The Sabbath is the Seventh day of Creation, Genesis 2:1-3.  It was a day set aside by the Lord as the Fourth Commandment, Exodus 20:8-11.  It is observed on Saturday.  It was commanded that no work be done on this day, and there were severe punishments for breaking this particular commandment.

Exodus 20:11 states, “…the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it”.  The reason given for this is because the Lord “rested” the seventh day after the six days of Creation.  Therefore, it is a memorial of rest.  The Hebrew words in Exodus 11 “rested” and “hallowed” mean that God ceased working and that the day was appointed as a special day to be set aside.  It is not about God needing to “rest” because of being weary.  The same words are in Genesis 2:3.

The Old Testament has many references to the Sabbath and what was required on that particular day.  

I.  History

     A.  Exodus 16:23-31.  Here the Lord gave the requirements regarding gathering “manna” – on the sixth day gather two times the daily amount, do not gather more nor gather on the Sabbath.  Those who gathered more than necessary found it worm-eaten, those that went out on the Sabbath grieved the Lord.

     B.  Leviticus 16:32-34; 23:26-32.  This is known as The Day of Atonement.  It is called a “sabbath rest”, but it did not necessarily occur on the Sabbath day.

          1.  This is “to afflict your souls” and do no work at all;

          2.  The high priest will enter the Holy of Holies and make a blood atonement for the sins of the people that they may be cleansed;

          3.  It is an annual event.

     C.  Leviticus 31:12-17.  Here the Lord speaks to Moses again regarding the Sabbath Day.  

          1.  It is a “sign”, v.13; 

          2.  A reminder that it is the Lord who sanctifies, v.13;  

          3.  The punishment for working on the Sabbath is to be cut off from the people and to be put to death!, vv.14,15.

          4.  On that day the Lord rested and was “refreshed”  This word means that the Lord “breathed” or “took a breath” as in being relaxed, v.17.

     D.  Deuteronomy 5:12-15.  Here Moses reminds the people of the 10 Commandments.  In this passage, he explains the Sabbath day to be more than a day of not working and a holy convocation.  In verse 15 he states that it is a time to regularly remember that the people were once sojourners in Egypt and had been set free “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.  

All of these references point to a spiritual meaning, showing that it was not about the day of the week.  The people are to remember that they were “redeemed” from Egypt, and that their sin separated them from God (afflict your souls), and that a blood sacrifice was required.

     E.  2 Chronicles 36:14-21.  Here the Lord reveals that, because the people had disobeyed Him they would be taken into captivity by the King of Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:9-12), “…until the land enjoyed her sabbaths”, or, 70 years of desolation.  

     F.  During the captivity the Sabbath remained important (Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17;46:1,3,12).

     G.  After the 70 years of captivity the people needed reminding about the Sabbath in Nehemiah 9:14; 13:15-22.

     H.  The time between the end of the exile and the time of Jesus coming to Earth saw the formation of the Pharisees and Saducees, along with some other groups.  The Torah did not give many specific instructions regarding what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and so regulations were written in order to “help the people observe the Sabbath”.

          1.  The Sabbath was a distinctive activity of Judaism;

          2.  The “Book of Jubilees”, dated between 161 and 140 BC made the Sabbath observance something that even God Himself did, and provided a list of things that could not be done.

          3. …the Pharisees attempted to define precisely what could and could not be done on the sabbath. Mish. Shabbath vii.2 provides a list of thirty-nine “main tasks” prohibited on the sabbath, including sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding, threshing, winnowing, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, bleaching or dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, tying or untying a knot, sewing or tearing two stitches, hunting, writing or erasing two letters, building, demolishing, kindling or extinguishing a fire, hammering, carrying objects from one place to another, and sever-al more. This list was not complete by any means. The thirty-nine “main tasks” were further defined elsewhere; other lists were developed (see Mish. Betzah v.2); and the individual judgments of rabbis covered still more cases.   (from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, Copyright © 1979 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

     I.  When Jesus came to Earth and then began His ministry, He did not break the Sabbath Law.  However, He also did not agree with the myriad of regulations written by the Pharisees.

          1.  He healed on the Sabbath Day often.  This became a divisive point between He and the Jewish leaders.  See Luke 13:10-17 for a clear example.

          2.  He and the disciples plucked corn on the Sabbath Day, Mark 2:23-28.  Here He declares that He alone is Lord of the Sabbath.  Their regulations meant nothing regarding being righteous. (In fact, the Jewish leaders were actually the ones breaking the Sabbath)

     J.  John 5:1-16.  This passage describes the healing of a crippled man, and because these things were done on the Sabbath Day the Jews sought to kill Jesus, v.16.  Also read John chapter 9.

     K.  After the Ascension of Jesus back to Heaven in Acts 1, the early church continued to observe the Sabbath.  This was what they were familiar with.  However, this was going to cease soon, and the day on which the Church would meet together was Sunday, which was the day of Christ’s resurrection.

          1.  This was referred to as “the first day of the week”, 1 Corinthians 16:2.  It was not officially called “The Lord’s Day” in Scripture. (Revelation 1:10 is the only mention of “the Lord’s Day” but it is not defined).

          2.  In the 4th Century AD the Emperor Constantine decreed that certain types of work could not be performed on Sunday.  This grew over the next 8 centuries, and the requirements became much more extensive.

          3.  The Protestant Reformation allowed for any day of the week to be a day for gathering together, not only Sunday.  (I know of people in other nations who cannot get together on Sunday, but they do gather together on Tuesday).

          4.  Almost everyone agrees that the day set aside to gather together as the church is for spiritual refreshment, joyfulness and praising, but is not a day for ceasing all labors (How would church or society survive if no one worked on Sunday?)

II.  Current Thought

There is a great deal of diversity regarding the keeping of the Sabbath Day in the modern era.  Some choose to make it Saturday, others do not.  Some choose to regulate what can and cannot be done, others do not.  Many more believe that Sunday is the “new Sabbath” and make it a holy day. However, there is no such requirement in Scripture. (Very few of these folks would agree that the regulations and punishments stipulated in the Old Testament should be followed as well).

Some have said that God requires a day of physical and mental rest because it is for the well-being of mankind.  No one will argue that a regular time of rest is needed (what that rest looks like is different for everyone), but there is nothing in Scripture that sets this as a reason for a “sabbath”.  Therefore, it should not be made into a doctrine of Christianity.

     A.  Romans 14:5, 6 clearly teach that each person has the right to choose then importance of a particular day, and that no one can be that persons judge.

     B.  Galatians 4:8-11 warn people in the church about observing days and months….

     C.  Colossians 2:16 teaches that it is not necessary to observe sabbath days or feast days as a means of pleasing God.

III.  Sabbath Rest

     A.  Romans 10:4; Jesus fulfilled ALL the Law, including the Sabbath.  See also Matthew 5:17.

          1.  He does not remove the righteous nature of the Law, Romans 7:12;

          2.  The Law was given to expose sin and mans inability to be righteous, Romans 7:13.

          3.  The Law was a “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ, Galatians 3:24.

     B.  Hebrews 4:1-11

          1.  Verses 3-5 clearly combine the 7th day of rest (Sabbath) with another kind of rest, called “my rest” which is from Psalm 95:11 – this recounts the disobedience of those that wandered in the wilderness, that they would not “enter His rest”.  This “rest” was the Promised Land, but it was not a physical rest the Lord was speaking about.

          2.  They could not enter because of “unbelief”, verses 1,2,6,11.  So, it becomes clear that “rest” is associated with “belief”.  This “belief” is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God (John 1:1,2,14; Hebrews 4:12).  The people did not believe God’s Word, God’s promises.

          3.  Verse 6 connects “rest” with entering the Promised Land, which is a picture of being born again, not a picture of Heaven.

          4.  Verse 7 is from Psalm 95:7,8 and is also used in Hebrews 3:7,15.  This hearing His voice and not hardening your heart is about belief, and the people could not enter God’s rest because of unbelief.

          5.  Verse 9 speaks of a “rest that awaits” the people of God.  This is certainly speaking about the ultimate rest when the Believer is in God’s Presence in Heaven.

Take note: Hebrews is written to Jewish people who need to understand God’s plan of redemption as revealed in the Old Testament sacrificial system, priesthood, feasts, and the Sabbath.  It is all about Jesus Christ and His work of Redemption.

IV.  Conclusion

     A.  The Sabbath Day was holy, consecrated, and the punishment severe because it pictures the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in redemption.

           1.  No one can work to gain salvation, it is freely given;

          2.  Christ has already done THE ENTIRE WORK for us;

          3.  If we work to earn salvation we are actually condemned because work is not of faith, Galatians 3:10-12; Romans 4:1-8.

B.  The Sabbath is not a specific day, it is “resting in faith” in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Working results in being “cut off” from God’s people, being condemned because of unbelief.  The Lord “rested” on the 7th day and hallowed it because it shows His plan of redemption.  We rest in what Christ has done, not in our own works.

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