What is the Sabbath? What is it significance to men?
What is the Sabbath?
The Sabbath is a day of rest (Isa 58:13) which falls on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
Genesis 2:1–3 – Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The Sabbath is the day of rest and also called the Lord’s sacred day (Neh 8:10; Isa 58:13). Revelation 1:10 refers to the Lord’s Day which means the sacred day of the Lord, for Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.
What was the origin of the Sabbath?
It originated when God created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day He rested from His work, established the Sabbath and blessed the day as the sacred day. From then on, the seventh day of the week became the Sabbath.
For whom was the Sabbath made?
God blessed this Sabbath and made it holy. His purpose in instituting it was to benefit man. Hence, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mk 2:27). It was intimately related to man who was created on the sixth day. God saw all that He had made and it was very good (Gen 1:31). After man was created, God gave him authority to take charge of the earth. Since he had to take responsibility for the assigned work, he deserved to rest on the seventh day. Therefore, the Sabbath was made for man by God.
What is the significance of the Sabbath to men?
The Sabbath holds great significance for believers, for on this day, we are reminded of a number of important teachings:
1. God created the heavens and the earth. Many people do not believe in God, but the Bible points out that they are without excuse: the whole of creation testifies to His existence and His role as Creator: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). The Sabbath is the day on which God desires us to remember His creation work (Ex 20:11). It is also a sign that He is our God: “Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezek 20:20).
2. God has saved us. The Book of Deuteronomy records God’s words to the Israelites: “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut 5:15). Today, as Christians, God has likewise delivered us: He has saved us from the bondage of Satan and sin (Acts 26:18; Rom 6:17). For this reason, we must remember God’s saving grace each Sabbath.
3. God grants us a special blessing. The Book of Genesis records: “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it…” (Gen 2:3). The prophet Isaiah explains that the blessing comes upon believers when they uphold the Sabbath:
Isaiah 58:13-14 –If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,From doing your pleasure on My holy day,And call the Sabbath a delight,The holy day of the Lord honorable,And shall honour Him, not doing your own ways,Nor finding Your own pleasure,Nor speaking your own words,Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
The blessing that is the “heritage of Jacob” is recorded in Genesis 28:4: “And [may God] give you [i.e. Jacob] the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.” This promised land was Canaan, a place that God calls an “everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8) and which symbolizes the heavenly kingdom. As Christians, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham and heirs on account of Christ (Gal 3:29). When we keep the Sabbath, we can expect to be blessed with this heritage. This truth is reinforced by Jesus, who teaches us to keep the commandments of God for eternal life (Mt 19:17).
4. We should be holy. God says, “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” (Ezek 20:12). God has given the Sabbath to everyone He has called—both Jews and Gentiles (Isa 56:6–7)—to remind them of the need to be holy. Elder Peter says, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:15); “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
5. God gives us physical and spiritual rest. Genesis 2:2 records: “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” In this verse, the Hebrew word for “rested” is sabat, meaning “to repose, i.e. desist from exertion” and “to cease”.50 We know that our everlasting God does not tire (Isa 40:28); yet, he rested from His work to show us to do likewise. This is why Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mk 2:27).
6. We anticipate a future heavenly rest. The writer of Hebrews teaches that the Sabbath prepares us for an eternal rest:
Hebrews 4:9–11 – There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
This is the ultimate hope of all Christians. But the only way to secure this hope is through faith and obedience to God’s commandments (Heb 4:1–13).
The Lord Jesus tells us that God had us in mind when He set aside and commanded Sabbath-keeping. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He made the Sabbath for us. What a precious gift from our Creator!
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