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What the Bible says about Sabbath Rest
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:2

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

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

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

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

Staff

Genesis 2:2-3

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Genesis 2:2-3

Because God rested after six days of labor, the Sabbath is also our day of rest and a memorial of Creation. He wants us to remember, not only what He did in the physical creation, but also that His spiritual creation continues in us now. When God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, He made it holy, set apart for God's use! Only God can make a day holy, and He does this by putting Himself, through His Spirit, into it.

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

Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment

Genesis 2:2-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment

Genesis 2:3

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

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

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

Staff

Exodus 16:26

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

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

Staff

Exodus 20:11

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

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

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

Staff

Exodus 31:12-17

Several points stand out in this passage:

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

David C. Grabbe

Exodus 31:17

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

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws

Leviticus 23:3

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Sabbath

Leviticus 23:24-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff
What Is the Feast of Trumpets, Anyway?

Isaiah 40:28

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

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws

Isaiah 40:28-31

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

He restores our energy. He gives us the power to overcome and to grow. He gives us peace of mind so that we are truly rested. He helps us to recover our strength. He enables us to live confident, hope-filled lives. He gives us good health and sound minds. "The Lord gives His beloved sleep" (Psalm 172:2). He gives us strength-restoring sleep. All of these things are gifts of grace from time well-spent in fellowship with Him, developing the relationship with Him and communicating with Him in Bible study and prayer.

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)

Isaiah 58:13-14

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Hebrews 4:1-10

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Master Plan

Hebrews 4:1

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Hebrews 4:9-10

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

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws

Hebrews 4:9

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Hebrews 4:9-10

Have we entered into that rest? We have not entered into it yet; it has not occurred. So, what rest is God talking about here? The Kingdom of God, which still lies before us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Hebrews 10:25-31

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

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

Related Topics: God's Rest | Rest | Sabbath | Sabbath Rest


 

 




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