The Issue of the Sabbath
By Let Us Reason Ministries
The debate on whether one is to keep the Sabbath or not starts in Genesis where it is claimed it is creation ordinance for all people. Gen.2:2-3 tells us "On the 7th day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the 7th day from all His work which He had done. then God blessed it and hallowed it because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."
The very first thing I notice is that He (God) rested and we see no hint toward man being included in this rest. It was God alone who rested, since it was God alone who worked in creating. At this time He did not give it to man to keep. This counters the argument of the Sabbath meaning a day of obligated worship for two reasons. One- we clearly see only God resting. Two- God did not worship; He is the first to keep the Sabbath, it means to rest not worship.
The first commandments that are mentioned in Genesis are Do not eat of the tree for in the day that you do you will die. Marriage is instituted and the command to be fruitful and multiply. The Sabbath is not a creation ordinance for man or we would all be obligated to keep it. For example marriage is a creation ordinance (Gen. 2:18-25) and this is still not mandatory because the New Testament gives people the option to be single and is even considered superior, since one can devote themselves fully to the Lord's work (1 Cor.7:1,7). Murder is a command given in the time of Adam as a moral law and becomes part of the 10 commandments. We do not murder someone because the 10 commandments say so, but because God said so at the beginning of time. So if one does not follow the 10 commandments it is still wrong to murder. There were moral laws that were instituted for mankind to keep apart from the 10 commandments. Some of these were included in the 10 when they were given to the nation Israel.
As we continue to go through the book of Genesis and look at the early history recorded in the Bible, something becomes very clear, nowhere do we find the word Sabbath used or a law instituted for its day (It is always called the 7th day.) When we come to the time of Job which most scholars put in the Abrahamic period, we see a tradition of sacrifices and burnt offerings consistent with men of faith, but no Sabbath. Interestingly Job is called blameless and upright, God said there is no one more righteous. We see him sacrificing for himself and his family as a high priest in his home, but there is no Sabbath celebrated. Even Abraham who is called out of a pagan culture when he meets the Lord and is given the promises in Gen.12. A covenant is made, there is a sacrifice made later but no mention of a Sabbath. When he meets Mechizedek there is a type of tithe, communion but no one is keeping the Sabbath. 430 years pass from God calling Abraham until Moses and there is not one mention ANYONE keeping the Sabbath. Neither is this day passed on to Abraham's sons Isaac and Jacob, all who are included as men of faith. Why would this be missing if it was so crucial to obey? Everything else that was kept by man is mentioned, why not the Sabbath day. The answer is not mysterious but simple, it wasn't kept yet.
For a period of over 2,500 years there is no 10 commandments or Sabbath mentioned. Not Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem, Jacob or any of the 12 patriarchs kept this so called creation ordinance. Certainly if this was a crucial day for man to enter into this rest (or worship) we would see at least one patriarch keep it or refer to it along with their sacrifices and offerings. We would also find both Gentiles and Jews obligated to keeping this day since Abraham the father of the Jewish nation came later with no distinction before him. All this goes on until Moses time where in Ex.16:23 we see it first mentioned to man.
The Biblical truth is that the word Shabbat (Sabbath) does not appear once (after God rested) until Moses' time and there is no record of any Jew or gentile keeping this day as an observance to God before this. The first occurrence is found in Ex.16:23-30 where the full term is used Shabbaton Shabbat Kodesh a "Holy Sabbath" which means to cease or rest. 27 now it happened that some of the people went out on the 7th day to gather, but they found none. In vs.28 -30 And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? "See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day." They were not scolded for not keeping the Sabbath only but all his laws he gave. It was about their going out the next day to gather manna as food because they were not accustom to resting since they worked 7 days a week in Egypt. This was the part of the disobedience. They were given twice as much the day before so they would not have to gather.
In Ex.20 When the 10 commandments are given they are told to keep and remember the Sabbath which was previously received and forgotten (not obeyed) in Ex.16. Sabbatarian's make a big hooplah out of this being the only commandment he says to remember. This is Not so! Num. 15:40: "and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God." The word is clear to remember all, not just one, for the simple reason they were a unit. In the book of Deuteronomy the phrase do not forget is used 2-3 times for other things (8:11, 9:7). In Ex.16 when they are first told to keep the Sabbath they broke it. So the next time they are commanded to do so God says remember since people were stoned for disobeying it. Later on in Deut. 5:12-14 they are told to "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." It is kept as a memorial of the Exodus in v.15 not just of God's resting in creation (also Ex. 12:16-17).
God reminds Israel to keep what he a recently has given. Ex. 20:8-11: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." Who was it hallowed for ? It was God who rested, it was to separate him from the 6 days he worked creating. It was on only one 7th day God rested not every 7th day. For the Israelites they rested once every week. What we see is that it was given to Israel as a gift to rest, it was not a day of worship, it is reflective back to God resting from his labor. Just as Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. It is now given to Israel because they had no rest in their slavery. It was a day of inactivity and refreshment from the regular work of 6 days. Shabbat means to have an abrupt stop to cease, the phrase "To keep it holy" means to set it apart from the other days of the week. There is no reference to worship. There was no command for cooperate worship for Israel on the weekly Sabbath. So when did this day become the traditional day of worship. It originated when Israel was in Babylonian captivity not with the law of Moses. Corporate worship was only on 3 occasions Passover, Pentecost and tabernacles, not the weekly Sabbath.
The truth is if you worship and assemble at Church on the Sabbath you are breaking it, since it is to be a day of rest and not travel Ex.16:29-30. Its not just believing in the Sabbath but keeping it correctly as the bible says. Sabbatarian's ask the wrong question, it should be are they keeping all the Sabbaths and the feast days not just one day.
The first command given for a day is not the Sabbath but the feast of unleaven bread which commences on the first day of the week, the 2nd is the 7th day. Both are equal and called holy convocations.
Exod. 12:16-19: 'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them." In other words they are both Sabbaths "rest days". So we see God has defined the way Sabbath is to be interpreted and it is not only one 7th day.
There are the high holy days (feast days) in Lev.23. In these observances are 7 holy convocations (feasts) the first mentioned is the Sabbath, next the Passover, feast of unleaven bread, firstfruits... all are identified as equal in their requirements of observance. Are we to accept the Sabbath as the only one not ceremonial and the other 6 are and this is why we do not keep them today. If one is to claim to keep the law they need to be consistent and honest with the Bible, they must observe it all, not choose which parts to accept or reject.
So the fourth commandment was not of worship but of rest and their is actually another day where Israel worshipped. This is found in Leviticus 23:7: "In the first day you shall have a holy convocation (assembly) on the day after the Sabbath, you shall do no customary work on It. 'But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.'" V.11 'He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbathrest, and on the eighth day a sabbathrest.
All are called Holy convocations, this term is found 19 times in Ex., Leviticus and Numbers. 11 of which are found in Lev.23 alone. Both the Sabbath and the Passover are called "the Lord's." Ex. 12:11 Both are "rest days" Ex. 12:16 Both are "connected with deliverance from Egypt" Ex. 12:17. The Sabbath is not called the only holy day in the Old Covenant this day differed in no way from the other Jewish holy days: All of these days are described as equally HOLY and to be kept as eternal ordinances and they are called memorials. They may have had different functions but they were all holy (separate).
If we examine carefully the language used to describe the holy days They are all equally "holy or high" God makes no difference and neither should we. Ezekiel 20:12 emphasizes: Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Yahweh that sanctifies them. And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God vs.20.
In Ex. 31:12-17 we find the intent of the Sabbath "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: '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. 'You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 'Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.' Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.17 'It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'" This was a present command connected to a previous event. Here God himself says it is a sign between him and the nation Israel specifically. A sign always point to something that is greater. Jesus did signs but they were not to follow them but him. This sign separated Israel among the nations as ones who follow the creator but they were not to exalt the sign.
Neh. 9:13 "You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant." Also in Nehemiah he affirms a holy assembly on the eighth day .Neh. 8:18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner. (again we see the first day Sunday observed)
If it was given originally to all mankind it would not be given to Israel as a nation and it certainly would not be sign. Numerous covenants had a visible seal or a sign, The Sabbath was the sign for the Mosaic covenant which God made with the nation Israel in the wilderness. (With Noah it was the rainbow, Abraham it was circumcision) clearly the Sabbath is part of the Mosaic covenant as circumcision is of the Abrahamic. If God had given the Sabbath or 10 commandments to every race of people it would not be a sign of distinction. To give a practical example of this, if a man gives a girl a diamond ring it is a sign of his affection. However if he were to give a diamond ring to all the girls he knows it would not have the same meaning of it being that sign specifically for her. Israel was the one who received the covenant not all the people. The sign was to rest just as God did on the 7th day. No work, no worship, God did not worship but rested , if we are going to keep it correctly we need to obey just like the Bible says. This does not mean they were forbidden to worship, only that they were not commanded to.
The keeping of the law and this day is made clear it was unique to Israel. Deut. 4:8 "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set." Because of the Exodus they are to keep the Sabbath Deut. 5:15, "And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day."
Israel was never commanded to teach the gentiles to obey this day (unless they converted) it was a sign for Israel’s separateness unto the Lord. The Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic covenant just as circumcision was of the Abrahamic. Since it was Israel the nation that was set apart at Mt. Sinai, they were the ones delivered from slavery that needed the rest. This token of the Mosaic covenant could only be for them. The Church was never delivered from Egypt nor present at Sinai when the law was given Israel the nation was. The Sabbath was given to a theocracy as nation ruled by God, not to the world. There is No command to keep the Sabbath in the entire New Testament! While we may see at times apostles gathering in the temple it was by choice not command. So if the church today worships on Sunday it is not a violation of any command.
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord" (Rom. 14:5,6).We are under liberty, not The Old Testament Law (Col. 2:16,17). Sabbatarian's need to learn this lest they sit in the seat of judgment on the brethren.