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Bible verses about Sabbath, Liberating Intent of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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)


 

Exodus 12:1-2

During their long sojourn in Egypt, the Israelites lost track of time—they even forgot which day was the Sabbath! God had to show Israel when His year began so that they could begin observing His holy days. Israel's calling out of Egypt symbolizes God calling us out of this evil world.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Passover


 

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 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

Verse 10 plainly states the seventh day is God's Sabbath. This passage also shows that, although it is God's time, we still have a responsibility to ensure that we observe it properly. Verse 11 reiterates Genesis 2:1-3, that God Himself set the seventh day apart.

The context of the fourth commandment explains why He commands us to observe it. Notice Exodus 20:1-2: "And God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.'" Why do we keep the Sabbath holy? Why do we keep any of the commandments? Because God first acted to free us from spiritual Egypt, that is, slavery to sin. Before God began working with us, we had no power over sin; we were slaves to it, just as the Israelites were literal slaves to the Egyptians. When we choose to follow God and His way of life, we no longer serve sin but God, and God gives us everlasting life. Paul explains this in Romans 6:22-23:

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Since Jesus Christ paid the ransom for our lives, freeing us from the bondage of sin, we are now subject to the laws of the Kingdom of God, one of which is the seventh-day Sabbath.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

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)


 

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 12:5-6

Christ's comments in Mathew 12:5-6 allude to the instructions contained in Leviticus 24:5-9:

And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. [This is the showbread (I Samuel 21), the subject under discussion in Matthew 12.] You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in the holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute.

These five verses together with I Samuel 21 explain that, not only did the priests put the bread in the sanctuary, but they also baked it on the Sabbath. Thus, it was hot when they put it in the Holy Place on the Sabbath—right out of the oven. Was it lawful for a woman, in the ordinary course of her household responsibilities, to bake twelve loaves of bread on the Sabbath? It was not. This is the illustration that Jesus utilizes in Matthew 12.

"The priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." They not only did these things, they were also made sacrifices on that day, which consisted of a great deal of labor. Why, then, were they "blameless"? For the same reason that Jesus justified healing on the Sabbath (in John 5) and the same reason that the priests were blameless for circumcising on the Sabbath: They were doing the work of God, the work of salvation. They were fulfilling a purpose on the Sabbath that somebody had to do. This is the issue throughout John 5, 7, and 9.

Christ is greater than the Temple. He is the Head of God's spiritual Temple. He is its High Priest, and the disciples are His priests in training, His agents! Thus, their Sabbath ministry intensifies, even as Jesus' does. Were they justified, then, in eating on the Sabbath? Absolutely! They were justified because of the circumstances and the offices they were now holding in God's spiritual Temple!

So, the circumstances dictated a "profaning of the Sabbath" because of their involvement in the work of God. Loving service is greater than ritual fulfillment. What loving services were Jesus and His disciples performing on the Sabbath? They were teaching God's way. They were healing people. Now, what is mercy? Mercy is doing helpful acts: acts of love, aid, comfort, pity, and sympathy for other's distress. All these works help relieve a person of a burden.

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 12:9-14

Matthew 12:9-14 is in many respects very similar to John 9. Jesus healed a man with a chronic problem. It was not an emergency situation. He could have allowed the person to go on and heal him after the Sabbath was over, but He deliberately chose to heal him on the Sabbath day. Why?

The answer is to show us that God's mind, His nature, His law, is always to be merciful under every circumstance. In following His example, we have to make sure that what we are doing, our intent, really is showing mercy to the person. Necessity in this case did not demand that He heal the man on the Sabbath, but it provided an excellent example that mercy is always right when the opportunity presents itself.

Even though Jesus had the power from God to do this, He did not frequently go out of His way to heal people on the Sabbath. On the other hand, if people came to Him on the Sabbath, He healed them.

The Pharisees were so far from God that they were blinded to the wickedness of their plans. They were looking for an opportunity to get evidence against Jesus to kill Him. Their wicked motivation for their actions is probably the most gross Sabbath violation in all the Bible: They used the Sabbath to plot the murder of an innocent Man.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

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 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


 

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 4:31-39

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 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 9:14-16

What is the true purpose of the Sabbath? God's instruction about the Sabbath is contained in general principles that we are to apply properly. To do this, we have to understand its purpose.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus instructs us on how to live His way of life using these principles. The Sabbath is so significant that His ministry formally began on one and ended on a preparation day for another. In His inaugural sermon (Luke 4:16-19), He spells out His work: setting people free from captivity. He specifically mentions revealing His truth to the poor (that is, the weak), brokenhearted, captives, blind, and oppressed (see Isaiah 61:1-2).

The Sabbath—which, He says in Mark 2:27, "was made for man"—is a key element in this work of delivering people from oppression. God established His Sabbath law, including the weekly and annual Sabbaths, to prepare a people to come out of and stay out of spiritual slavery. Each Sabbath reminds Christians that God is their Liberator, and by keeping it, they show that they are free and want to remain free.

We need to recognize that the blind man's life was not in immediate danger, but the liberating healing Jesus performed was done to one who was chronically ill. Spiritually, we are the same, beset by lingering sins. God provides the Sabbath to free us from the chronic problems caused by the desires of our human nature.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part Two)


 

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


 

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)


 

 




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