Sunday, September 23, 2018

What is the Purpose of the Sabbath Day?

There is sadly much debate about the Sabbath day today in the church, whether it applies to the church and so on. We will not address the debate yet, but instead simply look at the original purpose stated in Genesis, when it was created by Jesus Christ. 

We should remember that fact - that the Sabbath Day was a day created by Jesus Christ for particular purposes. In Mark 2:28, Jesus himself said, "And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." And Paul tells in Col 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him

God made the world in six days. Everything that he was going to create, he did create in those days. And then he created the seventh day.

On this seventh day (in succession), in Genesis 2, we begin to see the Lord's purpose for this day. 

Gen 2:1 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.

Before one can draw conclusions about the day (whether it still applies or not), they must first understand the purpose of it. From the above, we see a number of things which teach us God's intent for the Sabbath.

One, we see that he had been working the first six days. We know this because we are told that the heavens and earth "were finished." By whom were they "finished?"  By the Lord. He finished them. He finished "his work that he had done."  

Three times were are told that he was working. "God finished his work that he had done..." And again, "...and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  And again, "because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." 

Clearly, one cannot separate the Sabbath day from the fact that it is a cessation of work. In the case of the Lord, it was his work "in creation," that ceased on the Sabbath day. If someone wants to define the Sabbath Day, they must include in it a relationship to work - or they are not referring to the biblical Sabbath.

Two, we see that he rested from the work he had been doing. In fact, two times he tells us he rested from his work.  Gen 2:2 ...and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3...because on it God rested from all his work.

He "rested" on the seventh day, which does not mean that he was tired, but rather that he ceased doing the good work he had been doing the first six days. Moses plainly tells us this, stating that God "rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done."

The Sabbath Day then must a day where the good work that is done the other six days ceases. The word, "rested," literally means to cease.  Here is Strong's Concordance's reference:

Word: ZAY  Pronounce: shaw-bath'  Strong: H7673

Orig: a primitive root; to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; used in many implied relations (causative, figurative or specific):--(cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.

Use: TWOT-2323, 2323c Verb

Grk Strong: G142 G373 G526 G622 G654 G851 G853 G1587 G2270 G2616 G2618 G2647 G2664 G3870 G3973 G4937

1) to cease, desist, rest 
1a) (Qal) 
1a1) to cease 
1a2) to rest, desist (from labour)
1b) (Niphal) to cease 
1c) (Hiphil) 
1c1) to cause to cease, put an end to 
1c2) to exterminate, destroy 
1c3) to cause to desist from 
1c4) to remove 
1c5) to cause to fail 
2) (Qal) to keep or observe the sabbath

So, again, any definition of the Sabbath day must include the fact that it is a cessation of work. It is to cease work, to desist or to rest from work.

We might want to briefly include the fact that work was created before the fall by God. It is not the result of the fall. We know this for certainty because God worked in creation before the fall. And when he made Adam, he gave him work to do. Gen 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

Work is a God-given gift and therefore must be something good. It didn't result from the fall. What did result from the fall was the difficulty, pain, unpleasantness, and sin in work. 

Gen 3:17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 

We will see why we need to make this distinction about work in a few minutes. But let's continue with the purpose of the Sabbath. Here is our passage from Genesis again.

Gen 2:1 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.

Three, he blessed the day.  Gen 2:3 So God blessed the seventh day. We've seen that God worked the first six days and that he rested from his work on the seventh day. Now, on top of it being a rest from work, it is a day of blessing. We will write more about this in future posts, but for now, it is enough to know that God intended the day to be a blessing. 

This was Jesus' meaning when he was attacked by the Pharisees in Mark 2, when he said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." It was made for man, meaning for the benefit of man or the well-being of man. It was meant to be a blessing to man. This is why Jesus had no problems healing one person after another on the day. 

Hardly could God's mercy and grace upon suffering souls, by healing them, be considered a violation of his own law. The Pharisees, who in large part were not believers, and did not have the Holy Spirit, could not possibly understand the law or the day properly. For we know that the law is spiritual. (Romans 7:14) But this too is another topic for another day. God blessed the Sabbath day which he made, intending it to be a blessing to man.

Four, he made the day "holy." 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy." The word "holy" means to be "set apart." Here is Strong's reference to this word  

Word: YCW Pronounce: kaw-dash'   Strong: H6942

Orig: a primitive root; to be (causatively, make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally):--appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy(-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify(-ied one, self), X wholly.

1) to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate 
1a) (Qal) 
1a1) to be set apart, be consecrated 
1a2) to be hallowed 
1a3) consecrated, tabooed 
1b) (Niphal) 
1b1) to show oneself sacred or majestic 
1b2) to be honoured, be treated as sacred 
1b3) to be holy 
1c) (Piel) 
1c1) to set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicate 
1c2) to observe as holy, keep sacred 
1c3) to honour as sacred, hallow 
1c4) to consecrate 
1d) (Pual) 
1d1) to be consecrated 
1d2) consecrated, dedicated 
1e) (Hiphil) 
1e1) to set apart, devote, consecrate 
1e2) to regard or treat as sacred or hallow 
1e3) to consecrate 
1f) (Hithpael) 
1f1) to keep oneself apart or separate 
1f2) to cause Himself to be hallowed (of God) 
1f3) to be observed as holy 
1f4) to consecrate oneself

To make the day "holy" means to sanctify it, to set it apart from the other days. It is a day that is set aside from the other days, not simply to rest from labor, but to be blessed by God and enjoy him. 

Consider carefully now this question. Is there anything better in life than enjoying Jesus Christ? You must seriously consider and answer this question if you are to understand the purpose of the Sabbath day. 

In sum, the purpose of the Sabbath Day, from the beginning, was to have a day free of the good labor God gives us the other six days, to enjoy Jesus Christ, and be blessed by him. It is a day free of labor and earthly pursuits, so that we may set our minds and hearts and behavior fully upon our Lord, who is both worthy of it, and desires it from us. 

This is stated more definitively in Isaiah 58 as follows,

Isaiah 58:13 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Once we understand the purpose of the Sabbath, we can understand the Fourth Commandment properly. 

God gives us six days to complete the good work he has given us to do. But the seventh day (in succession) is a day of rest from that good labor. It is a day set apart from the others, to worship and enjoy the Lord.  See now the Fourth Commandment through this lens. 

Exodus 20:8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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. 

From the beginning, the Sabbath was intended to be a blessing to man, whereby he could cease from his good (but now difficult) labor, to enjoy and be blessed by his Lord and Savior. 

In the future, we hope to explain the above truths in more detail, that you would see the Sabbath Day for what it was and is - a wonderful gift of God to his people, for their joy, their strength and encouragement, and their love. 

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