I want to be absolutely clear from the outset: Christians today were never under the Old Testament law. It was given to the Jews but Gentiles were never under it. Those who honor a Saturday day of worship do so by their own choice and in a total disregard of the New Testament practice of the apostles and the first century church. And I have yet to have anyone explain why they would honor a Sabbath Day worship and disregard most/all the other teachings of the Old Testament.
BUT from the beginning of Genesis there is much we learn about God, the way He deals with the world and people, and principles that guide our walk as Christians. Today’s Words to Live By: : Use Your Time to God’s Glory.
Our English word “sabbath” is from a Hebrew term which means cessation or rest. This holy day of rest was observed on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
The sabbath recalled God’s rest after six days of creative work. Beyond that, it was instituted to allow the Jews a fixed time for deliberate worship to Yahweh.
The first four “words to live by” focused on our relationship with God. The first three words reveal to us who God is and who he isn’t, but the fourth word creates the environment for the relationship with the God who delivers, the God who cannot be manipulated or made into our image. We are to keep a day of rest dedicated to worship, thus keeping it holy. God designed it as a special day for the whole community.
And it takes us to the beginning of time itself: Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
The principle contribution is to establish a precedent on which future Sabbath commandments will be based. The precedent is one that God Himself established with regard to the seventh creation day. This text draws together three separate, but related, events:
God finished His work of creating the universe.
God rested on the seventh day because His creation work was finished.
God blessed and sanctified the seventh day because on it He rested.
It also was found in actual practice early in the life of the Israelites (note this was before the giving of the 10 commandments). They were already being taught this in the wilderness: Exodus 16:22-30 Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it.
And Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? See, the LORD has given you the Sabbath, therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So they rested on the seventh day (Exod. 16:22-30).
Then the ‘official’ law was given: Exodus 20:9: Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.
This text makes several significant contributions to the developing doctrine of the Sabbath.
First, it is the first occurrence of the term “Sabbath” in the Bible.
Second, it is the first time in the Bible that Israel is commanded to observe a Sabbath practice of any kind. Here, the practice is specifically related to resting from the work of gathering manna.
Third, manna was not to be gathered on the seventh day because it was a “Sabbath to the Lord” (vss. 23, 26).
We see that it was first a “Sabbath to the Lord,” and secondarily a “Sabbath for the Israelites.”
God did two things differently to set this Sabbath aside as something distinct, something sanctified:
(1) God caused manna not to fall on the Sabbath (v. 27).
(2) God kept the double portion of manna gathered on the sixth day from rotting, as it did on all other days (cp. vss. 20, 24).
There are two additional features of this “Sabbath instruction” in the light of Israel’s past.
The first is that this command not to gather manna was a very gracious and positive gift from God. Moses told the Israelites that God had given them the Sabbath (v. 29). There were few if any days off in Egypt for slaves. The gift of one day off a week was indeed intended to be a blessing, to be gratefully received.
The second feature of the Sabbath was that it established a seven-day week. We might assume that this is always the way men have divided time, but research has shown that the Egyptians followed a ten day week. Thus, God was reordering Israel’s conception of time.
And when you put these two together, you have a new principle…we see the relationship between time and godliness: The relationship between the first three commandments and the fourth is becoming increasingly clear. The first three commandments impress upon the saint the necessity, indeed the priority, of worship.
The fourth commandment insures the time which is required for worship. When viewed together these commandments inform us that it takes time to be holy. The fourth commandment prohibits preoccupation with the normal activity of work so that men may have/take time to worship God.
As Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke writes: “Sabbath benefits the individual, but it is an act of grace for the individual to others. By virtue of resting, one takes the pressure off numerous others to work. A master who rests offers rest to the slaves and servants. A boss who rests takes pressure off the workers. In this light, God’s rest on the seventh day is an additional act of grace, giving sanction for all of creation to rest as well.”1
Satan has been in the business of hindering the worship of Christians in 21th century America. We are workaholics, and, in addition, worn out by the time demands of our day. It is no wonder that the quality of our worship can he less than what God deserves and wants. We must have free time to worship, and we must plan our week so that we finish in time to have that time. It does take time to be holy.
Principle 1: The Principle of Remembering [Honoring God, listening, holiness]
Our lives can get so busy that we lose the ability to reflect and refresh. “Be Still and Know that I am God” is a song we need to sing more often. Being still and quiet reminds us that He is God and we are not.
Remembering and Holiness allows us to experience true rest: We are overwhelmed with leisure. Our play is sometimes a lot of work.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6:30-31). True rest is rest with God.
Principle 2: The Principle of Trust. The Sabbath is about respecting ourselves and connecting with our Creator God.
The rationale for the Sabbath in Exodus is found in the created order. Cycles and patterns are part of the created order. “God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.” The seventh day is not unimportant. It has real meaning. The seventh day is a day in which God enjoys his work. The seventh day is when God created satisfaction, tranquility, peace.
God’s creating order teaches us how life is supposed to be lived, and if we understand the principle of Sabbath Trust, then we can reflect on how we tune our lives to the rhythms of the created order.
The created order is an interconnected system and the observances of holy periods of rest are for the best. Learning to trust God’s wisdom in the created order rather becoming so proud that we do whatever we want.
Principle 3: The Principle of Humanity/Spirituality. The Sabbath is about respecting the world God made – the land and resources — rather than overusing it and abusing it. The rationale for the Sabbath is a sense of justice. The Sabbath was a way of keeping God’s people from relapsing into slavery. The power of Pharaoh had dehumanized and demeaned the people through the overwork of slavery.
Likewise, the Old Testament has more to say about Sabbath. In Exodus 23 and again in Leviticus 25, Israel is commanded to observe a Sabbath year every seventh year, so that the land could rest and the poor and the beasts of the field could eat from it. (Exodus 23:10-11).
So, the Sabbath declares to all that “We are not slaves.” This is more than private time. This is a public feature of the community. Notice that the Sabbath wasn’t simply for the wealthy or the true members of Israel. It was communal and it even extended to servants and foreigners living among them….no one is taken advantage of.
This principle of Sabbath keeps us from serving the wrong master. Can our institutions really respect this? Chick-Fil-A is a rarity in the world of business. Every Chick-fil-a store is closed on Sunday. The only rationale is that it honors God and it honors employees. The founder of Chick-Fil-A has been told countless times about the profit he is losing by being closed on Sunday. But Truett Cathy seems to recognize a principle greater than profit. The Sabbath is about respecting human beings rather than abusing, using, or enslaving them.
Why do Christians observe Sunday as the day of worship rather than Saturday? A look at the New Testament evidence proves that Sunday has been the special day of worship for Christians from the very beginning (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Sunday is sacred as the day on which Christ rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1) and on which the church began (Acts 2:lff). Early on it came to be known as “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).
While Sunday did not become a state holiday until Constantine made it such in 321, it has been the special day of Christian worship from the day the church was founded.
Good stewardship of time under the Lord Jesus involves learning to live a well-ordered life which has a place for family, exercise, rest, chores, recreation, wage earning, and sleep as well as for prayer, Bible reading, and church assemblies.
We disgrace ourselves and horrify God by having a frenzy so as to break both health and sanity! Good religion is, among other things, good sense about the use of precious time.
Stewardship of your time under God involves giving priority to your family. Don’t let a busy life crowd out your husband, wife, or children. Don’t let your family go to pieces simply because you don’t have time to get involved with the people you love most in all the world.
Families that fail don’t set out to destroy each other. Their lives just get so fragmented by the careless use of time that they never have time to get to know each other and therefore can never be of any real help to one another.
Leave some time for exercise and taking care of your health. It is shameful that more hasn’t been said in pulpits about the care God wants us to take of our physical bodies.
Balance in Your Life
There is a time for work. “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). Some people fail to see that a full work week is envisioned by this rule for good living. The desire to do less and less while receiving more money and leisure for it is a blight on the modern world. It is a character defect within the person who harbors such a desire.
There is a time for rest. Though we are meant to work, God did not create our bodies and minds for constant tension and uninterrupted exertion. There has to be a time of backing away for rest and renewal. At the end of the day, at the end of a work week, when some difficult project has been completed, you have to turn loose and let it go.
After you have worked hard and finished your task, don’t feel guilty for enjoying a period of rest and relaxation. Rest is as honorable as the honest and hard work that make it sweet. The two go together in God’s plan for a good life.
There is a time for worship. Christians worship God in many different settings – both private and public. But Sunday is a time for heightened sensitivity to spiritual concerns.
It is not sinful for a Christian to work on Sunday, if the work is of a vital public nature (e.g., medical services, transporation, etc.) or if he is being forced to work on that day in order to hold a job that supports his family. By the way, ministers consider Sunday as the best day of their week…but it’s the day when we work the hardest with 2-3 lessons to present.
The best response I can give to the person who asks: “Is it wrong to work on Sunday and miss worship assemblies?” is simply this: “I am more interested in knowing if you are here when you are able to be here? I think God is watching that, too.”
Words To Live By Series #5 Use Your Time to God’s Glory