Summary: Understanding the role of the Sabbath and how it impacts the Christian Church
Understanding the Sabbath
July 11, 2010
According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, "Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies."
The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, "If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it." Adapted from Sermon Illustrations.com
The Purpose of the Sabbath
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:1-3
There is a direct connection between Sabbath and rest.
Rest - Three Hebrew Terms
Sabat - Ceasing or ending of activity (Genesis 2:1-3)
This is the same word where we get our word Sabbath
Nuah - being settled down. Psychological release from tension or pressure. The word is often related to conclusion of conflicts. It is God alone who provides this kind of rest.
Saqat - Finding tranquility and experiencing peace. There is an absence of external pressure and anxiety. The only way to experience this kind of rest is to have a personal relationship with God
Why is this important?
The word Sabbath literally means rest. The only way to genuinely understand the meaning of the Sabbath is to understand the meaning of rest. When searching for a word study on Sabbath, I was directed to the word rest.
Reasons to worship on the Sabbath
1. The work was finished
God finished the work of creation on the sixth day. God created the heavens and earth in six days. Everything was formed from nothing in a matter of 144 hours. Genesis records creation as literal days not figurative. Genesis states that there was day and then night. The passing of time was 24 hours.
2. God rested on the seventh day
God did nothing on the seventh day. Was God tired from the work of creation? Absolutely not. Did God need a break from all of the creation business? Nope. God chose to do nothing on the seventh day. Think about it for a moment, God made everything already and there was no more work to be done. The week could have ended in six days but God added a seventh to set a model in place. There is time for work and there is time for rest.
3. God sanctified the seventh day
No other day of the week gains this kind of blessing. There was activity of some kind on every other day but God sets apart this day to be different. The seventh day would be special because it would be sanctified. The understanding of sanctification is to set someone or something apart for the service of God. God set the seventh day apart for the good of humanity.
4. The Sabbath was a day of worship
There can be no doubt that all of heaven rejoiced with God when the work of creation was done. The entire seventh day God did no creative act but celebrated the work that was completed. Worship is nothing if it is not a celebration of what God has done. The seventh day of the week of creation was a day of celebration.
Reasons Jews worshipped on the Sabbath
1. Testimony to God
The Jewish people set aside the seventh day as a Sabbath to testify that they belonged to God. The concept of the Sabbath was not part of any religion in the Ancient Near East. The Jews were unique and their celebration of God was unique.
2. Symbolic of covenant with God
The Jewish worship was also a symbol of the covenant that they shared with God. The covenant was the source of their lifestyle, it was the source of their society and it was the source of their worship. Make no mistake the Jewish people kept the Sabbath because it was part of their covenant with God. The covenant included keeping the Sabbath holy.
3. Connected with the deliverance from Egypt
The Jewish people also celebrated the Sabbath because it was connected with their deliverance. Listen to the words of Deuteronomy 5:15 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.