What the Bible says about
Sabbath as Delight
(From Forerunner Commentary)
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
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.
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)
"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)
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)
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)
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