Notice in God’s 4th Commandment, we are commanded to “rest” on the seventh day, and do no work. How intriguing! Many people say they “hate” work. They would much rather rest and relax. They “work” all their lives, so they can “rest” and take vacations, and “relax.” But when God says to “rest” on a particular day? Suddenly they all have some excuse, and want to go to work on that day! Go figure. When God says “rest,” they respond, “No! I want to work!” How perverse is human nature, anyway?
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Isn’t it interesting that the only part of the Scripture specifically written by God’s own finger (Exodus 31:18), His Law, is the part man wants to do away with? And isn’t it interesting that the only part of that Law they say is for the Jew only is the only Commandment that states it was for the “stranger” too? And isn’t it interesting that the only one of the Commandments which they say was a ceremonial law instituted at Sinai is the only Commandment that specifically states it was instituted at Creation (Genesis 2:2-3), long before sin or Jews or ceremonies? And isn’t it interesting that the only Commandment man wants to forget is the only one God specifically says to “remember”?
When Moses went to deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian taskmasters, “Sabbathing” was one of the things that concerned Pharaoh:
Exodus 5:1-5, “And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness…But the king of Egypt said to them, Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors! Again Pharaoh said, Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them rest from their labors!”
The English word “rest” is translated from the Hebrew word “shabath.” This is the same, exact Hebrew word used to describe the seventh day Sabbath elsewhere (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 16:29-30; 31:17). In other words, Pharaoh was not about to give his slaves a Sabbath rest from their labors. This appears to be at least one reason why, before entering Canaan land, Moses told the Israelites to “remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt…therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
The importance of keeping the Sabbath holy, of not breaking the Sabbath by working, was the last instruction given to Moses before the tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them were handed to him. It is a sign of the covenant and the Laws of God working within His people.
Exodus 31:12-18, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed. And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”
The Sabbath Commandment is the longest Commandment out of the ten. It is God’s official “seal” of authority: It contains the three essential elements of any official seal or mark. It contains His name (“The Lord your God”), title and authority (“Creator”), and domain (“heaven and earth”).
After working the first six days of the week in creating this earth, God rested on the seventh day, blessed and sanctified it (Genesis 2:1-3). God did not rest because He was tired (Isaiah 40:28), but because everything He made was good (Genesis 1:31). It was made before the fall; hence it is not a type or shadow, for types and shadows were not introduced until after the fall.
Jesus said it was made for man (Mark 2:27); that is, for all men. It is a memorial of the work of creation (Exodus 20:11; 31:17, Psalm 111:4), and thus a sign of God’s power and His love. Every time we rest upon the seventh day, as God did at creation, we commemorate that grand event. It is not a Jewish institution, for it was made 2,300 years before ever there was a Jew. The Bible never calls it the Jewish Sabbath but always “the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Men should be cautious how they stigmatize God’s holy rest day. The Sabbath was a part of God’s Law before it was engraved on the Ten Commandments at Sinai (Exodus 16:4, 27-29).
Then God placed it in the heart of His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). The seventh-day Sabbath was commanded by the voice of the living God (Deuteronomy 4:12,13). Then He wrote the Commandment with His own finger (Exodus 31:18). He engraved it in the enduring stone, indicating its imperishable nature (Deuteronomy 5:22). It was sacredly preserved in the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 10:1-5). And most importantly, Scripture says it is the only sign between God and His people, by which we are to know Him from false gods (Exodus 31:13-17, Eze.20:12,20).
God forbade work upon the Sabbath, even in the most hurrying times (Exodus 34:21). God threatened punishment for not hallowing the Sabbath (Jer.17:19-27). God destroyed the Israelites in the wilderness because they profaned the Sabbath (Ezekiel 20:12, 13, 16, 21, 24). Priests profaned the Sabbath and were consumed with fire (Ezekiel 22:26, 31). Jews in the wilderness profaned the Sabbath (Eze.20:13-24). The nobles of Judah brought more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath (Neh.13:17-18). However, God has also pronounced a special blessing on all men who keep the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:2), including the Gentiles (Isaiah 56:6-7). The Lord requires us to call it “honorable” (Isaiah 58:13). Beware, ye who take delight in calling it the “old Jewish Sabbath,” or “a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1), for “His Commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
All the holy prophets kept the seventh day Sabbath. When Jesus Christ came, He kept the Sabbath day all His life (Mark 1:21; 6:2, Luke 4:16; 6:6; 13:10, John 15:10). Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). He vindicated the Sabbath as a merciful institution designed for man’s good (Matthew 12:8-10, Mark 2:23-28). Even after Christ died, the pious women (one of whom was His mother) who had been with Jesus kept the seventh day Sabbath, because the Fourth Commandment says so (Mark 16:1-2, Luke 23:56). (Did Jesus forget to tell His Mom that the Sabbath was to cease at the cross?) This alone shows that those who were with Jesus did not believe the Sabbath was to cease after His death on the cross.
Thirty years after Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit expressly called it “the Sabbath day” (Acts:13:14). Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, called it “The Sabbath day” in AD 45 (Acts 13:27). Did not Paul know? Or shall we believe modern teachers, who affirm that it ceased to be the Sabbath at the resurrection of Christ? Luke, the inspired Christian historian, writing as late as AD 62, calls it “the Sabbath day” (Acts 13:44). The Gentile converts called it the Sabbath (Acts 13:42). It was Paul’s’ custom to preach upon that day (Acts 17:2). The book of Acts alone gives a record of his holding eighty-four meetings upon that day (Acts 13:14, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4,11). It was kept by the Apostles after the cross!
There was never any dispute between the bondmen of Christ and the Jews about the Sabbath day. This is proof that the Christians still observed the same day that the Jews did. In all their accusations against Paul (Acts 24:13), they never charged him with disregarding the Sabbath day. Why did they not if he did not keep it? But Paul himself expressly declared that he had kept the Law (Acts 25:8). How could this be true if he had not kept the Sabbath? Jesus expected the Sabbath to be kept by His followers after His death (Matthew 24:20). The Sabbath is mentioned in the New Testament 60 times, and always with respect, bearing the same title it had in the Old Testament, “the Sabbath day.”
Not a word is said anywhere in the New Testament about the Sabbath’s being abolished, done away, changed, or anything of the kind. God has never given permission to any man to work upon it. Reader, by what authority do you use the seventh day for common labor? As the Sabbath was kept in Eden before the fall, so it will be observed eternally in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 66:22, 23).
The Sabbath was never intended to be a restraining time of punishment. What would your reaction be if your boss came to you and said, “I want you to take tomorrow off to rest. Enjoy yourself! Eat, rest, read…don’t even think about work.” Would you feel burdened? The Sabbath is a holy time of resting from our weekly work in order to come into a joyous worship of God. It is a time of release from the stress and pressure of living in the world. It is a time to rest from our normal pursuit of physical activity and to remember our Creator. Another reason for resting on this day is so that believers and unbelievers (strangers), as well as animals, would be “refreshed”:
Exodus 23:12, “Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.”
After His death upon the cross, Jesus rested the entire Sabbath in the grave. Just as God rested after His work of creation, Jesus rested after completing His work of redemption! Then, on the first day of the week, which had been a common working day for over 4,000 years, Jesus rose from the tomb, returned to life, and literally went back to work! Should we not follow the example of Jesus? (John 13:15, Phil.2:5, 1 Peter 2:21; 4:1, 1 John 2:6). Should we not rest on God’s holy seventh day Sabbath? Amen.