WHAT IS THE SABBATH?
God says, "I have something very special for you. It's far above the ordinary, everyday routine. It's a special gift I have made especially for you. It's yours just for the taking."
Yes, friend, God does have something special for you. And now. . .you can encounter this special gift. You can encounter. . .Your Appointment With God.
We as Christians have an unfailing model for lives of victory and growth. That is the life of Jesus. The Bible says of him, "Whosoever says that he lives in God should live just as Jesus Christ did." (1 John 2:6, TEV) Jesus was the perfect man, the perfect example. He said, "I and my Father are one." Being one with God, he showed us the Father. He said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9)
Jesus made it plain that he came to our world to do the will of his Father. In the garden of Gethsemane, as he faced the coming cross, he prayed, "Father. . .not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39) To obey one whom you love is a delight. That is how Jesus felt. "I delight to do thy will, O God: yea, thy law is within my heart." (Psalm 40:8)
When we understand that the law of God is part of God himself and as sacred as the Lawgiver himself, then we begin to see how it can be a delight. The law of God is an expression of his character, a revelation of his will. When he gave it to us, it was an act of his love and wisdom. It is also the foundation of his justice and mercy toward us.
Jesus wanted to stay in the circle of God's love. Therefore he did the will of God. Jesus wants his followers to have the same kind of relationship with him. He said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." (John 15:10)
Friend, do you want to be surrounded by God's love? Do you want to feel united with him in a special way? Then walk as Jesus walked. When we walk with Jesus, we are walking with the Creator of the universe. Christ was active with the Father in the creation of the world. The Bible says of this, ". . .God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 3:9) Jesus made our world. He made us. The gospel of John says of Jesus, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. . .All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:1-3) Not only did he make us, but he came to be one of us and live with us. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. . .full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
As our Creator, and again as our Redeemer, Jesus knows what is best for our happiness. He showed us that our happiness lies in joyfully obeying God's commandments. One of these commandments--the fourth one--is actually a gift of time. After the Father through Jesus Christ made the world and everything in it, he rested, and he blessed this special day. This is the way the Bible describes it: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and he sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3)
Here we're told that God the Father, through Jesus Christ, performed three special acts: One, he rested on the seventh day. Two, he blessed the seventh day. Three, he sanctified the seventh day. Of all the other six days God said they were very good, but only the seventh was set apart in a special threefold act.
Then this special day was given to man. Jesus described it this way: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) Often the Bible calls the seventh day "the Sabbath of the Lord." But God creates in order to share, and he gave the Sabbath to us. God made the Sabbath as a day of special fellowship with him. On this day, he wanted man to draw especially close to him. We are God's creation. God knew that we must remember our relationship to him in order to find the deepest fellowship with him. The Sabbath, therefore, is a sign of our true relationship to our Creator.
The fourth commandment clearly states this. We should observe the Sabbath, because God made us. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . .For in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11) We as Christians call Jesus our Lord, and rightly so. In the beginning, he created us, and through his act of love and sacrifice, he redeemed us. He is indeed our Lord!
Jesus also declared that he is Lord of the seventh-day Sabbath, for he said: "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:28) If Jesus is our Lord, then his Sabbath ought to be our Sabbath. In fact the Bible calls the Sabbath the Lord's day. John the Revelator, sixty years after Christ's resurrection wrote: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." (Revelation 1:10) The logic is simple: Jesus said he is Lord of the Sabbath. . .therefore the Sabbath is the Lord's day.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In vivid demonstration, he showed us the way to truth and life. He lived the truth, and part of this truth was keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. The gospel writer Luke says of Jesus, "He came to Nazareth, wherehe had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." (Luke 4:16)
Some might say that Jesus kept the Sabbath because he was a Jew, and this was the tradition of the Jews. But the Bible tells us God created the Sabbath long before there was a Jew. The Sabbath was not given by Moses. It was given to us by God. Speaking of the Ten Commandments, the Bible says, "And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables." (Exodus 32:16)
God wrote the Sabbath down with his own finger. God spoke the Sabbath commandment with his own voice. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Never once did Jesus speak against the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. To do so would be contrary to the very law he gave us. It would break God's Word, and the Bible says that God's Word cannot be broken.
But Jesus did remove the traditions of man that burdened the Sabbath. He showed us that the Sabbath was a day of mercy. On that day he did not cease healing the sick, for he said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. He showed us the deeper meaning of the Sabbath. He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) Jesus the living Word, fulfilled--or lived out--the Word of God. He showed us that God's law is a law of love that is designed to lead us to the path of righteousness.
Isaiah had prophesied that Jesus would uplift the law and show its foundation of love. He said, "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law and make it honorable." (Isaiah 42:21) Jesus magnified the law. He made it clearer, and he showed us that if we live in him, we will also have the power to fulfill the Ten Commandment law.
The question that comes to you today is a vitally important one: Do you want to follow in Christ's steps? The Bible says, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21) Christ's example was to perfectly obey God's Word. He taught his followers to do the same thing. Jesus died on the cross to give us the power to follow God's Word. He died on a Friday. On the Sabbath day he rested in the tomb, and then he arose on the first day of the week, on Sunday. For forty days Christ was again with his followers. But never once did he command a change in the Sabbath.
Here was a commandment so important that God gave it to mankind in a glorious display on Mount Sinai. The Sabbath was one of the commandments "written with the finger of God." (Exodus 31:18) It was a commandment emphasized throughout the Old Testament. It was made a sign of allegiance between man and his Creator.
Jesus did not change the Sabbath, because the law of God is perfect. It needs no change. It is part of God himself. God says, "I am the Lord, I change not." (Malachi 3:6) Of Jesus, we read, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)
If Jesus were with us today in the flesh as he was two thousand years ago, how would he worship his Father? Would he not observe the seventh-day Sabbath, just as he did in Nazareth? The answer, based on the character of Christ and his steadfastness, is yes. Jesus would keep the entire Ten Commandments.
If we love him, what will we do? We will do the same, for he is our example, and he told us, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) One of these commandments which God gave us through Jesus Christ is the seventh-day Sabbath.
But you might ask, "How can we know which is the seventh-day Sabbath?" The Scripture is clear on this, too. Let's go back to Christ's crucifixion. Jesus died in the afternoon of the sixth day of the week. The disciples then laid his body in the tomb. They were in a hurry, for "that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on." (Luke 23:54) The preparation day was the sixth day of the week, the same day Jesus was crucified. For many hundreds of years that day has been referred to as "Good Friday."
Sunset was coming, and, according to the Bible, a new day starts at sunset. The Sabbath was very close. When the women who loved Jesus saw their Master in the tomb, they had not time to prepare his body for burial before the sun set. The Bible says that they returned home, and "prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." (Luke 23:56) Even though they dearly loved Jesus, they would not break his commandment. They waited until the Sabbath was over to prepare his body for burial.
Then when the seventh-day Sabbath was past, "upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared." (Luke 24:1) But they did not find a dead body. No, they found a risen Lord. The angel announced, "He is not here, but is risen." This day, the first day of the week, was the day of the resurrection, and for almost two thousand years the Christian church has referred to this as the "resurrection Sunday"--a day commonly called Easter Sunday today.
We have three days mentioned in the narrative of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. There is the preparation day, or the sixth day. There is the resurrection day, or the first day. In between the two is the Sabbath, the seventh day.
Today we can be sure which day is the seventh day of the week. Since Christ's resurrection, Christians have kept track of the days of the week. The Jews, also, have meticulously kept track of the days of the week. Science, history, and astronomy agree that the days of our modern week are in the same sequence as two thousand and more years ago.
Friend, to be a follower of Jesus Christ means to obey his commandments. As the last book of the Bible says--"Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (Revelation 14:12) Having the faith of Jesus and keeping God's commandments go hand in hand.
Again, Revelation tells us, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14) But what is the purpose of the Sabbath? How is it God's gift for you? Is it just a law that God wants you to keep because he says so?
All of God's laws are meant for your happiness. The Sabbath law is no different. The Sabbath is a day God has set apart for you and him to be together in a special, sacred way. It is to be a time when you can forget the cares of life and have a special time with your Lord and Savior.
It is a day to receive the blessings of spiritual communion with Jesus, your Creator. God makes you this promise: "If thou. . .call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable. . .then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord." (Isaiah 58:13,14) A day of delight. . .a day of special communion with Jesus, your Creatorand Redeemer. . .a day to get to know him better, whom to know is to love. It's a day to find a special sense of peace. Again the promise is, "O that you had hearkened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea." (Isaiah 48:18)
The Sabbath day of rest comes from the depths of God's love for you. He knows that you need that rest, that special time of communion. The Sabbath is a time he can re-create you. Keeping the Sabbath holy is an act of adoring love for your Creator and Redeemer. You want to spend this special day with him because he loves you and you love him. It is an appointment he has made with you from the day of creation. He will be waiting for you to keep that appointment with him.
Will you be there? Will you take part in this time of fellowship, of love and holiness? If you do, then you will have a new experience of rest and peace. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Friend, will you choose to walk as Jesus walked? Will you keep the seventh-day Sabbath, the sign of creation and redemption? Will you accept this gift from God and be drawn into a fuller harmony with God's plan for your life?
Let us take a quiet moment to pray: Dear Father, Without the gift of your Son, I would be forever lost. Help me to show my love for him by following his example, by keeping all of your commandments as he did. I want to have that special time of communion and fellowship with him. Thank you for the gift of your Sabbath as this special time. Amen.
Don't forget the Sabbath,
The Lord our God hath blest,
Of all the week the brightest,
Of all the week the best;
It brings repose from labor,
It tells of joy divine,
Its beams of light descending,
With heavenly beauty shine.
Welcome, welcome, ever welcome,
Blessed Sabbath day.
Welcome, welcome, ever welcome,
Blessed Sabbath day.
-Fanny J. Crosby-