Recently, on the television morning show Fox and Friends, I saw an interview with Senator Joe Lieberman discussing his new book, "The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath."
Mr. Lieberman, as you recall, is not only a United States Senator but a former vice-presidential nominee and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The need for a day of rest
As a Sabbath-keeper I was intrigued by this man, who despite his high profile lifestyle, spoke on how the Sabbath has anchored, ordered, and inspired his life. Mr. Lieberman also expressed his encouragement of others who pick a day of the week to rest and keep in a special way.
Setting aside one day in seven as a special day of rest is indeed a good principle, but the real questions are: What does God think, and what does the Bible say? Is resting once a week just a good idea whose time has come in a hectic world, or is resting and worshiping God on a specific day of the week a command from God himself—not just to the Jewish people but to all peoples at all times?
Confusion about the Sabbath
Leaders and authorities from many religious denominations candidly acknowledge that Saturday is the biblical Sabbath day and that there is no biblical basis for Sunday observance. For example, note the following quotes:
"Nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the [Roman Catholic] church outside the Bible" ("To Tell You the Truth," The Catholic Virginian, Oct. 3, 1947, p. 9).
"But since Saturday, not Sunday, is specified in the Bible, isn't it curious that non-Catholics who profess to take their religion directly from the Bible, and not the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Yes of course, it is inconsistent; but this change was made about 15 centuries before Protestantism was born, and by that time the custom was universally observed. They have continued the custom, even though it rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church and not upon an explicit text in the Bible" (Dr. John O'Brien, Faith of Millions, pp. 543-544).
"You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify" (James Cardinal Gibbons, Faith of our Fathers, 88th ed., p. 89).
"We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday" (Peter Geiermann, The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, 1957, p. 50).
"The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word 'remember,' showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?" (Dwight L. Moody, Weighed and Wanting, pp. 47-48).
The Sabbath is a gift—and a command—from God
Jesus Christ, in condemning the practices of the religious leaders of His day, said, "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:7-9).
According to Christ's own statements, it is possible to worship Him in a way that does no good—that is, it is in vain. God does not give us the choice of how to worship Him—only whether we will worship Him according to His instructions or not.
Bravo to Senator Lieberman for bringing attention to this important command from God! The United Church of God offers you literature that will walk you through the scriptures offering more information about this special gift from God to all mankind. Our booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest is available at no cost or obligation.