What the Bible says about
Sabbath Made for Man
(From Forerunner Commentary)
As the sixth day ended, the creation week was not yet complete. One more day and a major blessing remained to be given to mankind to aid it in accomplishing God's purpose for all.
God created the Sabbath by resting on it and sanctified it as a blessing for mankind to observe in a similar fashion. God did not need to rest because He had grown tired, as we humans do (Isaiah 40:28; see Psalm 121:4). He rested as an example to us, showing what we must do on the seventh day, as well as to sanctify it as a special day to accomplish His purposes in creating us.
He did not do this for any other day. The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, and as nearly the middle commandment, functions as a bridge between the law's two parts. It is the only one of the ten directly mentioned in the Edenic covenant.
Why has observance of this day fallen into such disrepute? It is not only disregarded by most, but even hated within some circles of the “Christian” world, as if keeping it is a curse. Though many do not necessarily hate it, they make no effort to observe it despite God singling the seventh day out as different from the other six days. The reason for this disregard is that, because it is so vital to our Creator's overall purpose, Satan has gone to great lengths to obscure its value.
Jesus states unequivocally in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath, a special creation, was made for the benefit of mankind. He did not make it only for the Israelites, who did not even exist when He created it. Jesus uses “man” here to stand for all humanity beginning with Adam and Eve. Jesus would certainly understand this, as He was the One who created the day for mankind (Colossians 1:15-19).
God specifically identifies Himself with no other day of the week. In Ezekiel 20:12-24, He specifically calls them “My Sabbaths” six times. He does not refer to them as belonging to Israel but to Himself. He also identifies Himself with those who keep the day, and explicitly establishes non-observance of the Sabbath as sin (Exodus 31:12-17)—and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
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).
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
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
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 likethem, Israel became lost among them. Beware.
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign
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 longerin 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)
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
The Jews do not ask him, "Who healed you?" but "Who told you to carry your bed?" (verses 11-12). They are not in the least interested in the wonderful miracle that had been performed to make this man whole and vigorous. They are focused on what they perceive to be an offense against themselves—against their laws, power, desires, and pride. Essentially, if it meant breaking their rules, they would rather let people suffer than have them healed on the Sabbath.
The Jewish leaders' laws had become their god. They had long since forgotten that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). They were unable to recognize that the Sabbath is given to provide rest from an exhausting world and to rejuvenate people's relationship with God. Also, as this miracle typifies, healing brings rest from spiritual pain and suffering. However, these Jewish critics prefer the role of religious dictators and policemen oppressing the people. If enforcement of law only tyrannizes people and increases unnecessary suffering, it becomes harmful and worthless.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Cripple by a Pool (Part Three)
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