliation with God is made possible because they have: “made a decision”, or, “been water baptised”, or, “become a member of the/their church”, or, “sowed a financial seed into the (tax deductible) kingdom of God”, or, “received holy orders and been ordained”, anything that adds to the simple Scriptural injunction to “put your trust in the Saviour and His finished work on the cross.”
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
John 19:30
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Romans 3:28
¶ Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1
I am writing this at a time when thousands are dying each day around the world from the COVID-19 pandemic. In such perilous times, the need for eternal assurance is now paramount and no-one should settle for some other man’s guesswork or philosophical fancies about the after-life — which all too often spouts some tripe about how we all go to heaven anyway — despite living in complete defiance to God’s command to repent from the deception our sufficient self-righteousness!
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Luke 13:3, the words of Jesus  
Therefore, the question worth considering: Since the sabbath was a shadow of Christ’s finished work of salvation for mankind, how should respond to those who promote such religious nonsense that we are essentially good enough to earn our own salvation from God? 

THE SABBATH TODAY
Pastor Phil Hills often says, “We don’t rest from works; we work from rest.” Because the New Covenant is the rest foreshadowed by the Old Covenant sabbath, we now work from this rest. This is why the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying-
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10
We don’t work to be saved — we work because we are saved! These ‘works’ include acts of selfless service toward others who may have done nothing for us. These works of service are acts of grace and reflect what Christ has done for us by graciously saving us. Under the Old Covenant, the motive for obeying Yahweh’s strict requirements was to somehow earn merit with Him. But under the New Covenant, the perfect merit of Christ has been freely offered to us to be received by simply trusting (“putting our faith in”) Christ as The Saviour. And because the grace of God has been extended to us undeserving creatures so lavishly is the reason we know that it—and the God who initiated it— is the epitome of love. When those who surrender to God and admit their helpless state and accept His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation, they too are filled with God’s love toward others-
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  ¶ For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:5-8
It’s worth now considering that from the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, thousands upon thousands Jews accepted that Jesus Christ was indeed the promised Messiah and that the New Covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-33) had now been instigated. These Jews immediately transferred their cultural identity bound up in the sabbath, which had always been observed each Saturday, over to Sunday (the first day of the week, which speaks of ‘newness’ and coming ‘after’ the Old Covenant) since this was the day the Christ rose from the dead, and it was also the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out to establish the Church.

Therefore, the question worth considering: How then should those who have entered into the sabbath of the New Covenant live during a time of international crisis? 

THE RESULTS OF THE SABBATH REST
Why this understanding of the implications of the various aspects of the sabbath are so relevant for right now should now be immediately apparent. For the world community to respond to the COVID-19 virus with a naturalistic (no consideration for God or His Word) mindset means living with an “every man for himself” worldview. This results in acts of self-centred selfishness (please excuse the tautology done purposefully for emphasis). It looks like shops unnecessarily being stripped bare by panicked horders so that others are deprived of being able to obtain essential household goods. It also looks like thousands of people congregating on Bondi Beach in utter defiance of clear government orders not to do so which has now likely resulted in hundreds of people unnecessarily contracting the corona virus.
He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:11-12
But living with an understanding that the world may now be experiencing a kind of ‘essential solemn sabbath’ where a world that never stops is now forced to do so, should give us all pause for reflection. The late Dr. John R.W. Stott wrote a chapter in his book, Issues Facing Christians Today, about the practical applications of the sabbath for today. He formulated a R.E.S.T. approach to how Christians should understand the sabbath’s relevance. He argues based on the teaching of Christ, that the sabbath was meant for man’s refreshment and benefit and therefore should encompass: 
Recreation – because this was a break from a person’s ordinary daily toil and is essential for a person’s mental and physical health;
Emergency (services) – such as essential health care providers and first-responders should be rostered on Sundays but also given another day off to sabbath;
Services – such as utilities (electricity, water, gas) food supplies, and opportunities to worship together, which are essential for the well-being of people; and, 
Transport – also essential for the well-being of people.
Combatting the deadly and devastating impact of COVID-19 demands the adopting of a Christian worldview where we recognise our mutual self-isolation as acts of selfless love; our acts of kindness toward the elderly and frail as selfless love for the vulnerable; and, our willingness to check-in our neighbours via telephone, social media, or email, as an undeserved kindness that appropriately reflects what God has done for us. In this way, we might expect that the world will also begin to appreciate that our health and our economies do not need to ignore the principles of God’s sabbath gift to mankind.
-Pastor Andrew Corbett