Remember the Sabbath
God's Delightful Day
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
Call the Sabbath a Delight. (Isaiah 58:13)
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:3)
Writing about the Sabbath is a daunting task since it has historically been so controversial and divisive. But the commandment "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy" is there, and sincere hearts must deal honestly with it!
In all of the calendar changes of human history, the seven-day weekly cycle has never been broken. Therefore, Saturday is still the seventh day, blessed and sanctified. One can be assured of this through the words of God's prophet, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6), and also Solomon, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past" (Eccl 3:15). Whether the church celebrates the seventh day as the Sabbath or not, it remains the "the Lord's Sabbath" (Ex. 20:10, Isa. 58:13). No amount of theological maneuvering can nullify it. Sunday worship has its merits, but it is not the Sabbath.
Many fear the ravages of legalism often associated with the subject of the Sabbath and rightly so! "Legalism", roughly defined, is "the adherence to a set of laws as a means of obtaining and retaining salvation." Some teach that keeping the Sabbath is essential to salvation and frequently make it a test of fellowship. That is a misguided concept. Salvation is not attained by obedience to a law (even God's law), but through the person of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah). However, the Ten Commandments are the constitutional law of God that teaches us the proper disciplines of the righteous people for praise, worship and service. Unfortunately, for many the word "Law" has become a scare word. Actually, it is better defined as simply "instruction" to those who choose to obey.
The basic question remains: Is the Sabbath day celebration for New Testament believers or did Jesus do away with keeping the Sabbath? If he did, why would he single out one commandment to cancel and leave the other nine commandments. If he changed it so that it would fall on the first day of the week, it is the only commandment he altered. On the other hand, if Jesus did not tinker with the timing of this commandment, how is one supposed to remember the Sabbath as the fourth commandment instructs?
Jesus was never drawn into giving endless details about Sabbath observance, and he never endorsed the restrictive Mosaic rituals. Jesus gave two basic guidelines for Sabbath observance: it is lawful to do good and lawful do that which is necessary. (Luke 6:9, Luke 14:5)
NEW TESTAMENT WARNINGS
"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Gal 4:9)
This verse is often quoted to discourage the keeping of any of the biblical festivals including the Sabbath. But, Paul is referring only to those pagan festivals that the Galatians had been celebrating before their conversion and were now carrying over into the church, not to the Biblical days.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Col 2:16)
This is not a statement of prohibition but one of warning. Paul is warning the church about judgmental attitudes developing among believers. No one's salvation should be judged by these matters (Romans 14:5). Believers should not celebrate the Sabbath to win God's favor. They should celebrate it because they love God and want to obey his instructions.
REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
Controversies about what one should "do" or "not do" on the Sabbath day must be avoided. The first thing that should concern believers about fulfilling this commandment is that they faithfully remember it. God probably knew that many would forget when and what it was all about.
Under the old manifestations of the Mosaic Law everything was regimented. But since Jesus is "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mt. 12:8), under the new covenant one should be spirit guided as to what to do or not do in celebrating the Sabbath according to their circumstances. Each individual believer is responsible for asking Jesus (the Lord of the Sabbath) how he or she should honor each Sabbath Day, and no person can judge another person's way of honoring it. Jesus said , "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." However, the spirit will not guide anyone to change the day to another time, because the scriptures are absolute on this point.
First and foremost, the Sabbath celebrates the creation. In the genesis of time, God sanctified (set apart) the seventh day to celebrate the works of his own hands. We should do no less and consistently thank God every Sabbath for the marvels of His creation.
WHAT SABBATH CELEBRATES
The word Sabbath means REST. Rest is exactly what Messiah gives us through salvation (Mt.11:28). Therefore, it celebrates Jesus. The prophet Isaiah predicted this rest to be a work of the Holy Spirit: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing . . . (Isaiah 28:11-12). Jesus referred to His rest as "the comforter" (John 15:26). Therefore, the Sabbath celebrates the Holy Spirit.
The Sabbatical Millennial or the seven thousandth year reign of Messiah as King of Kings and Lord of Lords over the whole earth in peace and rest is also a promise embodied in the Sabbath Day celebration (Hebrews 4:8-9, 2 Peter 3:8,Rev. 20:4Rev. 20:4).
SABBATH – THE SEAL OF COVENANT
The seventh day Sabbath was and remains today the sign or seal of the covenant of the law - the Ten Commandments (Exodus. 31:13, 17 Ezekiel 20:12, 20:20). It is for this reason that God promised to write them upon the tables of our heart (Jeremiah 31:33, 2 Corinthians 3:3). These commandments stand in tact or fall intact. The fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath is as important as the first one about having no other gods. If they have been written upon the heart of every believer, why not listen to your heart.
The Sabbath was the very first feast day to be sanctified (set apart) . From this fourth commandment is extrapolated the Lord's entire worship system manifested in the annual feast day celebrations.
A MATTER OF WORSHIP
"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts" (Leviticus 23:2). Note that he did not say these are the feasts of the Jew's or feasts of the Christians but the "feasts of the Lord", which both Jews and Christians can celebrate. Why? Because they are the "Lord's" festivals and Paul tells us that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11). God proceeds in Leviticus to spell out eight specific annual holidays days to be celebrated, the Sabbath being the first.
In both Exodus 31:13 and Ezekiel 20:12, God uses the plural form Sabbaths in reference to these celebrations. The word "Sabbath's" appears in scripture when referring to all of the feast days of the Lord including the seventh day Sabbath. All of the feast days are intrinsically tied to the worship of God (Zech. 14:16, Acts 24:14).
AVAILABLE TO THE GENTILE
"Neither let the son of the stranger (gentile), that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: . . . Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;" (Isa 56:3-7)
*gentiles are often referred to as 'eunuchs' and 'strangers'
Remember that keeping the Sabbath is not essential to salvation. Remember that the Sabbath is essential to celebration. Remember that it is not Jewish but divine. Remember that it is the Lord's Sabbath and Jesus never violated it nor terminated it (Mt 5:17). Remember that the Sabbath was described by our Lord as being a "forever" celebration. Remember that it is the very seal of the Ten Commandment covenant. Remember that Paul said we do not make void the law through faith but "uphold "it. Remember that Sunday is never called the Sabbath in scripture. Remember that Saturday is still the Sabbath day. Remember that God hallowed this day in the genesis of time, long before the law was given.
Keep it simple! Just bear in mind a few guiding principles for observance. Ask Jesus and be spirit guided. Find time for reflection (appreciating God's creation) and relaxation. Do that which is good. Do not get into bondage by thought or deed for we are at liberty to do those things that are necessary. But, most of all, remember not to forget it! You'll be glad you did!
Call the Sabbath a delight!