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The Sabbath Sign

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The Sabbath Sign

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We are all familiar with our inspiring Church seal that encapsulates our compound mission in the brief, but powerful words, "Preaching the Gospel…Preparing a People." Shown encircling the globe, these simple words portray the heart of Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 13:10.

Such is the nature of a well-crafted logo. Every day, we encounter countless corporate logos that we instantly associate with the product that they market. That's what the merchants hope we will do! If I say, "Get a hamburger," you will probably think of a specific fast-food restaurant, because of the company's advertising. If I say, "Buy yourself a new car," you might also immediately think of a specific manufacturer and model. If I say, "Here's some cash. Get yourself a new outfit," you likely immediately think of a specific mall!

An Utterly Unique "Logo"

As people committed to the Sabbath, we are privileged to see an unparalleled insignia, an "advertisement," if you will, weekly. God revealed this in Exodus 31:13, where He ordered Moses to tell Israel: "You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you" (NRSV).

He continued in verse 17: "It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

Does the Sabbath cause something to resonate even within our subconscious thoughts, the way a well-designed corporate logo does? Of course, it isn't intended to stir us to buy a product, but rather to be a product. It should forcefully renew our consciousness of who we are to God and who He is to us. Weekly, it should compel us to "change brands" from any "purchases" we have been making to the way of life God intends for us to live.

No Time for the Sabbath

Sometimes, we minimize the impact the Sabbath has upon us.

Recently, I heard of a few people who informed their pastor that they simply didn't have time for the Sabbath or attending church any longer. I felt a deep sadness, knowing that they were shutting themselves off from seeing this phenomenal "corporate seal" and the spiritually rejuvenating effect it could have upon them.

We are aware of how Israel disappointed God repeatedly by also straying from keeping the Sabbath. Pardon the commercial analogy, but think of a billboard prominently placed along a well-traveled highway that you see often. It reminds you of its product, even subconsciously. Then imagine the billboard being replaced by the advertisement of another company's product. You will no longer be reminded of the previous item and you will be more likely to buy the newly advertised one.

Israel essentially tore down thousands of "billboards" that were in every household throughout their nation every Sabbath by turning away from keeping it. The result could not have been more catastrophic. Their behavior drifted into immorality. Their religion was corrupted with the ideas of the pagans of Canaan. Eventually, God had no choice but to completely dissolve the nation and send it into captivity.

A Portrait of the Great King

The prophecy of Ezekiel addresses this in detail: "Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I [am] the LORD who sanctifies them" (Ezekiel 20:12). Expositor's Bible Commentary captures the entire picture in its comment on this verse:

"The Mosaic covenant followed the pattern of the international suzerain-vassal treaties of the second millennium B.C. A great king would enter into a covenant with a lesser power in order to provide blessings and protection to that vassal. The subject nation would, in turn, follow the stipulations laid down by the great king.

"God chose to reveal Israel's constitution in this familiar literary form. God was the great king, and Israel had become his vassal. The Lord had been benevolent to Israel by bringing her out of Egyptian servitude. Israel, in turn, was to be a witness for God in the world, living according to God's righteous stipulations of the Mosaic covenant. The great king would seal this covenant by placing his 'sign' in the midst of the legal policy. The sign was a portrait of himself in some manner.

"The Lord placed his sign-seal of the Mosaic covenant in the midst of the Decalogue (cf. Kline, Great King, pp. 18-19). He represented himself as the Creator in the sign of the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:13, 17). By continually observing the weekly Sabbath, Israel would be reminded that God graciously set her apart as an instrument of blessing to the world and as a witness against the pagans who had exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of his creation (v. 12; Neh. 9:14; Rom. 1:25)" (emphasis added).

Think of that: The sign was a portrait of the Great King in some manner. The Sabbath is a portrait of the Creator! Keeping it allows us to see our Father, His purpose, His mission. What an incredible opportunity! What a priceless privilege!

An Unparalleled Retreat

Notice further that the people of God were to, in turn, reflect this "portrait" to others. Jesus spoke of this concept in Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Keeping the Sabbath should stamp His imprimatur upon us, so that we can reflect Him to those we encounter throughout the week.

My analogies are weak, for the Sabbath isn't a drive-by experience. It isn't something we merely glance at as we rush about our activities. To complete the analogy, we should think of the day as a retreat from daily routines as much as possible in order to fully absorb what the Sabbath affords. Think of a retreat to a beautiful, comfortable, peaceful place, surrounded by people of like mind for enjoying food, discussions and learning together.

Our United Youth Camps seek to create "the Zone," an environment that is safe, as well as infused with a godly orientation that takes the campers out of the world for a period of immersion education. The experience can be life-changing. That is what the Sabbath ought to be for us.

I hope this inspires you to think about how you view the Sabbath, how you keep it and any changes you might need to make. UN