Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Exodus 20:8-11 Keep the Sabbath Holy

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
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 animals,
nor the alien within your gates.
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."

Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)

This has always been an interesting commandment to me.  We know that the Jews celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday.  So why did the Jewish followers of Jesus change their worship day to Sunday?  I read that because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday morning, believers signaled the earth-shattering importance of that resurrection by celebrating together on that day of  the week.  That was a good explanation, but I always wondered about that change because the rest of the commandments were still being observed as given:  worship God alone, don't make idols, don't misuse God's name, honor your father and mother, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't give false witness against your neighbor, don't covet your neighbor's wife, house or possessions.  At the giving of the commandments no specific instructions were given regarding which day (Saturday or Sunday) was the Sabbath, aside from the fact that it was the seventh day.  However, we can find a precedent in the fact that after six days of creating the world, God rested from His work on the seventh day, which became known as the Sabbath.  So it would seem to make sense that the same pattern would continue.  In fact, some people maintain that the Sabbath had been observed by God's people since that time of creation, even before the Commandments were given.

I knew that Jesus had sometimes upset people by His behavior on the Sabbath.  He did attend synagogue, but He also did things which bothered the Jewish religious leaders, like healing people on the Sabbath, or allowing His disciples to grab a snack from the surrounding fields on the Sabbath [a practice which was perfectly acceptable, by the way, as long as you didn't go over the line and take a large quantity, which would have been considered to be harvesting someone else's field and thus, stealing.]  Jesus was grieved by the lack of love or concern for other humans which these religious leaders demonstrated when they questioned his healing of a man on the Sabbath, especially since these same leaders would have seen no problem with their own actions of feeding or helping one of their own animals if they were hungry or distressed on a Sabbath.  Yet apparently these religious leaders could not extend the same concern toward a fellow man.  This grieved Jesus, who went ahead and healed the guy anyway despite their objections.

So what was the purpose of the Sabbath?  When God rested from His work at creation, it was not for the purposing of renewing His strength after His labors -- for the Scriptures maintain that:

"...The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom."

Isaiah 40:28 (NIV)

I always thought that when the Scriptures said that God rested on that first Sabbath, it meant that He just stepped back for a while to admire His work, much as an artist takes a moment to step back after finishing his work to enjoy it for a bit.  Likewise, when we worship God, we step back for a while out from the normal routines of the week in order to remember our Creator and appreciate what He has done for us...to remember Who He is and Whose people we are.

Also, Jesus said that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28 NIV)  The NIV Study Bible has a good explanation of these verses:  "Jewish tradition had so multiplied the requirements and restrictions for keeping the Sabbath that the burden had become intolerable.  Jesus cut across these traditions and emphasized the God-given purpose of the Sabbath -- a day intended for the benefit of people (for rest from daily labors, allowing spiritual, mental and physical restoration...".

It would be a profitable exercise to use a concordance (a book which lists every occurrence of a particular word/phrase in the Bible) to take all the verses in the Old and and New Testaments and see what is written about the Sabbath.  I have covered some of the main points about the Sabbath here, but you can probably glean many further insights by studying the verses about it for yourself.

This discussion is not over, but I will move on for now.  If I find any interesting thoughts on the subject of this commandment, I will add them here.
OK, I already found an interesting verse:  Colossians 2:16-18 says "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." 

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