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Bible verses about Sabbath
(From Forerunner Commentary)

One of "Christianity's" false doctrines that is based upon their flawed reckoning of these events is "the Lord?s Day." Catholic and Protestant churches around the world are full of sincere but deceived people who believe that Christ changed the day of rest from Sabbath to Sunday. How is He supposed to have done that? By His resurrection!

If it were proved that He rose from the grave on the Sabbath, what would happen to the foundation of this doctrine? It would disappear! Their theologians would have only the flimsiest "proof texts" to stand on (I Corinthians 16:1-2; Revelation 1:10)!

Nowhere in the New Testament is the perpetual Sabbath covenant abolished (Exodus 31:12-17), for God made the Sabbath for all mankind (Mark 2:27). To the contrary, Jesus kept it (Luke 4:16), Paul kept it (Acts 17:2), and Gentiles kept it (Acts 13:42-44; 16:13)! The author of Hebrews writes boldly, "There remains therefore a rest [KJV margin: keeping of a Sabbath] for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9).

So we can see very clearly that the correct dates for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can become vital to our salvation.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

All four gospel writers mention that Jesus was tried, convicted, crucified, and buried on a preparation day. Without any further clarification, one would assume that they meant a Friday, the weekly preparation day before the Sabbath. But can other days be considered preparation days as well?

Yes, indeed! God Himself gave the instructions about the use of the preparation day to the Israelites before they reached Mount Sinai (Exodus 16:23). The Jews later considered this to be so important that they made sure each of the holy days, which are also Sabbaths, was preceded by a preparation day. Since the holy days can fall on any day of the week, the preparation day can fall on any day of the week as well.

This is very relevant to the Passover. Not only is the Passover a festival in its own right, it also functions as the preparation day for a holy day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to the calculated Hebrew Calendar, Passover can fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sabbath.

Clearly, our Savior was crucified on a Passover day (Matthew 26:2). Thus, it was on one of these days of the week that Jesus was killed and buried.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

The Boy Scouts have as their motto, "Be Prepared." This principle has physically saved many lives over the years and is a good principle for us to keep in mind during our spiritual development for the Kingdom. Yet, more specifically, how does it apply to the Sabbath? Are we preparing for this day—or do we suddenly find ourselves in it, as if we have suddenly fallen through a trap door into another world?

It seems that many times we rush frantically to complete our work or our projects past the proper time, even though we know better. We fall into this habit mostly because we fail to plan ahead. If we take the time to plan, we can head down the exit ramp of our high-speed workweek into a calm, peaceful, productive twenty-four hours devoted to God and His way. Our minds will be clear and ready to be focused in the right direction.

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws


 

Many historical sources show that Christmas was not observed by Christians from Christ's time to about AD 300. Saturnalia (December 17-24) and Brumalia (December 25) continued as pagan celebrations by the Romans well into the fourth century. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, in the article "Natal Day," records that the early Catholic church father, Origen, acknowledged:

In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners like Pharaoh and Herod who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world.

During the fourth century, the emperor Constantine "converted" to "Christianity" and changed Sabbath keeping from the seventh to the first day of the week. Sunday was the day he had worshipped the sun as his god. This made it easier for the Romans to call their pagan December 25th winter solstice festival, in which they had celebrated the birth of the sun god, the birthday of the "Son of God."

The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, says:

According to the hypothesis . . . accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the Invincible Sun). On Dec. 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome.

Only in the fifth century did the Roman Catholic Church order that the birth of Christ be observed on December 25, the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, the sun god. They renamed this day "Christmas."

Martin G. Collins
Syncretismas!


 

Virtually everything we do on the Sabbath revolves around these three broad areas. Our minds, our conversations, our activities are not to be centered and focused on material concerns, cares, and pleasures. God commands us to keep the Sabbath because He wants time to be free from mundane responsibilities and activities. He wants our minds to be free—to be thinking about the great purpose that He is working out in our lives.

Another reason is that the Sabbath, and the proper keeping of it, sets the stage for the proper worship of God. Worship is our devoted response to God. It is not confined to one day but involves the whole of life. Those who cannot—or will not—control their minds and time on this day are likely going to be the ones who call the day "bondage." However, that very attitude is likely to lead those people into not entering God's rest. So we need to be turning our attention to keeping it as well as we possibly can.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Men honor other men who have made significant contributions to mankind by setting apart a day as a memorial to them so that others will also remember their contributions. And so, a day is set aside to honor or memorialize, for example, George Washington. It draws our attention, for a brief period of time, to the man we honor as the father of our country. We have a day set aside for Abraham Lincoln. We just passed the day that was set aside for Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, a great deal of attention was paid in the news—on television, the radio, and also in newspapers—of things that were done by Martin Luther King during the '50s and '60s.

God is to be memorialized by the Sabbath. Compared to any man, God's contributions are beyond counting, but one stands out over all of the others: God is Creator! "In the beginning, God created..." is the way the Book begins, so that, right at the very beginning, attention is drawn and focused on what God is doing. God creates! Thus, the Sabbath memorializes God as Creator.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Consider these points regarding the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is a day of rest, sanctified by the Creator at the end of the Creation Week; thus, it is a memorial of the Creation.

It is a recurring period of time (the most enduring thing man knows); the Creator promises to be in that time, guaranteeing man that He will be with man in helping those who keep His Sabbath to attain the Creator's purpose. What an awesome gift!

It is a day Christ clearly associated with liberty, redemption, and salvation—as He showed by His preachings, healings, and casting out of demons, relieving people of their bondage to Satan.

The issue in the New Testament never dealt with whether one should keep the Sabbath, but always with how to keep it.

The emphasis, though, changes from the Old Testament nationalistic system of communal Sabbath keeping (a letter-of-the-law approach) to the New Testament individual responsibility of personal worship on the Sabbath (fulfilling the spirit of the law). The Sabbath thus becomes a present type of "the rest of God" to come (Hebrews 3 and 4).

In the New Testament, "not working" becomes a secondary, though still important factor in proper Sabbath keeping, giving place to fellowshipping with God and others of like mind and to doing good works.

Preparation is essential to proper Sabbath keeping in order to "clear the decks" of as much of the ordinary mundane activities as possible, so attention can be given to the Sabbath's spiritual aspects and activities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Some fundamental and little-understood points about the Sabbath and Sabbath-keeping:

  1. In the Bible, by command and by the example of Jesus and Paul, the issue is never which day on the calendar to keep. It is always how to keep the Sabbath.

  2. By way of contrast, in the world, the Sabbath is considered the least of the commandments. However, keeping it is a matter of morality; it is one of ten parts of the Royal Law. Keeping it properly is an act of love.

  3. Ezekiel 20 shows that Sabbath-breaking was a major reason why God sent Israel into captivity.

  4. The Sabbath is made for man's benefit. It is a major regulator of man's relations with God and man, because it is the day God set apart for direct fellowship with Him and instruction in knowing Him. Knowing Him, Jesus said, is eternal life (John 17:3).

  5. The Old Testament is no less binding on a Christian than the New Testament. The entire Bible was written primarily for the church, and most specifically for the end-time church.

  6. There are numerous code names for the church throughout the Bible. The church is "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), meaning "the Israel that belongs to God." God specifically revealed the Sabbath to Israel, both physical and spiritual, for its use.

  7. When reading the history of ancient Israel in the Old Testament, we are also reading a broad but accurate overview of the patterns of the church's relationship with God, as these principles never change.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Genesis 2:1-3

Because the Sabbath is from creation—and the Creator Himself set the pattern for man by resting on it—it has universal validity. It is not from one of the patriarchs or Moses or from the Jews because none of these existed when it was created. The Bible shows three times in two verses that God very clearly inspired the seventh day, not a seventh day.

God could have ended His creative work at the end of the sixth day because it seemed at that point as though He had provided everything man needed for life. But He did not complete it then because all man needed was not yet created! The Sabbath is, in fact, THE VERY CROWN of the creation week. It is vital to man's well-being. So God created a period of rest and holy time—a very specific period, as the context shows.

God draws our attention to four things He did on that first Sabbath. He (1) ended His work, (2) rested, (3) blessed the seventh day, and (4) sanctified it. He created something just as surely as He created physical things on the other six days. He is instructing us that, on the Sabbath, creation continued but in a different form, one not outwardly visible. To those with understanding, the Sabbath symbolizes that God is still creating. Jesus confirms this in John 5:17, when a dispute arises over how to keep the Sabbath. He replies, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."

The Sabbath is an integral part of the process of creation. God finished the physical part at the end of the sixth day. The spiritual aspect began with the creation of the Sabbath and continues to this day. Through the sequence of events on the first six days, God created an environment for man and life. But God shows through the creation of the Sabbath that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath provides an important part in producing spiritual life—life with a dimension the physical cannot supply.

The Sabbath is not an afterthought of a tremendous creation, but a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing man knows: time. Time plays a key role in God's spiritual creation. It is as if God says, "Look at what I have made and consider that I am not yet finished creating. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be a part of My spiritual creation."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Genesis 2:1-3

This series of verses sets the tone for keeping the Sabbath, and the Sabbath is shown to have universal validity. It is from Creation, not from any of "the fathers," Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. It is not from Moses. It is not from any Jew (when God ordained it, there were no Jews). The Sabbath is from the Creator God.

Notice, too, that the first two chapters of Genesis clearly establishes that the Sabbath is the seventh day—not a seventh day. This may not be the theological beginning of the Sabbath, yet, without doubt, Exodus 20:11 clearly establishes that the Sabbath has its roots in these three verses.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Genesis 2:1-3

The Hebrew word translated here as "rested" is the verb shabath, from which comes the noun form that is rendered in English as "Sabbath." Interestingly, the primary meaning of this word is not "rest," in terms of relaxing or rejuvenating, but "to desist from exertion" or "to cease." This makes perfect sense considering that God does not get tired (Isaiah 40:28)!

Genesis 2 states that at the end of Creation Week, God stopped His physical labors, not because He was tired, but because He was setting an example for us. Furthermore, God blessed this specific day of the week and sanctified it—He set it apart for a specific purpose. Just as God deliberately sets apart or sanctifies those people with whom He is working, He purposefully made the seventh day different from the other six.

Thus, not only did God create the Sabbath day—and thus it belongs to Him; Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28)—but He also made it separate and distinct from the other six days. So how can we think that this day belongs to us? There is not a single second of this sanctified time that we have authority over! This day is not our day—not for our work, our sports, or our entertainment. It still belongs fully to God, and only He can dictate its right and proper usage.

It is not that we have no part in this day. On the contrary, the Sabbath day is the most important day of the week for us as Christians, because it enhances our relationship with God the most.

When we tithe, we decide whether we are going to tithe by choosing whether or not we will submit to God and follow His way. Once we make the decision to follow God, we give up all claims to the money God requires of us. If we start "deciding" that money is ours to use, we also choose not to submit to God. Similarly, once we decide to follow God, we give up all prior claims to the 24-hour period of the Sabbath, to the extent that God requires us to monitor our speech and even our thoughts (Isaiah 58:13-14)!

We recognize that God has given us a stewardship responsibility in using the money and material possessions He has provided us, and correspondingly, we have a stewardship responsibility over His holy time and its proper use. The Sabbath is not our time. It may belong to God, but He entrusts us with the responsibility to keep it righteously. We had better handle it with care!

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Genesis 2:2

God rested on the seventh day of creation. The word "rested" here comes from the Hebrew word shabath (Strong's 7673), which can mean "to keep or to observe the Sabbath." This word is the root for the word shabbath (Strong's 7676), which is translated as "Sabbath" throughout the Old Testament.

God rested upon, or kept, the Sabbath on this first seventh day, not because He physically tired after all His creation work, but to set an example for Adam, Eve, and all humanity after them to do the same.

Some say that only that very first seventh day was made a day of rest by God and not all of the other seventh days since. Moses refutes this in Exodus 20:11 by commanding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, not because they were Israelites, but because God had rested upon and sanctified the seventh day at Creation.

The evening of the sixth day of creation was not the end of God's work; Jesus says in John 5:17 that both He and His Father continue to work. Just one part of their "work" is the sustaining and maintaining of the operation of the universe. If they withdrew that "work," the whole physical universe would come to a sudden and complete end!

Staff


 

Genesis 2:2-3

The Sabbath is not the afterthought of a majestic Creation, but it is the very climax of the Creation Week. It seems as if God intends us to conclude this as it is the last thing in the Creation Week that He draws our attention to. He specifically does this by resting on the seventh day - by ceasing from His labor. Is there an example there? Certainly! Keeping the Sabbath is an example set by the Creator - not one of His servants but the very Boss Himself! It is worthy of note.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). It was made to ensure that man has the right kind of life - both physically and spiritually. The body needs a rest, but even more than that, the mind needs to be energized. It needs to be filled with the Word of God and to be energized by fellowship with God.

So that we have no excuse, God says, "I don't want you to do any work on that day. I don't want you to turn your attention to your own things." Nobody will be able to come to God and say, "I never had the time to spend time with You."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Genesis 2:2-3

It was Christ, as the God of the Old Testament, who actually created the Sabbath (John 1:1-3). It is a sign that identifies God's people just as a sign identifies a business or a street. Notice also that this covenant, made after the ratification of the Old Covenant, bound the Sabbath as a "perpetual covenant" upon God's people. Since the Sabbath has been in force from Creation, it is not just for the Jews, but for the foreigner and all mankind as well. All who keep the Sabbath properly are blessed.

Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment


 

Genesis 2:2-3

Genesis 2:2-3 sets the tone and establishes the first reason for Sabbath-keeping: we are to follow His example. Because He specifically rested on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath has universal validity. It is an example from creation, not from one of the Patriarchs, nor from Moses, nor from any Jews—because there were no Jews then.

The Scripture clearly states that this was the seventh day, not a seventh day. Though Genesis 2 is not the theological beginning of the Sabbath, yet without doubt, Exodus 20:11 shows that the keeping of it as a religious day of worship has its foundation firmly anchored in Genesis 1 and 2.

Sabbath does not literally mean "to rest." Instead, it means "to stop" or "to cease." Resting is the result of stopping what one does on the other six days. God could have rested at any time, or He need not have rested at all. He could have ended the creative cycle at the end of the sixth day, but He did not. The Sabbath is, in fact, His final creative act of that week. He created by resting.

The writer draws attention to what God did on that day even as it is drawn to what He did on the other six days. In reality, the Sabbath is the very crown of the creation week. He topped His creative activities off by creating a specific period of time sanctified for rest. It was as specifically created as what He did on the other six days. On the Sabbath, the creating continued, but took on a different form than it had on the other days, a form not outwardly visible.

As a believer gradually learns, the Sabbath symbolizes to God's children the fact that God is still creating (John 5:16-17). The Sabbath is an integral part of the process of creation. The physical part was finished at the end of the sixth day, but the spiritual aspect began with the creation of the Sabbath and continues to this day, even as the effects of creation on the other six days continue to this day.

At the end of the creation sequence, God created and sanctified an environment to play a major role in producing eternal and everlasting life. Through the creation of the Sabbath, God shows that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath plays an important role in producing spiritual life, a quality of life having a dimension that the physical alone cannot supply. Toward this end, no other day can be employed with the Sabbath's quality of effectiveness.

There is a valid reason for this. The Sabbath is not a mere afterthought of a tremendous creation, but a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing man knows: time. Sabbath time plays an especially important role in God's spiritual creation. Through the Sabbath, it is as if God says, "Look at what I have made, and consider that I am not yet finished creating. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be a part of My spiritual creation."

God created the Sabbath by ceasing from His physical exertion, setting the example for man also to cease from the normal activities of the other six workdays. He also specifically blessed and sanctified it. He did this to no other day, yet men argue against keeping it—even though Jesus, like His Father, kept it. It is truly the least of the commandments to men.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Genesis 2:3

On the seventh day of the creation week, God rested, blessed it (made it special), and sanctified it (set it apart as holy). This was not for His own benefit, but for the benefit of all mankind. Jesus clearly says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man. God rested on it, blessed it, and sanctified it—all for mankind.

Some say that God did all these things on and with the Sabbath and yet did not tell his people how to keep and use the day. Although the details are not recorded, there can be little doubt that God would have instructed Adam and Eve—His first human children—in how to keep His Sabbaths holy. Those simple instructions were later repeated by Moses, Isaiah, and of course, by Jesus Christ! Moses, under God's direction, stated that we are to rest on the Sabbath day because God did. God's people are to follow His example in how He kept it.

God clearly blessed and sanctified the seventh day at creation and made a special point of making it very plain to His people that He had done these things. It is illogical to believe that He would secretly remove His blessing and sanctification from the day without clearly and plainly telling His people—and not such statement exists! The seventh day is still blessed, sanctified, and to be rested upon.

Staff


 

Genesis 2:3

Genesis 2:3 says that God blessed the Sabbath day, something He did to no other day. This blessing falls on the heels of the obviously physical blessings God pronounced on animals (Genesis 1:22) and man (Genesis 1:28). The Bible shows a blessing to be something given or conferred to produce a fuller, more abundant life. The Sabbath blessing, conferred upon the whole creation, acts as the capstone of Creation week.

By blessing a recurring period of time, God promises to be man's benefactor through the whole course of human history! The blessing invokes God's favor, and its primary intent is that God will be our spiritual benefactor. It does, however, include the physical as well. Thus, Jesus clearly ties His ministry to the Sabbath concepts of blessing, deliverance, liberty, and redemption.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Genesis 2:3

God did this to no other day! The Sabbath day is blessed. The Bible clearly shows a blessing to be something given or conferred to bring a person a fuller and more abundant life. The blessing may be monetary, but it elevates the person's life. The blessing may be something spiritual such as forgiveness of sin or illumination of the mind to truth. The person begins to be liberated, and his life begins to fill with the right things.

We can begin to see God's purpose in blessing the Sabbath. The purpose of the Sabbath is to bring a person - and everyone eventually - to a more abundant life, to liberate him from whatever holds him in bondage. The Sabbath is the day of liberation, of liberty, of freedom.

Genesis 2:3 is the capstone of His blessings in the Creation week, expressing God's blessing of His whole Creation. By blessing a recurring period of time, God promises to be man's Benefactor through the whole course of human history. It is an invocation of God's favor to everyone who keeps it. We will see that its primary intention is to make and show God as our spiritual Benefactor.

Now, the Sabbath blessing also includes the physical. The two cannot be separated because we are physical. This is why He tells us to rest on it. It is a blessing to be able to rest on the Sabbath. Our health is increased because of it. We do not get sick as often as we used to. And when we do, we do not become as sick as we used to. Because we are resting on the Sabbath day, our body is freed from much of what would normally come upon us. If we do not keep it, we do not receive that blessing.

Even so, this is not its primary intention. Its primary intention has to do with the spiritual. In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus clearly ties His ministry to the Sabbath concepts of blessing, deliverance, liberty, and redemption. That is His mission: to bring these things to mankind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Genesis 2:3

"Sanctified" in Genesis 2:3 and "holy" in Exodus 20:8 are the same word in Hebrew though in different tenses. In Genesis 2, God makes the seventh day holy; in Exodus 20, He commands us to keep holy what He has already made holy. A holy God is required to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot confer holiness to the degree God does. Any other day of worship has a mere manmade holiness and is not holy as God's Sabbaths are holy. The Sabbath, then, is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it derives from God.

The underlying implication of the usage of "holy" is difference. The verbal root literally means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or it can imply "to make a cut above," thus "to make special." A holy thing is an object that is different from that to which it is compared. In this case, the other six days are common and are given to the use and pursuit of the common, ordinary activities of life. Practically, it means that when the Sabbath arrives, we should stop doing and avoid the mundane things that make or promote turning the Sabbath into an ordinary day.

Exodus 3:1-5 provides a clear illustration of what the word "holy" implies:

Now Moses . . . came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

The principle shown here is what makes the Sabbath holy, different. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground differently, with a respect or a deference that he would not give to ordinary ground. For the called of God, this difference, this holiness, is a spiritual thing; it is not physically discerned.

Notice that, even though Moses was aware that there was something unusual about what He was observing, God had to tell him that he stood on holy ground. It is a spiritual state that cannot be physically discerned. As for the Sabbath, God puts His presence into the day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation.

Consider the scenario Amos 3:3 presents: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" If we want to be in God's presence in this special way and in agreement with Him, no other day will do. God has an appointment with us to meet with Him on a specific day, on Sabbath time. It is time, different from other time, just as an appointment time with a dentist is different from other time in one's life, as well as from another person's scheduled time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Exodus 3:2-5

Exodus 3:2-5 shows a principle regarding the making of something holy. Because God was present, the ground itself was holy and could not be approached in the ordinary fashion. God commanded Moses to treat it with a respect, a deference, that he would not give to something common. Interestingly, even though Moses knew there was something unusual about what he was observing, God had to tell him that he was on holy ground. Its holiness was something spiritual; it was not physically discernable.

The same presence of God makes the Sabbath holy, a cut above, transcendent, as compared to the other days not declared holy by God. God puts His presence into the Sabbath day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation. The other six days are common and given to the pursuit of the mundane activities of life. Since God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy, we must strive to avoid those mundane things that make the Sabbath—or promote making it—into an ordinary day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Exodus 5:5

The word "rest" here is translated from the Hebrew shabath. Through Moses, God was demanding that the Israelites be given time off for special worship (likely one of God's Feasts, which are special Sabbaths).

Staff


 

Exodus 12:15-18

God has ordained a particular numbered day for these holy convocations, the fifteenth and twenty-first days of Abib/Nisan. It is impossible for both of these holy convocations to fall on the seventh-day Sabbath. Even if the fifteenth fell on a Saturday, the twenty-first would occur on the following Friday. By itself, this disproves the notion that all Sabbaths must fall on the seventh day.

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Exodus 16:4-5

Clearly, God allows the people to gather manna on the first through sixth days of the week. However, on the sixth day He tells them to gather twice as much, as well as to prepare what they would eat on the seventh day. Historically, then, the day before a Sabbath (Friday) was a preparation day.

But is the preparation day only for weekly Sabbaths? No! From the example of the holy days (see the notes at Exodus 12:15-18), a preparation day can fall on any day except Saturday! The Passover itself occurs the day before the first day of Unleavened Bread, a Sabbath, making it a preparation day.

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Exodus 16:4

The inference is obvious. Moses gave this instruction so that the Israelites would not work on the Sabbath day. The first commandment that God specifically revealed to His people after coming out of Egypt was the Sabbath, the commandment most important for keeping people free. If people miss their weekly appointment with God because they have something else going, then they are missing the opportunity to remain free, squandering the time that God has given to mankind to help them to enter His Kingdom. The Sabbath is a wonderful gift He has given to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 16:4

A test is coming: whether the Israelites would keep the Sabbath. What He shows us within the context is that the Sabbath should be prepared for.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Exodus 16:23

This is the first use of the English word "Sabbath" in the Bible. This usage comes from the Hebrew word shabbath (Strong's 7676). The word shabbath comes from a primitive root word shabath (Strongs 7673) which is translated in various places "cease," "rest," "away," "fail," "celebrate," and miscellaneous other words, some of which precede this usage of the word shabbath. For example, Genesis 8:22 uses "cease," and both Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 5:5 use "rest."

Moses was transmitting to the Israelites a Sabbath commandment from God, four chapters before their arrival at Sinai where the tablets of stone (the Ten Commandments) were given. There is no indication that this Sabbath commandment was something that was newly initiated by God at this time. In fact, other verses state that the Sabbath Day of rest was initiated at creation (see Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11). God said through Moses, "Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest...". He did not say, "This is a new command: from now on, every seventh day is to be a solemn rest, etc."

This appears to be a reminder to the Israelites of God's Sabbath requirements, and specifically with regard to the collection and preparation of manna. It must be remembered that the Israelites had been in captivity for hundreds of years, and that they had not, during those years, enjoyed the freedom to obey God's Sabbath commands (see Exodus 5:1-5). Now that they were free from Egypt and the restrictions of slavery, they needed to be reminded of their obligations as the children of God. This verse reiterates that the seventh day was set apart by God to be holy.

The Israelites were commanded to rest solemnly. This does not mean that they were to be miserable, but that they were to be strict in their keeping of this period of rest. Even their food preparation was used as an example of God's intent: Other verses show that they were to collect twice as much manna on the previous day. This verse states that they were to do any preparation and cooking of the manna on the previous day. Any leftover, unprepared manna could be left unconsumed until the Sabbath without fear of it rotting (as it did on the other six days of the week). This was a miracle, which proved to the Israelites on a weekly basis that God continued to put His blessing on the Sabbath day. It also clearly revealed to them, after hundreds of years of slavery, which day was God's Sabbath.

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Exodus 16:23

God has commanded that we do our heavy cooking—roasting, baking, boiling, broiling—on the day before the Sabbath. The command to do this is clear. It is interesting to think about how frequently men think that "what God says" does not really apply to them or that it does not matter. What they are doing is presuming to add or subtract from His Word.

God said that He was going to give Israel a test (Exodus 16:4). The test dealt with keeping the fourth commandment, the Sabbath. He wanted to see whether they would obey Him. He then commanded them to prepare for it, so that they could pass the test!

Does God mean what He says? He is serious enough about our keeping of the Sabbath that He added an additional commandment to make sure that we are prepared to keep it and thus pass the test. The test, then, is not whether we know about the Sabbath but how we keep it. To keep the Sabbath, we must prepare for it.

Whether or not we will live by God's Word depends upon our faith because, in reality, the test is of our faith. It tests whether we believe what God says. If we are depending only upon our eyes—our senses—we are quite limited. There are things we cannot see or hear that are very important to God. By appearance, the Sabbath is no different from any other day of the week. This means everybody is confronted by a test of faith in keeping it, and preparation is a key to keeping it properly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Exodus 16:23

Exodus 16 begins the miracle of the manna. Instructions were clearly given to Moses, which he in turn passed on to the children of Israel, about what they were supposed to do on Friday. They were to gather twice as much on Friday, because they were not to gather manna on the Sabbath day.

This principle is still in effect. We should not say that we do not have the time to prepare. If we lack the time to prepare, something is wrong with our use of the other six days of the week. Maybe our habits of organization and priorities need to be changed. The preparation day for the Sabbath begins at sunset on Thursday (since Friday is the preparation day, and the day begins at sunset). Meals can be prepared ahead of time, even including leafy salads. If they are prepared properly with fresh ingredients, they will be nice and crisp on the Sabbath day, twenty-four hours later. God says to prepare because He does not want ordinary weekday work done on the Sabbath day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Exodus 16:25

This day was a Sabbath day. But nowhere is there any indication that this was the first Sabbath that the Israelites or mankind in general were bound to keep. Moses was here telling the Israelites that it was quite safe for them to eat the manna collected on the previous day. He was also reminding them that, because this was God's special day and He wanted them to rest rather than to work at manna collection, there would be no manna in the fields that day. Note that, as in Exodus 16:23, this verse states that the Sabbath was "to the Lord." This means that, although the Sabbath was made for man, it is still God's day—"the Lord's Day"—and man is to keep it in recognition, acceptance, honor, and obedience to Him.

Staff


 

Exodus 16:26

Moses is repeating himself here, perhaps for emphasis. He had already told the Israelites that:

  • They should gather manna for six days
  • The seventh day is a Sabbath—a day of rest
  • There would be none for them to gather on the Sabbath Day.

Staff


 

Exodus 16:27

After all that God had done through Moses, it is amazing that some of the Israelites continued to disbelieve, disobey, and test God's (and Moses') patience in this way, especially when their disbelief concerned a miracle of God!

The Hebrew word translated here as "seventh" is shebiyiy (Strongs 7637), which has some etymological similarity and relationship to the words shabath and shabbath. Perhaps "seventh things" are to be set apart for rest or for special use.

Staff


 

Exodus 16:29

God finds it necessary to repeat Himself yet again on this point which He considered to be so important:

  • God had given the Sabbath Day of rest as a blessing for His children.
  • God gave them twice as much manna on the sixth day.
  • They were not to go out to attempt to collect manna on the seventh day.

Some have misconstrued the latter part of this verse as meaning that Sabbath-keepers should not even leave their homes on the Sabbath Day. This is not what is being said at all. God is chastising the disobedient Israelites who had just blatantly broken His Sabbath instructions! He was telling them not to go out of their homes on the Sabbath for the purpose of collecting manna. To extrapolate this concept for New Testament Sabbath-keepers: We should not venture from our homes on the Sabbath for the purpose of doing any kind of work.

Staff


 

Exodus 16:30

Finally, the Israelites get the point, realizing that God is serious about what they do with His Sabbaths, and they begin to obey. The Israelites begin to shabath every seventh day.

Staff


 

Exodus 20:2

We have been taken out of the spiritual "house of bondage." We can see here that the Sabbath is enjoined on God's people for two basic reasons. The one reminds us that He is Creator. The other reminds us that, at one time, we were slaves.

Ezekiel 20 clearly demonstrates that when God's people do not keep the Sabbath, they lose their liberty. They go into captivity—for us, that means back to the captivity of Satan, the world, and sin. The Sabbath is given by God to keep His people free! It is the day to keep His people from going back into bondage.

God has specifically used the Sabbath throughout Israel's history as the day in which He emphasizes the Sabbath's tie to deliverance, liberty, to keeping His people free. On this day, He has pointedly performed acts of liberation for His people. For example, on what day did the children of Israel leave Egypt, the house of bondage? They left on an annual Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread. On which day did they completely break free of their captors? It was on the following Sabbath, the seventh day of Unleavened Bread that they went through the Red Sea, were baptized, and went out into the wilderness. At that point, they were politically free.

On which day did God give His law? On the day of Pentecost, another Sabbath, which "if a man will keep, he will live in it." On which day did Israel go into the Promised Land? On a Sabbath day. On which day did the walls of Jericho come down? They came down on a Sabbath, and Israel made their first important conquest in the land.

This Sabbath redemption is all through the Old Testament. God did that to focus our minds on what the Sabbath is for. It is the day He has blessed for the purpose of liberation. It is the day He has blessed to continue the liberty of His people. Jesus also emphasized this in His ministry, driving this point home by how He used the Sabbath, giving us an example so that we could see how He wants us to use the Sabbath to the greatest benefit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

God does not specifically identify Himself with any other day of the week, and He commands His people to meet with Him on no other day. These truths are so strong that God includes the Sabbath in the ten foundational laws governing morality. How much plainer can it get? In addition, the apostle Paul says this body of laws is spiritual (Romans 7:14). This has universal and eternal ramifications, further enhanced by the fact that Jesus kept it (and we are to follow His example, I John 2:4-6), as did the apostles.

God created the Sabbath because it enhances and protects our relationship with Him. It provides a witness to God, to ourselves and to the world. It keeps us in a proper frame of mind and furnishes us with the right knowledge of our part of the pilgrimage to God's Kingdom.

We live in a grubby, grasping, materially oriented world, where a built-in bias exists toward materialism and the exercise of carnality. If we follow it, we can find it is not hard at all to avoid spiritual things. But keeping the Sabbath almost forces us to think about God, the spiritual side of life and His creation. It presents us with opportunities to consider the WHYS of life, to get ourselves correctly oriented to use our time properly the other six days. Keeping the Sabbath correctly is the kernel, the nucleus, from which grows appropriate worship (our response to God).

Existentialist philosophers tell us that life is absurd. They say that all life is but a prelude to death. The Sabbath celebrates just the opposite! It reminds us that God's creative process is continuing. God is creating us in His image so that physical life is not absurd but a prelude to life on an infinitely higher, spiritual level. As we grow more like Him, we become more sanctified from this world. In experiencing, refreshing, and elevating the mind in the realm of the spirit, we get a foretaste of what is to come.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

Some ministers assert we have to keep only nine of the Ten Commandments. They teach that we do not have to keep the Sabbath commandment because God made an abrupt change upon the death of Jesus Christ. The Sabbath commandment is merely ceremonial, they say.

If it was merely ceremonial, why is it included in the Ten Commandments that God, with His own voice, spoke from the mount in the presence of all Israel? Why is it included in the Ten Commandments that God, with His own finger, wrote upon tablets of stone? Did He do these things with any lesser laws? Does this mean we are free to declare that one or more of the other commandments is also ceremonial? How about the second?

The Bible gives strong indication that the Sabbath has existed since Genesis 2. Jesus and the apostles clearly kept the Sabbath. Scripture does not indicate that they kept any other day or commanded any other day to be kept. In addition, there are prophecies that mention Israel keeping, not only the weekly Sabbath, but also the holy day Sabbaths in the future.

Even with all of this exemplary evidence, especially our Savior's and the apostles', they tell us that God changed. This is very interesting since there is no scripture saying that the Sabbath is merely ceremonial or that we may keep it according to our own discretion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Exodus 20:8

This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments and is the last of the four commandments which show love towards God. It is quite a simple statement and yet causes so much controversy. Some say that the Ten Commandments were given to and meant only for the Israelites—not for the rest of mankind—and that they were part of the Old Covenant between God and Israel which was nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. God answers this opinion through Jesus Christ in Mark 2:27, and through the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 20:11-21, where He clearly puts the emphasis on the fact that they are HIS statutes, HIS judgments, and HIS Sabbaths. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 56:2 also shows that the Sabbath blessing is available to any man—not just the Israelites.

The original giving of God's Sabbath commandment to Adam and Eve at Eden (and from them to all the nations to whom that first couple gave birth) preceded the giving of the Sabbath commandment to the Israelites at Sinai. At that time (man's beginning), God made the Sabbath for man (not for the Israelites who did not yet exist as a nation), and it was therefore to be kept by all nations (see Genesis 2:2-3; Mark 2:27). The Sabbath command, already in existence, is here repeated and included in the Ten Commandments. Even though the Old Covenant with Israel has become obsolete, the original sanctification of the Sabbath Day, made holy for all mankind at creation, still remains!

There is absolutely no scripture in the entire Bible that tells of God "de-sanctifying" His Sabbath Day! In fact, both Isaiah and Ezekiel give very strong indications that the Sabbath will be kept in the World Tomorrow (see Isaiah 66:22-23 and Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1-12).

Some say that the Sabbath was changed from the seventh day of the week to the first. Most Bible experts and scholars agree that there is no biblical support for this idea at all and that such changes were made much later by (human) church leaders.

The Hebrew word translated here into the English "remember" is zakar (Strongs 2142). As well as "to remember" and "to recall," the word zakar can mean "to think about," "to bring to mind," "to mention," "to record," and "to make a memorial of." These meanings show how special the status of the Sabbath should be to a Sabbath-keeper.

Many scriptures show that the Sabbath Day should be a day of rest from work (see Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:23; 20:10-11; 31:15; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3, Deuteronomy 5:14; Luke 23:56; Hebrews 4:9). Isaiah tells us that we should not do our own pleasure on the Sabbath, but rather that we should do God's pleasure (see Isaiah 58:13).

In the gospel accounts, Jesus shows us (by word and example) that:

  1. The Sabbath Day of rest should be a pleasure, and not a day of bondage to a list of pharisaical "do's and don'ts" (See Matthew 12:1-12; Mark 2:23-28; 3:2-4, Luke 6:1-9; 13:10-16; 14:1-5; John 5:9-18; 7:22-23; 9:14-16).
  2. The Sabbath is a day on which we should, if possible, attend church services. Jesus attended synagogue services, as He was a practicing Jew, illustrating the need for us to assemble together (see Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 12:9; 13:54; Mark 1:21; 6:2; Luke 4:16; 4:31; 13:10; John 6:59; 18:20).

Staff


 

Exodus 20:8-11

Because God rested after six days of labor, the Sabbath is also our day of rest and a memorial of Creation. We are to remember, not only what God did in the physical creation, but also that His spiritual creation continues in us.

God blessed the seventh day, making it holy. It is holy time, set apart for God's use! Only God can make a day holy, and He does this by putting Himself, through His Spirit, into it. We are then instructed to "keep" it holy.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Sabbath


 

Exodus 20:8-11

This generation has a particularly difficult time adjusting from a workday mode to a Sabbath-keeping mode for a number of reasons. One is that life is so fast paced, with so many ways and activities to give our time, our energies, our minds, and our attention to.

This can be seen in the parable of the Sower and Seed in Matthew 13, where the seed falls on stony places. With people whose minds are focused on too many things, the Word of God does not take very deep root. And so, as Jesus says, when persecution or trouble arises as a result of this way of life, then they very quickly turn aside. They have nothing really rooted very deeply in them. They have been giving their time, energy, and all of their talents to something else entirely.

Another thing that we can extract from this same parable is that we have never, in any generation of man, been so close to the creations of man and so distant from the creations of God. We are surrounded by concrete, steel, glass, plastic, rubber, and all of the things that man makes. And we are very rapidly losing touch with the things that God has made.

Our mind tends to focus automatically on what we are surrounded by. Today, we are not walking behind a mule, plowing the ground, and listening to the birds as we plow; or putting seeds in the ground, watching them come up, and eating the products of what God has made possible by His laws and by the fact that He continues to provide for His Creation. He sends the rain, and He brings forth the fruit. If we do not have contact with God's creation, we very quickly begin to have our minds surrounded by other things, and we are then cast adrift because of paying attention to those things.

In addition to that, we have been spiritually trained by this Protestant society not to regard a day as belonging to God, but rather to use time for our own pleasure as though it all belonged to us. And if we have been taught at all, we have been taught the wrong day.

It seems that we do not have enough time for God, even though we literally have just as much time as Peter, James, John, Philip, and all of the ancients besides them. How much time does a working mother have today for a good spiritual life after giving her time and energies to her employer and then returning home and doing her responsibilities there? How much time does a father holding two jobs, or working as much overtime as he can, or working plus going to school at night in order to get ahead (in order to afford all of the finer things of life) have for God? How much energy does this mother and father have at the end of the week?

All of us are pressured and victimized by this insane system that Satan has put together. But few of us have much excuse for not using Sabbath time in the way that God intended that it be used.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

In verse 8, God says "Remember the Sabbath day." Then He tells us that we are to work six days, and the seventh day we are not to work. Verse 11 gives the reason why.

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day [not a seventh day.] Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

This verse firmly establishes the Sabbath as law, a command to be kept. Yet, it is very clear that this law has its roots in Genesis 2:1-3, for there, God set the example in what He did. He rested, and He blessed the seventh day.

God could have rested at any time. Or, we might say, He needed no rest at all. But He rested. God does not grow weary or become tired. He could have ended the creative cycle at the end of the sixth day, but He did not. Creation did not cease at the end of the sixth day. This is a very important concept. The seventh day is also a creation of God. He kept right on creating, only this time He created by not working, by ceasing.

What did He do? He created a period of rest and of holy time. He created a specific period of time: the seventh day. What He created was just as real as the things created on the other six days. Thus, on the Sabbath, creating continued, but it took on a different form in that it was not outwardly visible. The Sabbath symbolizes to man that God is still creating.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 20:8

That word "holy" is fundamentally the same word used in Genesis 2:3 where God sanctified the seventh-day Sabbath. The only difference is that the parts of speech are different.

It takes a holy God to make holy time. He made no other time holy than His Sabbaths. Man can be made holy by God as well, but man cannot make something holy because he does not possess a holiness that can be passed on to anything. It takes a holy God to make something holy, thus any other day than what God has made holy—even though billions of men may proclaim it to be holy time—cannot be holy time. It is utterly impossible; Sunday cannot be made holy.

This means that the Sabbath is worthy of respect, deference, and even devotion that cannot be given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived directly from God. Because of God's assignment of the word "holy" to the Sabbath, this day is changed into something special. The general thrust of "holy" is different. The root word means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or "a cut above." The Sabbath is separate from other days, even though it is a part of the same cycle. It has been cut out, apart from, the other days—that is, sanctified. It is a cut above other days because God made it holy. It is different.

The Sabbath, then, is different from the common or ordinary. The other six days are common, and they are given for the pursuit of the common and ordinary things of life. On the Sabbath, we should strive to avoid those mundane things that promote making the Sabbath into an ordinary day. The Sabbath is a day for special things, different things.

The example of Moses and the burning bush illustrates what makes the day holy. It is not merely because of a proclamation by God. The burning bush provides a biblical example of how something becomes holy:

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." (Exodus 3:4-5)

This is what makes the Sabbath holy. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground in a different way—with a respect and deference that one would not give to something common. Until God put Himself in that area, the ground where Moses saw the burning bush was no different from all the other ground in the area. But as soon as God put His presence there, it became sacred—holy.

It became holy by means of a spiritual action. Holiness is not something that is physically discerned. (It is interesting to note in this context (in Exodus 3:1-5) that Moses was not aware that the ground was holy until God told him!) So the Sabbath is a spiritual thing. Its holiness must be revealed to a person (I Corinthians 2).

How do things become holy? Like time and areas of ground, they become holy because God puts His presence in them. For the sake of His people and His spiritual creation, God's presence is in the Sabbath. We do not know how He does it. Somehow, He puts His presence into the weekly Sabbath and into His holy days, making them different to those to whom He has revealed that those days consist of holy time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a law for community relationships. Did He say, "All of My commandments you must keep—except for one"?

The Sabbath is not a minor ceremonial regulation that rarely affects man's relationship with God. It is one of the major Ten Commandments, the laws that spell out God's character, defining love and sin for us. This is why James explained that the law is a package (James 2:10); if you break one law, you break them all. Once the package is broken up, it loses its effectiveness.

The fourth commandment is especially important in keeping the other nine. In Ezekiel 20, God specifies two specific commandments that Israel broke: the ones concerning idolatry and Sabbath-keeping. They are linked: If one does not keep the Sabbath, he will commit idolatry.

In one sense, these are the two key commandments around which all the others revolve. If we break the first one, we will certainly break the rest. If our god is not God, then we are off the track already. In the same way, if we break the Sabbath day, then the others will be broken. Without the Sabbath, contact with God is lost.

God has called a meeting of His Kingdom and Family to occur on that day. If we fail to attend, we are obviously absent and unable to benefit from it. God's commanding something that we do not really have to keep would not be beneficial. It would be double-dealing, like handing someone a biscuit with one hand and taking it back with the other.

People observe the practices of their religion because they matter to them. Yet, we have been told that one can be a Christian without keeping this beneficial day. Some people claim that it does not matter. If, then, we can meet the requirements of being a Christian without keeping the Sabbath, a law that does not fit the flow of this world's social, business, and religious activities, then why keep it? That would not make sense.

What has happened? They have bought into the Protestant notion that God is only trying to save people, and that His law only defines sin. Such a belief has ramifications: The law will be seen in a totally negative light, rather than God's intended positive purpose. Law not only defines sin, but also provides a guide that will produce character in us identical to the Creator's, if we live by the power of His Spirit.

Our small part in this entire wonderful purpose is not merely to say, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior," but it is to use our God-given free moral agency to choose the right in order to do our small part in producing godly attitude and character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

No other day is hallowed as the Sabbath is: It is set aside as holy to God. It belongs to Him. It is time for Him. Thus, the basic rule that the commandment lays down is that God requires that each person set aside this day for the worship and service of Him. Nothing in it even begins to suggest that this commandment is merely ceremonial in nature. Protestants say Christians do not have to keep the Sabbath because it is just a ceremony, but they cannot find that idea in Scripture - certainly not in the commandment itself.

Like the other commandments, the fourth commandment deals with relationships. One set of relationships - the business and work-a-day-world ones - is broken off or stopped on Friday at sunset, and another set of relationships - the spiritual ones - begin to be emphasized. In addition, the commandment looks back on creation, identifying that we are to keep the seventh day because God, the Creator, set it apart at creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Exodus 20:8-11

The fourth commandment provides the means by which His Family members can guard and maintain things pertaining to His purpose, keeping them aligned with His creative purpose. The Sabbath provides a more formal environment for coming to know more clearly the truth regarding God's plan, His purpose, His character and personality, and the right and true goals toward which we are to expend time and energy. His Word shows that when Israel failed to keep the Sabbath, they lost track of the wholesome qualities of His purpose. Sabbath-breaking and idolatry go hand in hand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Exodus 20:9

The majority of people, even many retired folks, have at least some kind of work to do on a daily basis. All of our work should be done in the six days beginning at the Saturday sunset and ending at the Friday sunset that begins the following Sabbath Day. As well as giving further instructions regarding how we should properly observe God's Sabbath Day, this verse also indicates the work ethic that God's people should possess.

Staff


 

Exodus 20:11

We honor men and women who have made significant contributions to mankind by setting apart a day as a memorial to them so others will remember their deeds and strive to emulate them. Hence, men celebrate the birthdays of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Sabbath memorializes God. Compared to any man, God's contributions are beyond compare, but one stands out above all: He is Creator.

What an awesome contribution to consider! Everything in this fantastic floating greenhouse we call Earth is a tribute to His genius, power, and love. Mankind has yet to develop his first flea! Men can impart life only within the narrow parameters God has created. Yet if a man did develop even one flea, how much publicity would he seek? What would he demand as remuneration?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Exodus 20:11

This verse tells us why the Sabbath should be kept holy and as a day of rest. Note the opening word "for" and the later word "therefore." Is it to be kept holy and as a day of rest because these people were Israelites? No, it is to be kept holy and as a day of rest because God made it so (for man) at creation... before Israel existed as a nation (see Genesis 2:1-3)!

Some say that it is possible that only the very first seventh day was blessed and hallowed by God. This very verse disproves that idea! This verse says that man is commanded to keep each seventh day holy because God rested on the (first) seventh day, and He blessed and sanctified that and all succeeding seventh days.

It was still considered holy by the time the prophets Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel came on the scene (see Nehemiah 9:14; 13:22; Isaiah 58:13; Jeremiah 17:22-27; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:24).

Staff


 

Exodus 31:12-17

Notice which day is "the Lord's Day." God calls the Sabbaths "My Sabbaths." The Sabbaths, weekly and annual, are His; they do not belong to us, nor are they "Jewish Sabbaths" or "Gentile Sabbaths." The Sabbath is a space of time. That time, whenever it arrives, is not ours but God's. If we appropriate it for our own use, whether for work or pleasure, we are stealing that time from God! In Exodus 20:8, He commands us to "keep it holy." God made it holy time, and commands us to keep it holy rather than profane it.

"Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:13). Here, then, is the purpose of the Sabbath: ". . . it is a sign." A sign is a badge, symbol, mark, or token of identity. Webster's Dictionary defines a sign as "a display used to identify or advertise a place of business or a product. Something indicating the presence or existence of something else."

The word Moses wrote in Hebrew is 'owth, which means "a sign, signal, distinguishing mark, banner, remembrance, warning; a token, ensign, standard, miracle, proof" (Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon). A banner or flag identifies a nation or group. A signal like a beacon announces the existence of something, like a rocky shore, that others need to be warned about. A token is a visible sign that serves to make something known, such as a white flag is a token of surrender.

God commands His people to keep His Sabbaths as a sign. It is a sign between God's people and God: "It is a sign between Me and you." It is a badge or token of identity, advertising, announcing, or proclaiming certain identifying knowledge: ". . . that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you."

The Sabbath is the sign that identifies to people who their God is. It is the sign by which we may know that He is the Lord. It identifies God, and by so doing, it identifies who His people are as well.

Staff


 

Exodus 31:12-17

A sign identifies a business, a street, a product, etc., and so does the Sabbath! It identifies God's people. Notice also that this covenant, made after the ratification of the Old Covenant, bound the Sabbath as a "perpetual covenant" upon God's people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Sabbath


 

Exodus 31:12-17

Several points stand out in this passage:

1) The Sabbath is a sign of who the true God is. The true God is the Creator.
2) The Sabbath is a sign of God's people.
3) The Sabbath(s) belongs to God (verse 13). He designed the time as holy, not Moses or any other man.
4) The Sabbath sanctifies. It sets apart the man who keeps it by showing him to be distinct from the rest of the culture.
5) Sabbath-breaking incurs the death penalty.
6) The Sabbath is a perpetual covenant. The Old Covenant was not a perpetual covenant; it has been replaced by the New.
7) The Sabbath covenant is separate and distinct from the Old Covenant given at Mt. Sinai. Not only did the events in this passage take place 40 days after the proposal and acceptance of the Old Covenant, but God re-revealed the Sabbath to the children of Israel (because they were in Egypt for so long they had forgotten it) right after they left Egypt and days before they arrived at Mt. Sinai. The lesson of the manna, which demonstrated the difference in the days of the week (Exodus 16), happened before the rest of the law was given via the Old Covenant. Even though the Old Covenant - that specific agreement - has passed away, that does not mean that the eternal code of conduct on which the agreement was based has passed away. Notice that idolatry and adultery are both still sin (and nobody considers those laws to be "Jewish").
8) This was spoken to the people that God was working with at the time - Israel. Part of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry was to "fulfill" the law, and not to destroy it (Matthew 5:17-18)! The rest of Matthew 5 shows Him magnifying various points of law to reveal the true intent behind them. Jesus Christ says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for mankind, not just for physical Israel! Galatians 6:16 shows that the designation of "Israel" under the New Covenant is now a designation of the church. And the Bible shows the New Testament church, Christ included, observing the Sabbath and not the first day of the week.

David C. Grabbe


 

Exodus 31:13

The Sabbath was made so that we would know God and that He would know us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 31:13-17

Consider where this covenant appears. It is in the book of Exodus, but after chapter 20, where God gives the commandments. From this we see that God proposes a special covenant, which He places in the midst of all of the instructions for building the Tabernacle. It means that, even though these people were employed to construct such an important edifice for the worship of God, they were not to desecrate the Sabbath by working on it. Even the construction of the Tabernacle had to take second place to the keeping of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a sign. It is not a mark. Bible usage shows that a sign is voluntarily accepted, whereas a mark is put on against a person's will. The Sabbath is a special sign. It is a special covenant between God and His people. Who are His people?

A sign can identify an occupation. One might read, "Joe Smith, Dentist"or plumber or electrician. A sign can also give purpose for a thing; it tells us why something is being used or done in the way that it is. A sign can give directions: "This way to River City."

A sign can also bring people together with shared interests and common purposes. Some fraternal organizations have special signs that they pass to one another to identify what lodge, or organization, it is that they belong to. A sign can unify; it can bring people together. A sign can be a pledge of mutual fidelity and commitment. Signs are used by organizations to designate membership. People wear a little badge on their lapel that says that they belong to such-and-such organization, and by it members recognize one another.

This is part of the way that the Sabbath is also used. The Sabbath serves as an external and visible bond that unites and sanctifies us [sets us apart] from everyone else. Here in the United States and Canada, almost everybody else who is religious keeps Sunday or nothing. If a person keeps the Sabbath, he is being cut away from, separated from, sanctified by the very fact that he is keeping it. Though these people do not realize it yet, it becomes a sign to them that he is in the process of being sanctified. We ought to be very much aware of this sign because we are keeping it.

Everybody who has ever kept both Sunday and Saturday knows this: Sunday sets almost no one apart because everybody who is "religious" is already doing it. Big deal! What is so different about that? They are only sanctified from the people who keep no day at all. For those who are "religious," it does not sanctify them because the Baptists are keeping the day, and the Catholics are keeping the day, as well as the Mormons, the Pentecostals, the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Congregationalists. All those people are keeping Sunday, and it is not separating, or sanctifying, anybody.

But once a person begins to keep the Sabbath, it immediately begins to sanctify him, to separate him from everyone else. God has a purpose that He is working out. He has made a tremendous investment in the Creation and in the death of His Son. The Sabbath is a means by which He protects His investment.

If the only reason He created the Sabbath was because we need rest, then any old time would do. Ultimately, how and why one keeps the Sabbath are the real sign. Other religious groups "keep" the Sabbath, but are they keeping it as God desires? It is how and why we keep it that makes us different—they do the sanctifying. "Sanctify them through Your truth," Jesus says in John 17:17. God's Word is truth. If people accept it and use it, they will be using the Sabbath for different purposes than others are.

God created the Sabbath to educate His people in His way. It prepares them for their witness. Suppose that a basketball coach says to his players, "Come to the gym and meet with me at such-and-such a time." But some of the players decide that they will go to a different gym, at a different time, and with a different coach. Players on a team begin to take on the qualities and the philosophy of their coach. Anybody who is familiar with athletics understands this. Those who are intimately involved in athletics say that they can always tell whether a certain player has been coached by a certain coach, say John Wooden or John Thompson. What has happened is the player has taken on the sign of the coach, and it has sanctified him from other players who are not coached by that particular coach.

The same principle is at work with God and us. He is our Coach. He has made an appointment with us to meet at a certain place, at a certain time. And if we choose not to go to where He is going to be, then we are not going to begin to take on the image of our Coach. The Sabbath was created because it both enhances and protects our relationship with God. And it provides the witness—to God, to the individual, and to the world—of who is keeping it. This is how it becomes the sign. It provides a witness.

The Sabbath exists to keep us in a proper frame of mind and to provide us with the right material to negotiate the way to God's Kingdom. We live in a grubby, grasping material world. Every day has a built-in bias towards material things, and it is very difficult to keep our minds focused on things that are spiritual. But the Sabbath, if a person is keeping it as God desires, will almost put a person into a spiritual mode, point him toward God, and force him to acknowledge Him as Creator.

The Sabbath presents us with the opportunity to consider the whys of life, to get our head on straight with the right orientation so that we can properly use the other six days. The Sabbath is the kernel, the nucleus, from which the proper worship—our response to God—grows.

Existentialist philosophers tell us that life is absurd, that all of life is nothing but a prelude to death. But keeping the Sabbath is a celebration of life! It tells us that God's creative process is continuing, that He is creating us in His spiritual image so that we might live with Him forever. For the great God, the Sabbath is a day of creation. The Sabbath ensures us that life is not absurd, but rather, it is a prelude to life on an infinitely higher and greater level. The more we become like Him, the more sanctified we are from the world. It is in experiencing the refreshing elevation of the mind that we get a tiny foretaste of what is to come.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 31:13

The Hebrew word translated sign means "mark" or "evidence." The Sabbath day is the mark God gave His people to identify them as His own. By it, the folk of Israel would know the Source of their sanctification.

To sanctify is "to set apart for holy service," or more basically, "to make holy." God's purpose for Israel from the start was to set it apart from other peoples by giving it His laws and His statutes. God has a special relationship with Israel. Speaking through the prophet Amos to "the whole family [i.e., all the tribes] which I brought up from the land of Egypt" (Amos 3:1), God reminds the people that, "you only have I known of all the families of the earth" (verse 2). God revealed His law only to Israel. When He did so, He made it clear that Israel would "be a special treasure to Me above all people, . . . a holy [sanctified, set apart] nation" (Exodus 19:5-6), if the people "obey My voice and keep My covenant" (verse 5). The theme is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6: "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, . . . [who] has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." (See also Deuteronomy 14:2.)

God prefaces the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus 18 and 19 by commanding Israel to be separate from other nations. This meant acting in a way different from that of the Gentiles, not walking "in their ordinances." Leviticus 18:3-4:

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances. . . .

In Leviticus 19:2, He makes His purpose clear: "You shall be holy [set apart], for I the LORD your God am holy." God's purpose, the intent behind all His laws, is to create a people like Himself (Genesis 1:26), a people sharing and reflecting His most salient attribute: holiness.

Sanctification is also the purpose behind God's often-denigrated physical laws. Consider, for example, the reason why God imposed the dietary law, as stated in Leviticus 11. God does not cite the maintenance of health as a reason to obey the dietary laws; the Scriptures do not specify that obedience of these laws will cause good health or prevent disease (though this is a secondary, albeit unmentioned, benefit). Rather, God concludes His dietary laws with a statement of His holiness and a command for His people to be like Him. Leviticus 11:44-45:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Obedience to God's law plays a crucial role in bringing about this sanctification. It is not that a people become sanctified (somehow, by God's grace) and, as a result, start obeying God's law. God's Word does not support the Protestant concept that sanctification imputed by God's grace mysteriously empowers one to obey His commandments. They have it backwards.

Rather, obedience to the law causes sanctification. Law-keeping and sanctification become intrinsically connected: To obey God's law is to be sanctified. By its nature, law-keeping brings about sanctification.

In a national context, God states that obeying His laws creates a people unlike others on the earth, a people set apart from others, a holy nation. National sanctification produces what Balaam saw in Israel: "A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations" (Numbers 23:9).

If commandment-keeping separates people from the nations while connecting them to God, disobedience of God's law has exactly the opposite effect. Commandment-breaking separates a people from God, and connects them to the ways of the nations. Individuals who disobey God's law become like the "world," the kosmos of the New Testament (I John 2:15).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Exodus 31:13-17

God has designated the Sabbath to be "the sign" between Him and His people. It is evidence that He, the Creator, is our God, and that those who keep it are His children. As a whole, the Bible shows that it is not just that it is observed, but also the manner in which it is observed that makes it the sign.

Except by creation, the Jews are not His children, but they keep the Sabbath. The same applies to Seventh-Day Adventists. The way it is observed makes a huge difference. Only then is it the sign. If this were not so, God would not have shown as much concern about how it is observed—even to the extent of saying that breaking it was a major reason why Israel went into captivity and was divorced by God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Exodus 31:15

The Sabbath is "holy to the LORD." This is not something that men dreamed up. God does not say it is holy to certain denominations or certain people. It is holy to the Lord—set apart or sanctified to Him. He Himself sanctified it, as it says right in the commandment.

God, right in this covenant, sets how long it is to be observed or adhered to: as long as there are generations of Israelites. Are the generations of Israelites continuing? Yes, indeed. The generations continue, and therefore this covenant continues.

He also says that the Sabbath and its roots go back to Creation. He takes the Sabbath back to Genesis 2, not Exodus 16. This is significant. God places the beginning of the Sabbath at Creation to confirm that a physical or spiritual Israelite's relationship is with the Creator. The events of Exodus 16 were only a reminder of what already existed from the seventh day of Creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Exodus 31:17

Though He had just created the world and everything in it, God had no need for rest. Isaiah writes, "The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 40:28). But this verse shows us how God rested on the first Sabbath: "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested and was refreshed." God's Sabbath rest was a real rest—though He was not tired—because He was refreshed, at ease, and satisfied with His work.

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws


 

Leviticus 19:2-3

Notice how powerfully God backs up the fifth commandment with the civil laws contained in Leviticus 19. In this context God names the fifth and fourth commandments in the same breath while implying the first.

The first thing required in this context is reverence (not honor) toward parents and Sabbath observance. These two are major pillars of good government and social well-being. Reverence is a profound, adoring, and awed respect—more than mere honor. It actually indicates "to tremble before," arising from our awareness of our weaknesses in the presence of the one we revere.

The Sabbath commandment influences social well-being in two ways. It first commands us to work six days. It takes work to make a community safe, clean, orderly, strong, peaceful, and prosperous. The other part of the commandment implies spiritual, moral, and ethical instruction, fellowshipping with others of like spiritual and moral mindset, and service to the community. That part of the commandment adds edifying qualities available nowhere else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Leviticus 23:3

These scriptures give a few examples of things God prohibits on His Sabbath: working, cooking, carrying burdens. God does not make a comprehensive list of "dos and don'ts" for us to follow. Instead, He gives us principles of what is proper and improper Sabbath behavior, and we then must use God's Spirit to decide our actions.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Sabbath


 

Leviticus 23:10-16

Following the basic instructions about Pentecost's location on the calendar in Leviticus 23:10-16, we find that when Israel came into Canaan, they were to count beginning with the day following a Sabbath. Without further instruction, there could be a whole year's worth of Sabbaths to choose from! However, within Leviticus 23, the annual Sabbaths are arranged chronologically beginning with Nisan (also called Abib). This, combined with information obtained from other portions of the Bible, has led all concerned to conclude that the Sabbath in question is early in the year, located near the beginning of a spring harvest, and is one of three within the Days of Unleavened Bread. The church of God and the various sects of the Jews are in agreement on this.

The count is to continue fifty days with the fiftieth day being the Day of Pentecost. As a Greek word, the name Pentecost does not appear in the Old Testament, only in the New, and it means "fiftieth." In the Old Testament, Pentecost is called "the Feast of Weeks" or "the Feast of Firstfruits."

Carefully note that God points only to a Sabbath—it must first be found—in order to begin the count. This fits nicely within God's directive in Exodus 31:13 that the Sabbath is a sign between Him and His people. Day One of the count does not begin with a Sabbath, but with the day following it. However, without first isolating which Sabbath, one cannot know which "morrow"—which day after. If one does not use the correct Sabbath, it may set Pentecost's observance as much as seven days off God's intended target.

The Sabbath in question here can be neither the First nor the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, though both are annual Sabbaths. Why? Because using either of those holy days, both of which fall on fixed dates, effectively eliminates a person's need to count! This is because, when one begins counting fifty days from a fixed date, one will always end on a fixed date.

If we begin to count with the day following Nisan 15 (the First Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always end on Sivan 6. If we commence our count on the day following Nisan 21 (the Last Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always finish on Sivan 12. If God wanted us to observe Pentecost on a fixed date, He would have told us so, even as He did with all the other festival dates in Leviticus 23.

One man suggested that counting from a fixed date is still counting. Yes, that is true. But if one does that, the count only has to be done once in all of history, and Pentecost's location is found forever. The man's suggestion is similar to interpreting that the command to eat unleavened bread during the Days of Unleavened Bread no longer applies because the Israelites did it when they first came out of Egypt! Even as unleavened bread must be eaten each year, the clear implication from Leviticus 23 is that God wants us to count to Pentecost afresh each year.

God wants us to count to Pentecost year-by-year beginning with the day following a Sabbath whose date changes from year to year. This can only be the weekly Sabbath that falls on or between the two holy days during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The starting point has been located. Even though the count does not actually begin with the Sabbath, the Sabbath's location is of primary importance, not the day after. The day after would never be located without first locating the correct Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Leviticus 23:24-25

God does not command us to do things just to show off His power. His commands are always filled with true logic and common sense; when He commands us to do something, it is always for a very good reason. He tells us to keep His Feast of Trumpets because He wants us to take a break from the mundane tasks of our daily lives. Like God's other holy days, the Feast of Trumpets is like a 24-hour stop sign. God wants us to stop!

On the Feast of Trumpets, God wants us to stop, to put aside our relatively unimportant daily affairs, and to concentrate for a mere 24 hours on what is really important, not on the physical things that are not lasting or eternal (II Corinthians 4:18). Even the rocks and mountains of this earth eventually will wear away to sand and dust (Psalm 102:25-27; see Hebrews 1:10-12). On this feast, God wants us to stop in order to concentrate on the truly eternal things: the return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the end of the age of man, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. That is why we keep the Feast of Trumpets!

There are a few specific instructions here on how God wants us to observe His Feast of Trumpets:

1. It should be kept as a day of rest, similar to a weekly Sabbath.

2. It is a memorial of blowing of trumpets. Most church of God congregations do not own trumpets or rams' horn shofars, or have accomplished trumpeters. However, we often play some appropriate, recorded trumpet music as the holy day offering is being taken up. Such music gives us a good, aural reminder of the unique significance of this day.

3. A "holy convocation" should be held. A convocation is an assembly of people, and a holy convocation is a sacred assembly of people or a church service. Although many of God's scattered people find it necessary to keep the Sabbath alone or in tiny groups, it is good and worthwhile, if at all possible, to make the extra effort to keep the holy days with a larger group.

4. No "customary work" should be done. Customary work (or "servile work" as phrased in the King James Version) is work that we would normally do on a regular day, usually for pay. To the delight of our young people, this is properly extended to prohibit household chores, school work, and school homework. God does, however, allow a small amount of work to be done for the final preparation of food for the Feast, although as much of this labor as possible should be done on the previous day, termed in the Bible "the day of preparation" (see Exodus 12:16; 16:23; Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14, 42).

5. Christians are not required to sacrifice animals by fire for their holy day offerings. Rather, they are to give monetary offerings—over and above their regular tithes—that may be used for the needs of the church and for the ongoing work of preaching God's Word.

Staff
What Is the Feast of Trumpets, Anyway?


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

This occurrence of the fourth commandment reveals another way that the Sabbath sanctifies. The emphasis here is that it be kept so that we will remain free: "Remember on this day that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. The Sabbath draws one to a remembrance of the past, of our spiritual slavery in Egypt, and where we are headed: toward the Promised Land.

The Sabbath looks back and forward, but with a somewhat different perspective than in Exodus 20. Before it was tied merely to the Creation, yet God still has a creative process going on. Now we find that His creative process is designed to produce freedom and to continue providing liberty from sin, Satan, and this world that God accomplished through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ.

This is done through the messages, the sermons, given in Sabbath services. Almost all messages involve sin and our enslavement to it to some degree. On the other hand, the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 2:12), and by keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan and this world. It is on the Sabbath that God instructs His people, through His Word, about how to keep the commandments and remain free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

The Sabbath is clearly stated, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, to have two major purposes. The Sabbath is to remind us that God is Creator; we look back on Him creating. But it is also designed to show us that the Sabbath is the day that He has given to keep us free; it reminds us that we were once slaves.

Remembering God as Creator is good, but because it happened in the dim past, it does not always help us in our immediate concerns. But every Sabbath we are also reminded that God is our redeeming Liberator, and that we keep the Sabbath because we are free—and because we want to remain free. Those who are redeemed who do not keep the Sabbath do not retain their liberty.

Nations establish memorials for specific reasons. Here in the United States we have a Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Armistice Day, and so on. Why do we have these days? Our nation's leaders want us to be periodically reminded of our heritage. They want us to remember why we have what we have, why we should hold on to these things, and why we should strengthen what we have.

God's Sabbath—His memorial—is so important to His purpose that He has it recur every week! Not once a year, but every week! It is a constant reminder of our spiritual heritage from Him and of our release from sin, and it reorients us in any area in which we may have turned aside.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Notice how we are commanded to sanctify the day. The emphasis here is on being free. God says, "Remember [on this day] that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. When the Israelites were slaves, they had no freedom to make choices. Therefore, if we keep this day properly, we can remain free. If properly used, the Sabbath compels us to remember the past as well as to look forward to where our lives are headed.

We do this through Bible study and hearing sound, inspired messages combined with meditation and conversation in fellowship. In church services we hear a great deal about the Kingdom of God and the world today. Most messages involve sin in some way. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), but the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 1:25). By keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan, this world, and death. On the Sabbath, God instructs His people through His Word on how to keep His commandments and thus remain free. Exodus 16:4, 25-30 explains further:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not." . . . Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 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." So the people rested on the seventh day.

The first commandment that God specifically revealed after He freed Israel from slavery was the one intended to keep them free, the Sabbath. God gave them this witness of a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the seventh for forty years! Contrary to those who assert the Sabbath has been done away or replaced, the Sabbath is a wonderful gift of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 5:15

This rendering of the commandment adds that we are to remember our bondage in Egypt, shifting the spiritual emphasis from recalling creation to recalling redemption. The Sabbath commandment does not entirely lose its connection with creation but is added to. Now it looks back, not only on the fact that our God is the Creator, but also that the Sabbath deals with God as our Redeemer. God is Creator and Savior.

Thus, the commandment suggests liberty—our release from slavery, as well as preserving freedom and its relationship with the Redeemer. This helps us to understand specifically why no other day will do. It is not only the sign that God is the Creator, but it is also the sign that He is our Savior. The Sabbath is the day He appointed as the day to memorialize that He set us free and continuously maintains our liberty. As long as we are keeping it, the relationship with Him will be preserved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Joshua 5:10-12

Some assume the events of Joshua 5:10-12 can only mean—by the eating of unleavened cakes and parched corn—"that Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath and wavesheaf day was the first day of Unleavened Bread." However, nothing in the context directly states those assumptions, nor does it indicate anywhere that a wavesheaf offering or its accompanying burnt offering occurred either.

We may know the dates on which these events occurred, but they in no way reveal on which days of the week they fell. If Israel made a wavesheaf offering, when did they do it? It seems especially critical at this point, since it would have been the first time in the land. But Joshua says absolutely nothing about it.

We know that Passover observance begins at twilight when the lamb is slain, but the bulk of it is observed at night. We also know that twenty-four hours after Passover begins the Night to be Much Observed begins. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins with this observance at night. On the 15th, beginning with the keeping of the Night to be Much Observed, the people would be eating unleavened bread just as we do today because it is such a significant event in the history of God's people.

Where did the grain for making the unleavened bread and parched corn come from? It came from the grain of the land, exactly as the Scripture implies (Joshua 1:11). They could have used the old corn confiscated from the Canaanites' storage places or even harvested a sufficient amount from fields of grain left behind by Canaanites as they fled the Israelites. They had sufficient time to make such preparations. Joshua 5:11 says the Israelites ate unleavened bread and parched grain on the day after Passover. Day does not necessarily have to mean "daylight," but simply any portion of the next 24-hour day. The observance of the Night to be Much Observed is a very significant part of the day after Passover.

The Israelites rested on the holy day. They could eat manna as well as unleavened preparations. On the 16th, the next day, when they would normally have expected manna to appear, it did not. From this point, they were completely dependent upon the crops harvested from the land.

Why did Israel not make a wavesheaf offering? Because they could not lawfully do so for many reasons:

1. Because the 15th is a Sabbath, and Leviticus 23:11 clearly commands the wavesheaf offering to be made on the day following the Sabbath, not on the Sabbath.

2. Because, if the particular Sabbath that preceded the 15th was also Passover (as per the WCG scenario), it would not qualify to determine wavesheaf day since it is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Because they had absolutely no grain that qualified as an acceptable offering. The wavesheaf offering law states specifically that it had to be from seed that they had sown. Israel reaped what Canaanites had sown. Conquest did not change this fact. They could eat it but not offer it.

4. Because Deuteronomy 12 specifically forbids making the required animal sacrifice that accompanied the wavesheaf offering until the Tabernacle was established where God had placed His name. This did not occur until seven years had passed (compare Joshua 14:6-13 and Joshua 18:1).

5. Because Leviticus 22 strictly forbids an offering from the stranger's hand. It had to come from someone who had covenanted with God. A stranger is someone "unknown" to God, an outsider, or someone not in the family.

Israel never made a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Joshua 5:10-11

Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to support using the First Day of Unleavened Bread to begin the count to Pentecost because:

1. No authority is given in Scripture to change the method of counting to Pentecost when Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath.

2. Counting to Pentecost always begins the day after the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the weekly Sabbath, God's sign, not Wavesheaf Day that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Exodus 23 explicitly requires the grain offering to be planted by the offerer, thus they had none to offer immediately after entering the land.

4. Leviticus 22 forbids making an offering of heathen substance, thus they had no acceptable grain offering.

5. Deuteronomy 12 forbids offerings until the Tabernacle, altar, laver, and all the Tabernacle's furniture were in place.

6. Deuteronomy 12 requires the Israelites to be settled in their inheritances and no longer involved in warfare before any sacrifices could be lawfully made.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

1 Kings 12:25-33

I Kings 12:25-33 records the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel's apostasy. Fearing that he might eventually lose political control over the ten tribes because of their long-standing religious ties to Jerusalem, capital of the Kingdom of Judah (verse 27), Jeroboam I instituted a state religion designed to meet his peoples' needs for convenience - and his own need for power. He built two shrines, one in Bethel, at the southern extremity of his kingdom, the other in Dan, near its northern boundary (verse 29). If not de jure, at least de facto, he exiled the Levites, the priestly tribe established by God, and installed in their place a priesthood of his own devising (verse 31). Finally, he moved the fall holy day season from the seventh month to the eighth, thereby effectively setting aside the Sabbath commandment, since the holy days are God's Sabbaths (see Leviticus 23:1-3, 23-44). All this "became a sin" for Israel (I Kings 12:30).

Jeroboam's apostasy, his movement to false religious practices, took deep root. In fact, the house of Israel never departed from the practices he established. II Kings 17:21-23 records this fact:

Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight. . . .

Having abandoned the Sabbath, the God-given sign marking them as His people (Exodus 31:13-17), the folk of the northern tribes eventually lost their identification. That is why most Israelites do not know who they are to this day. The forefathers forsook the sign that denoted their connection to God.

Take this line of thought to its logical conclusion: The Sabbath is a memorial to creation and, by extension, to the Creator God (see Exodus 20:11). Modern-day Israelites do not know who they are today because their forefathers, generations ago, abandoned this memorial to the Creator God. Therefore, modern-day Israelites have come to abandon more than the sign: They have abandoned the God to whom the sign points. They no longer know God.

This is not an overstatement. Make no mistake: Failure to recognize who Israel is today is failure to recognize the God who made Israel! The distressing secularism running rampant in the modern nations of Israel today has its roots in Sabbath-breaking. The antidote for secularism in America is not an inane Constitutional amendment requiring the teaching of creationism in the state schools. The panacea some offer, prayer in the public schools, will not do the trick. Increased Sunday church attendance will not stanch the flood of secularism; after all, most Sunday worshippers accept the doctrines of biologic and economic determinism (i.e., evolution and socialism, respectively) just as avowed atheists do. Attempting to unite a people with its God through these measures is surely akin to building a wall with "untempered mortar" (see Ezekiel 13:9-23). In the coming storm, such a wall will fall.

However, one will never find a Sabbath-keeper who is a secularist, for the Sabbath-keeper has maintained his link with the Creator God. Sabbath-keeping and secularism mix about as well as oil and water.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

1 Kings 12:26-33

The religion of Israel began with a man, Jeroboam I, who changed the true worship of God.

• He established a feast in the eighth month to replace the true Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh.
• He may have replaced the Sabbath with Sunday worship.
• He replaced the Levitical priesthood with men of his own choosing.
• Lastly, he replaced God with golden calves in Bethel and Dan.

A religion with such a beginning was doomed to fail, bringing the nation down with it.

When religion is ungodly, its power is destructive, and every institution in the nation suffers. For instance, Amos 2:7 describes a deliberate act of ritual prostitution in a pagan temple: "A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name." What was the rationale behind this perverse, immoral act?

Because Baal was neither alive nor a moral force, his worshippers felt they could communicate with him only by ritual actions that portrayed what they were asking him to do. Since Baal was, like almost all ancient deities, a fertility god, the human act of intercourse demonstrated that they wanted Baal to prosper them. But what was its real effect on the participants and the nation? Ritual prostitution only served to erode the family, eventually leading to the destruction of the nation.

Baal was different from his adherents merely in that he was above them. God's difference from us is that He is holy; He is moral and we are immoral. After we accept His calling, He commands us to become moral as He is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Psalm 95:7

"Today" has two applications in this context. 1) In its broadest application, it means the day of salvation in which we are living, the day in which we are called and converted. It is the day in which we have the opportunity to go on to the perfection that God wants us to achieve. 2) In its narrow application, it is the Sabbath. "Today, if you will hear His voice." That is the day when we hear it primarily—on the Sabbath. We appear before the ministry, God inspires and speaks through the ministry, and we hear the lessons that He has for us that day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Psalm 119:32-33

It is interesting to note that the holy days are statutes. The Sabbath is a commandment. Somehow, it does not seem that they can be left out of the mix of God's way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Proverbs 14:12

Not all presumption is careless drifting. Unfortunately, strong evidence exists to show that much of modern liberalism in religion was deliberately planned and executed. A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology by William Hordern, p. 74, refers to this:

The method of liberalism includes the attempt to modernize Christianity. The world, liberals argue, has changed radically since the early creeds of Christendom were formulated; this makes the creeds sound archaic and unreal to modern man. We have to rethink Christianity in thought forms which the modern world can comprehend. Fosdick argued that we must express the essence of Christianity, its "abiding experiences," but that we must not identify these with the "changing categories" in which they have been expressed in the past. For example, says Fosdick, an abiding experience of Christianity has been its conviction that God will triumph over evil. This has been traditionally pictured in the category of Christ's second coming on the clouds to destroy evil and set up good. We can no longer retain the outworn category, but we can still believe the truth which this ancient thought form was trying to express. We can continue to work in the faith that, through His devoted followers, God is now building His Kingdom and that there will be a renewing of life, individual and social, to bring it into conformity with the will of God. The essence of the faith is thus retained, argues Fosdick, which the thought form in which it was once clothed has been abandoned.

A second aspect of the method of liberalism is its refusal to accept religious belief on authority alone. Instead, it insists that all beliefs must pass the bar of reason and experience. Man's mind is capable of thinking God's thoughts after Him. Man's intuitions and reason are the best clues that we have to the nature of God. The mind must be kept open to all truth regardless of from whence it comes. This means that the liberal must have an open mind; no questions are closed. New facts may change the convictions that have become hallowed by custom and time. The liberal will venture forth into the unknown, firmly believing that all truth must be God's truth. In this spirit, the liberal accepts the higher criticism of the Bible and the theory of evolution. He refuses to have a religion that is afraid of truth or that tries to protect itself from critical examination. (emphasis added)

Is it any wonder, when those who are supposed to be the primary protectors of religious purity think the way they do, that the laity behaves as they do? Does it really make any difference? Certainly, because the almighty God on high definitely thinks it makes a difference!

Hardly anything more clearly illustrates the self-deceived perverseness of human nature as its presumptuous additions of the observation of Christmas and Easter to the worship of the God of the Bible. That Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea is indisputable, but among other things, He was not born on December 25, nor did anybody exchange gifts on that date. Scripture nowhere says there were three wise men, and it is clear they gave gifts only to Christ as King.

Regarding Easter, Jesus was not resurrected on a Sunday morning, nor was He crucified on a Friday afternoon. It is impossible to squeeze three days and three nights, which Jesus Himself said would be the length of time He would spend in the tomb (Matthew 12:40), between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Even so, fantastically detailed and emotionally appealing traditions have presumptuously been built around both these events and have been taught to a deceived public as though they were true.

Beyond what has been already mentioned regarding these days, where in God's Word does He command that we believe and do these commonly accepted practices? Men have presumptuously taken them upon themselves.

The addition of Christmas and Easter to Christianity happened so long ago that they have come to be accepted as part of the Christian religion, and most people celebrate them without thought. Nevertheless, adding to so-called Christian beliefs has not ended—in fact, it is still happening.

The late Pope John Paul II was an ardent ecumenist. He circled the globe many times in his travels and embraced in conference many non-Catholics in his effort to bring all into one fold. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, has pledged to continue that effort. Recently, their representatives achieved a decisive victory in forging a much closer alliance with the Anglican Church. However, Anglican leaders could take this step only by abandoning the firm foundation of a former doctrine and thus joining Catholics in accepting a presumptuous addition that the latter already believe.

A headline in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 17, 2005, reads, "Catholics, Anglicans reach accord on Mary: Statement closes big gap between churches." The article explains:

The historical separation between Roman Catholics and Anglicans has narrowed after both found common ground on the position of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to a document conceived at the highest church levels. . . . Anglicans, already close to Catholics because of liturgy and traditions, have moved even closer through their understanding of Mary as outlined in the joint statement, which took five years and an international committee to complete.

Bringing back the departed brethren has been a strong focus of the Catholic Church since the Counter-Reformation that followed the Protestant Reformation, which had dealt Catholicism a powerful blow in the sixteenth century. However, it was not until the "New Age Movement" began in earnest during the mid-1970s—with its strong, insistent call for a paradigm shift toward greater tolerance and radical thinking in religious beliefs and values—that the stage was set for ecumenical efforts to succeed.

The following quotation from the same article publicly undressed, as it were, the Anglican Church:

The document seeks to transcend past controversies on Catholic dogma, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. While not spelled out specifically in the Bible, such beliefs can be interpreted through Scripture, according to the 80-paragraph document.

The result might be an elevation, or at least a heightened acknowledgment, of the place of Mary—particularly for Anglicans, the denomination born in England during the Reformation and called the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Anglicanism is considered closest to Catholicism because it gives Mary a pre-eminent place among the saints, includes her in Communion prayers and holds six Marian feast days.

Among other matters, Catholics and Protestants disagree over the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception—the assertion that Mary lived a life free from sin from the moment she was conceived—and the Assumption, the belief that her body and soul were taken into heaven when her earthly life ended.

Those dogmas have "created problems not only for Anglicans but also for other Christians," the document said, largely because they are not explicitly supported by Scripture.

But those dogmas also "can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions," said the document, titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." (emphasis added)

How can either of these two doctrines be biblically derived? They cannot! The Catholic Church has long acknowledged that the role they give Mary cannot be supported by Scripture alone, so now both the Catholic and Anglican churches have admitted through the publication of this document that these teachings are based upon mere human tradition.

In the distant past, someone decided that honoring Mary in this way would be "nice," or perhaps he used the word "appropriate," because she was chosen by God to bear His Son in her womb, and besides, she seems to be such a good woman. However, the Scriptures call for no such elevation in status, and they certainly never claim that she lived a perfect, sinless life! Now the Roman Catholic Church has gone so far as to claim she is co-savior with Christ!

Such presumption seems beyond the bounds of honest, spiritual reasoning, but the Catholic Church has similarly declared Sunday to be the day of worship, replacing God's Sabbath. They have published articles openly admitting that, if one uses the Bible alone, then the Sabbath is the only acceptable day of worship. In those same articles, they have also been honest in stating that they have made this change from Sabbath to Sunday on their own authority. On these issues, their presumption is not hidden!

But this is arrogant and bold hubris on a massive scale, enabled only because Satan has managed to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). The overwhelming majority of people calling themselves Christian are so unconcerned—that is, tolerant and careless—they live thinking that it does not matter to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice


 

Isaiah 40:28

Though He had just created the world and everything in it, God had no need for rest. Isaiah writes, "The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 40:28). But Exodus 31:17 shows us how God rested on the first Sabbath: "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested and was refreshed." God's Sabbath rest was a real rest - though He was not tired - because He was refreshed, at ease, and satisfied with His work.

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws


 

Isaiah 40:28-31

It is vital for us to understand that this is where the Sabbath "rest" comes from! God is the source of strength, power, and refreshment. They all come from our relationship with God within the proper keeping of the Sabbath day. He gives it to us as a gift of His grace.

He restores our energy. He gives us the power to overcome and to grow. He gives us peace of mind so that we are truly rested. He helps us to recover our strength. He enables us to live confident, hope-filled lives. He gives us good health and sound minds. "The Lord gives His beloved sleep." He gives us strength-restoring sleep. All of these things are gifts of grace from time well-spent in fellowship with Him, developing the relationship with Him and communicating with Him in Bible study and prayer.

How we use the Sabbath day tells Him a great deal about how we will do in His Kingdom. I fear that many of us have put the wrong emphasis on it. We tend to look at the Sabbath day as "things that we cannot do" rather than "things we can do" - truly liberating things we cannot devote time to do on the other six days of the week.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Isaiah 42:21

Isaiah 42:21 contains an important principle for understanding Christ's ministry: "The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will magnify the law and make it honorable." Magnify means "to enlarge." We often focus on Jesus magnifying the law in the Sermon on the Mount, where He taught that anger and hate are the spirit of murder, and lust, the spirit of adultery. However, throughout His ministry Jesus deliberately and frequently focused attention on the Sabbath to magnify its intent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Isaiah 42:21

This is a most important scripture for understanding Christ's ministry. A major part of the purpose of His ministry is to magnify the law. The Sermon on the Mount is the focal point of His doing this. In the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that anger and hate are the spirit of murder, magnifying the sixth commandment. We also learn there that lust is the spirit of adultery, magnifying, clarifying, and explaining in sharper detail so that we can understand and see its application.

Jesus deliberately and frequently focused His attention on the Sabbath, but not, however, in the Sermon on the Mount. It is too big a subject to be contained there. We find passage after passage where He magnifies the keeping of the Sabbath and thus teaches the intent of the Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 43:10-12

The church is not a great nation, military power, or cultural institution organized to change this world. We exist solely to grow, overcome, and glorify God primarily through the witness of our lives lived in preparing for God's Kingdom.

The illustration Isaiah uses portrays us on trial and standing before a court of law. The primary witness is one's life. Even so, some of God's children are specifically chosen to witness through their words as well as through their lives. Each believer is a witness before the world of the worth of His Lord, Jesus Christ, and His purpose. Those living by faith make the witness.

How can one witness well unless he knows what to do? How can he know what to do unless he is taught? This is a major purpose of the Sabbath commandment. God established it to provide a means of unified instruction, and it is therefore a major player in the process of conversion and witnessing for Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Isaiah 58:13-14

It is likely that the Sabbath here is either the Feast of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement. The chapter opens up with "Lift up your voice like a trumpet," but then the bulk of the chapter has to do with fasting. The Sabbath arises in verse 13, which indicates that, when Isaiah wrote this, God had a particular Sabbath in mind.

There are only two Sabbaths in which God says, "No work shall be done." The one is the Day of Atonement, and the other is the weekly Sabbath (which occurs fifty-two times a year). In that regard, the weekly Sabbath is more stringent than are the holy days. When holy days and weekly Sabbaths coincide, the holy day takes precedence as being a Sabbath of the first rank. But yet, in regard to the weekly Sabbath, God says, "No work shall be done."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Isaiah 58:13-14

Instruction in the Bible as to how to keep the Sabbath is not given in specific detail but in broad principles that cover a multitude of specifics. If we are being led by God's Spirit, we should be able to determine what is right. Maybe not the first time around, maybe not the tenth time around, but eventually, we will see that we are doing something wrong and make a change. Or, if we find out that we have been doing it right, we will probably intensify our efforts to do it better. If we are being led by it, God's Spirit will gently compel us towards the perfection of the One from whom that Spirit is emanating.

How can one call the Sabbath "a delight"? Like everything else in life, we delight in what we recognize as being valuable and in what we do well. Doing something well is fun. Doing something poorly is a burden, and we wish nobody were around to see us do it so poorly. On the other hand, if we do something well, we want to make sure that everybody watches us. This is not a wrong principle because, if we are doing something right, we will be a fitting witness for God.

God has four broad concerns here. First, "to turn your foot away." This has to do primarily with one's overall approach, with one's attitude toward the day, with respect for Sabbath time. In Exodus 3:5, where God tells Moses to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy, God is saying, "Get your dirty shoes off where I am." The same principle is involved here. We must respect the things of God, and the Sabbath is of God. Thus, we should not trample all over His holy Sabbath day.

The Sabbath must be regarded as holy. It is different; it is not common. We must hold it in deep respect—the same kind of respect contained in "the fear of God," the kind of fear that prohibits us from falling on our knees before a statue because it is idolatry, which we do not want to commit because of our reverence for God. We need to have a similar respect toward the Sabbath. This attitude should dominate during this period of time.

Consider that the Sabbath—appointed by law—unites us as a religious organization committed to God. It is "the test commandment," "the sign" that God gave between Him and His people (Exodus 31:13-17). Conversely, the Passover unites us as an organization "under obligation" to God. There is a difference between the two. First comes recognition of obligation, then commitment to obedience. This is why we have to accept the blood of Jesus Christ first. When we do that, we are put under obligation. Every year when we take the Passover, we recommit ourselves to the New Covenant because we are forcefully being made aware of our obligations to the One who died for us. The Sabbath unites us, however, as an organization committed to God, and we show our sense of obligation by our obedience to the Sabbath command.

"Your ways" is another aspect of this. A way is a path or a course leading from one place to another. It is a direction, a manner or method of doing something. It is a code of life, a lifestyle. The problem with mankind's way is its direction. It is self-centered. In this context, "ways" means the path, direction, or manner of speaking or worshipping God. The way is the means of accomplishing our worship.

Many Scriptures contain the word "way" or "path," for instance: "You will show me the path of life [or, the way of life]; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). He is saying that, because God has showed him the path and he now walks in God's way, and because he is in the presence of God and fellowshipping with Him, fullness of joy is being produced. It is a fruit of walking God's way.

A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beasts go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there. (Isaiah 35:8-9)

There is a certain path, a certain way. In this case, he calls it a highway in which those who are close to God will walk. In Isaiah 58, God says, "Take care—pay attention to your way."

Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you shall find rest for your souls." But they said, "We will not walk in it." (Jeremiah 6:16)

Do we want rest? When we are striving to obey God and are walking His way, then we have already been brought into the rest of God. It is a beginning—not the fullness, but it is a beginning! Why? It is producing the right fruit. "My peace I leave with you." "My joy I give to you." God's way will produce the right fruit, and the Sabbath is central to all these things. It is the day that God made for man (Mark 2:27). It is an expanse of time in which He says, "Today, if you will hear My voice" (Psalm 95:7).

Why is God working towards producing faith? Those with faith will submit to and commit their lives to Him. If He can build people's faith, they will believe in Christ and believe His words. They will begin to enter into God's rest. This teaching is throughout the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Isaiah 58:13

"Your pleasures": God does not intend that the Sabbath be a day of rigorous abstinence. In verse 14, He says that, if we keep it rightly, the day is going to be a delight. Rigorous abstinence is never a delight, but the Sabbath can be a delight.

The word "pleasure" is not wrongly translated, but it is somewhat misleading. Within the context, its intent is better translated "business," "desire," "purpose," or "matter." It describes what one finds pleasure in occupying himself in doing.

A man's business can be his pleasure. Some people just love to work! A person's pleasure might be riding a bicycle, yet the Sabbath is not a day to be out riding a bicycle the way he would like to ride a bicycle. What He's generally talking about are the things that normally keep us busy during the other six days.

The emphasis here is on the word "your," as in "your pleasure." It could refer to hobbies, sports, and entertainments. The Sabbath is not designed for swimming, jogging, hunting, fishing, TV, boating, woodworking, ham radios, raking leaves, stamp collecting—or whatever it is that we do to preserve our physical life. I have listed these because I have had questions on all of them.

I have known people who say they just love to rake leaves. So, when the leaves fall down to the ground in the autumn, they like to get out there and rake! They smell wood fires burning in the neighborhood, and that smoke is so nice and relaxing, so energizing. It makes them feel so good to get out there and rake the leaves. But the Sabbath was not designed for raking leaves. This would fall under the category of "your pleasure."

Now, is there anything wrong with raking leaves the other six days of the week? Of course not! Neither is there anything wrong with sports, entertainments, and those sorts of things as well—as long as they are not being done sinfully. But all of those things that we would tend to do on the other six days of the week, things that are "your pleasure," are not good uses of Sabbath time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Isaiah 58:13

"Your words": Matthew 12:34 says that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The key is out of the abundance of the heart, that is, "what is in the heart," what we want to talk about. Of the four broad areas in Isaiah 58:13-14, this is probably the most difficult one for us. We wrestle with it, wondering whether "what we are saying" should be said or not.

The emphasis is on the word "your." Our conversations on the Sabbath should not be the same as they are on the other six days of the week, when our conversations would tend to be on those things that are pleasurable to us. What God wants us to do and say on the Sabbath are things that are His pleasure, not ours. But if we are growing spiritually, then what is "His pleasure" is also going to be in our heart.

The title of the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy on the one ring of power is very interesting. It is called "The Fellowship of the Ring." The story is a fantasy about a group of nine people who were chosen to destroy the one ring of power. If we understand the symbolism, their enemy was Satan.

He wanted to keep the one ring alive and working among the nations. It was up to Frodo Baggins and the group of people who were with him to destroy that one ring. The whole trilogy describes what happened to this "fellowship." It contains all of the experiences they had in carrying out this quest to destroy the ring: the good times and the bad, the good weather and the bad, the fear and the courage, the discouragement, sickness, and injuries—all of the things that happened along the way, all of the things that they fought against and overcame, all of the difficulties, all of the trials—and all the while carrying the burden of trying to make sure that this one ring of power was kept out of the enemy's hand so it could be destroyed.

There are a lot of good lessons there, but this illustration should help us to understand what should be the subjects of our Sabbath conversations. It is our fellowship, first of all with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, as well as all of us who are within this fellowship. The things that we experience with the Father and Son, the things that we experience with each other—our discouragements, our hopes, our dreams, our failures, our successes, our courage, our fears, our worries, our crying, our happy times. All of these things become a part of the way.

The fellowship that we have along the way to the Kingdom of God is "fair game" to talk about on the Sabbath. Many things we might consider to be mundane contain vital lessons for us and others. We should share our happy times and sad times with our brothers and sisters in the faith.

But when we start throwing in things that we are planning to do about entertainments, sports, etc.—we are beginning to drift away. Are these part of the way? Is it part of the fellowship? Probably not, but it could be. This should begin to give us a framework within which we can see what is right to speak about.

God does not intend that we spend our whole time on the Sabbath turning to Scriptures. Certainly, to do so is right and good. But there is nothing wrong with talking about our fellowship and all it entails. There is a great deal that can be explored in these areas and that we can feel comfortable—with good conscience—talking about and sharing with one another.

A great deal of what we say is just so much vanity, but a lot of good lies in the experiences we have had, the lessons that we can pass on, the encouragement that we can share. There are multitudes of experiences and subjects that fit within positive purposes for which the Sabbath was created.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Isaiah 58:13-14

On this passage, commentator Matthew Henry writes:

On sabbath days we must not walk in our own ways (that is, not follow our callings), not find our own pleasure (that is, not follow our sports and recreations); nay, we must not speak our own words, words that concern either our callings or our pleasures; we must not allow ourselves a liberty of speech on that day as on other days, for we must then mind God's ways, make religion the business of the day; we must choose the things that please him; and speak his words, speak of divine things as we sit in the house and walk by the way. In all we say and do we must put a difference between this day and other days.

At the heart of Sabbath-breaking is idolatry, having other gods before the true God (Exodus 20:3). The basic, physical manifestation of idolatry is the worship of idols—graven images, statues, etc.—but its spiritual manifestation is much more subtle and dangerous. It is putting anything above God: money, a job, a house, or even a spouse! If anything becomes more important than God, idolatry is committed. Thus, if in the weekly observance of the Sabbath we do anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship with God, we have broken the Sabbath and committed idolatry. It could be said that idolatry is at the heart of all sin, as our willingness to esteem something higher than God and His way of life causes us to sin.

We must make a very real distinction between the Sabbath and the other days. The Sabbath was "made for man," as Christ points out (Mark 2:27), but that does not mean mankind has the authority to use it for his own purposes—rather, God made it on man's behalf, for his benefit. The seventh day still belongs to God, and He shares it with those whom He has called and sanctified. We have a key responsibility in esteeming the Sabbath in our conduct, in our conversations, in our attitudes, and even in our thoughts. By entering into this covenant with God, we have been entrusted with the knowledge and significance of this day, but we have also been warned, as stewards of God's truth, to be very careful with it.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Isaiah 58:13-14

On the surface, the Sabbath appears to be only a rest - a break from physical labor. Rest is a factor in keeping it, but its central purpose, which should guide our use of the day, is the developing and building of our relationship with God, an exceedingly more important reason than ceasing to work! Not working only provides the time so that we can do what is more important - develop our relationship with God. The core reason for breaking from the normal routine is to get to know Him. Jesus says that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Do we want eternal life? We need to get to know God. That is what the Sabbath is for.

The Sabbath is a weekly, and sometimes annual, appointment of time to be devoted to God, so that the relationship does not become lost in the swirl of life's activities. If it is done right, no one has an excuse for not "knowing" Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 2)


 

Jeremiah 17:19-27

For years, the folk of the Kingdom of Judah walked in the footsteps of their brethren in the Kingdom of Israel. However, a number of them then took a different path. The result of that change, of course, is in itself proof that God's Sabbath is a sign pointing to Him and His creation.

Jeremiah 17:19-27 records God's promise to a Sabbath-keeping people. Here, He warns Jerusalem's inhabitants to "bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; . . . nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers" (verses 21-22). If they heeded, God continues, "then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, . . . accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever" (verse 25). Conversely, Sabbath-breaking will have dire consequences: "But if you will not heed Me to hallow 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" (verse 27). (For the fulfillment of this prophecy, see Jeremiah 39:8; II Chronicles 36:19.)

The people of Judah did not heed God's warning and, as a result, "kings and princes" no longer sit "on the throne of David" in Jerusalem. God moved the Davidic monarchy northwest to the British Isles, and the people He moved to Babylon. Jerusalem burned.

Those who returned from Babylon after seventy years did not learn their lesson. Nehemiah must have stood aghast at the Sabbath-breaking he witnessed among post-exilic Jews. Nehemiah 13:15, 17-18 bears the record. Nehemiah

. . . saw in Judah some people treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. . . . "What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster [i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem] on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath."

Both Ezra and Nehemiah worked assiduously to teach the people to keep holy God's Sabbath. It was during this time that the people of Judah took a different path than those of Israel. For, while Israel never (no, not to this day!) returned to the practice of Sabbath-keeping, the descendants of the tribe of Judah (with Levi) came to keep it—albeit not perfectly. [After the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews' religious leaders became so zealous in their desire to observe the Sabbath properly that they made it a burden. They eventually lost perspective: Failing to grasp the spirit of the fourth commandment, they created hundreds of "do's and don'ts" to define its letter. By Christ's time, their fanaticism had grown to the point that the Sabbath had itself become an object of worship. Christ had to devote a fair portion of His ministry to teaching the people that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).]

They kept it throughout the hideous Maccabean period and throughout the long Roman occupation later. They kept it after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They kept it in the Diaspora—during the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. They kept it whether they dwelt in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or later, America. Many keep it to this day. Because they do, they know who they are! They know who their patriarchs are.

Like a neon sign, the mark of the Sabbath, identifying Jews as worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shines brightly through the ages, through the darkness of ghetto and oven, even piercing the murky gloom of today's secularism and humanism. To a good extent, the experience of the Jews shows that God's mark, the Sabbath, does in fact identify a people as worshipping the God of the patriarchs.

Had the northern ten tribes "remember[ed] the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8) even half as well as the folk of Judah do, they would today have a fair idea of their roots. Having forsaken the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath, the peoples of the Kingdom of Israel came, over time, to forget the God of their fathers, as well as His revelation and His prophets.

"Beware," one of those prophets declares, "lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 6:12). Forgetting the God who separated them from the other nations, ten-tribed Israel, scattered and wandering, became separated from their God and ultimately grew to be like other nations. Becoming like them, Israel became lost among them. Beware.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Ezekiel 20:3-8

Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible shows as clearly as Ezekiel 20 the critical importance for the people of God to keep the Sabbath. Ezekiel does not record the question or questions the elders asked of God, but we can ascertain them from God's reply. They seem to have been something like, "Why are we having all this trouble? Why are we in captivity? When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?" God specifically names part of the problem when He says that He commanded them to get rid of "the abominations which were before their eyes." These things, obviously abominations to God, were a delight to the Israelites because they did not cast them away.

God clearly shows that part of the answer is that they were committing idolatry. In Ezekiel 20:12-13, He involves the Sabbath in their problems. Six times in this one chapter, God links idolatry and breaking the Sabbath as causes of their captivity. It is accurate to understand Sabbath breaking as just another form of idolatry. God gave the Sabbath to Israel and to us that we might know the true God, be sanctified, fulfill our purpose in witnessing of Him before the world, and be changed and inherit His Kingdom. Israel failed utterly. God cut them off, and they went back into slavery and captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Ezekiel 20:10-12

It is very clear to see that a major purpose of the Sabbath, apart from it being a sign, is that we might know God, which is eternal life (John 17:3)! If we are going to know God, the Sabbath must be kept. This passage ties the two of them together. Without knowing God, there is no eternal life. The Sabbath, then, is a necessary fixture in having eternal life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Ezekiel 20:10-13

Verse 24 gives a concluding statement as to why Israel was taken into captivity. There are two possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking. 1) Israel completely rejected God's Sabbath for another day. This possibility exists due to the instances of the "My/their" or "Mine/yours" contrast, that is, My Sabbath as opposed to your Sabbath. 2) They polluted the Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance.

The probability is that they did both—some people completely rejected the Sabbath, while others carelessly observed it. However, it was because of Sabbath-breaking, a type of idolatry, that they went into captivity.

When we look at secular history, even biblical history, and society around us, how to keep this day is a mixed bag. On the surface, what we see in the New Testament is rigorous legalism from the Pharisees or asceticism from the Gentiles. Today, we might call that an extreme "rightism" or perhaps a reactionary conservatism.

In today's world, though, we are confronted with the other side of the coin. We do not even begin to know how to keep the Sabbath because, from our earliest days, our culture's emphasis has been on Sunday, a day that cannot be kept holy because it was never made holy!

The cycle of six workdays and one day of rest and worship is a legacy of the Bible. But in fairly recent history, society has undergone a radical transformation because of scientific, industrial, and technological achievements. A shorter workweek provides us more leisure time. Businesses, however, make every effort to make the best use of time, to maximize production by scheduling work shifts so that the weekly cycle becomes a blur.

We have come to the place where we think that time totally belongs to us, and we can use it as we good and well please. This, in turn, makes a person very conscious of his free time. What does almost every individual do? He does the same thing that a business does. Every bit of time in a person's life is booked up because he wants to get the most out of life.

Even among those who are reasonably religious, the result has been that Sunday has become the hour of worship. The older among us can probably remember that, in the community, Sunday was once set aside very seriously. People did not work. They usually spent the day at home. Maybe the most secular thing they allowed themselves to do was to read the Sunday newspaper. Some, perhaps, did not even listen to the radio on Sunday because, to them, the day was holy.

But over the years, Sunday worship—which used to be kept somewhat as God expects us to keep the Sabbath—has now become, even among religious folks, an hour rather than a day of worship. People go to church for that one hour then perhaps return home. Or, maybe they go to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant. They spend the rest of the time on that day either making money or seeking their own pleasure.

All the while, the real Sabbath is ridiculed or ignored. This is what confronts us when we begin trying to keep it. A similar environment even affects those who continue to keep it. When we look in the Bible, we find that God does not give us many specifics as to how to keep it. God does, however, give us a number of broad principles, and He expects us to extrapolate from those principles in applying them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Ezekiel 20:18-20

Keeping the Sabbath identifies the true God to us. It is not merely the fact that one observes the day, but rather it is observing it combined with how one observes it. People can surely keep it, as the Jews did, and not keep it right. Did they know God? No, they did not (Ezekiel 20:10-12)—obviously, because, when God came in the flesh, they rejected Him. All the while, however, they were keeping the Sabbath. So the instruction is that it is not merely a matter of just observing the day but how the day is observed that enables a person to know God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Ezekiel 20:21

Ezekiel 20:21 appears in the midst of God's charge that He was sending Israel into captivity because of idolatry and Sabbath breaking. There are three possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking:

  1. They rejected God's Sabbath for another day entirely;
  2. They polluted what they did have of God's true Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance; or
  3. Most likely, it was a combination of both. Some completely rejected it, others treated it carelessly.

Whichever it was, it resulted in their captivity. Keeping the Sabbath day properly is a serious issue to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Amos 2:4-5

Unlike the judgments of the Gentiles (Amos 1:3 - 2:3), Amos indicts Judah for breaking His commandments, specifically lying.

Judah's despising of God's law and Israel's commanding the prophets to stop preaching His Word (Amos 2:12) reflect exactly the same moral condition: Both refused the voice of God as spoken through His prophets. What God intended to be their privilege through revelation of Himself and His law had turned out to be their central peril. It is another way of saying, "To whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48).

Despising truth is an inward attitude that outwardly reveals itself in immorality, and this is the condition God found in ancient Israel. The people had become complacent about His revelation to them. They zealously sought after knowledge - even religious knowledge - but they did not really love the truth (Romans 10:2-3). This was reflected in their immorality; if they had loved God's truth, they would have been living it, and God would have had no cause for judgment.

In this information age, we accumulate mounds of data - regarding ethics, solutions to social ills, and the like - yet our morals decline. Intelligent, educated individuals have written many Bible commentaries, but they still refuse to keep the Sabbath or holy days. They write that Christmas and Easter have pagan origins and are not commanded in the Bible, but they still observe them. They do not love God's truth enough to change. This was Israel's problem, and it could be ours if we are not careful.

Because God has revealed His truth to us, each individual Christian has a responsibility to conform to it and grow. A greater diversity of distractions compete for our time and attention than at any other time in the history of mankind. If we are not extremely careful, and if we lose our sense of urgency, we will gradually lose our understanding of what is true and what is not. Our ability to distinguish between right and wrong will become blurred. We must make sure that God, His Word, and His way are always first in our lives.

Christ said that if we keep the truth, the truth in turn will keep us free (John 8:31-36). If we live it, the revealed truth of God will protect us from sinking back into slavery to sin. But first we must love the truth we have been given. Humanly, we pursue what we love. God wants a father-child or teacher-student relationship with us. If we do not love truth, and if we do not pursue it and God Himself, we will seriously undermine our relationship with Him, and He could interpret our attitude as despising His truth.

Love of the truth comes from God through His Holy Spirit and must be nourished through our response to it. We must not only learn it but also apply it in our lives. This will make the difference between being saved and perishing (II Thessalonians 2:9-12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:3

Applying this principle to the Sabbath, if we want to be in God's presence in this special way, no other day will do. God has set a weekly appointment with His people to meet with Him for purposes pertaining to His spiritual creation. It is largely on this day that we are blessed, empowered by Him with His Spirit to promote our success in His way. The keeping of the Sabbath also functions to identify the two parties involved in the covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Amos 4:4-5

Three cities of Israel had become religious centers and places of pilgrimage: Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. What is intriguing is that, even in their spiritual indifference, the Israelites loved to go to church! Since Amos indicates that their social lives may have revolved around the church, their purely social, not religious, motives may have been the problem.

This is intriguing in light of Laodiceanism. God says, "You may be coming to church regularly and enjoying it, but while you are there, you are sinning!" The scriptures are unclear about what the exact sins were. They may have been breaking the Sabbath somehow, or they may have been indifferent to the messages they heard. What their sins were makes no difference because God's judgment of their show of religion is that their hearts were not in it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Malachi 3:13-17

Verses 13-15 contain a complaint of the people about the difficulty of God's way. They see things within the nation that are unfair. Those who are really assertive and aggressive, those with a lot of carnal drive and energy, are getting ahead. "What good is it to be godly?" they ask. God replies to them with a promise in verses 16-17. He does not say that He would end the injustice right then.

God shows that His ear is on our conversations. Psalm 139 tells us that His Spirit goes everywhere! He is aware. He is not really judgmental, but He is aware of what is happening, and He wants to encourage us to grow.

This instruction is intended for the church at the time of the end, to encourage those who are genuinely trying to be faithful to God yet who feel frustrated and doubtful because of what they see going on around them. So God replies with this encouragement to those who speak on His name. This refers to those who have the Word of God in their minds and hearts and are speaking to one another about the wonderful fellowship with God we have been drawn into. They are tying God into all aspects of their lives.

God says He is making a book of remembrance, and He will reward these people for their faithfulness. It is obvious that what these people are meditating on and talking about is God's name and what is contained within their hearts, and it is good. This reveals a major purpose for the Sabbath: to get God's Word into our hearts, minds, and consciences. He is a part of our lives, and we need to think about Him being a part of them. Do we see God? That is what this is about. Do we see Him as a part of our lives? Do we see Him as a part of our futures? When we do, then we find ourselves talking about it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Matthew 5:17

His statement applies to the Sabbath just as assuredly as it applies to any of the other commandments. Jesus did not come to destroy the Sabbath, but to magnify it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Matthew 5:18-20

The letter of the law that the Pharisees tried to keep was not enough—especially for us. We have to exceed the letter of the law. Here, Jesus was so specific about the continuance of the law from the Old Covenant to the New that He referred to the smallest punctuation and pronunciation marks contained in the written law, the "jot and tittle."

Most modern theology discards the letter in favor of the spirit, but one extreme is as bad as the other. The true Christian needs both the written letter of the law as well as its spirit to keep it properly.

To keep God's law properly, we have to learn to recognize the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law means God's original intent or purpose behind each law.

When God designed the Sabbath, for example, He intended it to be a blessing to human beings. He designed it to be a refreshing rest and an opportunity both to recuperate physically after six days of work and to draw close to Him in love and to worship Him, as well as to deepen love for the brethren through fellowship and outgoing concern.

Jesus knew the spirit of the Sabbath commandment. Therefore, He knew that the split second of divine effort involved in healing was a valid use of time on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12). Because of Jesus' insight into the divine purpose behind the Sabbath, He freed the crippled worshipper of his burden. He experienced a wonderful and exciting blessing because Jesus understood the spirit of the law. God's law is always a blessing to those who recognize the spirit of the law.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Matthew 12:1-8

Matthew 12:1-8 adds yet another example of Sabbath encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. According to the Pharisees, the disciples reaped, threshed, and winnowed the grain; they were guilty of preparing a meal. What was the disciples' motivation? They were traveling, hungry, and had no place to prepare a meal. They were young and strong and could have fasted without harm, but because it was a Sabbath, Jesus drew attention to one of the Sabbath's main purposes. It is a day of mercy.

Christ draws his justification from I Samuel 21:1-6. He reasons that, if David under unusual circumstances could allay his hunger by eating bread consecrated for holy use, then the disciples could also legitimately provide for their needs in unusual circumstances. The emphasis here is on "unusual." How many times did David flee for His life and find himself hungry near the Tabernacle? It happened at least once, but even for a man of war like David, such situations occurred only rarely.

The overall lesson is that God does not intend His law to deprive but to ensure life. If the need arises, we should not feel conscience-stricken to use the Sabbath in a way that would not normally be lawful. Christ admits David's actions were not normally lawful, and neither were the disciples'—except for the circumstances. In this case, they were blameless BECAUSE A LARGER OBLIGATION OVERRULED THE LETTER OF THE LAW. In this circumstance, mercy is more important than sacrificing a meal. Holy bread or holy time can be used exceptionally to sustain life and serve God.

Christ takes advantage of the situation to teach another connected lesson. He draws attention to the extent of the priests' Sabbath labors in the Temple. Their work actually doubled on the Sabbath because of the number of sacrifices God required, yet they were guiltless. Why? They were involved in God's creative, redemptive work, as Christ explains in John 5, 7, and 9. They fulfilled a purpose of the Sabbath that someone had to do.

Because of the disciple's involvement in the work of God, circumstances dictated a profaning of the Sabbath. From this, we can understand that LOVING SERVICE IS GREATER THAN RITUAL FULFILLMENT. What is mercy? It is a helpful act where and when it is needed. It is an act of loving encouragement, comfort, pity, and sympathy for the distressed. It is the relieving of a burden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Matthew 12:1-4

According to the Pharisees, the disciples reaped a crop. They threshed it by rubbing the berries in their hands and breaking the hulls off. Then they winnowed it by blowing the hulls away. By doing so, they were guilty of preparing a meal. This was actually a high holy day, very likely one of the holy days of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Consider the disciples' motivation for what they did. First, they were hungry. Second, they were itinerate, using "shoe leather express," traveling with Jesus as a part of His entourage. He instructed them, giving them examples of His way of life, all along the way. He Himself said that He had no place to lay His head. They had, therefore, no place to prepare a meal. They did not have homes that they could readily return to.

These were strong, young men, probably in their twenties or early thirties (about the same age as Jesus), so they could have fasted without damage. But, because it was the Sabbath, Jesus deliberately drew attention to one of the Sabbath's main purposes: It is a day of mercy and not a day of sacrifice.

Christ's justification comes from I Samuel 21:1-6. He reasoned that, if it was all right for David to allay his hunger under an unusual circumstance by eating bread that had been consecrated for holy use, His disciples could provide for their needs in this manner. (The showbread was put into the Tabernacle on the table, and it sat there during the entire week. Then, every Sabbath it was exchanged for new bread. David ate the week-old bread that had just been exchanged for the new.)

So what is He saying? The Sabbath is a day of mercy. And if one can rightly, lawfully use "holy bread" to do something that, according to the letter of the law, was illegal, then it was also legitimate for the disciples to provide for their needs also in an unusual circumstance.

The emphasis here is on the word unusual. How frequently was David fleeing for his life and finding himself hungry? It did happen, at least this one time, but it did not happen every Sabbath. Maybe in David's lifetime something like this occurred a few times, but even for a man of war like David, it did not happen all that frequently.

The overall lesson, however, is that it is not the intention of God's law to deprive anybody of good things. The intent of God's law is to ensure life. If the need arises, one should not feel conscience-stricken to use the Sabbath in a way that would not "normally" be lawful. Christ admitted that what David did was not "normally" lawful. Neither was what the disciples were doing "normally lawful," except for the extenuating circumstance.

In this case then, they were blameless because a larger obligation overruled the letter of the law. The larger obligation was to be merciful. The letter of the law said that they could not have that bread. The larger obligation said that it was more important to eat than it was to fast (to sacrifice eating). Holy bread, or holy time (the Sabbath), can be used exceptionally in order to sustain life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

Matthew 12:9-14

Jesus' healing of the man with the withered hand (also in Mark 3:1-6) reveals a fundamental difference between Jesus and the Pharisees in their approach to the Sabbath. The Pharisees had not entered the synagogue to worship, nor did they ask Jesus their question—"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"—out of loving concern. No, they were an accusing authority attempting to judge Christ by their regulations.

It helps to remember the historical context. The Jews were developing specific regulations to cover any and every possible circumstance to keep them from sinning. Eventually, they compiled 1,521 regulations covering Sabbath conduct alone. By Jesus' time, they had already turned their observance of the law into a legalistic ritual rather than a loving service to God and man. They did this sincerely in a vain effort to become holy, not understanding that this is not how a man becomes spiritually holy.

In this vignette, does Christ do away with the Sabbath or restore it to its original divine value and function, as He did with marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:8? He gives no indication that He intended doing away with it. He merely broke their misguided perception of how to observe the Sabbath.

We also need to recognize that the liberating healing He performed was not done to a man whose life was in immediate danger, but to one who was chronically ill. So are we spiritually; as Jeremiah 17:9 says, our heart is "incurably sick" (margin). God gives us the Sabbath day to help free us from the chronic problems of human nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Matthew 12:9-14

There is an obvious difference between Christ and the Pharisees on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were not there to worship God. Their questions were not asked out of loving concern. They were there as accusing authorities who wanted to judge Christ by their own regulations.

At the time, the Jews had been compiling for a number of years a code of regulations by which they hoped to make it virtually impossible for a person to sin. Eventually, there were 1,521 regulations just regarding keeping the Sabbath! These people did it in sincerity, a misdirected zeal. What happened is that they turned the observance of the day into a legalistic ritual rather than a loving service toward God and fellow man.

Consider the actions and words in Matthew 12 and in Mark 3. Is Christ doing away with the Sabbath observance, or is He restoring it to its original, divine value and function? Jesus helps us understand this by a principle He gives in Matthew 19:8. Referring to divorce and remarriage, Jesus says, "But from the beginning it was not so." So it is here. He is showing God's original intent for the Sabbath.

He is not saying, "You don't have to worry about breaking it," or, "I'm going to do away with this day in the future anyway, so it doesn't matter what we do." Instead, by what He says and does, He focuses attention on His own Sabbath activities: To relieve somebody of a burden, to deliver one from a withered hand. By these acts, we see that the Sabbath is a day of redemption, deliverance, freedom, and healing. It is a day to do kind acts. It is a day to help one's fellow man in some way and to relieve him of some burden, as much as lies within us.

Jesus' healing here was not done to a man whose life was in danger. He had a chronic problem, and it easily could have waited until the next day. He could have said, "Come back tomorrow." Instead, He purposely shows what the Sabbath is for. It is for healing—either physical or spiritual healing.

The man's chronic illness parallels us spiritually: We are chronically sinful! Jeremiah 17:9-10 says that the heart is incurably sick. The Sabbath, then, is a day given to free us from the chronic problems of human nature.

By Jesus' example—His reactions, His words—it becomes clear that God not only intends that "good" be done, but to fail to do good when the opportunity presents itself implies "evil" and "killing." If not, why was He angry? He was angry because the Pharisees were failing to do something to relieve this man of his burden. Instead, they were using him to provoke Jesus into what they considered as sinning so that they might accuse Him. Thus, the person who is not concerned for the physical and/or spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved in destructive efforts and attitudes.

One of the Sabbath's uses is to prepare us to be used for the salvation of others. We are not in the position yet that Christ was. He was able, because of His closeness to God, because He was God in the flesh, because He had the Spirit of God without measure, to do things that we are unable to do. But the principle is there!

There are many such things—as opportunities present themselves—that we can do on the Sabbath. It is within our power to relieve other's burdens. It may only be giving someone encouragement or writing a letter or telephoning to let another know that he is cared for and thought of. It may be a little thing, but it is within our power to do things like this to help others along the way.

Consider the Sabbath command in Deuteronomy 5: The Sabbath was made to show compassion toward the weak and the defenseless. The command says that we are to give others who are under our authority the Sabbath day to rest. We relieve them—manservant, maidservant, even animals—of the burden of work. They, too, are to be given the opportunity to be relieved of a burden. They are physical. If they are worked constantly, they will wear out more quickly. And so it is wise to give them rest, is it not? It is to our benefit to give them the relief that they need. A similar command is given in Exodus 23:12:

Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Matthew 12:38-40

Did the day of Jesus' resurrection cause a change in the day of worship?

The Saturday/Sunday resurrection issue has been a focal point of debate in many circles because of the impact that it could have on the correct day of worship. But to begin here is to begin with an assumption at best, and a conclusion at worst. Where in the Bible is there any indication given that Jesus Christ's death would change the day of worship? Does our God change things on a whim—especially something as foundational as the day on which He meets with His people?

James 1:17 says that in God there is no variation, no shadow of turning. God does not change—His fundamental character and approach to things is constant (Malachi 3:6)! Hebrews 13:8-9 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and immediately after this the author says, "Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines." God's changelessness is a major defense we have against false doctrine! Once He establishes something, is He going to change it out of hand? Could we trust a God that is so undependable and unpredictable?

The high regard that God gives to the seventh-day Sabbath is evident throughout the Old Testament. Time and again, ancient Israel went into captivity because of their sins of Sabbath-breaking and idolatry (e.g., Ezekiel 20). No indication is ever given that the Sabbath is temporary, to be changed, or that God really does not care one way or the other. In fact, the prophecies of the Old Testament show that the Sabbath will be kept after God restores all things by establishing His Kingdom on earth (Isaiah 66:22-23; Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:3).

The gospel writers also do not give any hint or suggestion that the sanctification that God gave to the Sabbath would somehow be switched to the first day of the week. Jesus Christ gives no indication whatever that the day of worship would change upon His death or resurrection. God made only one day each week holy (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11), and the Bible gives no record of His even thinking about changing it. In addition, He does not give man the authority to "choose" which day each week is holy. Consider how often Jesus and the Pharisees argued over the Sabbath. Yet, not once did they contend over which day should be kept holy; in every instance, the issue was on how to keep the day that had already been firmly established as holy. Not only did Christ keep the Sabbath and teach others on the Sabbath, but after His death the apostles also kept it.

So we have the seventh-day Sabbath strongly established in the Old Testament (and even practiced in Exodus 16 before the proposal of the Old Covenant in Exodus 20). We have the example of Christ's keeping the Sabbath, without any indication that His ministry or His death would change it. And we have the New Testament church continuing to keep it after His death. How do the date and timing of His resurrection play into this? It does not! The sole purpose of Christ foretelling how long He would be in the grave is to prove that He was the Messiah—not to change which day is holy.

Jesus gave only one sign that He was the Messiah, sent by God—He would be in the grave three days and three nights (72 hours), and then would be resurrected by God, something which He could not control Himself. So the question of whether or not He was in the grave three days and three nights has nothing to do with which day God set apart and made holy, and everything to do with whether Jesus Christ was the Messiah!

The "sign of Jonah" is the only sign that Christ specifically gives to prove that He was the Messiah. The sign of Jonah is not a sign of preaching or bringing a message, as some allege. Certainly Jonah did that, just as Christ did. But that selective and erroneous interpretation conveniently overlooks the plain meaning of Jesus' words.

The "sign of Jonah" is mentioned three times in the gospels:

1) "And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation'" (Luke 11:29-30).

Notice that He does not specify what the sign is here, but only alludes to a comparison with Jonah. He says that there is a sign, but does not say what it was.

2) "Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him, asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. . . . 'A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' And He left them and departed" (Matthew 16:1, 4).

Again, there is no elaboration here, but this is actually the second time it is mentioned in the book of Matthew. The first occurrence demonstrates plainly what the sign of Jonah was, and so here Christ is merely repeating His answer from Matthew 12:38-40:

3) "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'" (Matthew 12:38-40; see Jonah 1:17).

Both the account in Luke 11 and the one in Matthew 12 also mention Nineveh, and even Jonah's preaching. It is plain in both instances that they are mentioned to contrast the righteousness of previous generations with the righteousness of the current generation, particularly the Pharisees. To read into these scriptures that the "Sign of Jonah" is merely preaching is to horribly twist the Word of God—especially when Matthew 12:40 states categorically that, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Those listening were certainly not confused about Christ's allusion to Jonah. It was plain to them that He predicted when He would arise: "On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first'" (Matthew 27:62-64). Even the Pharisees understood that Jesus Christ's statement was focused on the timing of the resurrection!

In other verses, Jesus says He would rise "the third day" (Matthew 16:21; Mark 10:34; Luke 24:7). There is no contradiction between this expression and the term "three days and three nights." Both expressions are used interchangeably in the scriptures. In Genesis, for example, we read that "God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And the evening [darkness] and the morning [light] were the first day . . . and the evening [darkness] and the morning [light] were the second day . . . and the evening [now three periods of night] and the morning [now three periods of light] were the third day" (Genesis 1:4-13). Here the term "the third day" is shown to include three days and three nights.

Whether or not Jesus fulfilled the sign of Jonah by being in the grave three days and three nights (which cannot fit between late Friday and early Sunday) is of great importance in verifying that He was and is our Messiah. But it has nothing to do with which day of the week is holy.

David C. Grabbe


 

Matthew 22:37-40

The Ten Commandments can be summarized in two overall principles: love toward God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and love toward neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God, and the last six commandments expound on our relationship with fellow man.

What does it mean to have a relationship with God? An analogy is frequently used to describe the relationship between Christ and the church is that of a groom and a bride (Revelation 21:1-4). Likewise, Paul writes in II Corinthians 11:2: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." The word "betrothed" seems somewhat archaic; today, we would say the church is "engaged" to Christ. By making the New Covenant with Him, we have agreed to spend all eternity with Him, but at present, we are within the period preceding the marriage described in Revelation 19:7-9. Following the analogy, we are to be preparing ourselves for this future relationship. During this preparation time, the parties involved are getting to know each other. God the Father has handpicked us for this relationship, and now is the time we need to make ourselves ready.

How does this fit into the Sabbath and the concept of ownership? God has already established a regular meeting time with us—a "date," as it were. Every week, that part of our schedule is already determined. Amos 3:3 asks, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" In other words, can a person meet with another if they have not determined a meeting time?

Sabbath time has been specially designated as the Bride's time with Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we should restrict our interaction with Him to this day; on the contrary, part of each day should be devoted to prayer and Bible study. Nevertheless, this is a primary reason the seventh day has been set apart and made holy.

What does this mean practically? Imagine a couple planning to marry. Being devoted to one another, they have set their wedding date and have agreed to meet on a weekly basis. It is easy to see that, if the young man shows up at the designated time, but the young woman suddenly decides that there is a more convenient time, a rift is going to develop in the relationship. Obviously, the correct day is vitally important. God has already established that day.

Suppose the couple gets the day right, and they meet and spend time together. What if the young lady, in the midst of this quality time she is supposed to be spending with the one she loves, pulls out a cellphone and begins talking to her friends, as if her fiancé does not even exist? What if the topic of conversation, either between her and her friends or between her and her fiancé, is little more than gossip or what she is planning on doing as soon as her weekly date with her alleged beloved is over? Or, what if their date, which her betrothed had made special for them, has become a mere ceremony to her? What if she just goes through the motions, doing the things required of her, showing little or no feeling about what this relationship really means to her?

On a spiritual level, we are commanded to assemble, if possible, and part of our Sabbath is intended to be for fellowshipping. What are the topics of our conversation? Do sports, entertainment, shopping, or business advance our relationship with God? Is catching up on the latest gossip and social news appropriate for this time that does not belong to us? During this weekly appointment, where do our thoughts wander? Do we think about our business interests or financial concerns? Do we think about or make plans for what we are going to do as soon as the sun sets? Do we esteem Saturday night more than the time God has set apart for us to meet with Him? Are our Sabbath services mere ceremonies? Are we demonstrating to God by our actions on this day that we are eagerly looking forward to spending eternity with Him?

These are points to ponder.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Matthew 28:1

By comparing these four accounts (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1), it is evident that Mary Magdalene and the other women arrived at the tomb early in the morning on Sunday morning, while it was still dark. When they arrived, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back. None of these verses specify when Christ arose from the dead, but we do know that He left the tomb before the women arrived. It is plain that the women arrived early in the morning on the first day of the week, and first saw the resurrected Christ at that time. But these accounts do not say that was when Christ arose.

Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:1-2 also reiterate that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.

David C. Grabbe


 

Mark 1:21

As the Creator of the Sabbath (John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:16-18), Jesus is "Lord of the Sabbath." As a man, He showed us the intent of this commandment in numerous accounts recorded in the four gospels. Jesus gave His church an example of how the whole Christian way of life is to be lived (I John 2:6). We are to do as Christ did (I Peter 2:21-22).

Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment


 

Mark 2:27-28

These verses contain a number of things critical to Sabbath keeping:

  1. Jesus refers to the Sabbath as a specific day; it is the Sabbath, not a Sabbath.
  2. The Sabbath was not made for its own sake as were the other six days, but as a service to mankind. An alternate translation would be that it "was made on account of man." Jesus presents it as the Creator's specific and thoughtful gift to man.
  3. It was not made just for the Jews, but for mankind. When God created the Sabbath, He intended it from the beginning as a UNIVERSAL blessing to benefit mankind. He made it to help ensure man's physical and spiritual well-being.
  4. The broader context reveals a disagreement over how to keep it. Jesus claims to be its Lord, its Owner or Master, and He thus lays claim to His right to show by His example and verbal instruction how to keep it, not whether to keep it. Since He expresses no disagreement with keeping it, He implies that He expects man—not just Jews—to keep it. He has a perfect opportunity here to reply that it does not matter if men keep it, but He gives no such indication.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Mark 2:27-28

It helps us to understand a little better if we retranslate just one word: The Sabbath was made on account of man. Man needs the Sabbath! He needs it physically, because he needs to rest (Exodus 20). Over and above that, he needs the Sabbath even more spiritually (Deuteronomy 5:15) to recognize the fact that he has been redeemed. He is no longer in bondage, and he needs to use his time to be prepared for the Kingdom of God, to please God, to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, to maintain the liberty that we have been given, and to grow towards the Kingdom of God.

Nowhere does Jesus say that the Sabbath is done away. He does not indicate it at all—anywhere! Thus, when He says that He is "Lord of the Sabbath," He is saying that He has the authority to determine how the day is to be kept. We ought to be able to see—especially from what is recorded in John 5, 7 and 9—that God does not intend the day to be one of loafing around

There may be occasions when that is needed, because a person is simply worn out. We need to feel that we have the liberty to "crash" on that day. But if that is occurring to us regularly, we need to ask ourselves, "Why do I need to crash on the Sabbath?" Then, we need to make an adjustment on the other six days. We must repent, so that the day does not have to be used to "crash"—because that begins to profane God's intention for the Sabbath.

He intends the day to be for the good of His spiritual children so that they are prepared for the Kingdom of God and remember why they are here. It can, therefore, be a day of very intensive work, but it is work that leads to salvation, getting prepared for the Kingdom of God, and giving service to those in need of salvation. It is through these things that growth and faith in God are promoted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

Mark 2:27

The Sabbath was made for mankind, to serve mankind, and therefore it also serves God's purpose. Notice that He does not say the Sabbath was made for the Jews only, as most people read into this. Some also say that Jesus kept the Sabbath because He was a Jew, but that is merely a dodge. God says what He means. Jesus clearly understood He was to keep it, and He did. If it were God's intent that only Jews keep it, Jesus would have stated it that way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Mark 2:27-28

A number of important aspects are of note here. The first is that the Sabbath was not made for its own sake, as with the other days of the week, but with the specific purpose of being a service to mankind. An alternate translation is that it was made "on account of man."

The Sabbath, then, is a specific, thoughtful gift of the Creator to serve His creation. If it were to be used by mankind merely for physical rest, any one of the seven days of the week would be acceptable. Yet, God set apart the seventh day specifically and linked it to creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Therefore, God's purpose in establishing the Sabbath is primarily to support man's part in God's spiritual creation. Such use goes far beyond mere bodily rest.

A second item is that God made the Sabbath for humanity, not just for the Jews. As God created it, its intention is universal. He made it to ensure mankind's physical and spiritual well-being.

A third point is that Jesus claims the authority as its Lord to teach us how to keep it, not whether to keep it. Both the immediate context and the gospels as a whole show that Jesus expected it to be kept and offered no alternatives.

Nations routinely honor citizens they believe have made significant contributions to the well-being of their people, and they often do this by setting apart a day as a memorial to them so that others will remember their contributions. For example, in this nation George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King have been so honored. God says in Exodus 31:13: "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you."

By God's own words, He is memorialized and therefore honored by our observance of the Sabbath (the day we call Saturday). Compared to any man, God's contributions to the well-being of every living thing are beyond counting, but one stands out as witness to all: He is Creator. What an awesome statement to consider. Everything in and on this fantastic, floating greenhouse we call Earth is a tribute to and witnesses of His genius, power, and loving providence.

Mankind, on the other hand, has yet to create its first flea! Yet, if a man did create one, how much publicity would he want? What honors might he demand?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Mark 3:3-5

Mark 3:3-5 reinforces Jesus' attitude toward Sabbath activity. By Jesus' example, His reaction (anger, verse 5), and His words, God very clearly not only intends us to do good on the Sabbath, but also to fail to do good when the opportunity arises implies evil and killing!

Jesus does not appear to have gone out of His way to find people to heal on the Sabbath, but these were incidental occurrences as He went along His way. If a sick person came to His attention, He healed him. But someone unconcerned for the physical and spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved to some degree in destructive efforts and attitudes, for failing to do good when we have opportunity is sin (Proverbs 3:27-28; James 4:17). God is preparing us to assist in the salvation of others, and it behooves us to begin thinking along these lines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Mark 15:42-46

Several points stand out in this passage:

» Evening was beginning—at best Joseph had only about three hours before sunset, when the Sabbath would begin. The task of preparing and applying the spices for burial required work, which is expressly forbidden on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-10). Additionally, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 demands that an executed criminal be buried before nightfall, and the Jewish law of the time required all dead bodies to be buried before a Sabbath or a feast day (John 19:31).

» Before he could take the body down, Joseph had to go before Pilate and receive permission. At first Pilate did not believe Jesus had died so quickly, so he called the centurion of the crucifixion detail to verify it (Mark 15:44-45). This delay must have taken at least a half hour.

» After being granted the body, Joseph went to a local shop and bought several yards of fine linen in which to wrap Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, he then took the body down, wrapped it in the linen—along with about a hundred pounds of spices—and placed it in the tomb (John 19:39-41).

With all this activity and work between the various locations, Joseph and Nicodemus must have had very little daylight left when they finally rolled the stone over the entrance to the tomb. On this point all the accounts again concur; sunset was very near (Matthew 27:57; Luke 23:54; John 19:31).

No one disputes that Jesus was laid "in the heart of the earth" at sunset. If, as we have shown, He was buried for exactly 72 hours, He was also resurrected at sunset—not at dawn!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Mark 16:1

If Joseph barely had time to bury Jesus' body before sundown, how much less time would the women have had to do all that they needed to do!

The harmonized accounts show that when Joseph took Jesus down from the cross, the women followed him to see where he would place the body. They then returned to their lodging and observed the holy day Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread. The day after the holy day, they went to a shop, bought spices and oil, took them back to their lodging, prepared them for use on the body, and "they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56).

There were two Sabbaths within that 72-hour period!

These women bought and prepared spices "when the Sabbath had past" and then "rested on the Sabbath"! They rested twice: once on "a high day" and once on the weekly Sabbath two days later.

This can mean only one thing! Jesus was crucified and buried on a Wednesday, the holy day fell on Thursday, the women prepared spices on Friday, and our Savior was resurrected at sunset on the Sabbath as the day ended! The events cannot be worked out any other way with the plain evidence provided in the Holy Scriptures!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Luke 4:16-19

The Sabbath is so significant that Jesus' ministry formally began on a Sabbath and ended on a preparation day just before another Sabbath (John 19:31)! We see Him open His ministry in Luke 4:16-19, where He gives His mission statement. By quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in His inaugural sermon, Jesus identifies His mission as setting people free from bondage. He specifically mentions freeing the poor (weak, without power), brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed.

"The acceptable year of the LORD" is not when God is acceptable to us, but when God, in His sovereign mercy, moves to make us acceptable to Him. It is a time when He chooses to deliver people. More specifically, it refers to two Old Testament institutions, either the seventh year land Sabbath or the Jubilee year. Israelites considered these years liberators of the oppressed. During them, the land lay fallow and what food it produced on its own went to the poor, dispossessed, and animals. Slaves were freed and debts remitted. During Jubilee years, debtors received back their land lost due to mismanagement.

Jesus says in verse 21, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." It was a Sabbath, and through the typology, Christ is clearly showing that His redemptive mission included the liberating intent of the Sabbaths, weekly and annual. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man." God made it to equip us to come out of spiritual slavery—and even more so, to help us in staying out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Luke 4:16-19

This is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, we could call it His inaugural address. Jesus began His ministry on a Sabbath. His ministry ended on a preparation day, Passover. He completed the cycle. Major things happened to Christ on the Sabbath, for instance, He was resurrected on a Sabbath. Major things occurred in the history of Israel on the Sabbath as well. All those events draw attention to one supreme purpose for the Sabbath.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 and Isaiah 58:7. "The acceptable year" is not a time when God is acceptable to us, but when God, in His sovereign mercy, moves to make men acceptable to Him. In other words, it is an appointed extension of His grace, of His calling of men, to make them acceptable to Him. It is a time when He moves to deliver people.

More specifically, "an acceptable year" refers to two Old Testament institutions, which these people in Nazareth would have undoubtedly recognized: either 1) to the seventh year land Sabbath or 2) to the Jubilee year. If it was the sabbatical year, think about its purpose: It was given to give the land rest, to relieve it of the responsibility of growing food. The land was to lie fallow and to produce food voluntarily for the poor, for the dispossessed, and for animals. Also in the seventh year, slaves were freed and debts were remitted.

These things, plus an additional one, occurred in the Jubilee year: seized property was restored to its original owners. They may have lost it many years before, but in the Jubilee year they were relieved of the burden of their indebtedness. They were restored the ability and power, therefore, to earn money once again, since all wealth ultimately comes out of the land. This freed them of the burden that they very likely put upon themselves.

In what is Christ's inaugural address, we see that He is stating His mission, and in each point, it involves setting at liberty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Luke 4:16

In Jesus' inaugural address, He is associating His work of being man's Benefactor through redemption—the freeing of man from bondage to Satan, the world, and our nature—to the beginning of the fulfillment of God's redemptive function for the Sabbath. In Luke 4:16, He was beginning to magnify the Sabbath law. At the very beginning of His mission on earth, the very first law that He begins to make clear is the Sabbath!

This should remind us of something that happened in the Exodus. What was the first law that the God of the Old Testament revealed to the children of Israel? It was the Sabbath! Does that give any indication that He is preparing to do away with it? Not in the least! In one sense, because of its position, it is the law in the Ten Commandments around which all the others revolve. Yet mankind seems to think of it as being "the least" of the Ten Commandments, but anybody who breaks it consistently is going to lose his liberty.

Until the time of Christ, the Sabbath had not really been used for the purpose that He was beginning to reveal. Christ is magnifying and re-establishing God's original intent for the Sabbath, just as He does in Matthew 5-7 for the other commandments. By identifying Himself with the Sabbath, He is actually affirming His Messiahship.

How, then, did Christ view the Sabbath? Did He actually uphold it? There are some who say that His acts on the Sabbath were intentionally provocative, designed to show that it is no longer binding. So, was He genuinely observing the Sabbath, or deliberately breaking it?

Christ did a lot of things on the Sabbath. It is very evident that, as His ministry progressed towards its end, the things that He did on the Sabbath became more and more bold, open, clear. At the beginning, He "low-keyed" what He did on the Sabbath. Being wise far beyond men, He knew that there would be an explosive reaction to Him. Luke 4 is His announcement of how He would use the Sabbath.

And then— right within the chapter on the very same Sabbath day—His announcement is followed by two healings (Luke 4:31-39) that clearly reveal God's intended use for Sabbath time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Luke 4:16

There is no argument in the world of religion over which day the Old Testament reveals Israel was to keep holy. Jesus kept it. What is one supposed to think - that God goes to all the trouble to record all that information about the Sabbath in the Old Testament, and then after four thousand years, He has second thoughts and changes one of His royal laws? He changed no other law of that rank, so why that one? That demands an answer, especially since God-in-the-flesh kept it.

If anyone knew how to live life in a way that would please God, it was His Son, Jesus Christ, who never committed a sin. He kept the Sabbath. It was His custom, not only to keep it, but it was also to fellowship with His fellow Israelites and to read and expound Scripture to them (see Luke 4).

Do we worship some kind of unstable God? How can we have faith in Him and His way, if we fear that God might have changed something and we are not aware of it?

The truth about those ceremonies, rituals, and laws is not done away. Jesus' own testimony to this effect is found in Matthew 5:17-18, "Not one jot or tittle will pass from the law." They are still in effect but elevated to their spiritual application. The Head of the church, the One whose example His disciples are to follow in all things, kept the Sabbath. He did not keep it because He was a Jew but because the Word of God - the Old Testament - instructed Him to do so, and He set an example for His followers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 3)


 

Luke 4:31-39

What Jesus did on the first Sabbath of His ministry is to signal an attack against the forces of evil. He began a holy war to free mankind from Satan and sin. The demon knew it, which is why it reacted the way it did. It threw a tantrum. If we would put what the demon said into modern, colloquial terms, it snapped at Jesus, "Why are You interfering here?" And Jesus came right back, with authority, "Shut your mouth! And come out of him."

The demon was not about to give up easily. It was probably a strong demon, but it did obey its Master and came out - yet not without thrashing the man around. Fortunately, the man was not hurt.

So the first shot that was fired in this war was a spiritual healing: Jesus liberated a man from a demon on the Sabbath day. He may have done a few other things before, but this was the first public act as part of His ministry.

This began the war for control of the earth, for the right to rule over it after He had defeated the demons' master, Satan. Jesus was showing that the demons would not fare any better than he. By casting out the demon, He restored order and peace to the congregation, as the possessed man had been causing trouble.

The second thing He did, then, was a physical healing that resulted in service to others. This unfortunate woman, who was bound by a disease, is relieved of it by Jesus Christ. Then she rose and immediately served everybody else. This ought to give us a clue - those of us who receive healing - as to what we are supposed to do with our healing. We are to rise and serve.

Here, in a nutshell, are major principles by which our Sabbath activities can be judged. The Sabbath is for redemption, liberty, joy, peace, and service that comes through fellowship and instruction that reorients our devotion to the right direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Luke 6:6-10

An honest evaluation of what Jesus teaches will show that He gives very few rules, if any, for keeping the Sabbath (or for that matter, for anything). There is a reason for that. For one thing, the rules were already laid down in the Old Testament. Also what He came to do was to magnify the spiritual application of that law, that is, teach and expound the spirit of the law, the intention for the law.

There is hardly a law that He paid more attention to than the Sabbath, magnifying its use. There are at least seven different occasions in the four Gospels in which the Sabbath is the issue, when Jesus magnified its use for us. Every one of them has a theme of redemption in it.

What He teaches us are principles for applying the rules that have already been given in the Old Testament. For some of us, that is kind of disconcerting. We would like to have something like a bus or an airline timetable to take us through life in which every possible avenue is detailed as to exactly how we should go, where we should do something, when we should do it in every possible situation that might arise.

God allowed the Jews to try that. They eventually came up with 1,521 rules concerning the Sabbath, which they felt would cover every situation that one might possibly get into. What God is showing us through Jesus Christ is that this is unnecessary. In short, it does not work, or God would have done it. A person is not free when he is bound to those kinds of regulations.

Living in the twentieth century is not quite the same as living in the first or second centuries. Besides, that approach does negative things to a person's character; it produces an extremely narrow, intolerant, and critical casuist. What Christ did in giving us principles is that He gave us things that will last unalterable to the end of time and allow us to be free. They allow a person not always to do exactly the same thing each time. Every situation has to be judged on its own merit.

What does God want to do with our lives? What is He trying to form? He is creating in us an ability—an expertise—to judge. We are going to be kings and priests (Revelation 5:10). What does a king do? A king judges in civil matters, things that pertain to the community. What does a priest do? A priest also judges, but he judges in things spiritual. God is teaching us how to judge.

How we use the Sabbath is an integral part of His training program, and so He has purposely left out all kinds of details. But what He did through Jesus is magnify things so that we can see the intent. What we are seeing is that the intent for the Sabbath is to free. It is to liberate. It is not to bind people with rules.

There is a risk involved in what God is doing. In one sense, it puts a person at very grave risk. Blundering, foolish, and self-centered as we are, there is a grave danger of taking our liberty and turning it into license to do virtually anything we want. Or, on the other hand, to take our liberty and do as the Jews did, becoming so restrictive that we turn the Sabbath into bondage.

But God has to do that! If we are going to become judges, trained in the purpose that He wants, He has to allow us this liberty to make the judgments. So it is a risk that must be taken if a person is going to grow in judgment and character, so one will be prepared to be a king and a priest, knowing when to act and when not to act. God offers to us His Holy Spirit to give us counsel and to guide. But we must apply the principles in the circumstances of our lives.

In no case did Jesus give any indication of doing away with the Sabbath. Always the examples show Him magnifying the Sabbath's intent by doing an act of freeing someone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

Luke 13:10-17

In Luke 13:10-17, Christ heals another chronically ill person on the Sabbath. This time, though, He did not wait for anyone to ask Him questions. The episode plainly discloses the redeeming and liberating intention of God's Sabbath. When Jesus says, "You are loosed," the ruler of the synagogue reacts immediately because to him the Sabbath meant rules to obey rather than people to love.

Jesus replies in verses 15-16 by emphasizing the Sabbath principle:

The Lord then answered him and said, "Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?"

Christ makes a play on words here. He uses the same verb, "loose," to describe the ox and donkey as He does the woman being "loosed" from Satan through healing.

Jesus acts against the tradition of the Pharisees, but no where challenges the binding obligation of keeping the Sabbath. Rather, His example shows that we should make merciful evaluations to help others cast off their heavy burdens. He argues for living the true values.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Luke 13:10-17

On this occasion, Jesus did not wait for somebody to ask a question, as He did in Luke 4. He just went out and did what needed to be done. This episode shows God's purpose for the Sabbath very clearly. Jesus says, "You are loosed." When one is loosed, one is made free. The lesson is clear. This woman was in bondage to an infirmity, something Satan had afflicted her with.

On the other hand, there were the Pharisees. To them, the Sabbath was rules to obey—their rules, their traditions. To the ruler of the synagogue, then, the Sabbath was unfit for loosing somebody from his pain or from his infirmity.

Jesus calls him a hypocrite in verse 15. "Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose [untie, free] his ox or donkey from the stall? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed [freed, delivered, redeemed] from this bond on the Sabbath?"

How plain! Once we begin to see what Jesus did and talked about on the Sabbath, it becomes clear that He was magnifying its use. The Sabbath is the day of liberation; it is the day God blessed so that we can remain free and no longer be brought into bondage. (Incidentally, the verbs translated "loose" are the Greek word that means "to free.")

Does Jesus say, "Oh, it doesn't matter. We're going to do away with the Sabbath anyway"? No! Instead, He argues for a right, merciful evaluation of a person under a heavy burden and then using the Sabbath to relieve him of it. He is arguing for true values in the use of God's Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

John 5:5-10

This was a case of chronic illness. This was not a healing that needed to be done immediately—Jesus could have waited until the Sabbath was over. It would not have made any difference at all to this man if he was blind or crippled for another day or a few more hours. However, Jesus did not wait because He wanted to teach us a right and proper use of the Sabbath. It is a time to relieve burdens, to heal, to make life a bit easier for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

John 5:16-17

The issue is the Sabbath. God does not stop working on the Sabbath. However, He is not laboring in a steel mill. He is not bending over an engineering table, working on His automobile, or cutting His lawn. What is God doing? Psalms 74:12 says that God is working salvation in all the world, and that work does not stop on the Sabbath.

Jesus is justifying what He did on the Sabbath by the fact that He was doing the same thing God was. He was expending His energy in God's creation, and therefore it was justifiable for Jesus to work. So, creative acts—creative work—of the kind that God is involved in does not stop just because the Sabbath arrives.

The Sabbath is, therefore, an integral part of the same process of Creation that God began on that seventh day. The physical aspect was finished at the end of the sixth day. But the spiritual aspect began with creation of the Sabbath, and it continues to this day, as Jesus establishes in John 5.

In the physical sequence of events—the first six days—God created an environment for man and life. But God shows through the creation of the Sabbath that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath plays an important role in producing spiritual life. It is life with a dimension that the physical cannot supply. Thus, the Sabbath is not an afterthought of a tremendous Creation. Rather it is a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing that man knows—time.

Time plays an important role in God's spiritual creation. It is as if God says, "When this day rolls around, look at what I have made, and consider that I am not finished yet. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be part of My spiritual creation." God created the Sabbath by resting from His physical exertions, thus setting us the example that we must also rest from our physical exertions.

He also blessed and sanctified the day. He did this to no other day! Yet people will argue, even with Christ, that we should not keep it as He did. It is very obvious that He kept it. Yet, it is the commandment that men tend most to disregard as though it is nothing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

John 5:17

What work is the Father doing? He is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 74:12). God is always working toward the completion of His purpose - the salvation of mankind. Jesus works within the same process and pointedly makes an issue of this on the Sabbath days. God's work is creating sons in His image. Thus, healing, forgiving sin, and doing good are part of Christ's work as Savior and High Priest that He might be "firstborn among many brethren."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 5:17-19

The charge does not accuse Him of healing but of breaking Sabbath regulations. In both cases, Jesus repudiates the charge by arguing 1) that the works of salvation are contemplated by the Sabbath commandment (see Deuteronomy 5:15, where redemption is the focus of the keeping of the Sabbath), and 2) that what Jesus did—being contemplated by the Sabbath law—is equivalent to God doing the same thing. It was this that really angered the Jews because they surmised that He not only had "broken the Sabbath" but in their eyes did something far worse: blaspheming God by making Himself equal with God.

It ought to be obvious that Christ did not regard the Sabbath as a time of idleness. He certainly looked at it far differently than the Jews did. He admitted that what He was doing here could be considered as work.

But what kind of work is it? Since He equated Himself with God, what He was saying is that He was doing the work of God. That is His justification. "My Father is working until now," and He did not break the Sabbath!

It is interesting that the word "answered" in verse 17 also appears in verse 19. It is the only place in the New Testament where this particular Greek word is translated "answered." It is a particularly strong word. What it means is that Jesus was heatedly defending Himself. It is showing that He considered their accusation to be "personal," as it were, and He reacts to it very strongly.

What comes out of His mouth is, "My Father has been working till now, and He works on the Sabbath!"

Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do." (John 5:19)

Jesus is saying, "I am imitating what I have seen My Father do. Therefore, I am not breaking the Sabbath because God does this on the Sabbath!"

What we have to figure out is what kind of work does God do on the Sabbath? This is important to understanding the principle of the kind of work that is permitted on the Sabbath. What does God do that Jesus is copying?

God shows that He rested from His work. The kind of work that God is doing on the Sabbath does not involve the work of physically creating something. So we can eliminate that right away. Notice John 1:1-3:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made [past tense] through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

John is referring to the physical Creation. Those works were finished, as it were, from the foundation of the world. Jesus is not referring here to the work of earning a living. The work that God is involved in is something else entirely!

God does His work ceaselessly and effortlessly. Jesus is telling us what kind of work it is: the work of redeeming. It is the work of salvation. It is the work of healing people, particularly their minds.

In John 5:31-36, Jesus Christ says, in essence, "What I am doing proves that I am the Messiah." At that time, He had just healed someone, redeemed him from bondage to an illness, from uselessness. He just gave to him the liberty to have hope. He just delivered someone out of his discouragement. That kind of work is the work of salvation. God "is working salvation" (Psalm 74:12).

Also consider John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" God is working to produce in us faith in Jesus Christ because salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is the foundation from which everything in God's purpose grows. God is working to get us saved. He is able to do it, but we have a part in this salvation in that we have to make choices. The basis of our choices is whether or not we believe in Jesus Christ. If we believe Him, then we will make the right choices. It is essential, then, that our faith be increased.

So, the purpose of the manifestation of the works of God in Christ is to produce faith. If one has faith in God, then what will he do? He will apply God's Word, and that produces liberty in himself and in others. We can now begin to see the part that the Sabbath plays in this. It is essential to increasing our faith.

The work that God is doing is not the work of a physical creation but the work of a spiritual creation. He is creating sons in His image. Christ is Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior—and that is His work! What does He spend His time doing? He spends His time healing, forgiving sin, teaching the way of God, and doing good. That is His part in the work of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

John 5:17

We do not use "hitherto" much anymore. It means that the Father began working at some unexpressed time in the past, and He is working still. He began working and has never stopped. His audience understood this because they say that God was working on the Sabbath.

If God has never stopped working, He works seven days a week, 365 day a year, decade after decade, century after century. He is working and has never stopped for the Sabbath. Then Jesus adds, ". . . and I work." The Jews did not like this at all because Jesus associated Himself with God, and He was declaring, "I work on the Sabbath too," basically throwing their accusation right back at them. But the very fact He said it incensed them because they knew immediately that, in order for this to be true, He had to be equated with God.

The Father and the Son began working on a project in the indefinite past. Once that project began, They worked without stopping - "hitherto" - even now. Remember, God is our model, and He works on the Sabbath. But the key is the type of work that He and His Son do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

John 7:21-24

The Jews considered circumcising on the Sabbath a lawful Sabbath activity. Why? The Bible does not give a direct answer. It is in this point that Jesus nailed them to the wall! The Jews knew why circumcision was lawful on the Sabbath: It was a redemptive act because circumcision was an Israelite lad's introduction to entering the covenant. So circumcision was a redemptive act, even as today we consider baptism a redemptive act. And we rightly, lawfully, will baptize people on the Sabbath.

The Jews' reasoning was that it is lawful and right to cut off a piece of skin from one of the 248 (by their count) parts of the body to save the whole man by making this person a part of the covenant. Christ's reasoning, then, was that works of salvation are accomplished, not only by the Father, but also by His servants, who are His agents. In this case, the priests did the work of circumcision. And the Jews considered it lawful.

Jesus' reasoning is beautiful: "If you can do this act to save a man, why can't I also make a person whole and save his physical life on the Sabbath?" He says, "This is the work of God." It is redeeming somebody, setting them free, giving them liberty.

For Christ, the Sabbath is the day to work for the salvation of the whole person, physically and spiritually. If it is legal to cut off a part of a boy's body on the Sabbath because of the covenant, they have no reason to be angry with Him for mercifully restoring a person to wholeness. His opponents, however, cannot perceive this. It somehow does not enter their minds. We can understand why: God just was not working with them yet - it was almost as if they had blinders on. They could not perceive the saving nature of His work. To them, the pallet (John 5:8) and the clay (John 9:15) were more important than the healed man himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

John 7:22-24

These verses show how far out of proportion the Jews' judgment was relative to the value of circumstances. In their judgment, not carrying a pallet and making clay on the Sabbath were more important than healing someone. Jesus, therefore, tries to correct them.

The Jews considered circumcision a lawful Sabbath activity. The Bible never directly says why because everyone understood. They considered circumcision a redemptive act, even as we consider baptism a redemptive act and baptize on the Sabbath. The Jews judged it proper to excise one of the 248 body parts to save the whole man.

Christ reasons that the works of salvation are accomplished, not only by the Father, but also by His servants (for example, the priests who performed circumcisions). To Christ, God's true Servant, the Sabbath is the day to work for the salvation of the whole man, physically and spiritually. If it is legal to cut off part of a boy's body on the Sabbath to satisfy the Old Covenant, they have no reason to be angry with Him for mercifully restoring a person to wholeness on the Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 19:14

The word "Passover" in this context requires some explanation. At some time before Christ's day, the Jews had begun calling the day of Passover and the following seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8) by the single name "Passover." This has caused great confusion for non-Jews, especially when they read the account of this particular Passover. But John 19:31 should clear up any confusion: "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day) . . ."!

So, without a doubt, Jesus was crucified on a Passover day, Nisan 14, and the Sabbath that followed was the first day of Unleavened Bread, an annual holy day, a high day. This only makes sense, for the apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 5:7, "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

John 20:1

Mary Magdalene arrives at the grave early on the first day of the week while it was still dark—and Jesus has already been resurrected! So much for Easter sunrise services! Even if one thought Christ rose at dawn on Sunday, counting back 72 hours (three full days and three full nights) brings one to dawn on Thursday, and God's Word explicitly says that Christ was buried at sunset!

Yes, Jesus rose from the grave, but not on Sunday, the day traditional Christians call "the Lord's day." If He did, He could not be our Savior because He would have failed to fulfill the one sign of His Messiahship: three days and three nights in the tomb. Jesus rose on the day of which He says He is Lord: the true seventh-day Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Acts 13:14-16

Christ set the Sabbath-keeping example for his apostles, and Paul, following His example, tells us we are to imitate him as he imitates Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). Paul preached to the Jews and Gentiles on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is for everyone, not just the Jews. These Gentiles were keeping the Sabbath in the synagogue with the Jews on the seventh day, not Sunday.

Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment


 

Acts 16:13

Paul uses the Sabbath to contact people for evangelistic purposes. This takes place after the Acts 15 conference, and this habitual practice continues throughout the chapter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Acts 17:10

What day did they enter the synagogue? Paul moved from city to city, and it was always his custom to use the Sabbath to preach the gospel, first to the Jews in their synagogues and then to the Gentiles.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Acts 18:4-11

There is no indication anywhere in this context, from chapter 13 through 18, that Paul taught them anything other than that they should keep the Sabbath. If he had taught them anything different, here is another wonderful opportunity for Luke to inject it into the text, but he does not.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Acts 18:21

Here we have a mention of a holy day, which may have been the Feast of Tabernacles. Paul says, "I must by all means keep this feast." The Protestant interpretation of the book of Galatians primarily, and the book of Romans secondarily, puts the apostle Paul into the position of being a hypocrite! These commentators suggest that he tells people, on the one hand, that they do not have to keep the law of God, the Sabbath, and the holy days, yet the book of Acts shows him in every city keeping the Sabbath and here telling the people, "I must keep this feast." They make him out to say one thing but do another.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Romans 13:11-14

Paul is using the day/night metaphor here, but he switches them, and the night is far spent. The night is this period of time that we are living in—in the darkness of Satan's rule over the earth, under the governance of men, deceived by all the false religions, and so forth. But the teaching is exactly the same as John 9:4: that there is only so much time to get prepared for the Kingdom of God. We only have so much time to get prepared for the Sabbath. There is a powerful lesson here in regard to the preparation day.

It is reasonably clear that God has allotted six thousand-year days for man, and one thousand-year day for Himself. That time will be a rest for His Creation. We are near the end of the sixth thousand-year period, and the "day" is coming when no work can be done. For us, it will be, "That's all she wrote."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

Galatians 4:1-3

Paul uses an analogy that is similar to Galatians 3:23-25, where he likens the Old Covenant to a tutor meant to teach, but his application is very different. He says, "Now I say," indicating a different approach to his instruction.

As long as an heir is a child, as long as he is immature and unable to inherit, he is not much different from a servant. The child's potential is much greater, and his future is much brighter, but in day-to-day actvities, he is restricted, limited, and controlled just as much as a servant of no lineage. The net effect of the immaturity is the loss of control. The child, like the servant, can only respond to what happens to him rather than having any power over his well-being or destiny.

Galatians 4:2 shows that the immature child is ruled over by others until the father, the one who gives the inheritance, decides that the heir can be freed from the grasp of the tutors and governors. This does not mean that at the "appointed time" the heir actually inherits from the father, but rather that at the appointed time he is no longer under the control of somebody else.

In this analogy, Paul does not say that the "tutors" and "governors" are positive elements, or that they are good for the child. He only says that they restrict the child and make him little better than a servant. Verse 3 likens the "tutelage" and "governance" to bondage, not like the schoolmaster of Galatians 3:24-25, which was meant to train and prepare.

In this series of verses, Paul is showing that until God the Father decides to drag someone out of this world (John 6:44), even though it has been preordained that they have a chance to "be a lord" and to inherit eternal life and other promises from the Father, they are powerless against the "elements of the world"—the rudiments of the cosmos, the world apart from God. These elements are demonic in nature. Before God called the Gentile Galatians, they were in bondage to sin and to Satan. Even though they had a higher potential—to inherit the Kingdom of God at the resurrection—until the appointed time when God saw fit to remove the shackles, they were just as controlled and powerless as the average servant of Satan.

Similar imagery is found in Colossians 2:20-22, where Paul was arguing against Gnosticism and asceticism:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles [rudiments, KJV] of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—"Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

Paul is clearly not referring to a commandment of God, as verse Colossians 2:22 shows. He is referring to false, pagan teachings that are considered to be the "basic principles" or "rudiments" of the cosmos.

This is also shown in Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Before God redeems a man and "quickens" him—makes him alive—he walks according to the course of the cosmos. This passage shows clearly that the cosmos is ruled by the "prince of the power of the air," Satan the Devil. His spirit works in the children of disobedience, and they serve him. They are powerless in his grasp until God pays for them with the blood of His Son.

The "elements of the world" in Galatians 4:3 cannot be a reference to the Mosaic law, because the Gentile Galatians were never exposed to it until after their conversion—after God had ordained that they be taken out of the control of the "governors of this world" (Ephesians 6:12). The "elements of the world" are those basic things that make this cosmos what it is—a world apart from God. These elements are sinful, rebellious, and pagan.

It is blasphemous to say that anything that God ordained as a way to live (e.g., the Old Covenant) would put a man in bondage, when God's every intent is to free mankind from the bondage of Satan, sin, and human nature (Exodus 6:6; 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6; 13:5,10; John 8:33-36; Romans 8:15). Would God liberate the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 1:14; 2:23; 6:5; Deuteronomy 6:12; 8:14; 26:6; Acts 7:6-7) only to shackle them again? On the contrary, He had their best interests in mind, providing for them a "schoolmaster"—the Old Covenant—which would be in effect until the Messiah came. Those who declare that the law of God brings one into bondage are pronouncing that they are anti-Christ: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

God's law is not a burden. It is a definition of right and wrong and an extension of God's own character. It is the way that He lives, and there is no Being in the universe that has more freedom than God! James refers to the law of God as the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25), not the "law of bondage." He also calls it the "royal law" (James 2:8), not the "weak and beggarly law." Further, the apostle John was inspired to write in I John 5:3 that "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous [burdensome]." It is the height of carnality and blasphemy to consider God's perfect, royal law of liberty to be a weak and beggarly element that keeps mankind in bondage.

Some have tried to use Galatians 4:3-5, 9-11 to argue that God's law in general, and the Sabbath in particular, has been "done away with." They twist these scriptures to try to say that God's law kept us in bondage, but now Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the law so we no longer need to keep the Sabbath(s) holy. This is ironic, because one of the fundamental meanings and symbols of the Sabbath is redemption and liberation—not from any moral law, but from slavery and bondage to Egypt (sin):

Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work ... And remember that thou [were] a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out [redeemed, rescued, freed] thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-13,15).

God had to instruct the Israelites about the Sabbath again because they had been in Egypt for centuries and had forgotten the instructions to their fathers. The Sabbath was reintroduced right after they were brought out of Egypt (Exodus 16), long before God made a covenant with Israel (Exodus 20). So, while the Sabbath command was a requirement included in the Old Covenant, its validity, importance, and necessity by no means ended when the Old Covenant became obsolete.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:9-10

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Colossians 2:16-17

For centuries, people have tried to use Colossians 2:16-17 to say that Christians are not required to observe the Sabbath and holy days. This distortion stems partly from a misunderstanding of Colossians 2:14, which many claim says that the law was abolished and nailed to the cross, and partly from having a carnal mind, which is enmity against God and His law (Romans 8:7). They reason that Paul is saying in verse 16, "Therefore [since the law is done away] don't let anyone condemn you for eating unclean meats or not observing the Sabbath or holy days." Consequently, they interpret verse 17 to mean that Paul dismisses the Sabbath and holy days as unimportant symbols of future events, while emphasizing that the only truly substantive Christian need is belief in Christ. From this, they conclude that we should not concern ourselves about these days because, since Christ died, their observance is not required. This is not true.

The Colossians had been significantly influenced by pagan philosophies that taught that perfection could be achieved through self-denial and abstinence from pleasure. As a result, Colossae tended to be an ascetic community which adhered to a religion of severity, and its citizens thought anyone who was religious should behave as they did. Many of the people who had come into the Christian church in Colossae had brought their pagan philosophies with them, and they soon began to have an adverse influence on the entire congregation at Colossae. Paul corrects the people in the church who were doing this in Colossians 2:20-23. It appears some of the people had begun thinking that this self-imposed asceticism could somehow contribute to their salvation and had begun turning away from trusting in Christ. They had more faith in their unchristian works. Paul warns them about this in Colossians 2:8.

God had called the people in the church at Colossae out of their pagan, ascetic way of life, and they had begun to learn how to enjoy life in a balanced manner as God intended. This included eating meat, drinking wine, and enjoying food and fellowship when observing God's Sabbath and festivals.

Because the converted Colossians were learning how to enjoy life as God intended, the people in the ascetic community began to look down on them and condemn them. In addressing these problems, Paul reminds the Colossians that they are complete in Jesus Christ; they have no need for the pagan philosophies of this world (Colossians 2:9-10).

Paul explains in verse 16 why they need not be bothered by the attitude of the Colossian society toward their practices and way of life in the church. To paraphrase, "Do not worry about what the people in the community think about your enjoyment of eating good food, drinking wine, and joyously celebrating the Sabbath and the festivals. Christ has conquered the world and all of its rulers, so we do not need to be concerned about what the world thinks about us."

In verse 17, Paul mentions that the Sabbath and holy days are "shadows," symbols or types, of future events in the plan of God. The Sabbath is a type of the Millennium when Jesus Christ and the saints will rule the world for a thousand years. The holy days symbolize various steps in the plan of God and remind us annually of God's great purpose in creating mankind.

A literal translation of the last few words of Colossians 2:17 reads, "but the body of Christ." What is the body of Christ? I Corinthians 12:27 shows that the body of Christ is the church! The exact same Greek expression that is translated "body of Christ" in I Corinthians 12:27 (soma Christou) is used in Colossians 2:17. Paul tells the Colossians that they should not let any man judge them or call them into question about these things but rather let the church make those judgments. He is pointing the members to the example of the spiritual leaders of the church who set the tone and pattern of worship on the Sabbath and holy days, exhorting them not to worry about what anyone in the community thinks about them. A similar exhortation is given in Colossians 2:18-19.

Far from doing away with the observance of the Sabbath and holy days, Colossians 2:16-17 is one of the strongest proofs that the early church kept these days and that Paul taught the Gentiles to keep them.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Are the Sabbath and Holy Days Done Away?


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

What did Paul teach them that he calls "traditions" (verse 15)? The King James Study Bible says in a note regarding traditions which you were taught: ". . . refers to more than customs. In view here is the totality of the apostolic doctrine as it was given to them."

He is not referring to the rituals or ceremonies of the apostolic church. He is talking about keeping the commandments of God—about keeping the Sabbath and the holy days, about living the Christian way of life, and about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 2:14 says that the Thessalonians were "imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus." How were the Judeans conducting their Christian lives? They certainly did not think the law of God was done away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Hebrews 2:1-3

Jesus Christ, the living Head of His church, here warns against neglect—drifting away. Neglect is not deliberate. It is not willful. It is not intentional sin. It is something that happens because of familiarity, or distraction, caused by one having too many things going in one's life.

It says that we are to "give the more earnest heed." We are warned not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). In the message to the Hebrews, the Sabbath plays a central role. We can already begin to see in chapter 2 that part of the problem these people had was that they were neglecting the things they had heard.

It was not deliberate or willful. But they were people who were drifting away. They were not making the effort towards perfection. God noticed this because it was His church, His sons and daughters, and He cares! So He sent them perhaps the strongest message in the entire Bible. Hebrews 10 is arguably the most powerful chapter in God's Word. From what we see, the Sabbath was being neglected. We have to "give the more earnest heed" so that we do not lose sight of the things that were given to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 4:1-10

Hebrews 4 shows a connection between God's rest on the Sabbath day during the creation week and the thousand-year reign of Christ, commonly called the "Millennium." It is logical to conclude that the other six days of Creation typify 6,000 years of man's government on earth. Thus, God has a 7,000-year plan to bring humanity into His Family, and we find ourselves near the end of man's allotted 6,000 years!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Master Plan


 

Hebrews 4:1

The Hebrews did not fulfill the promise. It is still open. Paul then goes on into Joshua and the people who entered the Land, which should have been the fulfillment but was not. After Joshua died, the whole nation went down spiritually until everybody (as it says in the last verse of Judges) was doing what was right in his own eyes. There was no king. There was no central authority. There was nobody to point these people in the right direction. They did not enter into the "rest."

Psalm 95 is generally conceded to be a psalm of David or of Asaph, who was looking back in time. David lived roughly 300 years after Joshua, and the promise of entering God's rest had not been fulfilled in David's time either. Was it fulfilled in any other historical time? No. That is why the apostle is writing this: It still remains! God's promise has not been fulfilled.

Who will it be fulfilled by? Paul is hoping it will be fulfilled by these people who were drifting away, that is, the church. The promise of entering into that Sabbath rest has not yet been fulfilled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 4:9-10

The Lamsa translation of the Bible from the Aramaic renders Hebrews 4:9-10 as: "It is therefore the duty of the people of God to keep the sabbath. For he that has entered into his rest also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his." Along with the examples of Christ, His apostles, and the early church, this scripture indeed shows us we have a responsibility in keeping the Sabbath. It is on the Sabbath day that we have the best opportunity each week to learn and grow toward entering God's rest, His Kingdom.

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws


 

Hebrews 4:9

In Greek, the word for "rest" here is sabbatismos. It means "a Sabbath rest."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 4:9-11

We see the Sabbath in several different lights. First, it commemorates the completion of the Creation Week (Genesis 2:1-3). God is Creator. Second, in Deuteronomy, we see that it commemorates redemption (Deuteronomy 5:15). In the Gospels we see Jesus acting upon this redemption motif with regard to the Sabbath. God has gotten us out of spiritual Egypt. Now the question becomes, how do we use the Sabbath? So Jesus magnifies it by showing that we should use the Sabbath to produce liberty. We might almost say that the first thing we need to make sure is that we are free and stay free. Therefore, we have to strive to keep the Sabbath! Third, it prefigures a time yet future when the people of God enjoy the rest.

So, now we see the Sabbath doing what?

It points to the past—the Creation.

It points to the present—redemption and sanctification.

It points to the future—the Kingdom of God.

These three areas are the parameters within which Sabbath use and obedience fall.

"For there remains yet a keeping of the Sabbath." This is really beautiful. What it shows in the Greek—which, incidentally, is probably the most beautiful Greek in the whole Bible—that the Sabbath rest has already begun if we are striving to use it right. We have already begun to enter into it. If a person works on the Sabbath to earn a living, has he entered into it? Obviously not! Keeping the Sabbath is vital to entering God's rest.

This ties very closely to the term "eternal life" in the Bible. Eternal life is not merely a period in which there is life without end. To God, eternal life includes the quality of life being lived. It would be no good to have eternal life if we had to live like a demon. But eternal life is only good when it is lived as God lives it.

Now, are we starting to live like God? If we have begun to live like God lives—having His attitude, doing the things that He does in terms of what Christ has showed us—then we have begun to enter into eternal life. Therefore, we are already beginning to enter into God's rest. It is a beautiful picture!

Paul's point to the Hebrews is that the children of Israel did not enter into God's rest because they did not hear God's Word and obey. The illustration is the Sabbath, for the breaking of which both Israel and Judah (as Ezekiel and Jeremiah show) went into captivity. What is so interesting here is that this is written to the first-century church, and it is introduced as an illustration of what they are to do with their lives.

Think about this. If the Sabbath had been done away, the illustration was useless. This is one of the strongest proofs in the entire New Testament that the first-century church, the church of the apostles, were still keeping the Sabbath—and reinforcing its keeping by using it as an illustration of the very Kingdom of God, the rest into which we will enter. Far be it from the apostles to say that it was done away! That is patently ridiculous. Maybe the spiritually blind cannot see that, but we should be able to see it clearly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 10:25-31

Considering Ezekiel 20 and what happened with Israel, that God's rest is introduced earlier in Hebrews 4 and that assembling is mentioned here make an inference of the Sabbath in these sobering verses seem inescapable. The Sabbath commandment is just as important as any of the other nine.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Hebrews 10:25

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together - The Revised English Bible renders this verse: "We should not stay away from our meetings, as some do, but rather encourage one another, all the more because we see the day of the Lord drawing near." Since the New Testament church observed the Sabbath, it is evident that Paul is saying, "We need to be attending church services, especially since the end is coming soon!"

A good friend of mine and I were talking about how the church keeps the Sabbath. He commented that, generally, church members baptized before the mid-1970s seem to have a greater zeal for making sure they always get to services on the Sabbath than those baptized later.

This may or may not be true, but there does seem to be a trend not to consider assembling on the Sabbath as important as it used to be. In the past, we would never think of missing church services to attend a wedding or visit with family coming into town. We would never stay home because we were tired. When someone became ill, the whole family did not stay at home; we thought that everyone else should still go or at the very least one of us should represent the family at church. Since it was the most important event of the week, we would always plan to be at services, even if we "ruffled the feathers" of relatives or neighbors.

We obediently honor God in coming before Him at services. Each Sabbath is to be "a holy convocation" (Leviticus 23:3), meaning we are "called together" to worship Him. In a way, it is like a weekly Family reunion to pay homage to our Father, and in turn, He instructs us further in His way of life.

In addition, we partially fulfill some of the elements discussed in Hebrews 10:22-24. The Sabbath allows us to draw near to God and strengthen our faith. It helps us to hold fast our belief in doctrine through the messages we hear. And through fellowship with the brethren, assembling on the Sabbath enables us to know and consider others' needs, showing us how we may aid them.

Are there reasons to stay home on the Sabbath? Of course. Personal or family sickness, as when a child is ill. Business trips and family vacations will interfere occasionally with attending services, but we can take tapes or articles and booklets. We may have put in an especially difficult, exhausting week, but even here, we can plan and prioritize to avoid these situations so we can attend services. In fact, having a difficult week is all the more reason to make sure we make it to Sabbath services.

Our former church affiliation says that keeping the Sabbath is just a tradition, not a law. It is interesting that the only part of the Bible that God did not inspire to be written by a human being is the Ten Commandments. God wrote them Himself with His own finger. He did this because the commandments are His mind, the foundation upon which everything else stands. Thus, the keeping of the Sabbath is not a "tradition." It is a direct, eternally binding command of God, and thus we should do all we can never to forsake the assembling of ourselves on it.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Contend Earnestly


 

Revelation 1:9-10

John informs us that he "was on the island that is called Patmos" (Revelation 1:9), a small, rocky Aegean island just west of due south from Ephesus, employed as a prison or place of exile by the Roman emperors. Most prisoners were required to work the quarries and mines on the island, but John's advanced age may have allowed him to avoid such backbreaking labor.

He writes that he was exiled there "for [because of] the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ," an indication that his preaching had come to the attention of the Roman authorities, and judgment had gone against him. It is likely that John had spoken against the emperor cult (the worship of the current Roman emperor as a god, a practice that reached its height under Domitian, AD 81-96), and his exile rather than execution can only be attributed to Jesus' prophecy of John not facing martyrdom (John 21:22). The apostle perhaps remained on Patmos for less than two years, as such exiles were routinely released upon the death of the emperor who had exiled them.

Some Protestants and Catholics contend that John saw these visions on a Sunday because John writes that he "was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10). This is merely an unfortunate misunderstanding due to the prevalence of unscriptural Sunday worship throughout Christendom. In Greek, this phrase reads en teé Kuriakeé heeméra, literally "on the belonging-to-the-Lord day." Although it is different in construction to other instances of "the day of the Lord" in the New Testament, the meaning is the same. John is speaking not of the first day of the week, but of the time of God's judgment known throughout the Old Testament as "the day of the LORD." (Sunday, the first day of the week, was never known in the true church as "the Lord's Day," for Jesus Himself says He is "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), which is the seventh day.)

The apostle is giving the reader vital information about the time setting of his vision and thus the true application of the book of Revelation. Through the agency of God's Spirit, John received a vision of end-time events and related material that reveal to the church a unique understanding of the day of the Lord. Though couched in late first-century terms and allusions, Revelation is first and predominantly about the time of the end, when God through Christ will intervene in world affairs and establish His Kingdom on the earth. Most of its prophecies are only now beginning to be fulfilled or are still awaiting fulfillment in years just ahead. In a sense, the book of Revelation is as current as today's newspaper—even better, because we have it in advance!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation


 

Find more Bible verses about Sabbath:
Sabbath {Nave's}
 




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