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The Sabbath- is it for Christians today? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Tuesday, 03 February 2009 14:58
Genesis 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested  from all his work. 3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested

When God finished his work of creating: he rested.  Why? He was not tired [SHABATH simply means "ceased"].  God ceased from His work of creating that He might enjoy what He accomplished- it was “very good”   The only other possible answer is that there was nothing else for God to do, but that is not the case.  (John 5:17)

A Day for ceasing work and enjoying Creation is sanctified by God.  Sanctified means “set apart, dedicated totally for His use”: it is “the Lord’s Day”  The day is blessed by God.   A blessing is God’s promise of productivity & well-being.  God promises productivity and well-being for those who cease their work for a day in order to celebrate and enjoy what God has done , i.e.- to observe the Sabbath  (See 1:22,28).

There is no command here for all people to follow God’s example, but that comes later in the Decalogue-[below]

 

                           

 

                                   THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

EXODUS 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.  9 For six days you may [will] labor and do all your work [business, occupation= MEL AWE KAH]  20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or your resident foreigner who is in your gate.  All are to cease their normal, work-week business, one day out of every seven


A.  THE SABBATH [IN ITS ORIGIN] IS A CREATION ORDINANCE

 
The Sabbath was instituted by God at Creation; therefore, it predates the Mosaic Law and thus applies to all peoples and times.  (See Isaiah 56:1-7 and 58).   

The Sabbath is as binding as Marriage, another Creation Ordinance  See Mark 10:6-9; 1 Cor 11:8-9; Eph 5:31; 1 Tim 2:13

   OBSERVING THE ORIGINAL SABBATH ENABLES US TO DO TWO THINGS:

1.  TO FOLLOW GOD'S EXAMPLE, AS HE COMMANDED, TO REST & ENJOY THE CREATION

EXO 20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.   (See Isaiah 58:13-14a, 61:10, etc.)

2.  TO REMEMBER AND CELEBRATE GOD’S DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL FROM BONDAGE IN EGYPT

DEUT 515 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Observing the Sabbath is to commemorate God's deliverance of His  People from Slaver

Deuteronomy 5:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  

They are a redeemed People- they have been set free from bondage.  This is what God has done for them.

Only free people can rest from their occupations.  Keeping the Sabbath is a way of reminding ourselves, and others, that we are freemen.   People live under the tyranny of deadlines, of business, of the need to produce, to make money, to achieve goals, etc  Many are not free.  God's people are!  Keeping the Sabbath says that.

Because the People of God had experienced God's grace when He set them free from bondage, they are to respond to God's grace in kind with others who are in bondage.  Every sixth year was to be a Sabbath, ie- an occasion for setting other people, animals and the land  free.
           
Exodus 2310 "For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.

Leviticus 252 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD . 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD . Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave.

After 49 years, the Sabbath year [the Jubilee] included canceling debt and setting debtors [indentured servants] free and returning land to original owners.  See the Addendum that follows this Essay
       
Deuteronomy 15:1 At the end of every seven years [THE SABBATH YEAR] you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you.

12 If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year [THE SABBATH YEAR] you must let him go free. 13 And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. 14 Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your wine press. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.


The Sabbath is for celebrating freedom.  We keep the Sabbath when we set others, who are wrongfully indebted, free.  
 
3.  CHRISTIANS CENTURIES LATER ADDED THE THIRD REASON FOR OBSERVING THE SABBATH: THEIR DELIVERANCE FROM SIN
 
To celebrate and enjoy what God has done in His work for our redemption, ie- the deliverance of the Elect & all Creation from bondage to sin & death, through the death & resurrection of Christ: the re-creation.

There is nothing in the 4th  Commandment itself about attending church services.  Centuries later, Sabbath came to incorporate what we call “worship” & “going to church”.  However, neither must be equated with keeping the Sabbath!   (Jews, who became Christians, moved the Sabbath to Sunday, to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week)
 
 
B.  THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT IS A LABOR LAW

“Man” had been commanded to work- to subdue and cultivate the earth.  This became very difficult under the curse.  

When God rested from His work of creating, He was setting a personal example for his lieutenants: you will need to rest from your occupation as my stewards and the domestic work animals and the land need to rest- even in the most busy seasons.  Therefore, follow my example: Take a period of rest from your labor.  [Note: Jesus did this as well]

Exodus 34:21 "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

Exodus 23:12 "Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.


This is a moral issue.  To deny workers, and work animals, time off for rest is immoral (and illegal now)   Production and profit must not be at the expense of the worker.  This was a radical idea in ancient times.  No other contemporary nation practiced it.  This was to be codified in the Mosaic Law.  It was the primary moral purpose of Sabbath

 
 
C.  THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT IS A MORAL LAW

No one is saved by religious ceremonies.  see Gal 4:10; col 2:16; Rom 14:5-6 and Hebrews.  The ceremonial laws of Israel are not binding on the Church.  However, the Sabbath is not part of Mosaic ceremonial Law.  The command to observe the Sabbath is embedded in the Decalogue: we are to obey all ten, not ten minus one.  These Ten Laws are not Civil or Ceremonial.  They are moral laws.  The command to observe the Sabbath is a moral law, on par with the Commands not to steal, commit adultery or murder.

Observing the Sabbath is not essential to salvation; neither is obeying the rest of the Decalogue, but all will agree that the moral commandments are obligatory for righteous living- that includes keeping the Sabbath

HOW CAN THE FOURTH COMMAND BE MORAL LIKE THE OTHER ONES?  

·  It is a law that benefits all who labor [including animals & land] with “a day off”
·  It is a law that gives freedom to slaves [indentured servants]
·  It is a law that sets debtors [individuals who borrowed to survive] free

    
D.  THE SABBATH IS A TEST OF FAITH  (VERY SIMILAR TO TITHING)

Taking a day off from business, from meeting production deadlines, from not making hay (literally), can be costly.  Giving employees time off, canceling debts owed, giving money (product) away to the poor can be very costly.  Keeping the Sabbath could be considered foolish, impractical, even wasteful.

Keeping the Sabbath is a test of faith and a confession of faith.   It demonstrates publicly that we are free from fear and believe God's promises to bless those who obey this law.  He promises they will not go without.  Work will get done.  Bills will be paid.  Our needs will be provided.

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day

Deuteronomy 15:5… if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to 18 Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free… the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.


Some Commentators interpret the words of Jesus in light of this concept-

MATT 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear [if you keep the Sabbath]  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear [if we keep the Sabbath]?”  32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

WE ARE TO DELIGHT IN KEEPING THE SABBATH.  IT IS NOT A BURDEN
 
Isaiah 58:13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

                        
E. SABBATH KEEPING IS A SIGN OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD (it identifies them)
 
Ezekiel 20:5 …'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I chose Israel, …. With uplifted hand I said to them, "I am the LORD your God." 6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.  11 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. 12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. 19 I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God."

Exodus 31:16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.' "

 
 
F.  SABBATH KEEPING IS A WITNESS TO THE WORLD
 
Christians constantly discuss how the church can effectively evangelize today’s world.  Imagine the witness to the world and the practical impact on society, if millions of Christians were to seriously observe the Sabbath, as explained above -------and then answer the question from relatives, neighbors and co-workers: “why do you do that?”!


                 THE ORIGINAL, BIBLICAL SABBATH: SUMMARY

The Sabbath is setting aside (totally ceasing) the normal work of the week for (at least) an entire day (one out of every seven)

1.  to proclaim and celebrate the finished work of God

     a.  as Creator of the Universe
     b.  as Redeemer of Israel
 
2.  to minister to the needs of others, esp the poor

[IMPORTANT NOTE: These elements of Proclamation, Celebration & Caring are the basic elements of what the Bible defines as Worship]   


  IS OBSERVING THE SABBATH REQUIRED OF CHRISTIANS TODAY?  YES
 
All that we have studied in this Essay leads to this conclusion.  It is one of the Ten Commandments by which Christians are to live.
 
Most will agree with the Apostle Paul's advice in Romans 14:5, 22.  Look it up.

 

Comments
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Susan  - sabbath   |2009-02-06 08:04:46
shabbat shalom,
I happened to come across your website and noticed your article
on sabbath. Keeping the sabbath is a delight
It's not often that I come
across christian websites encouraging to keep the sabbath, so it is a delight to
see yours. I usually go to www.eliyah.com to read articles and transcripts,
thought you might be interested in the information there. Have a blessed rest in
Yah on shabbat
Susan.
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2009 15:16