The Sabbath was hallowed at the creation. As ordained for man, it had
its origin when "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons
of God shouted for joy." Job 38:7. Peace brooded over the world;
for earth was in harmony with heaven. "God saw everything that He
had made, and, behold, it was very good;" and He rested in the joy
of His completed work. Gen. 1:31.
Because He had rested upon the Sabbath, "God blessed the seventh
day, and sanctified it,"--set it apart to a holy use. He gave it to
Adam as a day of rest. It was a memorial of the work of creation, and
thus a sign of God's power and His love. The Scripture says, "He
hath made His wonderful works to be remembered." "The things
that are made," declare "the invisible things of Him since the
creation of the world," "even His everlasting power and
divinity." Gen. 2:3; Ps. 111:4; Rom. 1:20, R. V.
All things were created by the Son of God. "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.
And since the Sabbath is a memorial of the work of creation, it is a
token of the love and power of Christ.
The Sabbath calls our thoughts to nature, and brings us into
communion with the Creator. In the song of the bird, the sighing of the
trees, and the music of the sea, we still may hear His voice who talked
with Adam in Eden in the cool of the day. And as we behold His power in
nature we find comfort, for the word that created all things is that
which speaks life to the soul. He "who commanded the light to shine
out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Cor.
It was this thought that awoke the song,--
"Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work;
I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.
O Lord, how great are Thy works!
And Thy thoughts are very deep."
And the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah declares: "To
whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?
. . . Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you
from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the
earth? It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the
inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens
as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. . . . To
whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things,
that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by
the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one
faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid
from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not
known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the
Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? . . .
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He
increaseth strength." "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be
not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help
thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My
righteousness." "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends
of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." This is the
message written in nature, which the Sabbath is appointed to keep in
memory. When the Lord bade Israel hallow His Sabbaths, He said,
"They shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I
am Jehovah your God." Isa. 40:18-29; 41:10; 45:22; Ezek. 20:20, R.
The Sabbath was embodied in the law given from Sinai; but it was not
then first made known as a day of rest. The people of Israel had a
knowledge of it before they came to Sinai. On the way thither the
Sabbath was kept. When some profaned it, the Lord reproved them, saying,
"How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?" Ex.
The Sabbath was not for Israel merely, but for the world. It had been
made known to man in Eden, and, like the other precepts of the
Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. Of that law of which the
fourth commandment forms a part, Christ declares, "Till heaven and
earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the
law." So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the Sabbath will
continue as a sign of the Creator's power. And when Eden shall bloom on
earth again, God's holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the sun.
"From one Sabbath to another" the inhabitants of the glorified
new earth shall go up "to worship before Me, saith the Lord."
Matt. 5:18; Isa. 66:23.
No other institution which was committed to the Jews tended so fully
to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the Sabbath. God
designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It
was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their
connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men
must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the
righteousness of Christ. When the command was given to Israel,
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," the Lord said
also to them, "Ye shall be holy men unto Me." Ex. 20:8; 22:31.
Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God.
As the Jews departed from God, and failed to make the righteousness
of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost its significance to them.
Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men away from Christ, and
he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is the sign of the power of
Christ. The Jewish leaders accomplished the will of Satan by surrounding
God's rest day with burdensome requirements. In the days of Christ the
Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the
character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of the
loving heavenly Father. The rabbis virtually represented God as giving
laws which it was impossible for men to obey. They led the people to
look upon God as a tyrant, and to think that the observance of the
Sabbath, as He required it, made men hard-hearted and cruel. It was the
work of Christ to clear away these misconceptions. Although the rabbis
followed Him with merciless hostility, He did not even appear to conform
to their requirements, but went straight forward, keeping the Sabbath
according to the law of God.
Upon one Sabbath day, as the Saviour and His disciples returned from
the place of worship, they passed through a field of ripening grain.
Jesus had continued His work to a late hour, and while passing through
the fields, the disciples began to gather the heads of grain, and to eat
the kernels after rubbing them in their hands. On any other day this act
would have excited no comment, for one passing through a field of grain,
an orchard, or a vineyard, was at liberty to gather what he desired to
eat. See Deut. 23:24, 25. But to do this on the Sabbath was held to be
an act of desecration. Not only was the gathering of the grain a kind of
reaping, but the rubbing of it in the hands was a kind of threshing.
Thus, in the opinion of the rabbis, there was a double offense.
The spies at once complained to Jesus, saying, "Behold, Thy
disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day."
When accused of Sabbathbreaking at Bethesda, Jesus defended Himself
by affirming His Sonship to God, and declaring that He worked in harmony
with the Father. Now that the disciples are attacked, He cites His
accusers to examples from the Old Testament, acts performed on the
Sabbath by those who were in the service of God.
The Jewish teachers prided themselves on their knowledge of the
Scriptures, and in the Saviour's answer there was an implied rebuke for
their ignorance of the Sacred Writings. "Have ye not read so much
as this," He said, "what David did, when himself was an
hungered, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of
God, and did take and eat the shewbread, . . . which it is not lawful to
eat but for the priests alone?" "And He said unto them, The
Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." "Have
ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the
temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That
in this place is one greater than the temple." "The Son of man
is Lord also of the Sabbath." Luke 6:3, 4; Mark 2:27, 28; Matt.
If it was right for David to satisfy his hunger by eating of the
bread that had been set apart to a holy use, then it was right for the
disciples to supply their need by plucking the grain upon the sacred
hours of the Sabbath. Again, the priests in the temple performed greater
labor on the Sabbath than upon other days. The same labor in secular
business would be sinful; but the work of the priests was in the service
of God. They were performing those rites that pointed to the redeeming
power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object of the
Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing the
work of Christ, were engaged in God's service, and that which was
necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to do on the
Christ would teach His disciples and His enemies that the service of
God is first of all. The object of God's work in this world is the
redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done on the
Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath
law. Jesus then crowned His argument by declaring Himself the "Lord
of the Sabbath,"--One above all question and above all law. This
infinite Judge acquits the disciples of blame, appealing to the very
statutes they are accused of violating.
Jesus did not let the matter pass with administering a rebuke to His
enemies. He declared that in their blindness they had mistaken the
object of the Sabbath. He said, "If ye had known what this meaneth,
I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the
guiltless." Matt. 12:7. Their many heartless rites could not supply
the lack of that truthful integrity and tender love which will ever
characterize the true worshiper of God.
Again Christ reiterated the truth that the sacrifices were in
themselves of no value. They were a means, and not an end. Their object
was to direct men to the Saviour, and thus to bring them into harmony
with God. It is the service of love that God values. When this is
lacking, the mere round of ceremony is an offense to Him. So with the
Sabbath. It was designed to bring men into communion with God; but when
the mind was absorbed with wearisome rites, the object of the Sabbath
was thwarted. Its mere outward observance was a mockery.
Upon another Sabbath, as Jesus entered a synagogue. He saw there a
man who had a withered hand. The Pharisees watched Him, eager to see
what He would do. The Saviour well knew that in healing on the Sabbath
He would be regarded as a transgressor, but He did not hesitate to break
down the wall of traditional requirements that barricaded the Sabbath.
Jesus bade the afflicted man stand forth, and then asked, "It is
lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or
to kill?" It was a maxim among the Jews that a failure to do good,
when one had opportunity, was to do evil; to neglect to save life was to
kill. Thus Jesus met the rabbis on their own ground. "But they held
their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger,
being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man,
Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was
restored whole as the other." Mark 3:4, 5.
When questioned, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath
days?" Jesus answered, "What man shall there be among you, that
shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will
he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better
than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath
days." Matt. 12:10-12.
The spies dared not answer Christ in the presence of the multitude,
for fear of involving themselves in difficulty. They knew that He had
spoken the truth. Rather than violate their traditions, they would leave
a man to suffer, while they would relieve a brute because of the loss to
the owner if it were neglected. Thus greater care was shown for a dumb
animal than for man, who is made in the image of God. This illustrates
the working of all false religions. They originate in man's desire to
exalt himself above God, but they result in degrading man below the
brute. Every religion that wars against the sovereignty of God defrauds
man of the glory which was his at the creation, and which is to be
restored to him in Christ. Every false religion teaches its adherents to
be careless of human needs, sufferings, and rights. The gospel places a
high value upon humanity as the purchase of the blood of Christ, and it
teaches a tender regard for the wants and woes of man. The Lord says,
"I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than
the golden wedge of Ophir." Isa. 13:12.
When Jesus turned upon the Pharisees with the question whether it was
lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do evil, to save life or to
kill, He confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They were
hunting His life with bitter hatred, while He was saving life and
bringing happiness to multitudes. Was it better to slay upon the
Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as He
had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon God's
holy day than love to all men, which finds expression in deeds of mercy?
In the healing of the withered hand, Jesus condemned the custom of
the Jews, and left the fourth commandment standing as God had given it.
"It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days," He declared. By
sweeping away the senseless restrictions of the Jews, Christ honored the
Sabbath, while those who complained of Him were dishonoring God's holy
Those who hold that Christ abolished the law teach that He broke the
Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the same. Thus they are
really taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews. In this they
contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared, "I have
kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." John 15:10.
Neither the Saviour nor His followers broke the law of the Sabbath.
Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy
precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses who
were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged,
"Which of you convicteth Me of sin?" John 8:46, R. V.
The Saviour had not come to set aside what patriarchs and prophets
had spoken; for He Himself had spoken through these representative men.
All the truths of God's word came from Him. But these priceless gems had
been placed in false settings. Their precious light had been made to
minister to error. God desired them to be removed from their settings of
error and replaced in the framework of truth. This work only a divine
hand could accomplish. By its connection with error, the truth had been
serving the cause of the enemy of God and man. Christ had come to place
it where it would glorify God, and work the salvation of humanity.
"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath," Jesus said. The institutions that God has established are
for the benefit of mankind. "All things are for your sakes."
"Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or
death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are
Christ's; and Christ is God's." 2 Cor. 4:15; 1 Cor. 3:22, 23. The
law of Ten Commandments, of which the Sabbath forms a part, God gave to
His people as a blessing. "The Lord commanded us," said Moses,
"to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good
always, that He might preserve us alive." Deut. 6:24. And through
the psalmist the message was given to Israel, "Serve the Lord with
gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord
He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His
people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with
thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise." Ps. 100:2-4. And of
all who keep "the Sabbath from polluting it," the Lord
declares, "Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make
them joyful in My house of prayer." Isa. 56:6, 7.
"Wherefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath."
These words are full of instruction and comfort. Because the Sabbath was
made for man, it is the Lord's day. It belongs to Christ. For "all
things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was
made." John 1:3. Since He made all things, He made the Sabbath. By
Him it was set apart as a memorial of the work of creation. It points to
Him as both the Creator and the Sanctifier. It declares that He who
created all things in heaven and in earth, and by whom all things hold
together, is the head of the church, and that by His power we are
reconciled to God. For, speaking of Israel, He said, "I gave them
My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that
I am the Lord that sanctify them,"--make them holy. Ezek. 20:12.
Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ's power to make us holy. And it is
given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power,
the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the
Israel of God.
And the Lord says, "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath,
from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight,
the holy of the Lord, honorable; . . . then shalt thou delight thyself
in the Lord." Isa. 58:13, 14. To all who receive the Sabbath as a
sign of Christ's creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight.
Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points
them to the works of creation as an evidence of His mighty power in
redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells of
peace restored through the Saviour. And every object in nature repeats
His invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28.
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