God is so good in our lives that He is willing to be with us to lead us according to His will. We should give thanks to Him for still giving us the opportunity to praise Him and to listen to His Word in the midst of natural disasters or in the rapid spreading of Covid-19 new variant that took many lives. Whatever the challenge is, God is ready to give us strength that we may go through it. He has His great plan in each of our lives; therefore let us worship Him wholeheartedly and listen to His Word as long as we still have the opportunity.
Today’s theme is ‘Jesus the Lord of Sabbath’. Hence we should understand what Sabbath is, also why there should be and what is the purpose of God’s commandment to sanctify and respect the Sabbath day.
A. It was God who gave the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
Sabbath means to ‘refrain from all works’ or ‘to take a rest’. The 4th commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor 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).
Why should there be a Sabbath? In order that His people can take a rest from all the work they have done six days prior. As the Lord created heaven and earth for six days, He then stopped at the seventh day and blessed that day (Genesis 2:23). By refraining from all work on Sabbath day, they won’t be bothered by any works but rather focusing their hearts and mind to meet the Lord in their worship.
Why did the Lord command to keep the Sabbath day holy?
- That His people may remember His great works through creation.
- That His people remember their freedom from slavery in Egypt by God’s mighty hand and by His outstretched arms (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
What did the Israelites do during Sabbath? They stopped from all their works, stayed at their homes/tents with all family members gathering around and telling their children about God who created them from nothing and how God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Having been released from slavery didn’t mean they could just stay idle and do nothing but they should sanctify themselves on that particular day and be reconciled with God. The whole family members including their servants should stay together and focus on worshiping God and remember the kindness of God. They should not worry that they would lose profit because that day was off. God demanded them to just obey and believe Him and they could see how God provided them on their resting day.
Introspection: What do we do during Sabbath day? Do we stop working and give a special time for the Lord by worshipping Him with the whole family? Or do we still work to gain profits? Or do we worship Him while our minds are still filled with other businesses? As an illustration, imagine God is in front of us physically but we are too busy with our own problems, not taking care of His presence. Don’t you feel that our attitude will only hurt His feelings? Have we taught our children the importance of Sabbath day? Or do we just let them do what they like on that day? What about our employees? Have we given them time to worship God or do we still keep them working on that day? Remember that we were once slaves then we were set free; therefore do the same to the people working for us. Let us not exploit them for our profit.
In the Old Testament, those who despised the Sabbath day must be punished to death – those who worked on that day must be cut off from the people (Exodus 31:14). Now let us not have our family or employees die spiritually because they don’t have proper time to worship God.
God commanded Moses to inform the Israelites about their purpose of having Sabbath day:
- The Israelites should preserve Sabbath day for generations as a reminder that it was the Lord who sanctified them (Exodus 31:12-17). To celebrate Sabbath was an eternal covenant between God and His people. By preserving Sabbath, they could always encounter God, as God always wants to be among His people. It doesn’t mean that God is lonely but it is more about for the sake of His people that they may experience His goodness.
Application: It’s an obligation for the church leaders to remind the congregation to always have a close relationship with God.
- That the Israelites may know, Sabbath is the time for holy convocations (Leviticus 23:1-3). These holy convocations should be held in their residences and should be preserved by their descendants forever because God requires their descendants to always live in His grace. This is the evidence of how He loves his people and their descendants.
B. God revealed the true meaning of Sabbath.
If we look back to Luke 6:1-11, there were two events that occurred:
- The disciples picked some wheat on Sabbath day (vv. 1-5).
Jesus and His disciples were going through grain fields on one Sabbath day. The disciples picked some heads of wheat and ate them. Some Pharisees saw those things and asked why the disciples did some things forbidden on Sabbath day. Jesus answered them by telling how David entered the Temple, took the bread from the Table of Showbread, ate it and gave it to his followers while according to the law the bread was only for the priests. Jesus continued, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Jesus emphasized that He is the Lord of Sabbath to the Pharisees who misunderstood the law. The Scribes, Pharisees, head of the synagogue, all had the wrong paradigm and wrong practices of Sabbath. They did opposite things of what God had required.
- Jesus healed a sick person on Sabbath (vv. 6-11).
When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on another Sabbath, He saw a person whose right had was paralyzed. The Scribes and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely, wondering if He would heal him on Sabbath day so that they could find a reason to blame Him. Jesus challenged them back by saying, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good or to do evil? To save life or to destroy it?’
On another Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years and was bent over. When Jesus healed her on Sabbath day, the head of the synagogue was indignant but Jesus answered him, “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 13:10-17). And all His opponents felt ashamed.
Also on another Sabbath, Jesus came to the house of a Pharisee leader to dine there. And there was a man with dropsy before Him. “And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” And they could not answer Him regarding these things” (Luke 14:1-6).
From those events above, we can see the reaction of the Scribes, the Pharisees and the head of synagogue who were indignant and wanted to harm Jesus but in the end they were ashamed, silenced and unable to argue with Him when Jesus told them the true meaning of Sabbath in the Law.
Why did they always misinterpret the real meaning of Sabbath, and always opposed to what Jesus did on Sabbath days? Jesus explained the real meaning of Sabbath through what He had done. He wanted to say that they should have done what had been reminded by Moses to keep Sabbath holy that all the people around them could meet the Lord. But instead of listening to Jesus’ explanation, they were furious and rejected Him.
By showing His desire to heal the sick and to set free the demon-possessed people on Sabbath Day, Jesus wanted to correct the paradigm of the Scribes, the Pharisees and the head of synagogue about Sabbath not only to say “don’t do this” or “don’t do that” but rather care about people around them so that they might experience God’s help and also remember the mighty hands of the Lord of the universe who had set them free from Egyptian slavery.
Lesson learned: Even the servant of God can misinterpret the Word. Therefore humility and ability to accept criticism are much needed. For example: if our employee doesn’t carry out our order but keeps insisting that he is right, how do we feel about him? What action would we take on this kind of person? This is how Jesus felt. He has given His Word concerning the rules of Sabbath but was misinterpreted by the Scribes, the Pharisees and the head of the synagogue. A servant of the Lord needs to be supported by prayer so that whatever they say will not inflict the true meaning of the Word.
The true meaning of Sabbath will cause us to rest and to be in the presence of the Lord. Let us not be like the Jews who obeyed the rules of Sabbath without faith. In the end, they will not enter “the rest” because of their disobedience (Hebrews 4:1-16). Also, Sabbath will give us freedom from sin that will bring God’s love and peace. Be on our guard that we may not be left behind because of our stubbornness and disbelief. Use our worship time properly to build intimacy with God that one day we will eventually enter the true rest with Him.
So it is clear now that Sabbath was made for the sake of man’s well-being (Mark 2:27). And that man could experience His presence. He sets a special time for us to meet Him. Therefore, never waste every opportunity to enter “the rest” provided by God Himself. Amen.