Sabbath And The Christian (Part 1)
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
How do we find peace living in such uncertain times? What rest can our troubled souls find? The COVID pandemic has infected hundreds of millions and millions have died not to mention those who are now suffering from long-term effects. Numerous reports of war and conflict are breaking out in various countries. Severe storms deluged and fires ravaged different places in the world where lives were lost and many properties damaged. It has been a rough season for many.
As fellow believers, we are not exempted from rough seasons in life. Yet, God’s Word reminds us in
Psa 91:1 (NIV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
God wants to remind us that through Him we can find rest, security and refuge. Even in difficult seasons of our lives. God keeps His promises made to mankind. Even in rough and uncertain times such as these days, God is still with us. This idea is captured in the concept of sabbath.
Ex 31:12-18 (NIV) 12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. 14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.
16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’”18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
Hence, we will examine the significance of Sabbath and how we are to find our Sabbath in Him.
1. SABBATH AS A SEAL OF COVENANT (v12-13)
Exodus 31:12-13 (NIV) 12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
The overall context of this passage of Scripture is God was making His covenant with the Israelites at Mount Horeb. A covenant is an agreement, in this case initiated by God with His people. Our God is a covenant making and a covenant keeping God. Whatever He instituted covenantally with His people, He will keep to it. God does not go back on His Word.
The covenant made here is called the Mosaic covenant. It was made strictly with the chosen nation of Israel after their exodus from Egypt. The Mosaic covenant was expressed in the moral, civil and ceremonial laws that governed the life of the Israelite people. Hence, observing the Sabbaths in the Old Testament time was a part of the ceremonial laws commanded by God. The Sabbaths were literal days of rest, namely occurring on the weekly seventh day and the appointed holy days of the Festivals of Passover, Pentecost and the Tabernacles. For example,
Lev 23:7-8 (NIV) 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 8 For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’”
Observation of the Sabbaths was a sign and seal of the Mosaic covenant. It was a sign of the Mosaic covenant being put in action as the Israelites followed through in their ceremonial lifestyle.
The question is whether New Testament Christians are now obligated to keep the Sabbath days as commanded by God. As the Sabbath is now fulfilled in Christ, New Testament believers are no longer obligated to keep the Mosaic Covenant including its sign and seal. In fact, New Testament believers are now under the New Covenant with different signs (which are water baptism and communion) and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). Hence the literal Sabbath, or observance of the days of rest by the Israelite community are no longer applicable. We explain this further in the next point.
2. SABBATH AS A REST (v15-17)
Exodus 31:15-17 (NIV) 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’”
The word “Sabbath” means rest. When God gave the Mosaic covenant to the Israelites it was meant as a foreshadow, pointing the Israelites to Jesus Christ who is to become the Saviour of the world. What God taught the Israelites in those times, is also applicable for us as fellow believers in the 21st century in the following two aspects:
God showed us by example how He Himself rested at creation (v17)
Gen 2:1-3 (NIV) 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God also desires His people to find their spiritual rest in Christ. (v15,16)
The Mosaic covenant pointed towards the New Covenant that we now have in God through Jesus Christ. The spiritual truth of the literal Sabbath is now fulfilled in Christ. God desires us to cease from our own works and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. All these years, man have tried to be good, to fulfil all the laws and so forth but the Scripture tells us in
Isa 64:6(NIV) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
The spiritual truth of the literal Sabbath is now fulfilled in Christ. God desires us to cease from our own works and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
We cannot save ourselves because we are inherently sinful. This is where Christ comes in. Jesus became our ransom and paid the price by dying for us at the cross. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s requirements because he Himself is sinless and by His sacrifice at the cross, He set us free from sin and from Satan’s power. Those of us who receive Jesus as our Saviour and Lord and accept Christ as the One who saved us, we will find out true rest in Him. Rest from striving to gain our way back to God by fully trusting in Jesus for our entire salvation. This is a lasting covenant of God’s grace shown towards us.
Heb 4:10-16 (NIV) 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience…
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
In other words, the literal Sabbath rest pointed to a greater rest to come. This is found by entering the God’s rest, meaning the rest that God provides. A rest found in Jesus Christ alone. The one who trusts in Christ, rests in what Jesus has already done for us. We are to cease striving to achieve salvation by our own efforts and in our daily walk with God, we are to depend on the Holy Spirit. God desires man to rest as a whole person by relying upon Him. That is what Jesus promised.
Matt 11:28-30 (NIV) 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
God desires us to rest in Him spiritually. We can come to Jesus and cry out for His help, His strength upon us. That is why Jesus Christ is declared as the Lord of Sabbath, for He is the creator of Sabbath and the ultimate expression of Sabbath.
Jesus Christ is declared as the Lord of Sabbath, for He is the creator of Sabbath and the ultimate expression of Sabbath.
Mark 2:27-28 (NIV) 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
So now that the ultimate Sabbath is available for us, do we need the literal Sabbath? The Scriptures is clear that we are under no obligation to observe such literal days. After all, why bother when we have the real thing, in Christ?
Colossians 2:16–17 (NIV) 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
However, on the practical front there is still benefit in physical rest. For man needs physical rest and recuperation, as well as time for spiritual refreshment. That is why the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. This day in the Old Testament was given for the benefit of mankind. In ancient times, there were no weekly days for physical rest. People could be working non-stop every day, particularly for slaves. So God declared a day, which practically enabled man to rest and also focus on worship unto God. In today’s world, many only need to work 5 days in a week, 6 at most. Thus, this can be fulfilled quite easily, as long as we don’t undo it by taking a second job and end up working 7 days a week without any day off.
3. SABBATH TO MAKE US HOLY (VERSES 13,15)
Exodus 31: 13-15 (NIV) 13 Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy... 15For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.
In the Old Testament Sabbath days were days of holy assemblies. The Israelites gathered at least once a week as a people together, and also at the times of feasts which occurred three times a year. The Israelites are called to gather and worship the Lord in His sanctuary. There is that sense of sacredness to the whole essence of Sabbath. It was also a time of celebration of God’s deliverance and mercy shown to the Israelite people. God has called them out of Egypt to a land of promise and a good future.
Today, as fellow believers we are instructed to come together to worship God. To learn together of His Word, to take communion which reminds us once again of Jesus’ wonderful finished work at the cross and to rejoice together that we are worshipping the living God. Such gatherings are times of refreshing and renewal that we may be sanctified as fellow believers come together, through experiencing God. As a community, God’s Word cleanses us and renews us.
Such times of regular gathering are sacred in the eyes of God. It helps us recall constantly, consistently and perpetually of the wonderful finished work of Jesus Christ so that we may rest in Him. Our willingness to set time aside for God, assemble together to worship God and to assimilate His Word into our lives is definitely pleasing to God.
Heb 10:25 (NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Yet our gatherings as a church to worship God together is not a replacement for Sabbath day. For we should not confuse God’s use of Sabbath also for holy purposes of worship, in addition to it being a day of holy rest. For Christ is our Sabbath. In Christ, every day can now be our sabbath.
Our gatherings as a church to worship God together is not a replacement for Sabbath day
To be continued in Part 2 [click]
Copyright©️2021 by Wilson Lim & Lai Ling Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.