Sabbath Day

Becky: Again, this blog has rather gotten away from us (or me, I suppose). Oh well - here's a conversation we had recently that you might appreciate.

Hey Dad - the other night, a friend and I were talking and happened upon the subject of Sabbath. He said he read Exodus 31:12-17 recently, and noted that one verse specifically says that the Sabbath was a covenant between God and the Israelites. Just wondering what you thought about that. Also, any thoughts on Hebrews 4, which is the only place in the New Testament I could find that talks about observing the Sabbath. It's kind of tough reading - very abstract, but from what I could tell, it almost makes it sound like as Christians under the New Covenant, our Sabbath is this idea of God's rest, which seems more like a spiritual rest ('Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . . for you will find rest for your souls' ). I'm not at all saying we shouldn't celebrate the Sabbath - just curious what the Sabbath should look like for us Christians.

I asked another friend, and here's what she said:

I believe that in many ways we are Israelites. When we accept Jesus we are adopted into His chosen people. When the end times comes all his people will once again gather on the Israelite ground. Although we are "Gentiles" once we come into a relationship with the Lord we become His people, his chosen people.

So in many ways when you say that the Sabbath was only meant for the Israelites, that is us as well. Therefore we should celebrate the Sabbath. Now we do know that the Sabbath is not about rules but it's about the heart. The Pharisees were making it too strict and had added rules and Jesus cleared them up by saying it was ok to do "necessary" things. (This is when the disciples were in the fields getting food for the day). I think also in this passage he says if your donkey falls into a pit on the Sabbath you can help him, where as strict fulfillment of the law wouldn't let you-according to the Pharisees.

Also on Hebrews 4. I read two commentaries on that passage, one my Matthew Henry and the other by Fausset. Henry tended to think the passage didn't so much have to do with rest but more that we under Jesus have better privileges then those under only the law of Moses. For example when the Israelites rested they could only physically rest they had no spiritual rest in the Lord. (So we get the privilege of both).

And here is a quote from Fausset that might help:
" The "rest" in
Hbr 4:8
is Greek, "catapausis;" Hebrew, "Noah"; rest from weariness, as the ark rested on Ararat after its tossings to and fro; and as Israel, under Joshua, enjoyed at last rest from war in Canaan. But the "rest" in this Hbr 4:9 is the nobler and more exalted (Hebrew) "Sabbath" rest; literally, "cessation": rest from work when finished ( Hbr 4:4 ), as God rested ( Rev 16:17 ). The two ideas of "rest" combined, give the perfect view of the heavenly Sabbath. Rest from weariness, sorrow, and sin; and rest in the completion of God's new creation ( Rev 21:5 )."

So honestly I really don't believe that the Lord took away the laws of the old Testement. He came to fill the atonement and offere his blood, so we no longer have to make sacrifices. But never did He say that he removed the laws of the Old T. I will leave you with this passage and I hope you pray and ask the Lord for guidance in all these things:

Matthew 5:17-18 17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
Your thoughts?

Dad: Rather than give you a long, researched response, I'll give you what you asked for: my thoughts. The only references I'd add to what were already mentioned are the ones where Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, and the fact that remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy is one of the Ten Commandments.

These are my thoughts. There are a couple aspects of the Sabbath that are universal, and by that I mean that they transcend the specific covenants God made with the Israelites, or the church in the New Testament. God rested on the seventh day of Creation, which is one of the concepts referred to in other places as one of the reasons we should even have something like a Sabbath rest. For us that means that we are better off if we don't work 365 days per year. We need regular physical rest so that we can re-create ourselves for more effective work in the long run. That's where the word “recreation” comes from. It's a focus on fun and play for the sake of rebuilding our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our spirits so that when we get back to our work, we are fresh and therefore more effective. In addition, I have noticed that some of my most creative thinking happens when I'm just doing something for fun, which can actually apply to ideas for work.

The other aspect of the Sabbath that is emphasized, and then taken too far by those with legalistic doctrines of the Sabbath is that of keeping it holy. It clearly says in the Ten Commandments that we should honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The emphasis here goes beyond having one vacation day per week. It says that we need to have a day that’s holy as well. To help us understand what that means there are a number of good resources. Various commentaries on the Ten Commandments, including Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms are a good help. Another is to see what Christians have done since Jesus did his teaching. One thing early Christians did was to gather regularly, and had a special emphasis on Sunday because Jesus rose on Sunday. Now does that mean we have to have a Sunday Sabbath? I don’t think so. Christianity is a faith of the heart, and the principles here are that we rest regularly, and we regularly gather together with other Christians to worship God, share in fellowship, and meet each other’s needs.

Keep in mind, though, that people are fickle, and it is easy to neglect important areas of life if we have no discipline to keep us on track. The weekly worship service is a great help in that, but you don’t get extra piety points for perfect attendance. Where is your heart? What system of discipline do you need to make sure you rest regularly and stay in fellowship with other Christians for worship and ministry? The answer to those questions is what you need to do to honor the Sabbath. Them’s my thoughts.