[CF Devotionals] 2015-01-11 - The Fourth Commandment

Defining the Sabbath

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“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28 ESV

Sabbath: “The divinely instituted day of rest, ordained for all men.;” (Davis).

Interestingly enough, the American Heritage Dictionary defines it this way:

  1. The seventh day of the week, Saturday, observed as the day of rest and worship by the Jews and some Christian sects.
  2. The first day of the week, Sunday, observed as the day of rest and worship by most Christians.

The standard misconception, of much of the church, is carried into the dictionary; the Christian Sabbath is Sunday. Davis takes us back to Genesis 2:1-3, as the support for the Sabbath.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (ESV)

This passage doesn’t speak to the Sabbath, but does establish the principle of a day of rest. The Sabbath itself is an expansion of this principle, as we can see from Exodus 31:13-17:

“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 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.’” (ESV).

While we will see this passage again, it is necessary for our understanding of God’s call to Sabbath worship, to go over it now. The Biblical Illustrator makes an interesting point regarding this commandment:

“This Commandment holds a remarkable position in the Decalogue. It lies between those which touch our duty to God and those which touch our duty to man. It belongs to both branches of the Decalogue. Its position tells us that a breach of the Sabbath is a direct insult to God, and is also a direct injury to man, …”

You can see that the Lord established Sabbath worship as a specific and perpetual sign between Himself and the nation Israel. It was to be unique to the nation. In fact, disobedience to this commandment was one of the capital crimes in Israel, therefore carrying the death sentence. It is clear that the principle of a day of rest was established in creation, and that the Hebrew people already knew of the importance of the Sabbath, prior to its being given as a commandment.

“… He [Moses] said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”” (Exodus 16:23 ESV).

So we see here a general principle, a day of rest. Here it is specifically identified as the Sabbath, a unique sign between the Hebrew people and their God. The concept of the day of rest was for the benefit of mankind, the Sabbath - a sign between God and Israel, was more specific, which explains the severity of punishment for its abuse.

The principle of general versus specific application found here is similar to that seen in baptism. Baptism was something practiced by the Jew, before the time of the New Testament. This is why we find John the Baptizer practicing it prior to Christ’s appearance on the scene. But after the resurrection, Christ takes this rite and makes it a picture of both His death and resurrection. This made it a unique ritual for the Church. In this same, way the general rule of a day of rest is taken by the Lord, and given a specific role for the Hebrew people.

To be continued.

  1. Davis Dictionary of the Bible, Royal Publishers Inc., Nashville, TN, ©1973.
  2. The American Heritage Electronic Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, ©1992.
  3. Exell, Joseph S., The Biblical Illustrator, "Exodus," Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI,© 1975, pp 362.

[email geoff] GKragen@aol.com
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CFD | January 2015 | Geoff's Devotions | Geoff's Studies | Devotional Topics