A Look at the Sabbath
TS: So far in the series:
The first commandment tells us we are to worship God and God alone. In other words, we are not to have any divided loyalty in our hearts but we’re to be committed to God; body, soul and spirit.
The second commandment deals with how we’re to worship God and our worship is to come from our hearts and not just from our heads. So, we don’t need a liturgy to follow or any religious objects to focus on and we don’t even have to be in any kind of religious building.
The third commandment deals with the goal of our worship and our goal is to glorify God, and that means; we will not take His name in vain.
Then the fourth commandment is probably the most difficult of the ten because the issue of the Sabbath was a point of controversy in Jesus’ day and to some degree it still continues today. There’s the issue of whether or not Christians need to keep the Sabbath since it was associated with Israel and not the church and then there’s also the whole matter of the Lord’s Day in the New Testament and whether or not it was to be observed as a Christian Sabbath.
Tonight, I hope to give you some background information on the origin and purpose of both the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day and to show how both have been corrupted by Jews and Christians alike and then hopefully give some scriptural principles that we can apply when it comes to the Lord’s Day.
History of the Sabbath
History of the Sabbath
The keeping of the Sabbath wasn’t just given by God as a commandment but He communicated the need for us to observe the Sabbath by His example, when He created the world.
When we study the creation account in Genesis it says God created for six days and then He rested or He stopped creating on the seventh.
Why did He do that?
Was He tired?
No, of course not, Psalm 121 tells us God never slumbers nor sleeps.
God didn’t need to take a rest but He gave Himself as an example for us to follow because He knows that we all need a break, once a week.
In Exodus 16 when God provided Israel with the manna; they were told to gather enough on the sixth day so they wouldn’t have to go out and gather any on the Sabbath.
So, even prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments God was saying that the purpose of the Sabbath was to give everyone a day for rest and worship.
So, before the law was given as well as after, the Old Testament believers had several reasons to keep the Sabbath
The main one was; it was to be an act of obedience because this would be a test of whether or not they were willing to be obedient to God. And if they were, God promised them certain blessings and if they refused, He warned them He would afflict them with specific punishments.
We also understand that the Sabbath was given for man’s benefit because as Jesus said in the gospels, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
So, God created us with a need to take a break from our routine and even the sociologists tell us that reasonably spaced work breaks increase productivity; after forty hours of work concentration drops, mistakes increase and morale suffers.
The Sabbath was also to be a time of individual and corporate worship.
It was a time for everyone to get their eyes off the physical world and to get themselves focused on the eternal.
The Sabbath was a covenant symbol for the Jewish people.
They were to be different from the world around them and keeping the Sabbath was the evidence that they were. And basically, by doing this; they were saying, their devotion to God was more important than their business or anything else because this day was set aside for Him.
So, does the idea of a Sabbath sound good? Well, there were plenty of benefits but there were also a few verses that told them what they couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
Everyone was to stay home!
Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’ ”
but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
No making fire
“But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” ’ ”
if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt.
no business of any kind to be done on the Sabbath.
So you couldn’t
leave the house, cook anything, do any work, build a fire, carry anything anywhere, you couldn’t buy or sell anything and you couldn’t go out to eat because if you did, you’d be making someone else work.
The penalty for breaking Sabbath was DEATH!
The Jews carried it to extremes:
Ill. The Jews took this Commandment very seriously. Dr. Ken Trivette shares the following insights concerning the Jewish mindset – "The observance of the Sabbath was strictly observed and strictly enforced. Whereas, they took God's command to rest on the Sabbath seriously, as the years passed they added their own rules and regulations about the Sabbath.
.There were approximately 1,521 things that were not permissible on the Sabbath.
For example: you could not rescue a drowning person on the Sabbath. Untying knots that needed only one hand was permissible, but if two hands were required, it was forbidden. If a man's ox fell into the ditch, he could pull it out, but if the man fell in, he had to stay there. One could take a sup of vinegar for food, but if he took a sup in order to help his aching toothache, he had broken the Sabbath. If a man was bitten by a flea on the Sabbath, he had to allow the flea to keep on biting. If he tried to stop the flea from biting or killed it, he was guilty of hunting on the Sabbath."
Through the years, there have been those who observed the Sabbath (or Sunday) in a very strict manner. Some people would not sweep or dust the house, make the beds, or allow any food to be cooked on the Lord's Day. Some of the restrictions that have been observed and enforced concerning the Lord's Day, are somewhat humorous. In Scotland in the 17th century, one poor fellow was hailed into court for smiling on the Sabbath.)
In 1 Maccabees which is a record of Jewish history; there’s a story about Antiochus Epiphanes who had attacked Jerusalem on the Sabbath and because it was the Sabbath all the Jews died without fighting; because they didn’t want to offend God. And then when Pompey was trying to take Jerusalem, his people built a siege mound on the Sabbath and there was no interference from any of the Jews because they said God was more important than their own lives.
Josephus the Jewish historian said, “The gentiles couldn’t believe the stupid beliefs of the Jews.” You see; a law that was meant to set them aside as people who worshipped God made them look like they were totally insane when they perverted the law.
You would: "Remember the Sabbath day; to keep it holy."
First, you avoided any kind of sin or causing anyone else to sin.
we covered this in the prohibitions
Second, you were to rest and Exodus 31 tells them to "completely rest."
exception: Ox in the ditch
Third, you were to celebrate the fact that God has made a covenant with you; which meant you were to spend the day thanking God He has given you a holy and righteous standard to live by.
Observing was a sign of the covenant
Observing was a memorial to God and demonstrated
4th when observing the Sabbath they were to delight in the Lord
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
They were so pre-occupied with the concept of the Sabbath that they forgot to do the one thing the day was set aside for; and that was to worship God.
The Sabbath wasn’t just the absence of work but there had to be the presence of worship.
It was a holy day, a day set apart from the rest
Christians and Sabbath
Christians and Sabbath
We worship on Sunday, the 1st day of the week, The Lord’s Day
Based on the fact that Jesus rose again on Sunday
He first appeared to the Disciples on Sunday
The Holy Spirit came on a Sunday
It is a pattern we see develop in the new testament:
they began worshipping on Sunday
Acts 15- no mention of Sabbath in the great debate
Acts 20, Christians of Troas met on the first day of the week.
1 Cor. 16 believers were to gather offering for the famine relief on Sunday
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
So the NT pattern made a shift to keep 1 day set apart for rest and worship and that day changed to the Lord’s Day, the 1st day of the week.
There wasn’t universal acceptance of Sunday worship until 321 A.D. when Emperor Constantine passed an act forbidding any work to be done in the cities on the Lord’s Day. The only exception he made was for the farmer’s, so their crops wouldn’t be spoiled. It was never clear why he established this law; some thought it was religious conviction while others assumed he did it out of economic necessity.
We have had times been just as legalistic as the Pharisees:
It used to be understood that there were certain things you couldn’t do on a Sunday. For instance, you didn’t play any kind of sports. You couldn’t go shopping because there was nothing opened and not only were the stores closed on Sunday but some even covered their windows so you couldn’t shop in your mind on Sunday. As a matter of fact, there weren’t even any gas stations opened and if you wanted to drive anywhere you either got gas on Saturday or you stayed home.
When it came to bizarre rules about the Lord’s Day some Christians managed to come up with some really strange things though out history.
For instance, in 1656 the Puritans passed laws that forbid, “All vain and profane walking on the Sabbath.”
In 1842 the first people to take the train on a Sunday were met at the station by a group of clergy that told them they were on the train to hell.
So, the purpose of the Lord’s Day is to worship.
If we spend our time in worship there are certain things we won’t have time to do but we also have to remember this doesn’t give us the right to draw up a list of rules or impose our standards on everyone else.
God doesn’t tell us what we can or can’t do but we do have some indication from the examples of the early church of what we ought to do. And as they gathered together, we see them repeatedly doing a few things.
1. to study the scriptures.
We have the responsibility to come together to hear the preaching and teaching of the word.
2nd They got together to pray.
And it was a time of both individual and corporate prayer where you could pray for others and have them pray for you.
That’s why we remind ourselves of the missionaries who are serving around the world, announce who’s in the hospital and what needs they might have and then mention any special needs someone else might be going through.
These are prayer concerns and not just community announcements.
3rd they came together for fellowship.
And it’s hard for us to understand this but being a member of the early church meant for the first time many of them experienced a world where there were no social barriers.
There could be Romans and Jews worshipping together, or slaves might be called to preach and those who owned them might sit and enjoy the message and afterwards everybody would sit and eat at the same table. We don’t understand this but people who were divided by money, positions, race or gender but in the church they were one and it is still that way!
It was important for the early church to meet together on Sunday and it’s just as important for us today. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and by claiming one day out of seven God is telling us that all of our time belongs to Him. And how we use this one day tells the rest of the world who we are and what we’re all about.