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Ezekiel 20:20  (King James Version)
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<< Ezekiel 20:19   Ezekiel 20:21 >>


Ezekiel 20:18-20

If we treat God's Sabbath day as holy, then it can be a sign (see Exodus 31:12-17). We can set the day aside on the calendar and give it lip-service, but if we do not treat the day as holy from within'by what we do or what we fail to do, even if we do no work—then there is no sign between God and us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)



Ezekiel 20:20

What caused one house (Judah) to retain its identity and the other (Israel) to lose it? God gives the answer—the Sabbath. Whedon's Commentary on the Bible (at verse 12) states, “The Sabbath was the visible sign to the Hebrews and to the world that they were his, and that he was theirs.”

A sign identifies. An example is a burqa, the long, loose garment covering the whole body from head to feet, worn in public by many Muslim women. A woman wearing a burqa is an unmistakable sign that she is Allah's and that he is her god. It is a sign that separates and identifies.

With these verses in chapter 20 of Ezekiel, God guarantees that if His people keep the Sabbath—the sign that signifies who they are and who they worship—that sign would assure their identity. To be separate requires a definable identity. God, by their observance of the Sabbath, guaranteed they would remain separate and set apart, preserved as a select people unmixed with the nations.

Throughout history, the house of Judah has continued to observe the Sabbath. As a result, they have retained their identity. On the other hand, the house of Israel rejected the Sabbath, and true to Ezekiel 20, they have disappeared from view. They have lost their identity. They no longer have the sign that tells them, or the rest of the world, who they are.

The house of Israel chose to rebel against the Sabbath, a proclivity that began as far back as the wilderness journey:

Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them. (Ezekiel 20:13)

So, the Bible clearly and consistently identifies as Israel those nations that have become known as the “Ten Lost Tribes,” rather than the house of Judah.

Pat Higgins
The Nation of Israel—Biblical Israel? (Part One)



Ezekiel 20:18-20

Keeping the Sabbath identifies the true God to us. It is not merely the fact that one observes the day, but rather it is observing it combined with how one observes it. People can surely keep it, as the Jews did, and not keep it right. Did they know God? No, they did not (Ezekiel 20:10-12)—obviously, because, when God came in the flesh, they rejected Him. All the while, however, they were keeping the Sabbath. So the instruction is that it is not merely a matter of just observing the day but how the day is observed that enables a person to know God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)



Ezekiel 20:18-21

Verse 24 gives a concluding statement as to why Israel was taken into captivity. There are two possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking. 1) Israel completely rejected God's Sabbath for another day. This possibility exists due to the instances of the "My/their" or "Mine/yours" contrast, that is, My Sabbath as opposed to your Sabbath. 2) They polluted the Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance.

The probability is that they did both—some people completely rejected the Sabbath, while others carelessly observed it. However, it was because of Sabbath-breaking, a type of idolatry, that they went into captivity.

When we look at secular history, even biblical history, and society around us, how to keep this day is a mixed bag. On the surface, what we see in the New Testament is rigorous legalism from the Pharisees or asceticism from the Gentiles. Today, we might call that an extreme "rightism" or perhaps a reactionary conservatism.

In today's world, though, we are confronted with the other side of the coin. We do not even begin to know how to keep the Sabbath because, from our earliest days, our culture's emphasis has been on Sunday, a day that cannot be kept holy because it was never made holy!

The cycle of six workdays and one day of rest and worship is a legacy of the Bible. But in fairly recent history, society has undergone a radical transformation because of scientific, industrial, and technological achievements. A shorter workweek provides us more leisure time. Businesses, however, make every effort to make the best use of time, to maximize production by scheduling work shifts so that the weekly cycle becomes a blur.

We have come to the place where we think that time totally belongs to us, and we can use it as we good and well please. This, in turn, makes a person very conscious of his free time. What does almost every individual do? He does the same thing that a business does. Every bit of time in a person's life is booked up because he wants to get the most out of life.

Even among those who are reasonably religious, the result has been that Sunday has become the hour of worship. The older among us can probably remember that, in the community, Sunday was once set aside very seriously. People did not work. They usually spent the day at home. Maybe the most secular thing they allowed themselves to do was to read the Sunday newspaper. Some, perhaps, did not even listen to the radio on Sunday because, to them, the day was holy.

But over the years, Sunday worship—which used to be kept somewhat as God expects us to keep the Sabbath—has now become, even among religious folks, an hour rather than a day of worship. People go to church for that one hour then perhaps return home. Or, maybe they go to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant. They spend the rest of the time on that day either making money or seeking their own pleasure.

All the while, the real Sabbath is ridiculed or ignored. This is what confronts us when we begin trying to keep it. A similar environment even affects those who continue to keep it. When we look in the Bible, we find that God does not give us many specifics as to how to keep it. God does, however, give us a number of broad principles, and He expects us to extrapolate from those principles in applying them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ezekiel 20:20:

Genesis 2:1-3
Exodus 20:8
Isaiah 1:10-17
Galatians :

 

<< Ezekiel 20:19   Ezekiel 20:21 >>



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