Vol. 16 No 41 – October 8, 2017
This is the 4th and last of the Ten Commandments that directly relates to the worship and service of God. It was a mandate by God to honor the Sabbath Day and make it holy unto the Lord. It was a day during which the Israelites were to rest from their work, i.e., the normal activities and labors of the other six days of the week were to be avoided.
This commandment begins in Ex 20:8 with “remember,” ZAKHAR, זכַר, in the Qal, (active), Infinitive Absolute, (intensifying the force and acts like an imperative, as a command). It is the act of “remembrance,” in this case, a covenantal or legal obligation that leads to a present act. It is an act of recognition and reflection that requires an action on the part of the servant of God to recall and reflect on God.
In Deut 5:12, it begins with the Qal Infinitive Absolute of SHAMAR שָׁמַר that means, “to observe, to guard, or to keep.” The underlying idea of this root word is, “to exercise great care.” It is used often to describe the rigorous keeping of obligations, especially the commands of God, as it is here, cf. Ex 31:13, 16; Lev 19:3, 30; 26:2; Isa 56:4.
Therefore, the Israelites where commanded by God to make sure they “remembered” to “observe” this mandate. That is, they were to recognize it as a special day and honor it by doing as the Lord commanded. They were to exercise great care to ensure they did as God commanded them to do on this day each week.
They were specifically commanded “to think” on this day and “not to work,” as “remember” means to think and to draw upon the resources of the heart of your soul. Therefore, it is a command that their hearts control their souls, and this control is the basis for the spiritual life. So, God says, “You work hard for six days, during which time you may do some thinking; but set aside the seventh day as the “day for truly thinking about Me.”
The thing they were to think about, remember and observe the “Sabbath,” that is a transliteration of the Hebrew Noun SHABBATH, שַׁבָּת. It is related to the verb SHAVATH, שָׁבַת that means, “to cease or to rest.” So, it means, “cessation, repose, or rest.” In other words, they were to not do any work that they did the other six days of the week on this day. They were to rest and remember the Lord.
There is no mention of a seven-day week or rest between Genesis 2 and the giving of the Law in Exodus 20. In fact, this word is not used in the Bible until Ex 16:23f, when the Lord gave them manna (bread) in the wilderness. That is when He first established the Sabbath rest on Saturday.
Ex 16:23, “Then he (Moses) 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’.”
The obligation to rest meant that the normal activities and labors of the other six days of the week were to be avoided. Work was to be planned so as to leave the seventh day free for worship. This last day of the week was to be devoted to remembrance of God including worship and fellowship at the sanctuary of the Lord, with the prime attention being directed toward the glory and revealed will of the holy God. This day was on Saturday, from Friday, sundown, 6 p.m. to Saturday, sundown, 6 p.m.
The “Sabbath” also came to be used to designate certain feast days. In Lev 16:31; cf. 23:32, it is used of the Day of Atonement, and it can also be found in reference to the Feast of Trumpets, (first day of the seventh month, Lev 23:24), and to the first and last days of the Feast of Booths, Lev 23:39.
In Lev 25:2, 4, SHABBATH is used for the sabbatical year, which included the idea of a “Sabbath rest” for the land that was a rest for the land after six years of cultivation, leaving it untilled, Lev 25:6. God promised to provide for Israel’s needs while the land lay uncultivated, Lev 25:20-22.
As a nation, Israel failed to keep the Sabbath for the land with the result that they were taken from the land so that the land could have its Sabbath rest, Lev 26:32-35, 43; Ezek 20:10-24. One of the purposes for the seventy-year Babylonian captivity was to make up for Israel’s failure to observe the sabbatical years, 2 Chron 36:21.
It was also associated with the year of Jubilee, Lev 25:11.
Interestingly, the Sabbath did not apply to guard duty, 2 Kings 11:4-12, because the people still need protection from their enemies. It was designed to commemorate God’s grace and provisions, and freedom is part of that grace provision.
In addition, the priests still carried on their duties about the Tabernacle, Lev 24:8; Num 28:9, 10. The Temple was full of activities, 1 Chron 9:32; 23:31; 2 Chron 2:4; 8:13; 23:4; 31:3. And the rite of circumcision was performed on the Sabbath if it was the eighth day after the child’s birth, Leviticus 12:3; John 7:22.
The thing they were to do for this day was “to keep it holy,” which is the Preposition LE, לְ, with the Piel, (intensive active), Infinitive Construct, (stresses the purpose of this command), of QADHASH, קָדַשׁ that means, “to be holy.”
In the Piel stem it means, “making it holy to God.” This is their response to their God. It is synonymous in usage here with consecrate, sanctify, and setting apart. Sanctification or making holy is parallel to or involved with atonement, purifying from sin, and anointing in Ex 29:36, as well as cleansing in Lev 16:19. So, we see that God blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it, or set it apart for a special relationship to Him. Thus, his people were to rest and honor that day in order to sanctify, set apart, and make it holy, Ex 20:8.
Deut 5:12 adds to Ex 20:8, “as the LORD your God commanded you,” KI ASHER, (according to that which); TSAWAH, (He has commanded you, [in the intensive active Piel Perfect for a completed action]); YHWH, (The Lord); ELOHIM (God). This is reminding them that the Lord has previously given this command to them, Ex 16:13-34, when He provided the manna and quails.
Next, in Ex 20:9 and Deut 5:13, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” SES YOM AVADH WE ASAH KOL MELAKHAH. The “six days” include Sunday through Friday.
It means that whatever your abilities, talents, skills, or profession are from these you labor or work and make a profit or wage during six of the seven days in a week.
Then, in Ex 20:10 and Deut 5:14, we have the mandate, “but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God.” On this day, they were not to work or labor as noted in the explanation of what is expected of the people on this day, “you shall not do any work,” and to whom it applied, “you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner.”
Therefore, whatever their talents, abilities, skills, or professions were, they were not to use these on the 7th day of the week, (Saturday). All work was to stop on the Sabbath day for the purpose of orienting to the grace of God.
The Deuteronomy passage gives a bit more detail defining “cattle” to include “ox and donkeys,” and re-emphasizes the fact that servants too are allowed to rest; “so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.”
In other words, they were not to be so greedy as to make their children, servants/workers, and working animals work on this day, while they were resting from their labors. Nor were their children to be working on this day. Everyone was to rest and remember the Lord on this day.
A “sojourner,” GEYR, גֵּר was a resident-alien, a person who moved into an area where he had neither land nor clan ties. Such a person would then be without traditional tribal legal support and protection and vulnerable to abuse. Resident-aliens formed a distinct social class in society, neither native citizen nor foreigner nor slave. They usually had to attach themselves to a family in order to survive, cf. Elisha and the widow of Zerephath, at whose house he sojourned, 1 Kings 17:20. Israel had lengthy legislation on the rights and protection of the resident-aliens in society, and in fact, the Israelites “were once sojourners in the land of Egypt,” Ex 23:9.
Then we have two different “justifications” for the Sabbath rest that both represent the number 4 in Scripture that stands for material things.
1) In Ex 20:11, the first justification is that God rested on the 7th Day after “working” for 6 days in creating the heavens and the earth. This is the justification for the Israelites day of rest. That is, God rested from all His works of creation on the 7th Day; therefore, the Israelites were to observe that aspect of God, (the Creator of the heavens and earth, and all that is in them), and remember all the provisions He made for them, and rest on the Sabbath Day. God created all the material things to bless and provide for mankind, and the Israelites were to honor that.
Ex 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day, (Gen 2:2-3; Heb 4:4); therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Gen 2:2-3, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
The importance for Israel keeping the Sabbath as a precious and holy day is that it was a grateful recognition that God had created the world in six creative days and then set apart the seventh day as a special reminder and celebration of His fashioning the entire universe in all of its grandeur.
In Ex 20:11, the word, “made” is ASAH that means God made something out of something. It more technically speaks of the restoration of planet earth that encompasses six days, after its chaos due to the Angelic Conflict.
Did God need to rest because He was tired? No. He is omnipotent, (all powerful) and His power is infinite, (without limit or end). He rested because there was nothing left to be done!
“Rest” is the Hebrew Verb NUACH, נוּחַ that means, “to settle down, rest, or to pause.” Here, it is more of a cessation than a rest, but the resting aspect is in view. In other words, on the seventh day, God stopped providing, because He had already provided everything.
Since man had received everything by grace in only six days, and nothing could be added to it, God rested on the seventh day to commemorate the grace principle. The Sabbath was to be observed by the Jews to remind them that they, too, had received everything by God’s grace. Observance of the Sabbath was designed to teach grace orientation during the time before the Bible was completed, Isa 58:11-14.
Then it says, “therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The word “blessed,” BARAKH, בָּרַךְ indicates primarily the favorable relationship between object and subject. God pronounced it a source of blessing or intensity of happiness. This one day of rest each week is not only a principle of blessing, it is also a principle of freedom. Freedom and blessing go together; you cannot have one without the other. The word “holy,” QADHASH, once again, means, “to set apart.” Therefore, this day is a blessing to the Israelites that should be set apart from the other 6 days of the week.
Doing no work on the seventh day was in recognition and commemoration of God’s grace. Under God’s grace plan, He does all the work, and the believer receives the benefit. God created the heavens and the earth and all the provisions we need to survive. This was a memorial to His grace provision. In like manner, Jesus Christ purchased salvation in total, and we cannot earn it or work for it; for “it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast,” Eph 2:8-9.
Since all blessing in time have been provided for in God’s plan, not working on the seventh day was a very wonderful way to bring home this lesson! Therefore, the first justification for keeping the Sabbath was to remember The Lord God and His creation that provided everything for them. It was to remember His grace provisions as their Lord and God.
2) In Deut 5:15, speaking to the Israelites on the Plains of Moab, the justification was that God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and provided them rest from the yoke of slavery. He transformed the Israelite slaves into an independent nation.
Therefore, every seventh day they were to remember that they once were enslaved and that God had freed them. In addition, upon their freedom, He provided them manna (bread) in the wilderness. So, God freed them from slavery and provided for all their material needs, their logistical grace blessings.
Deut 5:15, “You shall remember (ZAKAR) that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, (MITSRAYIM), and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
Notice how God brought about this rest for them:
1) “By a might hand,” speaking of the sovereignty and omnipotence of God to deliver them from a powerful enemy.
2) “By an outstretched arm.” This speaks of the Godward side of providing them deliverance from slavery. This also foreshadows what Jesus Christ would perform for them and the entire world upon the Cross, through His out stretched arms that were nailed to the Cross, so that we all could be purchased and freed from slave market of sin.
Col 2:14, “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Gal 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
- Although the seventh day is designated as a day of no work in the creation record for God, Gen 2:3, it is not mentioned again until the Israelites were on their way to Mount Sinai. There is no command during that period for people to honor that day.
- The Israelites were instructed for the first time to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest in that God did not provide any manna on the seventh day, but provided a double portion on the 6th so they could rest on the 7th, Ex 16:13-34.
- Various offerings were prescribed to be offered to the Lord on this day, Lev 24:5-9; Num 28:9-10; 1 Chron 23:31; 2 Chron 8:13.
- Through Moses, God further instructed the Israelites, Ex 31:12-17; Ezek 20:12-21, that the Sabbath would be “a sign between God and the sons of Israel forever.” They were commanded to observe it as a “Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.”
Ezek 20:12, “And also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”
- Ezekiel is the fourth, (number of material things), time God commanded the Israelites to keep the Sabbath. Ezek 20:12, 20, teach that it was a sign of the covenant between the Lord and Israel. Therefore, the fourth time God gave them the Fourth Commandment; it emphasized the material sign given to Israel and the world that He was the actual, one and only, YHWH ELOHIM, (The Lord God). For Israel, the keeping of the Sabbath would affirm one’s loyalty to the Lord and would guarantee His presence and deliverance. It would manifest to the heathen nations the covenant relationship the Israelites possessed with the Lord. Observing the Sabbath as a testimony of the Lord’s finished work in the restoration of the earth was an essential part of their sanctification as a people. The observance of the Sabbath, as a corporate unit by the Israelites, would serve as a powerful testimony to the heathen nations surrounding them that they were a people set apart to serve the Lord exclusively and that He was the One true God, creator of the heavens and the earth.
- Moses admonished this new generation in Deut 5:15, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy as the Lord their God has commanded them.” Observing the Sabbath and “keeping it holy,” would also demonstrate that YHWH was present with the Israelites. In Ex 31:14, the Israelites were to keep the Sabbath because “it is holy for you,” which denotes the unique application to the Israelites who were to keep Saturday as a day set aside exclusively for God, i.e. worshipping Him. “Keeping it holy” means, “do as the Lord tells you to do,” which meant that this day was to be set aside exclusively by the Israelites as a day to bring into remembrance who God is and what He has done for them, resulting in worshipping Him, i.e. giving thanks to Him.
- Observance of the Sabbath was included as an official obligation when the covenant was ratified post-exile, Neh 9:13f. In this new era, to ensure they lived by and fulfilled the Law, God reiterated this commandment.
- The Israelite Sabbath was a unique institution in the ancient Near East that testified to the covenant relationship between God and His people, The observance of the Sabbath uniquely distinguished Israel’s relationship with God and their religion from that of surrounding nations. For the Israelites, the Sabbath was to be positively observed, remembered, and hallowed as a witness to God’s grace and saving activity in both creation and in deliverance from captivity.
Psalm 92 was specifically written for the weekly Sabbath day of remembering the grace of the Lord towards His people.
The fourth commandment also contains a principle related to the necessity of periodic rest for the body, of both humans and animals, and a change of pace and routine for the individual. This commandment is designed to protect physical health, as well as soul stability, both of which are necessary for the proper function of life.
Therefore, every week, His covenant-keeping people were to honor Him by refraining from those normal activities and recreations performed on the first six days, in order that they might rest and devote their attention to Him on the seventh. Their attention toward Him could include study of the Word and prayer, offering sacrifices, assembling for the singing of hymns, and the mutual admonition and encouragement in their own homes and family circles.
So serious was the command, as all were, that if someone broke it, he was to be stoned to death, Ex 31:14-15; 35:2-3. This happened to one poor soul for simply collecting fire wood, Num 15:32-36. Sabbath violations also occurred after the restoration of the Jewish nation in the land, Neh 13:15-21. Thus, those in Israel who failed to keep the Sabbath were put to death.
As the fourth commandment of the four Godward mandates, violation of it was associated with apostasy and idolatry of the Jews, Jer 17:19-27; Ezek 23:37-39. Notice in Ezek 23:39, that when the Jews began following the false gods of the neighboring nations like Molech, they worshipped those gods, including child sacrifices to them, on the Sabbath day, Saturday. It was not that they worshipped them on a different day. It was on the same day they worshipped them.
In conclusion, the observance of the Sabbath was designed to be a benefit for the people of Israel, in that it would contribute to making them spiritually stronger and draw them closer to God.
New Testament Usage of Sabbath:
The Greek word for Sabbath is SABBATON, σάββατον from the Hebrew SHABBATH that means, “Sabbath or a period of 7 days.” In the NT, SABBATON is used only by the Gospel writers and Paul. All of the occurrences in the Gospels concern Jesus and His ministry.
In fact, the first time the word is used is in Mat 12:1f, where Jesus intentionally gathered food for Himself along with His disciples that was seemingly in contrast to the Law, cf. Lev 24:9.
The reasoning Jesus gave the Pharisees when accused of breaking the Law was David’s, (a man after God’s own heart), use of the “show breads” in the Tabernacle, which too was seemingly against the Law, Mat 12:2-7.
In vs. 8, Jesus said that He, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Cf. John 1:3; Heb 1:10, as Jesus is the Creator of the heavens and earth who rested on the 7th day. In other words, He is sovereign over the Sabbath and not controlled by it.
In vs. 5, “break” is actually the Greek Verb BEBELOO that means, “desecrate, profane, or make common.” So, we see a tie in to the 3rd Commandment.
In Mark 2:27-28, “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath’.” Cf. Luke 6:6.
This was to refute the hypocrisy of the rabbinical traditions placed on the Sabbath Day.
This is why Paul later stated in Col 2:16, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.”
Compare, Gal 4:10-11, “You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”
The other work Jesus performed on the Sabbath was to heal, Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10. Notice in vs. 5, He tells the man to “stretch out your hand.” This could have been considered a work. Yet, this was the analogy of Christ freeing the Israelites from captivity in Deut 5, “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
In John 5, Jesus again healed a man and afterwards commanded him to pick up his pallet and carry it home. John 5:11, “But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’.”
If breaking the Sabbath is sin, Jesus would never command a man to sin. Therefore, doing this act on the Sabbath was not sin. Therefore, when Jesus spoke to the man in vs. 14, telling Him to “sin no more,” He is not referring to the Sabbath breaking.
Notice how Jesus responded to the Pharisees accusations in this episode, John 5:16-17, “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This was on the 7th Day.
Compare this response to John 7:23-24, “24Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Then in John 9, Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath who said in vs. 25, “one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Legalistic Pharisees were blinded by the Law.
In Luke 13, Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath that the Pharisees said broke the Law. Jesus’ justification was to allow her to rest too, like the animals. Cf. Luke 14:1-6.
The other times the “Sabbath” is used in the Gospels includes:
1) Our Lord teaching regarding the coming Tribulation, which is the last seven years of the Age of Israel when they will be under the Law once again, Mat 24:20.
Mat 24:20, “But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.”
2) The hypocrisy of the Pharisees in requesting to kill Jesus on the Cross by breaking His legs. They took His dead body off of the Cross because a Sabbath was approaching, Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31. This is not the 7th day Sabbath, but the Sabbath related to the Feast of Passover.
3) His resurrection: When the women found His empty tomb, after having waited for the Sabbath to be over so they could anoint / prepare His body with perfumes. But then when they arrived, they found He was risen, Mat 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56.
Luke 23:56, “And they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
In Summary, the Sabbath in relation to Jesus’ activities includes:
1) His healing and resultant opposition, Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-5; John 5:1-17; 7:22-23; 9:14-16.
2) His teaching, Mark 1:21; Luke 4:31.
3) His synagogue attendance, Luke 4:16.
4) His burial, Mark 15:42-47 (cf. 16:1); John 19:31.
5) His resurrection, Matthew 28:1.
Five is the number of “Grace” in the Scriptures. And He performed 7 healings, (the number of “Spiritual Perfection” in the Bible), on the Sabbath, Mark 1:21-27; Mark 1:29-31; John 5:1-9; Mark 3:1-6 (and Mat 12:8-14); Luke 13:10-17; Luke 14:1-6; John 9:1-14.
In these depictions, we see Christ foreshadowing the coming of the Church Age when the Law, including the Sabbath, would not be a requirement to be fulfilled. We see that during His time, the Sabbath was to be kept, because they were still under the Age of Israel, the Age of the Law.
They were still under the Mosaic Law.
As we have noted, the observance of the Sabbath is an ordinance given to the nation of Israel but not the Church for the Church Age. In fact, prophecy anticipated the termination of Sabbath observance for a time, Hosea 2:11; 3:4-5.
Although the Church was not given the ordinance to observe the Sabbath, we are commanded to enter into God’s Sabbath rest, meaning to rest in the promises of God and our union with Christ, cf. Heb 4.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time emphasized the prohibitive aspect of the Sabbath and added further restrictions to it from their rabbinical tradition, Mat 12:2-7; Mark 3:2.
In contrast, Jesus emphasized:
1) That “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27.
2) That He was “Lord even of the Sabbath,” Mark 2:28.
3) That the Sabbath offered opportunity “to do good” and “to save a life,” as well as to rest, Mark 3:4.
With the judicial termination of the Mosaic legal system at the Cross, Col 2:14, Sabbath observance is not required of Christians, Col 2:16, and the notion of a “Christian Sabbath” is foreign to NT directions to the Church.
We will see more on the New Testament application of the Sabbath in our next lesson.
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Lesson #’s 17-104, 17-105, 17-106
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God.