Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 15 No. 8 August 2013
Page 5

Answers to Questions
about the Sabbath Command

Michael Hooper1. What is the Sabbath? a. The 7th day: “[B]ut the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God” (Exodus 20:10 ASV). b. A sign between God and the Israelites: “And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations.” (Exodus 31:12-13). c. A shadow (this means that it is not the real thing): “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come” (Colossians 2:16-17).

2. Why is Sabbath the seventh day? Because God rested on that day after completing His works of creation: “for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

3. When was the Sabbath command given? a. It was introduced as law through Moses and not before Moses’ time: “and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them commandments, and statutes, and a law, by Moses thy servant” (Nehemiah 9:14.) b. It was given after God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, not before. “So I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Jehovah that sanctifieth them” (Ezekiel 20:10-12). c. The first time the 7th day was called sabbath in the Bible is found in Exodus 16:23. That was after the Israelites left Egypt. “And he said unto them, This is that which Jehovah hath spoken, Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy sabbath unto Jehovah” (Exodus 16:23).

4. To whom was the Sabbath command given? a. The command was given to the Israelites only. “And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am Jehovah who sanctifieth you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Jehovah: whosoever doeth any work on the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:12-17).

b. The strangers (non-Israelites) who lived among the Israelites were also counted as Israelites. “The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God” (Leviticus 19:34). c. Therefore, the strangers within Israel’s gates (and not the strangers outside) were also required to keep the sabbath command. “but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates” (Exodus 20:10).

5. Why was the Sabbath command given? The command was given for the Israelites to remember how God saved them from Egypt. The Bible does not say that the command was for them to “remember creation.” “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). Christians were not saved from Egypt; therefore, they were never commanded to keep the Sabbath.

6. How was the Sabbath to be kept? a. Israelites were to keep the Sabbath by resting and remembering their freedom from Egypt. “Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Jehovah thy God commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

b. They were not to light any fire. “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day” (Exodus 35:3). c. No going out: “See, for that Jehovah hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29-30). The above are some of the Sabbath-keeping requirements. Going to church or synagogue (public assemblies) on the Sabbath was a custom developed by the Jews. Such an act does not constitute scriptural Sabbath-keeping.

7. What was the duration of the Sabbath command? a. It was to last throughout Israel’s generations or age. “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:16). b. The Bible also predicted the end of the Sabbath command. “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn assemblies” (Hosea 2:11).

c. The sabbath and new moon commands were to be gone when God causes the earth to become dark at mid-day. Some rebellious Israelites asked, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and dealing falsely with balances of deceit?” (Amos 8:5). God’s answer to them was, “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day” (Amos 8:9). d. That darkness came on the day Jesus was crucified. “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him… And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:25, 33). That implies that the Sabbath command ended the day Jesus died on the cross.

8. Did Jesus keep the Sabbath command while He was living on earth? “The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole. And for this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh even until now, and I work. For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only brake the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:15-18).

Jesus was not a sabbath keeper while living on earth. Jesus’ works on the sabbath were some of the many exceptions to the sabbath rule, just as a fire engine is an exception to the speed limits’ rule. Therefore, Jesus did not leave any Sabbath-keeping example for Christians. Jesus’ visits to the synagogues on the Sabbath involved a “going out” because he left his place of abode to go there. So that does not constitute Sabbath-keeping (read again 6 c. of this article).

9. Did Jesus bring an end to the Sabbath-keeping command? “[H]aving blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s” (Colossians 2:14-17).

Jesus took away the Old Testament’s ordinances. Those included the ordinances concerning the Sabbath. There is a Sabbath for us now. That Sabbath is the rest God has promised for His people to enter. It is a continuous rest, one comparable to how God rested after creation (Hebrew 4:1-11). All faithful Christians look forward to that rest, but no Christian is under any sabbath-keeping command.


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