(The Sabbath-Rest Principle I)
So why keep the Sabbath? What’s so important about one day? And why this day specifically? Can’t we just pick any day and call it our “day of rest?” There are several answers to this, all of them important, but in order that we clearly understand them, we would probably be better equipped if we did some background research first.
When was the Sabbath first instituted? Well, it was set up from the foundations of the earth, just like everything else, which is to “endure forever.” Genesis 2:1-3 records the sanctioning of this sacred day, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work, which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all his work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.”
Three times in three verses. He obviously wants us to remember something. We don’t often see such reiteration in the lessons of the Scriptures.
And how long will the Sabbath endure? For this we read the words of the prophet Isaiah, who says, “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:22&23) Even in New Jerusalem, after the events of John’s Revelation are fulfilled, this institution will be kept throughout the countless ages.
Some will say that the 10 commandments, of which the Sabbath is a part, is no longer binding. The “law” they say, was nailed to the cross when Christ died. However, what many do not realize is that the 10 commandments were not given to the Israelites at Sinai! These ten divine principles were in effect from before there was human life on the planet, and in fact are the very pillars upon which the eternal kingdom rests. The Ten Commandments, or “Decalogue” as it is also called, was merely written down on stone tablets, and these tablets were given to Moses for a covenant, or sign of an agreement.
By accepting it, the people were pledging their loyalty to the one true God, and promising to keep what had always been reflections of His character. Did the people of Israel really not know that murder was wrong before God’s finger carved it on a stone? Certainly not, for Cain was cursed by his Father for that act. And stealing? Why was Jacob afraid to meet Esau after tricking him out of his inheritance? There are examples of each of these actions, and their consequences, before the journey to the mountain of Sinai.
And the Sabbath? Wasn’t that a new one just added to the people at that moment? Hardly... even in the very same book, Exodus, where lies the record of Moses receiving the stone tables, there are several references made to the seventh day Sabbath. Exodus 12:16 gives this principle for the Passover festival, the very ceremony which pointed to the coming of Christ, “... and in the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”
Bearing in mind that the ten commandments were not “given” until chapter 20 of this book, read also the record of Yah providing food for the escaping people, raining down mana from heaven, every day except the seventh, saying to them, “Six days shall ye gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.” (Ex 16:26) On the sixth day, the people gathered twice as much, and on that day only did decay not set in if the mana was kept more than 24 hours. Note also the wording... “the” Sabbath.
Note also the wording when the Decalogue was actually given: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex 20:8) “Remember,” He said. This was not a new concept to the people of Israel.
In regards to the doctrine that the Decalogue was nailed to the cross, there is much also to say here. The scripture most used to support this is Colossians 2:14, which reads in some translations, “Blotting out the law that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.”
Now, I can use any translation to read and write from, so I have no problem with the wording there, however, the Scriptures were written to be understood, and when Paul wrote the word “law” he wrote in Greek, and the term used was “cheirographon.” This, literally translated, means “handwriting,” and is translated in the King James Version as “the handwriting of ordinances.” The Colossians were in the habit of writing down all their infractions, and at times these added up to quite a sizeable list.
Paul was saying, “Away with this practice! You are treating Yah like a heathen deity, as if He could be appeased with good works, or as if it were even possible to keep the law without the grace of Christ living within us.” As I said, though, I have no problem using any translation of the Bible. Let’s just say we leave it as “law” for now, pretending we don’t know what Paul really meant.
The key, then, would be his usage of the phrase, “the law that was against us, which was contrary to us.” Were the 10 commandments ever “against us?” Does respecting our mother and father, and not coveting our neighbor’s wife or possessions... do these things oppress us and give us a heavy, unreasonable burden? The penalty of disobeying the Law may be a burden, but not the common-sense rules themselves. In fact, is not the Sabbath a day of “rest,” the very opposite of a burdensome, exacting law? Were not the laws of God given for our own good, to teach us to reflect the character of the Father? How, then, could this be the law which was against us? And would Christ, who came to fulfill the law, “magnify it and make it honorable” (Isa 42:21) by blotting it out?
There is a “riddle” of sorts that I have asked many Sunday-keeping Christians: You say the Decalogue is no longer blinding. Then, can you murder? The answer comes back, “No.” Can you steal? “No,” comes back again. May we have other Gods before Yah almighty, or bow down to graven images and pay them homage? “No,” comes back the inevitable reply. In fact, I can run through the entire list, and you will find that they object to keeping not one “jot or tittle” of the law... except the 4th... “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Why was only this article nailed to the cross? I have never found one who even attempted an answer.
Why only this one? The reason is that this commandment is the one that Satan, that great enemy of souls, has worked particularly hard to make light of. The reasons for this are numerous, but the main one is that of the 10, this is the one that seems least intuitive. Yah always gives us reasons for His commands, and the Sabbath is no exception, but the consequences of not following this one are not as immediate as those of the other nine. If we kill or steal, we will arouse the attention of the civil authority. If we commit adultery or make obvious our desire for the possessions of another, we quickly arouse his wrath. If we keep other gods, worship idols or profane our Father’s name, how can we claim a good relationship with Him? But not working for a day... why is that such a big deal?
I will answer that in parts b and c, but in my next article I wish to examine an even more important concept. Did Christ, who is to be our ultimate example, keep the Sabbath? How does that relate to us today? Keep reading; the Scriptures hold the answers to all things.
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