|Volume 22 Number 4 April 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Did God once command mankind to keep the Sabbath (7th day of the week)? Yes, He did. “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:10-11 NKJV). Does that mean people today are required by God to practice the Sabbath? However, God also commanded to build a large, barge-like boat and populate it with a sampling of the animal world (Genesis 6:13-20). Does that mean people today are required by God to build a floating zoo?
The Bible is full of commands from God. Does that mean people today are required by God to obey all of them? Frankly, it is not even possible today to obey all of the commands throughout the Bible, simply because some of the commands were given under Patriarchy (beginning with Adam and Eve), under Judaism (beginning with Moses) and under Christianity (beginning with Acts 2). Many of the commands (not all of them) across the three religious dispensations are not homogeneous with each other.
It was Noah whom God commanded (Genesis 6) to build the ark. Noah alone was the recipient of that command (Genesis 6:18). No one before, no one after and no one contemporary with Noah was commanded to build the ark. Therefore, no one living today is required by God to build an ark, despite the indisputable fact that God once commanded to build an ark. Likewise, regarding other commands of God throughout the Bible, it is important to examine the context of those commands to determine to (1) whom the commands were made, (2) when the commands were made, (3) for how long the commands were to be implemented and (4) why or for what reason the commands were made by God. Only then can one know what commands, though issued by God, are effective and obligatory today.
So, we ask concerning Sabbath-keeping: (1) To whom was the Sabbath commanded? (2) When was Sabbath-keeping commanded? (3) For how long was the Sabbath to be observed? (4) Why or for what reason was Sabbath-keeping commanded? Biblical answers to these questions will resolve whether God commands people today to observe the Sabbath.
Initially, the Sabbath was commanded specifically and only to the Israelites who left captivity in Egypt, wandered in the Wilderness of Sinai for 40 years and crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. The Law of Moses or Judaism, along with the Sabbath, was between God and Israel throughout their (the Israelite’s) generations. As such, Judaism and the Sabbath did not apply to Gentiles, and neither did it pertain to Patriarchy before Judaism or to Christianity after Judaism.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. … Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever… (Exodus 31:12-13, 16-17)
The Sabbath was first instituted on Mt. Sinai along with the establishment of Judaism for the Israelites. “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant” (Nehemiah 9:13-14). “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’ Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:10-12).
The Sabbath was not instituted prior to the occasion at Mt. Sinai. Yet, the seventh day of the week when God rested or had completed was the reason for the Sabbath being assigned to the seventh day. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3). Remember that though the Book of Genesis records the creation, that volume was not penned near the time of creation but over 2,000 years later. Moses scribed it after the establishment of Judaism at Mt. Sinai. Hence, the Sabbath was not instituted prior to the occasion at Mt. Sinai.
Finally, the reason for which the Sabbath was implemented was to remind the Israelites of how God had freed them for slavery in Egypt (Ezekiel 20:10). Yes, the Sabbath observance also reminded the Israelites of their spiritual relationship to Almighty God (Exodus 31:13). The Sabbath was for the Israelites only. No other people who neither were in person or ancestrally freed from captivity in Egypt were commanded to keep the Sabbath. Hence, Gentiles were never required to observe the Sabbath. Neither anyone under Patriarchy nor under Christianity were ever commanded to keep the Sabbath.
In addition, the Sabbath—as part of the Law of Moses, the 10 Commandments or Judaism—was replaced with the establishment of Christianity and the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). Besides this, proponents of Sabbath-keeping do not actually practice the Sabbath, though they may claim otherwise. “You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 31:14-15). Violators of the Sabbath were to be put to death; do you really want to fall under the penalty of violating the Sabbath?
Yes, God commanded the Sabbath. However, it was commanded exclusively to the Israelites, initially to those who fled slavery in Egypt. It was a part of Judaism, which was implemented 2,500 years after Creation and 1,400 years before Christianity. Some commands contained in the Old Testament (Patriarchy and Judaism) are reinstituted in Christianity, and yet, not all commands of God formerly under Patriarchy and Judaism have been reinstated under Christianity. The Sabbath is a command of God that belonged only to Judaism and neither to Patriarchy before it nor to Christianity after it.