Recently I was sent this question:
“What does the Bible say about Sabbath? We’ve been researching in the Bible and online and find nothing that requires that we should still be required to observe it. Online, scholars say that Sabbath is an Old Testament thing. A day of rest is good, but is it required now?”
I find it both amusing and perplexing that the online scholars mentioned in the above question make reference to “an Old Testament thing,” as if that automatically discounts its validity simply because it comes in the part of the Bible before the book of Matthew. That is a claim I have heard many times before.
It is true that some of the specific Levitical laws given to the people of Israel in the Old Testament such as their dietary laws, seasonal/festival laws, and sacrificial laws are not required for us to keep. As Jesus Himself said: Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
But does that mean that the entire Old Testament is now null and void, merely a history book to give us a record of God’s dealings with man, and His chosen people, Israel, with maybe a few good faith lessons to look to and admire? I think not.
The subject in question, the keeping of the Sabbath comes directly from God’s Ten Commandments; specifically number four:
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)
If the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath” is simply “an Old Testament thing,” then would that also be true for the other nine commandments? Is “You shall not murder” just “an Old Testament thing?” How about “You shall not commit adultery,” or “You shall not steal?” Those commandments are also found in the Old Testament. Are we no longer expected to keep those?
Obviously, God expects us to keep all of those, and we should want to keep them. Every culture or civilization that has practiced keeping God’s laws is better off for it. So, if we are to keep all of the Ten Commandments, then what do we do with this commandment to “Remember the Sabbath?” Perhaps the better question to be asking is, what does remembering the Sabbath mean for us?
The religious leaders of Israel added all kinds of rules and regulations to God’s original law, and turned it into something God never intended it to be. It became a drudgery where the people couldn’t do anything, and they lived in fear of accidentally breaking one of the rules.
Read the commandment again. It becomes clear that the law was originally intended for the good of man and the glory of God. We need rest, both physically and mentally. And, we need to remember that God is the One who created all that we see, and He was able to do it in six days. (God rested, or ceased, on the seventh day because He was finished, not because He was tired.)
Again, the intent of all of God’s laws is our good. That’s why Jesus said: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) Jesus seems to be saying, it’s not about the rule. It’s about the relationship we have with God. I shouldn’t want to murder, not simply because it is a rule, but because I am a child of God. The same holds true for all of God’s commandments, including the commandment to keep the Sabbath.
Observing a Sabbath rest is a good thing. Does it have to be on the seventh day of the week, Saturday? No, I don’t think so. Does it mean we shouldn’t do anything at all? Again, I don’t think so. That’s making “man for the Sabbath,” and Jesus said that was not what it was for.
Remembering the Sabbath means recognizing my need to rest, and recognizing God’s greatness in His creation. Taking a day off from work acknowledges that God is more important than making money, and we can trust Him for our provision.
Early in Church history the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of the resurrection, became the Christian Sabbath. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on Sunday. Police and fire personnel, and others, often have to work on Sunday, and we are grateful they are there. Some people would argue that pastors work the hardest all week on Sunday. (I don’t happen to agree with that by the way. For me, Sunday is anything but work!)
The bottom line is this, honor God by taking time off from work, and putting the focus on Him. Your bank account may not have as much in it, but your physical and spiritual life will be much richer for it.