“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” – Isaiah 58:13-14a
Whenever I teach on the topic of the sabbath to people who aren’t familiar with it they automatically get their guard up thinking I’m about to drag in some old covenant legalistic rules. Most people see the Sabbath as an old covenant institution and point to familiar texts like Colossians 2:16 where Paul states that no one should judge you regarding festivals, new moons or sabbaths. To quickly dismiss the sabbath though is a mistake. I believe that the sabbath is one of God’s precious gifts to humanity.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. We are not saved by sabbath keeping any more than we are saved by honouring our parents or not killing or not committing adultery. The sabbath doesn’t save us and neither does any other good work we could do. We could do what Mother Theresa did and dedicate our life to doing worldwide good like she did but these things won’t add a single thing to our salvation. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” – Romans 3:20.
A Sign of our Salvation
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-15
There are two main places we find the list of God’s commandments. Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Here is Deuteronomy 5 verse 15 we have a very interesting reason that God gives to Israel as justification for their observing the sabbath. Notice: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt…” Biblical history tells us that the nation of Israel was birthed in Egypt when the patriarch Israel, otherwise known as Jacob, moved there because of the severe famine that had gripped that region of the world in his time. From the humble beginnings of Israel’s twelve sons, four hundred years later, grew a nation of slaves. These slaves cried out to God for deliverance and God heard their prayers.
At that time, Egypt was one of the world’s superpowers. What do you think the chances were that a large group of slaves were going to be able to get free from the nation that enslaved them without a standing army and without any trained soldiers to speak of? Not very good. In fact, I don’t believe we would be overstating it to say that it would have been impossible.
Now what is impossible for man is possible for God! Where these Israelites were powerless God was all powerful. Where these Israelites had no experience in battle and could not fight, God fought for them. Where all they had known was slavery and defeat, God granted them freedom and value.
Does all of this sound familiar friend? Have you been saved from your sins? I know I have. Just like the children of Israel before God’s intervention, we were spiritually in Egypt. Powerless to save ourselves. Defeated and rejected. Depressed and discouraged. Praise the Lord though, God didn’t leave us there! He came to our aid. He saved us from our sins. He freed us from slavery.
Keeping the Sabbath doesn’t save me but it does help me to remember. To remember each week how Jesus Christ freed me from the power of the devil and the power of death. It helps me to remember that God loves me and values me. That even when I screw up, he is there to pick up the pieces, dust me off and help put me back on the right track.
The Sabbath isn’t a burden. It isn’t something I have to do but something I love to do. God is my saviour! He is my rescuer! He is my protector!
Praise God for the Sabbath!