SABBATH

BE HOLY AS GOD IS HOLY

“…keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezek 20:20 ESV).

How serious is GOD about His image-bearing creatures keeping His Sabbath?  We are reminded again and again of GOD’s holiness in the Old Testament law books and how He commanded His chosen people to be holy as He is holy.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Lev 20:26 ESV).

“Holiness…refers first and foremost to the essential nature of God. The term holy means ‘set apart, unique, and distinct,’ and holiness in humans ordinarily refers to their being set apart for service to God…Human holiness is the imitation of God, i.e., becoming and acting like Him” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p242, [Lev 19:1-4]).

Starting with the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20 all the way to the end of Deuteronomy the Holy GOD lays out, at length, commands for His set-apart people to follow. He is very serious about His people keeping His commands. This included keeping the Sabbath. So how serious is He?

“While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day….And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Num 15:32,36 ESV). “The mode of his execution underlines the importance of observing the Sabbath” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p290, [Num 15:32-36]).

Is the New Testament as serious about keeping the Sabbath? CHRIST is called holy. And GOD continues to call Christians to holiness:

“…in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Pet 3:15 ESV).

“…it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16 ESV).

How set-apart, unique and distinct are we? On Sunday are we seen as different than the worldly people around us? How can the worldly ones tell we are holy?

“So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God” (Num 15:40 ESV).

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SABBATH

THE SABBATH – TO REVIVE THE SOUL

“The Sabbath is given as a gift to man (for…spiritual refreshment)” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p1897 [Mark 2:27-28]). “’The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’ (Mar 2:27). It was made for the profit and for the comfort of our souls” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).

“…there must be a special day set apart; there must be a regularly recurring time for examining the state of our souls; there must be a day to test and prove us, whether we are prepared for an eternal heaven. Take away a man’s Sabbath, and his religion soon comes to nothing” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167). “It is but a few steps from ‘no Sabbath’ to ‘no God’—J. C. Ryle” (ref#185).

“…our Lord only asks that this day be spent in hearing his Word, in offering common prayers, in confessing our faith, and in observing the sacraments…And when we have spent Sunday in praising and glorifying the name of God and in meditating on his works, then, throughout the rest of the week, we should show that we have benefited from it” John Calvin (ref#168).

God’s objective in commanding this day of rest is for the development of our spiritual nature. Therefore, it is a day set apart from even our words and thoughts about our worldly employments and recreations [Westminster Confession of Faith] Alistair Begg (ref#165, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1693, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part Two, October 31, 1993). Can you imagine speaking only about spiritual things before and after the church service?

SABBATH

THE INTENT OF THE SABBATH

“…actual intent of the Sabbath – to bring rest and well-being…” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p1844, [Matt 12:8]).

GOD rested after creation:

“God entered into Himself again after He had created the world out of Himself, that all created things might enter into Him…and was designed by the strict prohibition of all work to force them to enter into themselves and occupy their minds with God and His word” Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (ref#68, [Isa 58:13-14]).

“God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become his dwelling place; it is not simply made to house his creatures….The concept of the earth as a divine sanctuary…runs throughout the whole Bible, coming to a climax in the future reality that the apostle John sees in his vision of the ‘new heaven and a new earth’…” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, [Gen 2:1-3]).

JESUS rested after redemption:

“Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested—ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever….Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided” (ref#172).

I rest in their accomplishments—my faith in them produces my rest. I rest by doing nothing but believing what they have done. The Triune GOD has done all the work. My Sabbath rest and consequent strength for the coming week is realized by a day-long dwelling in the Kingdom of GOD, going around His altar reviewing and proclaiming His mercies.

Seems the result of Sabbath rest is experiencing my faith strengthened—noticing more and more being ruled by GOD. Confirming the dependence on Him thrills my heart—realizing this is what I was created for and finding rest in it.

“In Thy Presence silence best becomes us, but love inflames our hearts and constrains us to speak” A. W. Tozer (ref#117, p6).

SABBATH

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod 20:8 ESV). The word “Remember” implies that it is well known and recognized” JFB Commentary (ref#17, [Exod 20:8-11]).

“…our Lord and the writers of the New Testament treated the Ten Commandments as the embodiment…of the fundamental elements of essential morality, authoritative for all time and valid in all the circumstances of life” Benjamin B. Warfield (ref#180).

“…these Ten Commandments…was delivered…and accompanied by thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. It was the only part written on tables of stone by God Himself.”…“I there read one whole commandment out of ten devoted to the Sabbath Day, and that the longest, fullest, and most detailed of all (Exod 20:8-11)” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167).

The Old Testament Prophets recorded the importance of this command. They spoke of breaking the Sabbath as “the most heinous transgressions of the moral law (Ezek 20:13,16,24; 22:8,26)” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167) and “one of the great sins which brought judgments on Israel…(Neh 13:18; Jer 17:19-27)” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167).

“Christ…kept the Sabbath religiously and taught His disciples…to keep it in its essential spiritual sense as ordained by God” Archibald A. Hodge (ref#181).

“I find Him speaking eleven times on the subject of the Sabbath, but it is always to correct the superstitious additions which the Pharisees had made…about observing it and never to deny the holiness of the day” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167).

Also, the Apostles kept one day a week as a Sabbath (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). They called it the LORD’s Day (Rev 1:10).

Even as Scripture defines yet unfulfilled prophecy the Fourth Commandment is mentioned: “’And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the LORD” (Isa 66:23 NASB).

How important is it? Bishop J. C. Ryle says, “…the Ten Commandments…is just as important to expound and enforce…as to preach Christ crucified” (ref#167).

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THE DELIGHT OF THE SABBATH

…We really would love to have a list of steps to believe, honor and obey GOD (ref#164, Series: The Sabbath, Sermon#2097, “The Delight of the Sabbath” July 18, 1999). Oh, to just apply a list of dos and don’ts…

But, trouble happens when we look for lists. We fall into the category of sacrificing instead of obeying. The LORD desires we see our enjoyment of His blessings through obedience. Sacrifice is not pleasing to Him when we weary ourselves following a list of man-made rules. (1 Samuel 15:22)

God’s Word binds us only to Him and to His Word. We are free in matters of faith and worship from every human directive (from any kind of list).

“We are free from the doctrines and commandments of men” [Westminster Confession of Faith] (ref#164, Series: The Sabbath, Sermon#2097, “The Delight of the Sabbath” July 18, 1999).

CHRIST has purchased the right to be our only Master (ref#164, Series: The Sabbath, Sermon#2097, “The Delight of the Sabbath” July 18, 1999). So we must ask Him directly. We should ask Him every Sabbath what our agenda should be for the day.

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APPLYING THE LORD’S DAY

…GOD set the day apart as the day of rest (Deuteronomy 5:14). But it is not simply a day of idleness or choosing some recreation. And, even though it doesn’t demand we spend the entire day in the presence of GOD only, we cannot satisfy the command by just attending church and doing what we want afterward.

With further investigation we find the day is not only for public and private exercises of worship but also permitted is duties of necessity and mercy [Westminster Confession of Faith] (ref# 164, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1693, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part Two, October 31, 1993).

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NASB). Contrary to the Mosaic Law, work can be done. JESUS teaches we will not break the command if we find it necessary to engage in:

  1. DUTIES OF NECESSITY (Matthew 12:3-4): Not only do I have to eat, etc., but in my case, I have responsibilities to the Worship team. So, if it’s imperative to do some essential labor, it’s okay.
  1. DUTIES OF MERCY (Matthew 12:11): JESUS instructs us not to neglect helping someone in immediate need. “…it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12 NASB).

JESUS is LORD of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). We will not break the Sabbath law if we follow His example of behaving responsibly and compassionately.

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“The believer…keeps the law of God, not believing by keeping it we gain acceptance or approval with God, but rather we keep God’s law as a declaration of our grateful response to His love” Alistair Begg (ref#164, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1692, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part One, Oct 31, 1993).

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8 NASB).

We must have an internal conviction about keeping this commandment. And the convincing reason is the joy we gain in the LORD’s fellowship (ref#164, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1692, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part One, Oct 31, 1993).

Remember an experience with someone where the interaction with him or her eclipsed all thought of your personal work or leisure. Recall the fellowship, love and joy of the occasion.

This is why GOD established the Sabbath—to give us a holiday to be together with Him. Enjoy this holiday.

SABBATH

“The believer…keeps the law of God, not believing by keeping it we gain acceptance or approval with God, but rather we keep God’s law as a declaration of our grateful response to His love” Alistair Begg (ref#164, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1692, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part One, Oct 31, 1993).

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8 NASB).

We must have an internal conviction about keeping this commandment. And the convincing reason is the joy we gain in the LORD’s fellowship (ibid).

Remember an experience with someone where the interaction with him or her eclipsed all thought of your personal work or leisure. Recall the fellowship, love and joy of the occasion.

This is why GOD established the Sabbath—to give us a holiday to be together with Him. Enjoy this holiday.