The Sabbath Day
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The Sabbath Day
The weekly Sabbath day, the holy time of rest that falls every seven days—from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset—was made and set apart for man at the time of man's creation. God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, and in it He rested from all His works of the creation week prior, as recorded in Genesis 1.
The sunset-to-sunset reckoning comes from the fact that the preceding six days each began in the evening (Genesis 1:5; Genesis 1:8; Genesis 1:13; Genesis 1:19; Genesis 1:23; Genesis 1:31), and in Leviticus 23:32 God explains that He still reckons days this way. (The custom of beginning and ending days at midnight dates back to practices established in pagan Roman society and is contrary to God's method of determining time.)
The first Sabbath was the day after the formation of the first man and woman, an ordained time for human beings to focus on a close personal relationship with their Maker (Genesis 1:26-2:3).
Jesus Christ declared Himself the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), and indeed He is the One who actually instituted the Sabbath, God the Father having created all things through Him (John 1:1-3; John 1:14; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2).
As Jesus also explained in the same instance, the Sabbath was intended to directly benefit all mankind—not just one particular cultural, religious or ethnic group (Mark 2:27). It is a very special time to deepen and broaden man's devotion to and relationship with God. When we turn from seeking our own way, we find pleasure in that which pleases God (Isaiah 58:13-14).
God gave instructions concerning the observance of the Sabbath when He listed it with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Thus it is an important aspect of God's law, which we are to obey.
In Exodus 20:8-10, God said that man is to "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." We remember and hallow the Sabbath by refraining from work during that time and instead using it to seek after God and worship Him.
Leviticus 23:3 lists the seventh-day Sabbath as one of God's appointed times and declares it a period of solemn rest and of holy convocation—a mandated sacred assembly. As Christians follow this pattern of observance and worship, they are reminded of the Creator God, the One who brought them into being.
In Deuteronomy 5:12-15 God reemphasizes the need to keep the Sabbath. He explains that the Sabbath is to be a reminder not only of Him as the Creator, but of the fact that He is the One who frees from bondage (see also Luke 4:18-19). Ancient Israel remembered being freed from physical bondage in Egypt. Christians remember being freed from spiritual bondage and liberated through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:16-18).
Exodus 31:13-17 points out that the Sabbath is a sign between God and His people and constitutes a perpetual covenant. This is in addition to the instruction given at the time of man's creation and in the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath is to be kept holy as a reminder to those called of God that He is the one true God who sets them apart and that they are His children who have surrendered their lives in obedience to Him.
When Jesus returns to the earth and establishes the rule of the Kingdom of God over all nations, the Sabbath will be regularly observed by all humankind as a means of worshipping and serving Him (Isaiah 66:23).
Jesus Himself set a righteous example in His life of observing the Sabbath (Luke 4:31), and the New Testament records that His followers continued that practice long after His death and resurrection.
Paul taught the gentiles (non-Israelites) on the Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44), following both the law of God and the example of Christ. Wherever Paul went he taught on the Sabbath, as was his custom, and established churches that kept the Sabbath (Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4). No example can be found in the writings of the apostles or the practice of the New Testament Church that shows any hint of change in the example and teaching they received from Christ.
Hebrews 4:9 declares that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God" (NASB). The context of this passage, Hebrews 3-4, presents the seventh-day Sabbath as symbolic of the rest that the ancient Israelites sought—fulfilled in part in their settlement in the Promised Land, but to be ultimately fulfilled in the future rule of God over all nations, when all peoples will find true rest. Nearby verses show that Christians now are to be diligent to enter God's future rest as well as the weekly rest that prefigures it (Hebrews 4:4; Hebrews 4:9-11).
In conclusion, the Sabbath looks back to creation and reminds man of his Creator. In the present, it recalls for those who keep the seventh day holy that God is the One who has delivered them from the bondage of sin. Finally, the Sabbath looks forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, when there will be true rest for all humanity.