Our Day of Rest
An important matter that is often neglected today is Sabbath-keeping. The Bible shows us that after He had made man God established three ‘creation ordinances’ – work, marriage and the Sabbath. If the first two remain relevant after the fall then so does the Sabbath. We should not think of it as a Jewish or Old Testament institution. Rather it is God’s wise provision for all men in all places in all ages.
The appointment of the Sabbath is in these words: “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Gen.2:3). It is true that the actual word ‘Sabbath’ is not found here but the institution certainly is. When the fourth commandment says “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod.20:8) it plainly refers to a day already in place and not unknown.
That God blessed the seventh day means that He declared it good and will do good to those who keep it. If we “call the sabbath a delight” then the Lord will cause us to “ride upon the high places of the earth” and feed us with “the heritage of Jacob” (Isa.58:13,14). There is a blessing for the individual, family or community that keeps the Sabbath out of love to God.
Originally the Sabbath was the last day of the week. After Christ came it was changed to the first day of the week, the day when our Saviour rose from the dead. The church met for worship then (Acts 20:6; 1Cor.16:1). The Sabbath once honoured the work of creation. Now it honours the more glorious work of redemption by Christ which brings about a new creation. We should never refer to it as ‘Sunday’: it is the Lord’s day (Rev.1:10).
God has ‘sanctified’ the seventh day or set it apart for a holy use. God made us so that we only function properly when we conform to His prescription of six days of work and one day of rest. Incidentally there is no ‘weekend ’ in Scripture: the pattern is not five days of work and two days of rest. If we try to disrupt God’s pattern we will only bring about misery.
Some will say, “I give every day to God.” So we should but let us not be wiser than the Lord. God has put His mark on one day of the week and made it special. There are things that belong to the Sabbath that do not belong to other days, in particular the preaching of the gospel.
God ‘rested’on the seventh day as an example to us. The Sabbath is our day of rest but it is not a day for idleness. We are to leave aside our worldly cares and concerns in order to devote ourselves to God. Works of necessity and mercy such as feeding the hungry and healing the sick may be done (Matt.12:1-13) but it is mainly a day for works of piety. We should devote ourselves to God in the exercises of public and private worship.
We read of those who stopped gathering with God’s people on the Sabbath (Heb.10:25). Some attend church when it suits them but do not let it interfere with their leisure, travel and so on. Our priorities must be right. The welfare of our soul comes before our enjoyment of this world.
Men are trying to overthrow the Sabbath. They may desecrate it but they cannot destroy it. It is a solemn thought that if we despise the Sabbath then we are unfit to dwell with God in heaven. May God therefore grant us all His gracious salvation in Christ.