Remember God’s Sabbath
Jamie Mc Nab –
good afternoon brethren, and to those across the
Today, as we are well aware, is God’s Holy Sabbath Day. Today the message I would like to give is to deal with a very, very basic topic. Something which is very basic, yet is also very, very important. Something that all of us are extremely familiar with and yet we all probably know people who used to know this truth, but have now long since moved away. What I am talking about is the knowledge of God’s true Sabbath Day.
You see, if there is one doctrine that sets us apart from the majority of this world’s churches, it is the seventh day Sabbath. We are all very well aware that most professing Christians keep Sunday, as their day of worship.
Most churches keep Sunday as their day. Only a small number of churches, the Seventh Day Adventists would be a quite well known church, and one or two others, keep the seventh day Sabbath. Among those small groups of churches is The Church of God.
at this time of year, the seventh day does make you stand out as a peculiar
person. I have mentioned before, I
think, that over here in
They say, “Well, why is he packing up his tools? Why is he going home now? Why doesn’t he stay until , or , or like the rest of us?”
So the Sabbath Day does rather separate us from the people of the world and from other “Christian” groups. Yet, how many Sabbath keepers do you and I know who have departed from the Sabbath. More importantly for those of us who are still keeping the Sabbath, how many of us perhaps get a little bit casual, a little bit overly familiar, with the Sabbath Day. Perhaps we don’t always keep the Sabbath quite the way that God would want us to?
Do we still understand the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day properly? If we understand that importance, do we actually do anything about it? Do we keep the Sabbath properly? The question would be “Is the Sabbath Day fulfilling its purpose in our lives?” You know, God made it for a reason. Are we actually receiving the benefits that God has for us?
So today, I would like to have a review of God’s Holy Sabbath, to help us all to receive the full blessings that God wants us to receive on His Sabbath. So the title of this message would be “Remember God’s Sabbath”… Remember God’s Sabbath!
To start, I would like to take our Bibles and turn to Genesis chapter 1, verses 26 through 28. It is important as we begin to look at the Sabbath, that we just refresh our minds as to what God is actually doing. Does He have a purpose, Himself, upon this earth? Verse 26, a very well known passage:
26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Then Mr. Armstrong explained those verses to us, and showed us that God is actually in the process of reproducing Himself, something that the world does not understand, something that “Christians” would tell you is virtually blasphemy. But those verses from the very opening chapter of the Bible make it plain that God is actually multiplying Himself. He’s set out His plan to add many more individuals, in this universe, who are in His image and His likeness. That should include you and me. It should include us!
The question might be, “How do you change human fleshly beings into members of the God family, with such an incredible potential?” How do you change them? How do you bring them from being flesh and blood into perfect righteous holy beings? What’s the method, what’s the process?
Let’s turn now to Ephesians chapter 2 and we will read verses 8 to 10:
8 For by grace (says Paul) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
And so many of the things we have are gifts to us and from God!
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, (we are God’s workmanship) created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
So verse 10 tells us, very plainly, that we are God’s workmanship. He’s actually working with us. You know God has a “hands on” operation. He’s not 19 billion miles away, just occasionally looking our way! God is literally working with us. He is like a master potter. He is shaping us, and forming us for His purpose and plan. Part of God’s plan to shape us and change us into His image and likeness is that He has designated one whole day, in every week, one seventh of the week, to educate us. One seventh of each week which is set apart for us to spend in God’s presence seeking to draw nearer to Him to acquire more of God’s own mind as He works with us. He has to work with us when we are available for that work.
Now, God can work with us, of course, any time of the week, but in His plan, in His method, to change us into God beings, He has established one day in each week which is His special day, to really work with us closely and make maximum progress in changing us.
Let’s turn now to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 12 and we’ll read verse 2, and here Paul says:
2 And be not conformed to this world:
means don’t think like the world does.
Don’t have the same values as you will find in the world. Don’t look around
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
Have your mind changed
that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
So, Paul says that we are to be transformed. We start off conformed to the world. We grow up as little children and teenagers and adults. We acquire the world’s habits and values; but God says No…. Don’t stay that way….Be changed! Have your mind converted from being a fleshly, human, carnal, selfish, “looking out for number one” mind! Develop, instead of that, the mind of Jesus Christ … the mind of God! The word here for “transformed” is the word from the Greek “metamorphosis,” which is quite a big word.
That’s a word that the scientists use when they talk about how a little caterpillar changes into a butterfly. You see a caterpillar on a bush or a leaf and this little, quite ugly thing, like a little pinky in your hand, and it is fat, and it wriggles along, and it munches into your leaves and so on. It’s not very attractive. It can’t move very fast. But at some stage of its life, it “metamorphoses” which is the word here for transformed. It changes from being a little slug-like thing to a beautiful, colorful butterfly which sails up into the breeze and can fly for hundreds of miles, free and beautiful … that’s transformed! What Paul is saying here is that we should be similarly transformed. The carnal mind, (of the caterpillar), should be transformed, “metamorphosed”, into the beautiful mind of a God being!
So, that’s what God’s ultimate purpose is. If we might ask “Well when will our mind be renewed? When we’re washing the car… out there with a bucket of water and some soap and a sponge.….. Is that when our mind gets renewed like God’s mind? Is it perhaps when we are shopping at the Wal-Mart … pushing up and down the aisles and picking up detergents and so on… Is that where our mind is transformed and changed? Is it when we are out buying a new pair of shoes? Well, No. I think we realize that’s not when our mind is really converted.
We, all of us, live in a very busy world. There are huge pressures upon us for all the jobs and tasks we’ve got to do. So, God knew that. God was ahead of the game, and He has therefore deliberately set aside one day in each week, when He can really work with us to help us renew our minds and take on the mind of God.
So, let’s go to the beginning of the story, as far as the Sabbath is concerned, back in Genesis chapter 2. The Sabbath is, as we will see, a key part of how God wants us to become God beings. He knew what we would need. Really, one day a week, to spend in His company, reflecting on His purpose and plan, and drawing near to Him. God knows that that’s good for us. Sometimes, of course, we don’t quite believe that.
Genesis chapter2…. and we will see the origin, the beginning of the Sabbath Day. Starting in verse 1 and reading to verse 3:
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished
We know that God had renewed this earth as He worked for 6 days. Verse 2:
2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, (that is, set it apart) because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Now we can see there, and we know this very well, that this was the seventh day of the week. I think we all equally know that the Sabbath Day is a memorial of creation. We look back and we notice that God made the animals and the birds and the fish and planted the trees and all the grasses and so on. He took six days to do that. On the seventh day He stopped that labor of renewing and recreating the earth. So, He worked for six days and He ceased working on the seventh day.
You may not notice that there is a slight problem with the translation of these verses. In some ways, in the King James version, and in fact most translations, it’s just slightly misleading. It is not wrong, but equally, it’s not quite right. It tells us in verse 2 and verse 3 that God “rested” on the seventh day from all the work He had done. Really, that is not entirely precise.
The verb for “rested” is the one I want to look at for a couple or three scriptures, because it just might give us some understanding if we are wondering sometimes what are we allowed to do on the Sabbath Day versus what we should not be doing on the Sabbath Day.
Many people, when they first find out about the Sabbath think, “Well … Can I cook food? Can I boil a kettle and make coffee? Can I go for a walk? It says that God rested and, well, perhaps I’ve got to do nothing at all….just lie in bed all day and just rest. Perhaps that’s the purpose.” I know several people who have done things like that ... because the translation is just a little bit, not a lot but a little bit, misleading. That is because the word for “rested” comes from a Hebrew word, strange enough, called “shabath”.
And really the word “shabath” doesn’t quite mean to rest. It more means to cease working… to stop working. God worked for six days. He labored for six days, but on the seventh day He stopped that work. He ceased from working. For example, if you were out digging in your garden and I walked out and spoke to you in Hebrew, and said “cease digging”, “stop digging”, I would use the word shabath, because that means cease, stop. If you were washing your car and I was going to say “stop washing your car” “cease from washing your car”, I would use the word “shabath.” It really means “cease” -- not so much, “rest”. (Although I think that we can see that if you stop working you will be effectively at rest). The key meaning is to actually cease from what you are doing.
For example, the word shabath can be found 71 times in the Old Testament. In the King James Version it is translated as “cease” 47 times. Almost 50 times the translators translated it as “cease”, not as “rest”, but as “cease”. They translated it as “rest” only 11 times. If you wanted to be consistent, you would probably translate it as “cease” or “stop” all the time. And this will become important. In another couple of three scriptures you will see where I am going with this.
You see, if we really mean rest, and if I said to you, “What do you think the word rest means?” you’d say …”Oh well… it means … you’d have to be peaceful, to be quiet, to be sort of tranquil. Well, rest to me implies… you know… being refreshed and at peace.”
Well, if that’s what God meant … to be at peace and refreshed and tranquil and of a serene experience … there are actually other Hebrew words that God could have chosen. He would not have needed to use this particular word. So, therefore, if we ask each other what do we actually think the Sabbath actually means…. What is the most important instruction? If we think that God’s commandment is to rest … and the main project is to relax … to enjoy peace and quiet … to be at ease; that will lead us into certain conclusions. We will say … “Oh … God rested on the seventh day and so am I. I am doing absolutely nothing at all … I am going to stay in bed from one sunset to the next, because I am resting and that is the commandment.”
Well, that is not entirely wrong, but it is not equally entirely right
Let’s look at another scripture that will clarify. Isaiah chapter 14 starting in verse 3 we read here:
3 It shall come to pass in the day…..
Of course that’s looking to the future
…...the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow…
Now, “rest” there is a different Hebrew word and it means quiet. It means comfort. It means peace. You know, in the future, in the world to come, God it says, will give you rest and quiet and peace. That is NOT the word we read earlier. This is a separate Hebrew word. (If we’re interested, it is the word “nuach).
…the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve,
So … a time to come when you’ll enjoy quiet and peace and refreshment.
4 that you will take up this
proverb against the king of
Now the word “ceased” there is, in fact, the word “shabath”. In other words, this oppressor is going to stop oppressing. He is going to cease what he was doing. He is going to stop. That’s the word “shabath”. The word for rest, meaning being at peace and tranquil, and serene is a different word.
One more passage in Ezekiel 16, if we can turn there … this is going to help us understand what God wants us to be doing on the Sabbath and what He doesn’t want us doing … at verse 41 … and we read here:
41 "They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers.
…something you were doing which you will now stop doing.
That’s the word “shabath”.
Carrying on in verse 42:
42 "So I will lay to rest My fury toward you,…..
That’s the word “nuach” again. It means that God will be at peace now.
42 "So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more.
The word for quiet is another word in the Hebrew that can mean rest.
So what God is saying there is that He will produce genuine rest, He will produce peace and quietness, but those are different words from shabath. That is not the word that was used in talking about that very first Sabbath Day. The word there really means to cease what you are doing.
God had been busy renewing the earth, planting the trees and the bushes, building the hills, creating the rivers and the sea, making the octopus and great ocean whales and the birds and the albatross and all lots of stuff. Then on the seventh day He ceased from His work.
Now, what could the implications of this be for us? Do we focus on resting, and doing as little as we can on the Sabbath, or do we focus on ceasing from our usual work?
For example, if we were teachers, then we would cease from teaching on the Sabbath. If we were a shop assistant, we would cease from working in a shop. If we were a building contractor putting up roofs and so on and building roads, then on the Sabbath Day we would cease from such activities. But, we wouldn’t necessarily on the Sabbath Day be utterly idle, doing nothing and making “rest” the most important thing.
example, some years ago, when we were in the Philadelphia Church of God, we
would attend services down near
If the main purpose of the Sabbath is to rest and do nothing, then such a testing, trying, stressful drive which leaves you all hot and sweaty and agitated at the far end, would not be keeping the Sabbath Day. It wouldn’t! You would have broken God’s Sabbath because, if God says rest and do virtually nothing and be at peace and quiet, and you are racing up and down the highways at great speed, overtaking and being cutup and so on, well, that could be potentially sinful. But, if the focus is not on resting and doing nothing, but on ceasing from your normal working routine, then of course, that is not a problem.
Now, the Jews as they so often did … they took this the wrong way. They focused on resting and doing, as far as they were concerned, virtually nothing on the Sabbath Day. They created, I think, literally over a hundred different little picky rules and regulations, prohibitions and things that you must not do! As far as they were concerned, they were to protect the Sabbath against all these people who would keep on breaking it. So the Jews produced a whole bundle of really very silly rules and regulations. They tried to guard the Sabbath, but what they ended up doing was turning the Sabbath Day from a delight into a terrible burden upon the Jewish people.
First turn to Acts chapter 1 and we’ll see one illustration. Acts chapter 1 and verse 11. This will hopefully become clearer as we continue on. Here we read ... Jesus is just ascending up into heaven after His resurrection and so on as the Angels who are there say:
11 who also said, "Men of
12 Then they returned
the distance from the
But, what was a Sabbath Day’s journey? Well, you can look through the entire Bible and you won’t find it. There is nowhere in the entire Old Testament where God says that on the Sabbath Day you must not walk further than X number of yards. Nowhere! God’s law says nothing about a Sabbath Day’s journey. The Jewish teachers said, “Well, hang on a second. The Sabbath is a day of rest! You can’t go walking all over the place on a day of rest. You’ve got to rest! You’ve got to stop doing things that take any effort.” So, the Jews produced lots of rules, of which this was one, that you must not walk farther than half a mile, or what ever it was, on the Sabbath Day. If you walked more than that, you were in serious trouble. You could be excommunicated from the synagogue, treated like a spiritual leper. I think you can understand that that would cause difficulty. That would be a burden for many people.
For example, if you lived in one part of Jerusalem, and perhaps your family, your married daughter and your son-in-law, your couple or three grandchildren, lived one mile away, then as far as the Jews were concerned, you couldn’t see them on the Sabbath Day because, “Ohhh! …if it was more than half a mile, that’s not resting! That’s wicked. That’s sin. You’re breaking the Sabbath.” So imagine what a burden that would be when even family members couldn’t visit each other on God’s delightful Sabbath because of this man-made rule.
That was typical of the Jewish leaders. They tried so hard to protect the “Sabbath Rest” as they saw it.
Let’s turn to John chapter 5. We’ll see another illustration of the Jewish attitude toward the Sabbath. We will find it very, very different from what God intends the Sabbath Day to be. Of course it is what GOD wants that we want to understand. We want to do with the Sabbath what God has in mind for it. He’s made it for a purpose, but let’s understand exactly what God is looking for. John Chapter 5, and we’re starting in verse 8. Cutting into the story of Jesus and one of His spectacular and miraculous healings, John 5 verse 8. This man had been crippled for 38 years, and Jesus just astonishingly healed this man. Verse 8:
8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."
And, of course, all the people were watching this event.
9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
Ohhhhhh! And that day was the Sabbath!
So you might say, well isn’t that fantastic to have a great miracle like that on the Sabbath Day. Isn’t that wonderful! Verse 10:
10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured … It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."
Now, this is probably like a sleeping bag. To us a little light-weight frame that you would lie on if you were crippled and be carried around. Nothing particularly heavy. But they said, “Look, buddy, it’s not lawful to carry your bed!” Okay, where in the Bible does it say you may not carry your bed on the Sabbath Day? Answer I … Nowhere! But to the Jews … they were saying, Look the Sabbath is all about resting, doing nothing, and therefore you can’t be resting if you are carrying your bed. That’s a burden, and you’re breaking the law. Well of course, breaking what? - Yes! - Breaking the Jewish rules and regulations!
11 He answered them, "He who made me well said to me, `Take up your bed and walk.'"
One can understand that Jesus wouldn’t be commanding people to sin. And:
12 Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said to you, `Take up your bed and walk'?"
13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
He identified now who it was.
16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
I mean, it is almost hard to imagine that Jesus healed a man that had been crippled for 38 years, and rather than being excited by that, the Jews are looking now to kill this miracle worker; because He had done these things on the Sabbath! As far as they were concerned, He had defiled and polluted and broken the Sabbath because He had healed somebody and told them to pick up his bed and carry it. To them, that was just horrendous, that was heretical, because the Jews focused entirely on resting, on doing essentially nothing beyond the absolute minimum.
You know, the rabbis had a whole bunch of rules. Some of the things I have read say that, for example, you are forbidden from spitting on the ground on the Sabbath. You might say, “Well that’s a good thing. You shouldn’t spit on the ground anyway.” OK, but if you spat on the ground, as far as they were concerned, your spit might disturb the soil. I guess if it was a very forceful spit, it might! If it moved the soil around, Well! that was like plowing! Because plowing is agricultural work, and therefore you had better not spit on the ground because it might be the same sin as plowing on the Sabbath … A stupid rule!
Another one was, for example, that on the Sabbath Day you should not wear shoes if you had nails in them. If there was just sort of like a fabric or a textile around your foot, fine! But, if you put some nails in, to hold some good soles … “Oh well!, Hang on a moment ... If you lift up your feet with nails in them … Well … that is carrying a burden on the Sabbath! That’s forbidden, because you’ve got to rest on the Sabbath Day!”
Or, for example, what if your house caught fire on the Sabbath? Could you take up your belongings and your clothes and your books and your teddy bears and race out the door? Absolutely not! Don’t forget the Sabbath is a day of rest. You must do nothing but rest on the Sabbath! You can’t pick up clothes even if your house is on fire. But they got around that because they said, “Well, you’re allowed to dress on the Sabbath ... Uhhh, so let’s see ... You can put clothes on. So if your house is on fire, you could put on perhaps 2 or 3 jumpers and a couple of jackets, and an overcoat and 4 or 5 hats on your head and so on and 18 pairs of trousers. I suppose you can waddle out the door. You’re not breaking the Sabbath.” Ahhh! the whole thing is a lot of foolishness.
That’s not the example that God set on that very first Sabbath. We know He ceased from His labors of renewing the earth. But, what did God DO on that first Sabbath Day? Did He just lie back and stare at the sky and do nothing? Of course not! We know that He taught Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He took the time to provide them with knowledge, with understanding. You know, God fellowshipped with His son Adam and with Eve.
And while I am only speculating, I would imagine that God, Jesus Christ, manifesting Himself there in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, probably walked around the park. I would imagine that they probably walked up to some fruit trees and then, you know, God and Adam, they would have pulled some fruit off the trees, and they would have eaten it as they talked and walked and discussed things of importance. I mean, we know one occasion where the disciples picked some grain to eat and the Pharisees jumped all over them because of the Sabbath Day.
There is no Bible law against taking an apple or pear or a handful of pecan nuts, and eating on the Sabbath. But the Jewish regulations, of course, forbade all that. “Oh, I am sorry but you’re harvesting on the Sabbath.” And really they turned the beauty of the Sabbath into a whole bunch of rules and regulations and made it a great burden, because they didn’t understand what God was trying to do with the Sabbath Day!
Let’s turn now to Exodus chapter 20. Let’s read the actual Sabbath command. Exodus chapter 20, the so-called “Big 10”. If it is in the “Big 10” it’s got to be pretty important! Starting in verse 8, “Remember the Sabbath Day”, which is the title of this message:
8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
that’s one phrase that we often do use in the
Carrying on in verse 9:
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
Remember, that’s what God did.
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work:…..,
Because you will have ceased from working!
….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.
11 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…
And that word is properly “rested” there
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
(Of course, it is not wrong to rest on the Sabbath Day, and if you stop working, it will lead to a certain amount of rest).
If you normally work down in a mine, digging in the coal face for 10 hours a day and working up a huge sweat, covered in filth and dirt, and on the Sabbath Day you don’t do that ... Certainly we will enjoy a certain amount of rest! But the focus is not on resting. It is on something else. It’s on ceasing our normal business affairs, our normal work and then keeping the Sabbath Day holy. And, of course, we get a certain amount of rest out of that.
Now, it says there that we are to do no work. Right? It says to labor for six days, but on the seventh day, cease your labors and do no work. Now, we’ll notice it does not actually give us a definition of what is “work.” It doesn’t tell us precisely what is work. If you are an office worker, as I am, then for six days I am entitled to work in my office and do clerical things -- to be on the phone, to write letters and so on. If you are a farmer, you get six days to be out working on your farm. If you are a school teacher or a professor you’ve got six days to do that. But on the seventh day we are to cease from those normal work activities.
Interestingly, at this point, it does say that we have six DAYS in which we are to labor and do all our work. That should help us to clarify the meaning of the word “day”. The word “day” has several meanings in English. It can be a 24 hour period of time, like Sunday or Saturday or Friday, which last 24 hours. A day can mean the daylight part, from when sun rises to sunset, and day time or daylight. And, of course, the word day can be a more general, vague length of time, like “the day of the Lord” … this lasts far more than 24 hours.
So “day” in English has got several different meanings.
Fairly recently, I think, somebody was asking some questions, “Does the Sabbath Day just last from sunrise to sunset? Is it just daylight that we are to keep holy?” Well, it’s a sort of rather strange view to take, but if that was the case, if it had said keep the seventh day holy and that means daylight ONLY, then when it says work for six days, presumably you could only work six daylight periods. That would mean that nobody should be working on a Monday or Tuesday or a Wednesday after dark or before sunrise. Because, in the Ten Commandments, if it means keep only the day time holy on the Sabbath, it must mean, only work on the daytime on the Monday or the Tuesday or the Wednesday.
fact here in
Frankly it is not very plausible. I know one or two people that do teach that we should only keep the Sabbath “daytime” holy, but I’ve seen where that ends up. Most of these people, they get to the next stage of the argument which is almost unbelievable. The one guy who sent us some material three, four, five years ago, where he got to was that in fact the Sabbath Day wasn’t always Saturday! Amazingly enough! In fact, I think that when we got that first article of his, the Sabbath Day was actually Wednesdays, that particular month. But later in the year he wrote and said that it would be changing and the Sabbath Day would actually be, I think, Thursdays or Fridays.
So, if we start veering away from the traditions and the truth that we received in God’s Church, they can take it to some very strange places.
But notice, “work” isn’t precisely defined. There is no small print that lays it all out. Why? The reason? Well, very simple! God is putting the responsibility on us. It is deliberate on God’s part. God is looking at our hearts, our attitude to see, “What does the Sabbath mean to my people?” It is a test really. Mr. Armstrong said the Sabbath was a test commandment, by which he meant, would you keep on going to church on Sunday, or would you see that the seventh day Sabbath was God’s commandment. And that is quite a test for many people.
But the test is actually bigger than that, because once you accept that the seventh day is the Sabbath, the question then is “Well, what do you DO upon it?” “What will you spend your Sabbath Day DOING?” That’s where God can actually start to look inside us and see what our attitude is, what’s in our heart? Are we looking for easy ways out of the Sabbath? Or are we looking to, as much as we can, draw near to the Creator on this day.
Let’s turn to Isaiah 56 and we’ll start in verse 1.
1 Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed.
Mr. Herbert Armstrong said this is a prophecy of the end time, the days when God’s salvation is just about to come! So this is really talking about our time today!
2 Blessed is the man (or woman) who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil."
So right at the very end time, God is looking for that man or woman who will not defile or pollute or trample on or contaminate His Sabbath Day.
3 Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak, saying, "The LORD has utterly separated me from His people"; Nor let the eunuch say, "Here I am, a dry tree."
….no future, can’t have a family, no name to leave for my future….
4 For thus says the LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,….
Ok, so even these eunuchs who, perhaps themselves are a little bit depressed over their lack of ability to keep their name going, God says; Look, if you keep my Sabbaths…
And choose what pleases me,…
And should we all not be doing that?
And hold fast My covenant,
5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.
So God is offering to these eunuchs, who keep the Sabbath and choose God’s way and keep His covenant, an everlasting name.
6 "Also the sons of the foreigner (the non-Israelite) Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants--Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant--
7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
So God is holding out here really quite a reward. And who is it given to? Who does God discuss here? The people who, yes, hold fast His covenant, that blood covenant, that agreement, the contract, but especially those who at this end time keep from defiling the Sabbath.
Why, in a sense, would God have to talk about His people not defiling the Sabbath? Surely, of all the doctrines and teachings that we’ve had, this should be the one that is most familiar to us?
We know we can look around and think of many, many people who have given up keeping the Sabbath Day. Now that’s one area of concern for us who are allegedly keeping the Sabbath. Our test is, Well … are we keeping it properly? Do we keep ourselves from defiling the Sabbath Day?
Let’s turn to Isaiah 58. Just a couple of pages over and we’ll read verses 13 and 14:
13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, (that is if you don’t trample upon it) From doing your pleasure on My holy day ,And (instead of that ) call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then (if you do these things) 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."
All that means is, He said it and He will do it!
But notice, we are talking here about how do you keep the Sabbath Day holy? What is God looking for? He hasn’t given us the small print. He hasn’t defined work. He’s really asking us to make those decisions. But He is looking for a certain spirit, a certain attitude. Do we understand the Sabbath Day? Do we understand the commandments? Do we understand what He is doing in our lives?
He says here clearly, “If you stop trampling over My holy day, and if you call it a delight … not a burden, not something that really gets in the way of enjoying yourself … and honor Me, not doing your own ways, not finding your own pleasure, not speaking your own words….” (one translation says, “your own idle words”) … In other words, you know, focus on the Sabbath Day and make it a delight! Make it honorable. Make it special. The question is do we understand the value of God’s Sabbath Day? Do we realize that the Sabbath Day is God’s program for changing our minds from being carnal, to renew them and make them spiritual? If we are bored of God’s company, bored of God’s time, can’t wait to get to sunset to race off and do our own thing, perhaps we don’t understand the Sabbath Day. Perhaps we are not interested in receiving the benefits that God has for us.
A test question we could all ask ourselves, with a good attitude is, “Is this activity that I am thinking about appropriate for God’s Holy Sabbath Day? Will this help me to keep the Sabbath holy, or is this me looking for something I want to do with my time and my energy? It’s up to me, and I’m going to enjoy myself doing this, and if it is not quite keeping God’s Sabbath holy, well, so what?” This really gets to our hearts. In a sense, it tests our conversion, and that is exactly what God wants the Sabbath to be. It is a weekly test of where is our heart?
For example; you get questions like, “Should I watch the TV on the Sabbath Day?”, or “Is it ok to play cards on the Sabbath Day?” “Do you think I should wash dishes on the Sabbath Day?”
Probably many of us, in our early years in the church, had many questions like that. Perhaps we went to the minister and said “Is it ok to go out to a restaurant on the Sabbath Day”, “Is it ok put the dishes in the dishwasher or just throw them up on the edge of the sink”, “Can I go for a walk on the Sabbath Day”. You know, many people, I think in the early days, had a good many questions.
I know of people who wouldn’t cook food on the Sabbath Day, because, well, “that’s work. Can’t do any work on the Sabbath.” So they would not even boil a kettle to make some tea or coffee, because, “oh, that’s work.” They would spend the Sabbath Day just eating cold fruit, perhaps a sandwich from the day before and drinking cold water from the tap. In fact, I know one person very well who did that -- which was me!
I remember in our local church, back in the Worldwide days, for example, after the Sabbath services but still during the Sabbath Day, there used to be biscuits and tea and coffee served up after Sabbath services. But people did not want to change money on the Sabbath Day, so therefore you would go and eat your sandwiches and your biscuits served up by the young people at church. You’d not pay for it there and then, but it wasn’t free. In the week days, perhaps a Sunday or Monday, you would put the money in an envelope to pay for your Sabbath biscuits and tea. You’d bring it along the next week and drop it into a bucket. So you wouldn’t be actually paying for your goods on the Sabbath. And so we could also ask, “Can I do this and can I do the next thing and is it ok…, would God be happy if…..” We’ve got lots of questions.
So what I’ve done is I’ve actually got a list together here of things which are appropriate for the Sabbath Day, and a list of things that would be wrong on the Sabbath Day. So if you’ve got a pen and a piece of paper, I will now list the things which are OK and the things which are not OK.
Are you ready?
Are you waiting?
Are you waiting?
Are you ready?
Because the answer is, of course, there is no such list! I am only teasing! There is no list because there is nothing in the Bible that tells us!
God tells us not to work. He tells us to make the Sabbath a delight and holy and avoid our own pleasures, our own idle conversations, and our own affairs. But He does not specify in detail what He is looking for, because He is looking to us, with a right heart, to make decisions which are right, and decent and proper.
It is a test! Frankly, most of us know when we are trying to pull the wool over God’s eyes and get away with something. I will tell you for a fact that we don’t get away with it!
If we turn to Galatians chapter 6 …You know God treats us as adults in many ways. We know the truth. God’s question is, “Are we willing with a true heart to keep His laws and delight Him and seek His way?” Or are we always looking for a way out?
Galatians chapter 6 verses 7 through 9.
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,
So we think that on the Sabbath Day that we can take a few shortcuts, just watch that football game, or dig a little of the garden over, or just read some of our worldly books on the Sabbath. After all we are resting. I mean, the Sabbath command is to rest. I’m just resting my mind by reading this particular crime book or something.
Wellll ... If we sow to the flesh, it says, we will of the flesh reap corruption! But verse 8:
….he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good,….
And, of course, keeping the Sabbath holy IS doing good!
….for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
And the key there is really verse 7, that God is not mocked. We can’t fool Him -- there is no way. But we have a choice! We have free choice. If we do what we are commanded to only because it is a commandment and our heart is not in it, then, really, it is of little value to God.
God is not interested in our just doing things because we absolutely have to. God is looking for those whose hearts and minds have been renewed and transformed
Let’s turn to 1st John chapter 1, and see what God is looking for. We’ll read verses 5 through 7. Mr. Armstrong wrote quite a big book on “Which Day is the Christian Sabbath”. It was 70, 80, 90 pages, and one entire chapter, I believe, was devoted to this passage here. Verse 5:
5 ¶ This is the message which we have heard from Him (God) and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
So that passage, talks about having fellowship one with each other, but especially, as it says there in verse 6, having fellowship with God! With the Father, our Father, and with Jesus Christ our Brother! And why shouldn’t we have fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ the Son? That’s what God is looking for eternally! Hopefully we do enjoy that fellowship. But, especially, on what day of the week would we really relish the chance to fellowship to a degree that we could not do Sunday through Friday? Answer: Of course! The seventh day Sabbath Day, which God has set apart and dedicated as a holy day.
Because God expects us to work and earn our crust of bread, and so on, many of us are up early and work diligently and work late, and so on. This world’s system that Satan has created, does not make life easy for us, it is quite stressful. We are preoccupied by various things. We can be quite tired physically. Really, it is very hard to keep your mind focused on God’s way of life and to fellowship with Him on a Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday. We have to do it to some degree and the better we do it, of course, the better we are! But on one day, God made it possible for us to enjoy a level of fellowship that’s really quite special. The question would be, “Well, do we take advantage of that?”
Let’s turn to Exodus chapter 31, and read verses 12 through 17. This is the special Sabbath covenant.
12 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
13 "Speak also to the
But keep what? Well, keep holy of course.
….for it is a sign….
The keeping of them is a sign
…between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.
It sets you apart!
14 `You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
So, let’s make sure in our own minds that we do know what we are doing.
15 `Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest,….
It says in the Hebrew “Shabbath shabbathon” which means special Sabbath or Sabbath ceremony.
…..holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 `Therefore the children
This is a special contract. It’s a special agreement between God the Father and Jesus Christ and their people, which is of course us!
17 `It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He “ceased” (as it should be) … and was refreshed.'"
So the Sabbath Day is actually a sign. When God looks down upon the earth on a Saturday He can see quite easily where that sign appears. It’s comparatively few people, one has to say.
The question about how you keep the Sabbath holy was explained by Mr. Armstrong in Exodus, if we go back to chapter 3. Mr. Armstrong gives a particular illustration to show what it means to be holy and how we should keep the Sabbath holy. This was a principle. As I said earlier, there is no great list of things that are permitted and things that are forbidden. God expects us to use our mind, guided by His spirit to make those decisions. It is not up to the minister to make them for us. We make those decisions based upon our closeness to God.
Exodus chapter 3 and verse 1
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush….
This was the famous burning bush
…So … (Moses)…he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.
Quite incredibly, he saw it burning and crackling but it kept on burning and crackling, and he walked away for a while, and looked back, and it was still burning. “This is very strange. That little bush should have burned up long ago. How come it’s still burning with that very bright flame?” So he wanders across, and verse 3:
3 Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.(up)"
4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."
5 Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."
Mr. Armstrong explained that it’s God’s presence in something that makes it holy. God’s Presence in that bush and the surrounding ground, made it holy. And He said, “Look Moses get your shoes off, the very ground is holy because of my presence.” And that is exactly what makes the Sabbath Day holy. God puts His presence, His fellowship in the Sabbath Day -- from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. And we need to keep that time holy because God is present especially in that time.
It is a day when we are to cease working. It is a day which we should enjoy finding the time, the extra time to spend with our Creator that we don’t usually have.
And we need to be very careful about our activities. We have got six days to do our own thing. We haven’t got six and a half days to do our own thing. Six days, that’s the commandment!
And equally we should be careful about even things about how we dress on the Sabbath, especially for Sabbath services. Whilst we are at home, of course, we just dress perhaps appropriately. But when we turn up for an official Sabbath service in a congregation of God, then we should be mindful formally and officially before our Creator with His people. We should dress appropriately.
If you were going before the Queen or perhaps President Bush, you wouldn’t turn up in dirty jeans with holes in them and a pair of old smelly trainers. It would be an insult, and you would probably quite rightly be thrown out on your ear.
But God’s Sabbath Day is holy time. You know, Moses had to take his trainers off when he got near God. You know I did detect recently some situations on the Sabbath Day. There were certainly some people who were turning up to services, you would have to say, in less than an appropriate manner. Mr. Armstrong always said that if you’ve only got a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, fine! If that’s all you’ve got, absolutely fine! But make sure that they’re clean when you come to services! And as God blesses you, you come in the finest that you can afford.
Don’t buy special clothes necessarily, but make sure that they are good and they are clean and you’re smart. And, of course, that just shows respect for God’s Sabbath Day. Probably some people perhaps, now think they can come in open necked shirts and cowboy boots and jeans. Perhaps it shows that this question of becoming a bit overly “familiar” with the Sabbath Day does apply to us?
Mr. Armstrong gave a message on keeping the Sabbath Day and he said, “Don’t compromise! Don’t be a liberal, but don’t be straight laced either! Be balanced! It is God’s holy time.”
Mr. Armstrong, meant, Don’t just watch the racing and the TV, don’t go gambling in the casino, but equally, don’t sit there doing nothing all day long, drinking cold water.
Be balanced! Choose activities which are helpful to the Sabbath and to drawing near to God.
He said also, “God’s law gives principles. You must answer the question ‘Are you trying to please God’ ‘Are you trying to honor God’”.
As Mr. Armstrong said, there isn’t a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”, but the principles are very plain. It’s God’s holy day. It is His Sabbath Day. It’s designed to bring us to perfection, to make us ready for God’s kingdom, and we must ask these questions about everything we do on the Sabbath, “Does this please God?”, Yes or No? “Am I trying to honor God?” Yes or No? If the answer is “yes”, we carry on in full assurance that it is right and proper. If the answer is, probably not honoring God, and probably not pleasing God, perhaps we should think twice about what we are about to do.
For our final scripture, let’s turn back to Isaiah 58 and read it one last time. Hopefully we can see that the key is not focusing on doing nothing on the seventh day, just “resting,” although we should enjoy clearly a certain element of that. But that is not our main priority, doing nothing on God’s Sabbath. Our priority is honoring God on the Sabbath Day, Spending time fellowshipping with Him and allowing the Sabbath to produce in us that change of mind, educating us in God’s way of life. Isaiah 58 verse 13. This really is a key passage.
13 ¶ "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure (your business, your affairs) on My holy day, And (if instead you) call the Sabbath a delight (not a burden that gets in the way but a delight), The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own (idle) words,
14 Then (if you do these things) you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And (then God has a promise here) 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."
So we know it will come to pass.
So in conclusion: Let’s remember the Sabbath Day was created for our benefit. It says elsewhere that the Sabbath was made man, for mankind, made for us, as a tool, as a benefit. It was made to bless us. It was made to help us fulfill the very purpose for which we were born. So let us make sure that we do everything we can to sanctify the Sabbath and to honor our God and Father and Savior Jesus Christ upon this day. Let’s remember the Seventh Day!
Transcription and formatting by Diane Goddard and Don Goddard
Transcription of a sermon for reading is more than a simple typing of the words spoken. The style and grammar appropriate for a spoken sermon is not the same as for an essay, as the reader may observe. Inflection or intensity of the voice often alter the meaning of words; and punctuation and font face have been used to try to reflect the speaker’s intent. Even the paragraph breaks require care to avoid shifting the sense of a passage. Additionally, for the sake of readability, falters, and misspoken or repeated words etc. are sometimes adjusted where it will not alter the meaning. The preparation of this document was done with the intent of the most accurate transmission of the speaker’s message and any shift in meaning is purely unintentional.
Author’s Footnote – Some Puzzling Scriptures?
Having said during this message that God does not give us a list of “do’s and don’ts” about what we can, and cannot, do on the Sabbath, some readers may have questions. “Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are not to cook on the Sabbath day … and that we cannot even light a fire?” some would say.
We all want to do what GOD instructs us, so let’s just take a brief look at a few of the Scriptures that might initially puzzle us.
In Exodus 35:3 we read, “You shall KINDLE NO FIRE throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day.” Now what does this mean? Is God forbidding a 90-year old widow in Wisconsin from lighting a fire in the depths of winter? Must she virtually freeze to death, to please a harsh God? I think we can see that such a conclusion makes no sense.
The answer to this puzzle – as is so often the case – lies in examining the context of the phrase. Moses had just returned from 40 days with God, during which time God had given him detailed instructions for the building of the Tabernacle; chapters 35 to 40 of Exodus cover the details very thoroughly. There would be much metal work required, in gold, silver and bronze, and furnaces would be needed to produce the various components and utensils. It was important to make clear to the Israelites that the Sabbath was MORE IMPORTANT than working even on something as “holy” as God’s Sanctuary! They had only recently started to keep the Sabbath, and could easily have assumed that building the Tabernacle was “religious work” and hence okay to do on the Sabbath. But NO -- the Sabbath took precedence, and definitely no metalworking was to be undertaken – no kindling of what would have been essentially industrial furnaces.
Another Scripture that some people misapply is found earlier in Exodus, where we read God’s instructions about the miracle of the manna. God had said He would miraculously provide manna for six days of the week. On the sixth day the Israelites should collect twice as much as usual and, by another miracle, it would NOT decay on the seventh day Sabbath. Moses tells the Israelites, “Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning,” Exodus 16:23.
Some understand this scripture to be an example of preparing IN ADVANCE for the Sabbath – namely, do your major food preparation on a Friday, so that there is only minor work left to be done on the Sabbath. In reality, though, what does this scripture ACTUALLY SAY (rather than what we may “read into” it)? Simply, it tells the Israelites to bake and boil the manna on the Friday (as they would have done on the previous five days) BUT ALSO to leave some of the manna over to the next day, the Sabbath … which would miraculously be preserved. But is there any commandment that says they could not then bake or boil that manna on the Sabbath? No! That is an inference, which the Jews “read into” those verses as they continued to wrongly look for examples of how absolute REST was required.
God has no problem with us boiling a couple of eggs for breakfast on the Sabbath, and enjoying some toast and marmalade! See also Exodus 12:16 for clear evidence that on God’s Feasts food preparation was perfectly okay (it’s difficult to really keep A FEAST, if all you can do is eat cold sandwiches and drink cold water!).
One further scripture we could look at as to whether God gives us specific rules and regulations is Jeremiah 17: 21-22: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day …’”
What does it mean to “bear no burden”? Regrettably, as was all too often the case, the Israelites were being careless of their Sabbath-keeping – and even on the Sabbath were continuing to indulge in their trade. Merchants, farmers, tradesmen were still bringing their loads of goods (burdens) into and out of the gates of Jerusalem even on God’s Sabbath days. Nehemiah, when he was governor of Jerusalem, came across this situation: “In those days I saw in Judah some people treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens (same word as Jer. 17:21), which they brought into Jerusalem ON THE SABBATH DAY. And I WARNED THEM about the day on which they were selling provisions,” Nehemiah 13:15.
These were people who were NOT CEASING from their usual work, but were continuing their usual employment on God’s Sabbath – a clear transgression of God’s SABBATH LAW.
There are a few other scriptures similar to the above, but a close analysis will show that God does not get into detailed prohibitions about the Sabbath. This is a TEST COMMANDMENT! God wants to know if we will VOLUNTARILY seek to draw close to Him on His Sabbath, and show a right attitude towards the various activities that we pursue on HIS SPECIAL DAY.
The Sabbath is for OUR BENEFIT. Let’s make sure we don’t abuse it, and let’s use Godly wisdom and be balanced!