2020-01--05 - Fourth Commandment: The Call to Honor the Sabbath
- The Call to Honor the Sabbath
We had better do some defining of terms:
Sabbath: “The divinely instituted day of rest, ordained for all men.;” (Davis). 4
Interestingly enough the American Heritage Dictionary defines it this way:
During the Sabbath, none in the nation were to work, even those who were not citizens. Second, the Sabbath itself was to be unique to the nation of Israel. It was intended to show the relationship of the Hebrew people to their God, in a way that would be visible to those nations around them.
- The seventh day of the week, Saturday, observed as the day of rest and worship by the Jews and some Christian sects.
- The first day of the week, Sunday, observed as the day of rest and worship by most Christians. 5
The standard misconception of much of the church is carried into the dictionary, the Christian Sabbath is Sunday. Davis takes us back to Genesis 2:1-3 as the support for the Sabbath.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (ESV)
This passage doesn’t speak to the Sabbath, but does establish the principle of a day of rest. The Sabbath itself is an expansion of this principle, as we can see from Exodus 31:13-17:
“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. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 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.. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” (ESV).
While we will see this passage again, it is necessary for our understanding of God’s call to Sabbath worship, to go over it now. The Biblical Illustrator makes an interesting point regarding this commandment:
“This Commandment holds a remarkable position in the Decalogue. It lies between those which touch our duty to God and those which touch our duty to man. It belongs to both branches of the Decalogue. Its position tells us that a breach of the Sabbath is a direct insult to God, and is also a direct injury to man, …” 6
You can see the Lord established Sabbath worship as a specific and perpetual sign between Himself and the nation Israel. It was to be unique to the nation. In fact, disobedience to this commandment was one of the capital crimes in Israel, therefore carrying the death sentence. It is clear that the principle of a day of rest was established in creation and that the Hebrew already knew of the importance of the Sabbath prior to its being given as a commandment.
“ ... He [Moses] 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 ESV).
So we see here a general principle, a day of rest. Here it is specifically identified as the Sabbath, a unique sign between the Hebrew people and their God. The concept of the day of rest was for the benefit of mankind, while the Sabbath, a sign between God and Israel, was more specific - which explains the severity of punishment for its abuse.
The principle of general versus specific application found here is similar to that seen in baptism. Baptism was something practiced by the Jew before the time of the New Testament.
This is why we find John the Baptizer practicing it prior to Christ’s appearance on the scene. But, after the resurrection, Christ takes this rite and makes it a picture of both His death and resurrection. This made it a unique ritual for the Church. In this same way, the general rule of a day of rest is taken by the Lord and given a specific role for the Hebrew people.
Keeping all this in mind, it is clear why Christ did not reinstitute the necessity of keeping the Sabbath to those who would follow after Him. The Sabbatic command was the only command of the Decalogue specifically given to Israel.
Nowhere in the New Testament are believers called to keep the Sabbath. The early church did continue Sabbath worship, for a short time. But this was because of the Jewish make-up of the church. The Jewish believers continued to go to the Synagogue and so kept the traditional days.
As the church grew and Gentiles came in, worship moved to the first day of the week, Sunday, in recognition of the Lord’s resurrection. Worship was then on the “Lord’s Day.” We must understand that the Sabbath was never changed from Saturday to Sunday. Instead, the day of worship was moved from the day kept under Law to the day that represented salvation, Resurrection Day, Sunday.
For those who still demand Sabbath worship, ask if they call for death for those who fail to do so. There are still some outside of Judaism who follow the law, i.e.. Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists. Some even argue Sunday worship is the sign of Antichrist.
We can see, then, that God called for honoring the Sabbath as, first a fulfillment of the principle of a day of rest, as identified in vs. 11.
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (NIV)”
- Davis Dictionary of the Bible, Royal Publishers, Inc., Nashville, TN, 1973.
- The American Heritage Electronic Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin
- Exell, Joseph S., The Biblical Illustrator, “Exodus,” Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975, p. 362.
Exodus study to be continued.
You will find more info about Pastor Geoff Kragen at http://www.GKragen.com, and you may find more of his Bible studies at http://www.GKragen.com
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