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Monday, July 26, 2010


Even the most basic Bible reader is probably familiar with the passage in Genesis 2:2 where we learn that, after creating everything in the first six days, God rested on the seventh day.

The next time that we hear about the Sabbath is when the Israelites have escaped Egypt and are being fed manna from heaven each day. God orders them to rest on the seventh day - and He gives them extra manna on the sixth day so they'll have enough on the seventh day (and not have to work to gather it). Several more times in the Old Testament, God reminds the Israelites that the Sabbath day of rest is important. In fact, several more times in the Old Testament God takes the Israelites to task for not honoring the Sabbath.

In God's opinion, they display an improper regard for this holy day. And He was angry with them about it. Think I'm exaggerating? Look at Numbers 15:32-36. There we see the story of a man who was caught gathering firewood on the Sabbath day of rest. Moses asked God what to do with him - and God had the people stone him to death!

Now we know that God never changes. His perspectives, opinions and values are the same today as they were thousands of years ago. So He still regards the Sabbath as He always did. Of course Jesus brought us a new covenant in the New Testament --- which changed our punishment for sin --- and how we experience God's response to sin. But Jesus never changed the definition of sin --- or the definitions of right and wrong. Therefore, the Sabbath is still to be regarded as God wanted it to be in the first place. And God is still as disappointed as ever when His own people have an improper regard for the Sabbath.

Now what is so special about this Sabbath day of rest? Why is God so stuck on it? I'm glad you asked! For starters, let's remember that it wasn't God celebrating it alone in Genesis 2:2. He had already made Adam and Eve. So they were likely involved in the Sabbath day of rest. Secondly, let's notice what God did on the Sabbath. He walked in the garden, seeking fellowship with His people, Adam & Eve.

Adam and Eve, of course, were the very first of God's people to have an improper regard for the Sabbath. Eve was out shopping - and then both of them sinned and lied about it when God confronted them. It's not a pretty picture of mankind's regard for the Sabbath that God calls us to!

Modern Christians would likely fall into this category ... people who have an improper regard for the Sabbath day of rest that God calls us to. I'm particularly convicted of this when I do any regular work on the Sabbath. What is "regular work" in modern times.? Shopping for necessities? Yard work? What if the shopping is just for entertainment? What if the yard work is just a relaxing hobby? And what about sin? Can we really be expected to sin less on the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is a Biblical concept that merits some serious consideration on the part of people who consider themselves Christians (or Catholics) or other religions that purport to follow Christ. (Ironically, Islam and Judaism share our calling to the Sabbath day of rest). God called the Israelites to the Sabbath and to several other holidays. They were religious celebrations, holy days. Those holidays had much in common with the Sabbath. Consider that both the Sabbath and the religious holidays shared these purposes:

1. People gathered together to celebrate and worship.
2. The normal daily routine was suspended and no hard work was done.
3. The people brought offerings to God.

Things haven't changed much. Today, God's people may not be called to specific religious holidays. But we are still called to the Sabbath. Every seventh day we are to gather together to celebrate and worship our Lord. Every seventh day we are to suspend our normal daily routine, doing no "regular" or "hard" work. (I put those two words in italics because I'm not sure what the definition would be in modern times where most regular work isn't hard!) And of course every seventh day we bring our tithes and offerings to the Lord.

I think there is another purpose to the Sabbath. There's something about this not doing regular or hard work and actually resting that seems to have holiness attached to it. Most of us are familiar with the command in Psalm 46:10 to "be still and know that He is God." In practical terms it means we are to take time to reflect and consider the different aspects, character and nature of God. We're to stand in awe of His holiness ... every seventh day.

Even earlier than that, Moses instructed the Israelites in Exodus 14:13 to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." In practical terms, Moses was telling the Israelites the same thing as the psalmist told us - to be still and consider the value of the Lord to mankind.

It's a familiar theme that continues to ring true throughout the Bible. God calls His people to a time every seven days when we stop to worship, rest and focus on God. He desires fellowship with us on that day especially. And I'm sure God continued to be saddened, angered, frustrated (insert whatever emotion you think God might have in response to sin) today be the improper regard for the Sabbath that His people display.

I don't know about you, but I think the challenge for me today is to define "regular and hard work." I suspect the definition is not to be found in the work itself though. Rather it is probably to be found in the intent. Just because I get all hot and sweaty, or use some muscle power doesn't necessarily make it hard work. Perhaps my work is actually relaxing and therapeutic to me. I like, for example, to mow the yard. I get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction out of it. I feel better for the exercise it gives me. But ... and this is a big condition ... is it consistent with focusing on God, fellowship with God, worship of God?

Can we go shopping, do yard work, clean the house, wash my car or do other chores and still be contemplating the holiness of God? Can we eat out, play sports, sew, do some wood work or pay bills - and still be contemplating the holy character and nature of God? Can we sit in church for a couple of hours (maybe) and finish "being still and knowing that He is God?"

It's time, folks, that we reconsider this Sabbath day of rest. It's time that we be better stewards of this opportunity. It's time that we be more obedient to this command. And it's time, once and for all, that mankind start to get a proper regard for the Sabbath that our mighty God calls you and I to!

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