“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. -Exodus 20:8-11
Last week we looked at the importance of setting aside times of solitude for personal spiritual health. This week I want to start looking God’s purpose for the sabbath. Over the next few Monday’s we’re going to look at the Exodus 20:8-11 as well as other passages of scripture to form a “Theology of Sabbath.”
Let’s start with verse 8: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Keep it Holy: This is what is meant by remember. God is making it clear that acknowledging and practicing the sabbath is not an option. It is a command.
You may ask, “What about Jesus? Didn’t he come and fulfill the law so all of this Old Testament stuff doesn’t apply anymore?” While that is a whole other subject that I won’t discuss at length in this post, my simple reply would be to look at the context of Exodus 20. Take time to read through the 10 commandments. These commands zero in on moral issues (murder, stealing, idolatry, etc.). Other parts of the Old Testament Law address civil and ceremonial issues that had specific application to God’s covenant people Israel. But the moral commands of God? They are timeless.
When we look to the New Testament, it seems that Jesus is breaking the rules of the Sabbath left and right. But a closer look shows that Christ himself honors the Sabbath while the Jewish leaders of the day had formed their own godless idea of what it should be.
Take Matthew 12:1-12 for example. Jesus and his disciples are accused of breaking the Sabbath by picking food for themselves. Jesus responds by pointing out specific Old Testament occasions where others have carried out certain duties on the Sabbath (3-5). He then points out their flawed view:
I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:6-8
Jesus essentially says, “You’ve missed the point! The Sabbath isn’t about a bunch of do’s and dont’s. God intended for this to be a service to His people.” Jesus offers the correct interpretation of the Sabbath: true rest if found in Christ.
As we continue to talk about God’s intention for us in the Sabbath, we have to be aware of our tendency to take God-given things and ruin them with our own wicked desires. John Calvin said “The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”
The Sabbath is more than a day off or a list of rules. It points us to something greater; His name is Jesus.
Next week we’ll look at verses 9-10: Sabbath Worship