The Sabbath is one commandment that is kind of “out of character” from the others. The ones before are about the priority of God in our lives. The ones following are about how we treat others. What is this one about?
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.Exodus 20:8-11 NASB
There is clearly something about this practice that our Creator believes to be important. In fact, Yahweh says He did it. He created everything, and then rested. I doubt that He was tired. I doubt He needed some “ME time”, or to recharge, or whatever.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.Isaiah 40:28 NASB
It seems that the Sabbath was not so God could rest up for His next big engagement. In fact Jesus says something rather remarkable about the Sabbath:
And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He *said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”Mark 2:23-28 NASB (Emphasis mine)
According to Jesus, the Sabbath was created for the Creator’s human creatures, rather than the other way around. So, when our Maker rests on the seventh day, He does so for us, not for Himself. This became a marker, setting apart the Jews from the other peoples among whom they lived. And it became a source of ridicule, even nearly cost them their existence during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid rulers (see reference here).
So, the issue may have become more about being obviously Jewish, and less about sanctifying the day. Still, what was God’s point? Why did He sanctify the day in the first place? It wasn’t for Himself, it was for His creatures, but to what purpose?
I suspect that nothing sanctifies like the presence of our Creator and Savior. Whatever He touches becomes holy. Perhaps, because of this, this day is holy because it’s in contact with Him. And when we use a whole day a week to be with Him, that day is holy. In a sense, this law of the ten forms the pivot point where we move from them being about our Creator to being about the creatures. The Sabbath law connects the two sets through association of the two in relationship.
Do you use it that way? The whole day, is it devoted to your Savior? Would others observing your day claim that it is entirely devoted to time between you and your Creator? Is it truly “holy” in the sense that He has come into contact with it, and you? I doubt it. I find it nearly impossible to fill the day only with time with my Master. Perhaps you are more successful than I. If you are, that’s awesome, and I encourage you to keep doing it. If you don’t, if, like me, you struggle to get more than church attendance into it being about Jesus, then what can be done to change our attitude about it?
Perhaps time with my wife counts as I honor my Savior in my time with her. Maybe you have friends that get together after church for lunch or to spend the afternoon doing whatever. Can that time count as holy time? Has it come into contact with our Creator? I’m reminded that nowhere does it say that the Sabbath isn’t a corporate thing. Nothing says that it has to be practiced as individuals. In fact, isn’t going to church on the Sabbath a “group activity”? Why does the end of a church meeting mean the end of celebrating the Sabbath?
Perhaps, like Jesus says, we need to think of the Sabbath as something our Creator created for us. And, like everything else He created, He made it to draw us closer to Him. So, if that’s what this day is about for you, about enjoying all that your Savior is to you, and all those He has connected you with, then perhaps you are dedicating the whole day to Him. Let’s discover that line of peace and rest between legalistically requiring rigid limits to activities, and blatant treatment of the day as just another day off to play. Maybe we can keep it holy together.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation