Keeping the Sabbath

This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord’…” (v. 23).

- Exodus 16:22–36

The commandment to keep the seventh day holy is often tied to the Mosaic law, as if it somehow did not have the same eternal and transcultural quality as the rest of the commands (i.e. murder, stealing, adultery). But here we see God commanding His people to keep the Sabbath day before the Law was even given on Mount Sinai. This law, however, was not a new command even at this time. It was introduced in the Garden to Adam and Eve: “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The Sabbath day is a law inextricably bound to the holiness of God. Adam and Eve were expected to keep the Sabbath day, and all generations and every society from that time forth are expected to keep this command. This is true for New Testament believers as well. Jesus did not abolish any point of the law, and this includes the Sabbath. We are to keep the Sabbath as an everlasting ordinance to the Lord. As we keep the Sabbath we are to celebrate the rest and peace we have in Jesus Christ and look forward to the day when we will have eternal rest in God our Father—a day that even then will not be abolished but will be celebrated for all eternity.

So faithless were the people of Israel that they even failed to keep this holy command. God had told them to keep the Sabbath day holy, to refrain from worldly care and work, and to rest in Him. When Israel disobeyed, God said, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath.… So the people rested on the seventh day.” Notice that the breaking of one command was in essence breaking all God’s commandments. Israel’s failure to keep the Sabbath was a failure to obey God, and thus it was a failure to love the Lord. Likewise, when we fail to keep the Sabbath, when we go about our daily activities on the Lord’s Day as if it were any other day of the week, we are breaking all of God’s law and calling into question our love for Him and our submission to Christ as our King.

Probably no commandment is more flagrantly broken than this. We do not consider it to be important. But God does, and so should we. If we want to love our Lord, we must do it by obeying His commands, and this means resting on the Lord’s Day.

Coram Deo

Take the time to read all the verses below and then to read Mark 2:23–3:6; Luke 13:10–17; John 5:1–18. From these passages what does it mean to keep the Sabbath day holy? How had the Pharisees abused this day? Does Jesus anywhere say this command is abolished? Examine your own life. Are you keeping the Lord’s Day holy?

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 20:8–11
Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15–22
Isaiah 58:13, 14
Jeremiah 17:19–27

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