Sabbath’s Day Rest
Originally published 12/2/1995
The Sabbath was established by God to emphasize several truths. Truth doesn’t change but the way we express those truths might. The problem is when we begin to cannonize the practice instead of the truth. What truths are expressed in the Sabbath and is this the one commandment of the Ten Commandments we can ignore?
Lets start with the scripture.
(All scripture is taken from the NIV)
Gen. 2:2-3 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Deut. 5:12-15 Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 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.
Col. 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Hebr. 4:9-11 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
We need physical rest
God established the Sabbath day in part to show that we need physical rest. Although the Sabbath day is primarily a spiritual lesson, I believe God also has practical reasons for his laws, i.e., God uses practical methods to teach us important spiritual lessons. For example, God’s laws regarding not eating pork taught important lessons regarding holiness but it also protected His people from improperly cooked pork which could cause illness.
In the same way, the Sabbath is a spiritual lesson with a practical purpose. I find it interesting that the Sabbath was applied to everyone and every living thing. Rest is necessary for all living things. When we ignore this simple fact, we find our physical being worn out.
It is also interesting that not only is there a Sabbath day but also a Sabbath year (see Leviticus 25), where everything in the country for an entire year is at rest. God commanded that every seventh year was to be a Sabbath year during which no agricultural activities were to be practiced, rather, the people were to live off whatever the land produced on its own. Again, as we have been rediscovering recently, allowing a field to rest a year without being plowed is highly beneficial for the field to recover.
We need spiritual rest
Both Paul in Colossians and the writer to the Hebrews shows us that the Sabbath day rest was a spiritual lesson. Deuteronomy speaks of the fact that the Sabbath was in part, to remind the Israelites of their slavery in Egypt and their rescue by God.
We are held in slavery by sin. That slavery exhausts us spiritually. We are promised spiritual rest when we put ourselves in the hands of God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The writer to the Hebrews mentions that it is important for us to not only enter into His rest but also to remain in that rest. Just as one could go out and break the Sabbath, so one who enjoys the spiritual rest of God’s Sabbath can break that rest through willful disobedience. Although it is debated, it seems clear that Hebrews 6 shows us that we can in fact fall away from this rest.
Trust in God
A third lesson that the Sabbath teaches us is trust in God. By not doing any work–even simple things like cooking–we demonstrate our trust in God, that He will take care of us without our intervention. This is possibly the hardest lesson for us to learn. We want to be self-sufficient and do everything ourselves. To take time off from relying on ourselves is a big step of trust.
This is demonstrated with the Sabbath Year and even more so with the Year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years. The Year of Jubilee was a special Sabbath year and always followed a standard Sabbath year so that every 50 years there were two years of Sabbath rest for the land. For two years the people of God were to trust in God for all their needs, that the land would produce enough food for them to live but that they were not to go out and do any farming etc. They had to live on what they already had. It was also a time when all slaves and bondsman were freed, giving once again a picture of our spiritual slavery to sin and the freedom in Christ we receive when we trust in Him.
A picture of this trust can be seen in the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. For six days they were to gather manna but on the seventh God did not supply any manna for them to gather. If someone would gather manna on one day and then let it sit until the next, it would spoil EXCEPT for manna gathered on the sixth day. Manna gathered on the sixth day would not spoil so it could be eaten on the seventh without having to gather it (work). This is a clear exercise in trust, since on every other day the manna gathered would not last 24 hours.
Dedication to God
Finally, the Sabbath teaches us about dedication. By setting aside a day for God, we are giving our day wholly and totally to God. It is also symbolic for the dedication we make to God spiritually, giving ourselves to God wholly and totally to God. It also has an element of dedication to one another. By meeting regularly with one another, we demonstrate our dedication to one another. We are the Body of Christ and need each other.
As hard as it is for some of us, we need to take a break from our work. Physically, it is important. It allows us to be able to work more efficiently and with strength. Our witness then is not impeded by a lack of energy.
By taking a break from our work, we also demonstrate and exercise our faith in God and our devotion to Him. He will continue to take care of us. For some of us, this faith is exercised by not working on Sunday. Instead, we give ourselves totally to God. We can often look at Sunday (and every other day of the week) as “Another Day, Another Dollar” but God would call us to change that to “Another Day, God Will Take Care of Me.” By taking one day a week to physically express that, we take one small step in our Christian lives closer to living every day trusting the Lord, devoting ourselves to Him and not to the dollar.
We cannot be legalistic about making Sunday (or any other day) as more important or more holy than another. Every day should be given to God. Every day we should trust God. Every day we should devote ourselves to God. Our true rest is in God and that rest is for eternity. But it doesn’t change the truths expressed by God and we should listen to what God would say to us. Rest in Him and He will take care of us.
I sometimes wonder if God looks down on us in exasperation on Sunday morning as we scramble to get ready for Sunday worship. Many of us are exhausted before we even get to Church. I sometimes wonder what would happen if we had a Sunday morning worship service where no one was permitted to wear their “Sunday best,” put on makeup, or do other ridiculous exercises in impressing one another with our outward appearance. I can’t help but think we might be able to focus more clearly on Him who made and keeps us and the inward need for cleanliness. [ed. in 2008 – I so love Flatland Church for this – there is no pressure to dress up physically, rather, we need to dress up spiritually]
Why do Christians worship on Sunday (the first day of the week) instead of on the Sabbath (the seventh day)?
The Church consisted of a majority of Jews for many years. They would have gone to the Synagoge on the Sabbath, following the Jewish tradition. To worship in a Christian setting they would meet again on the first day of the week (see Acts 20:7 and 1Cor. 16:2 as two examples). As Gentiles were added to the Church, many Gentiles would have only met during the worship services on Sunday.
When the Church became predominantly Gentile and unfortunately anti-semitic to one degree or another, the tradition of meeting on Sunday continued. Since Paul had already stated that all days were the Lord’s and of equal value, there was no felt need to switch the day. Bondage to a particular day as being “the day” is as wrong if not more so than taking a Sabbath’s day rest.
Actually, the Church met almost every day for centuries but the Sunday service was the primary one since Jesus rose again on the first day of the week. The Church celebrated Easter every Sunday! The Eucharist, also known as communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Table, the breaking of bread among many names, was also celebrated (Eucharist means celebration) every Sunday, again, as part of the thankfulness for our salvation and the expectation of the soon coming return of Christ, something that has often been lost in churches that do not celebrate at the Lord’s Table every Lord’s Day (but that is for a different study <grin>).
Written by William Reveal 12/2/95
- My Rights!
- I Am the Bread of Life