Remember My Sabbath
Scriptures: Genesis 1 & 2 Job 37 & 38 Jeremiah 17:21-23 Nehemiah 13:15-22 Matthew 23:23 Mark 2:23 onwards.
The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. 20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. 21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion Proverbs 3:19-21
I think we need to heed the words of Solomon when we consider what God is saying about the Sabbath, let us adopt some wisdom and understanding while we look briefly at the creation.
In the beginning God, the only one starting point for this creation, God alone. It was Job who challenged God to answer him, trying to tell God that He didn’t respect wisdom. “Men do therefore fear Him: He respecteth not any that are wise of heart.” Job 37:24 But God responds to Job with a series of questions that he cannot possibly answer, I am sure that this is not by way of judgment or wrath, but by a Father who is keen to correct His child, pointing out that man is not able to understand the ways of God.
The first thing that God asks Job is “where were you when I laid the foundation of the world”, in other words Job, where were you on Day 1 when heaven and earth were created. I did all this for you and I saw that it was exactly in accordance with my plan, and I saw that it was good.
So it was for the next six days. God oversaw a remarkable feat of construction that would provide the correct environment for a family that He had already seen before all this started, before the foundation of the world.
By the seventh day, when God had finished this construction process, He rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day. I believe He made this a separate day in which He celebrated the creation and reflected on the suitability of its purpose in providing for His children.
God stopped working and established a pattern that would benefit all who would inhabit His creation, a pattern of working for 6 days and then taking a day of rest on the seventh day. We know that the word holy means set apart, so God’s initial intention was that there should be one day in the week on which people rest and, I believe, to have time to reflect on the Father, and what He has done for His children.
Throughout history the children of Israel wandered in many ways, they worshipped idols and other gods and didn’t keep the sabbath. God allowed prophets such as Jeremiah and Nehemiah to warn them of impending judgement.
Jeremiah pleaded with the people because they failed to remember the Sabbath, they failed to obey and went into captivity for 70 years. After the captivity they were rebuked by Nehemiah for treading the winepress and bringing grain into Jerusalem, failing again to observe the Sabbath. His concern was that although they had returned to the land, they had not truly returned to the Lord.
By the time Jesus appeared as the Word made flesh, the keeping of the Sabbath had changed dramatically. There were strict rules around keeping the Sabbath, every detail of life had been redefined to the point of complete restriction.
A Sabbath day’s journey, which was a distance of about 7/8 of a mile, defined how far you could travel on a Sabbath day. The rules defined every detail of what it meant to work, even declaring that boiling water on Sabbath was work that should not be done.
Why was it that Jesus came into such violent conflict with the Pharisees on this issue that they determined to kill him because in their view he was violating the Sabbath laws?
But Jesus told them that tithing anise and cumin was well wide of the mark.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Matthew 23:23
The rituals they observed demanded an outward appearance, but Jesus says that the needs of man, whether of body or of soul, are greater than ceremonial restriction. Ceremonies can become meaningless and void. Jesus wants us reflect on what He has done for us and His family.
In their conflict with Jesus, we see that the question is really the same one raised by Nehemiah. They had returned to Sabbath keeping, but they had not returned to God’s original intent for Sabbath.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to heed Mark’s gospel where he has captured the true meaning of the sabbath and corrects our thinking in what God intended the Sabbath to be. Thank You that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath and that it is right to do good on the Sabbath and not evil.
The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.