A Sabbath Study

The fourth commandment has been the subject of controversy and division for many years. "Does it apply today?" "What 'work' can one do without violating the Sabbath?" "Does the Law only apply to the people of Israel, or does it apply to everyone?" "Which day is the Sabbath?"

Whilst these questions are important the hostility which surrounds them is not. The Psalmist reminds us to "worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." In reflection, it would seem that the controversy may well be an ugly distraction.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11)

The command begins with "Remember the Sabbath . . . " .

The children of Israel were to remember that the Lord made the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and on the seventh, He rested. The Sabbath day crowned the end of Creation. By working six days and resting on the seventh, the children of Israel would acknowledge God as the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

The Sabbath day is different from all the other days of Creation because it was purpose built. God not only created the seventh day but He blessed it. The Sabbath is the day when the goodness of God is at its most abundant.

Watching the seven days of Creation unfold is like sitting in the chair at the Optometrist having our eyes checked. The first lens is like looking at Day One. The second lens is Day Two, and so on, with each consecutive lens a new Day. And with each Day the scenery of our vision becomes clearer and is filled. Until the seventh day, the final lens, and there it is, our Sabbath eyes behold Creation, living, breathing, moving, relating, in unity, connected – blessed. THIS IS THE SABBATH.

Let us consider Day One.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

"Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

"God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.

"So the evening and the morning were the first day." (Genesis 1:1-5)

Darkness was on the face of the deep – blackness masked outer regions of space – the expanse. Darkness hid the depths of the universe.

Then God said, "Let there be light." And the universe was unveiled. The expanse was revealed by a light so pervasive it seemed to have no visible source. It was a pure light that cast no shadow. Light, it would appear, radiated from everywhere. Nothing was hidden; all could be seen.

Darkness and Light were separated. The Light radiated life, while Darkness warned of death.

In these same terms the Messiah proclaimed, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Messiah Yeshua was speaking of both the present world and the World to Come. In order to walk uprightly in our present world and in the world to come it is necessary to have the light of life – this is the pure light that casts no shadow.

This pure light is also spoken of regarding the New Jerusalem, the holy city which comes down from the New Heavens to the New Earth, "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light." (Revelation 21:23)

When God created man, male and female, the Scriptures say that "they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:25)

Regarding this verse, the Rabbis teach that Adam and Eve radiated a light so brilliant that their nakedness was less obvious. But after their fall into sin, the light was extinguished and therefore their nakedness exposed.

Yochanan, a Jewish prophet, spoke of this light, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1:1-5)

The Messiah was the life. He radiated this pure light, which is the light of men.

Keeping the Sabbath holy may enable one to rest in this pure light.

The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday evening and ends at sundown on Saturday.

As the sun sets and darkness covers the Earth, the children of Israel light two candles which memorialize the commandment, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy".

The Sabbath candles remind us that though the world is cloaked in darkness the Light of Life is not extinguished. All Creation cries for the hope of redemption. The Lord of the Sabbath brings salvation and Life, therefore, the Sabbath brings hope. It is the day of forever-ness.

In the book of Deuteronomy the fourth commandment is recorded again, with the following addition,

"And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day." (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

The children of Israel were to remember that they were slaves without hope in Egypt. Their slavery-bondage lifestyle was in contrast to living the restful-free Sabbath.

In addition, keeping the Sabbath holy would bring demonstrations of His power. " . . . the LORD your God who brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm . . . "

When the children of Israel failed to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy, the Lord called them to repentance, and He reminded them of what they were missing.

"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honourable, and shall honour him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Failing to keep the Sabbath also affected the way the children of Israel fasted. Normally, a powerful tool in repentance, fasting became another outlet for their own desires.

"In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your labourers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness." (Isaiah 58:4)

The Lord reminds the children of Israel, through the prophet, "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

"Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?" (Isaiah 58:6-7)

It is good to loose the bonds of wickedness, on the Sabbath. To set the captive free, to unload those weighed down by heavy burdens, to release the oppressed and those stricken by grief, and to break the yoke of injustice, to feed the poor and clothe the naked. If there is any day of the week on which these events should happen, it is Sabbath.

"Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard." (Isaiah 58:8)

The occasions when Yeshua of Nazareth healed on the Sabbath were, in fact, confirmations that He was the Messiah.

A woman came to Yeshua who had had an infirmity for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not raise herself up.

"But when Yeshua saw her, he called her to him and said to her, 'Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.' And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

"But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Yeshua had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, 'There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.'

"The Lord then answered him and said, 'Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?'" (Luke 13:11-16)

Things like this were supposed to happen on the Sabbath.

On another Sabbath, Yeshua healed a man who had been lying on his bed for thirty-eight years because of an infirmity. On this occasion, the religious leaders sought to persecute Yeshua " . . . because he had done these things on the Sabbath.

"But Yeshua answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'" (John 5:16-17) Therefore the leaders " . . . sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

"Then Yeshua answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the father do; for whatever he does, the son also does in like manner.'" (John 5:18-19)

The Sabbath had come, and with it the blessing. The Heavenly Father was participating in the Sabbath. Yeshua, the Son entered the environs of the pool of Bethesda. He saw a man lying on his bed. But more, with Sabbath eyes He saw the Father working – the goodness of the Lord – in the man lying on his bed. It was as if, Yeshua, looking through Sabbath eyes could see the man being set free from captivity. Yeshua completed the scene by speaking into being that which the Father was already accomplishing. "Rise, take up your bed and walk." (John 5:8)

Yeshua, the Son, did not initiate the healing but joined the Father. By faith the man rose to his feet. The power of God was present, and the man was healed. And it was the Sabbath.

These are significant events that confirm the hope and glory of the Sabbath.

Rather than allow controversy and division to rob us of the Holy Day of the Lord, let us worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

As the sun sets next Sabbath let us rest from our work and bring honour to the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Let us put aside our own interests and enter the light and life of the Sabbath.

Let us remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.