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What the Bible says about Sabbath as Test of Faith
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

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 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

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)

Isaiah 1:10-14

Just because He calls them your Sabbaths, or your feast days, does not necessarily mean that they were not even meeting on the correct days. The context shows that they were doing the ceremonial things (Isaiah 1:11, 13; Amos 5:22).

If Israel regarded the Sabbath as merely ceremonial, then they were at least keeping the Sabbath in a ceremonial way. When He says "your new moons," or "your Sabbaths," they could very well have been on the same days that God commanded, and not something "new" that they came up with. There is a possibility in the book of Amos, because of Jeroboam I, that they indeed may have been keeping different days. But, in Isaiah 1, it seems "the Sabbaths" He refers to there, are "the Sabbaths" that we know of today as Saturday.

Thus, if indeed they were still keeping the weekly Sabbaths and the holy days (at least in terms of the right days on the calendar), then God's displeasure was caused by the way that they were keeping them, their attitude and lack of understanding as to why they should be keeping them. That is what concerned God. So bad were these issues, that as far as God was concerned, those days that they were keeping were no longer His, and He was separating Himself from them.

For short periods of time, small groups of people in Israel kept it right—but how to keep it was almost always a bone of contention between God and Israel. That issue is written about frequently in the Bible. It is not that they were keeping the wrong days, but how they were keeping them and their lack of understanding as to why they were keeping them that God was concerned about.

There is a great deal in the Bible about this commandment. When one includes what is written concerning keeping the holy days, the annual Sabbaths, with what is written concerning keeping the weekly Sabbath, there is more written directly about this commandment than any other, except the first commandment. We are not without instruction as to God's mind toward it—far from it. We have a great deal of instruction on how we should keep the Sabbath.

It is well understood that God did not inspire a list of hundreds of dos and don'ts to be written down. Instead, He chose to reveal by means of a few commands, examples, and broad principles, that we are supposed to study into, meditate upon, reach conclusions, and put them into practice in our lives. It was done this way to teach us to think through the process of choosing and coming to an understanding of why we are doing these things, developing our understanding of the mind of God.

The goal of this way is not that we would become creatures of rote, but rather, that we would do things because they are right and avoid other things because they are wrong. We would be making choices of our own free will that are in line with the mind and will of God.

The Sabbath has often been referred to as the "test commandment." God is testing the intention, the motivation that precedes the act and provides us with our justification, as well as what we will permit ourselves to do. Sometimes, in defending ourselves, we will say, "Well, I didn't mean to hurt you." Maybe not, but the fact is that the other person was hurt. This position is not good enough, because it still falls short of the glory of God. It is good to remember "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." God wants our intentions and our acts to be right. If we get the intention right, there is a far greater chance that the acts we permit ourselves to do on the Sabbath will be right. It must be this way, because the batting average for right intentions bringing forth right acts is exceedingly higher than the other way around. God wants us to understand why we are doing what we do before we do it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)

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)

Ezekiel 20:10-14

To God, idolatry and Sabbath-breaking go hand in hand. Sabbath-breaking is shown to be idolatry because the Israelites were either using it in idolatrous devotion to a false god or not keeping it at all.

The Sabbath was given so that Israel would know the true God, so that they could fulfill their purpose, which was to witness for God before the world, learn more of His purpose, and work to build character so that they could inherit God's Kingdom. They failed miserably and totally.

God accomplished His goal of bringing them into their own land only to uphold the reputation of His name. But what was the overall result? The Israelites in the wilderness died there (Hebrews 3:16—4:2). Their descendants failed in the same manner, so God cut them off and sent them into captivity and slavery.

Israel's history reveals that the Creator God is the Source of the Sabbath, and God's children have the responsibility to honor Him by keeping it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 




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