“And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep my Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore, the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed’” (Exodus 31:12) (ESV).
Only the Israelites had been designated with being God’s people, at the time of passing this commandment. However, the arrival of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, including His death and resurrection, the term ‘God’s people’ has been extended to everyone. The only criteria is in choosing to abide by God’s word.
The poignant question is: Why did God specifically choose the Seventh day as the Sabbath of the Lord? Verse 17 clarifies: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” (ESV).
The most important point to bear in mind is that God’s word cannot be taken as idle. This is the same God who just caused things to exist by the power of His word of mouth. In six days God created everything, by word of mouth, yet by the same word of mouth God sanctified the Sabbath Day.
Nothing was created on the Seventh day, regarded as a day of solemn rest. The Israelites were commanded to keep this day as holy. Or else they would invite problems with the Lord who sanctified them, just as He had sanctified the Sabbath. What the Lord declares as holy, does not need to be profaned.
Rest, itself, implies freedom from hard labour, but cannot be understood as requiring enforcement. It can be confusing for a person to expect punishment for refusing to take a rest from hard labour. However, this is a special rest, in that it is a sign between God and His people. In other words, the Lord’s Day of rest, implies humanity’s reversion into relationship with their Creator.
Bear in mind that before the Garden of Eden incident, humanity had been enjoying good relationship with their Creator. Only after the Garden of Eden incident, did the Lord introduce the hard work principle, for purposes of survival:
“….Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19) (ESV).
Right here, is the point that is missed by those desiring to walk by the statutes of God. This declaration has got nothing to do with God’s original purpose in creating humanity. The hard work declaration implied a curse, befalling humanity, due to the sin of Adam. All generations from Adam up to now, are affected by this curse, one way or the other.
Through Adam, humanity took a path that unilaterally granted them with independence from God, their Creator. The only unfortunate thing is that, regardless of how hard the person works, he/she returns to the ground from where he/she came. One can work so hard, in this life, and obtain fame and seemingly enjoy the fruits of hard labour. But the truth remains in that the person will eventually return to the ground from where he/she came. This is what led King Solomon to lament:
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labours under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This is also vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23) (ESV).
King Solomon is attributed as having had wisdom that no other man ever possessed, in his time. That Godly wisdom enabled him to see distinction between folly and wisdom. Folly can be summarised in toiling for nothing, in this life. Wisdom is summarised in what King Solomon captured at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, as he declared:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: ‘Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) (KJV).
The landmark discovery of this datum by King Solomon could be used to wipe out all problems of humanity. Such problems are caused by being engrossed on issues to do with physical survival. But such issues are as temporary as the morning mist is temporary. How can humanity be taken out of the unnecessary lifetime toil, in order to be attached to the purpose for being created?
Humanity was created in God’s image, whose attribute is dominion over everything created. A person in control of circumstances cannot be under slavery at the same time. The beauty of Sabbath-keeping is in that it gives a person an opportunity to reflect on how he/she relates with the Creator.
Humanity is gripped in captivity, but without ever knowing who the captor is. The more a person gets engrossed in hard work, the more he/she is engrossed in sinful confusion, or what can be described as insanity.
By enforcing the day of rest on Israelites, God was drilling acceptance of God’s sovereignty into their lives. The human nature with Israelites, proved how impossible it is, for humanity to ever conform to Godly nature, without God’s Spirit.
Although regarded as the fourth Commandment, Sabbath-keeping is the first Commandment that practically enforces commitment to the only Creator of the universe. If observed according to letter and spirit, the first three Commandments could bring humanity to the deserved rest, as crystalized by Sabbath-keeping commandment.
A committed Sabbath-keeper could benefit a great deal, when using this day for purposes of reflecting and adjusting on how the person relates to God. The Sabbath rest requires a person to avoid everything else, except resting—trusting God and Him alone.
The stubbornness of humanity is easily revealed, even in modern day Christianity, which implies trusting every word of Jesus. Commitment to Jesus is hardly observed among people claiming to be Christians, without the Holy Spirit. Desiring to be dedicated Christians is different from applying the first four Commandments. This is what has always let Christians down.
Another way to discover Christians’ inconsistence with the word of Christ, is to compare what they do and teach with what Jesus taught. Especially what is summarised in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7. In these three chapters, Jesus summarised everything a Christian requires, to attain salvation. For instance, many a considered good Christian is blind to what Jesus declared:
“Therefore I say unto you ‘Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26-26) (KJV).
This is a Scripture that most people find impossible to embrace, when so conscious of physical survival. For instance, I am yet to come across a Christian organization that boldly teaches observing what is said in the above Scripture? But this Scripture refers to those, having arrived at the perpetual Sabbath rest, where God has taken over in their lives. That is what describes Christianity.
Jesus is portraying the fact that God is totally in charge of those having renounced everything to follow Him. Those who belong to Him allow God to be in charge of their lives. This is why Jesus said, unless a person renounces everything, including his/her own life, he/she cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:25-33). See [Ten Commandments—expedient in New, rather than in Old Covenant]
By carefully following the story of the Israelites, one can discover that the hardheartedness of humanity requires enforcement. But this clearly shows that without the help of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for humanity to effectively apply the Ten Commandments.
While the Ten Commandments assured the Israelites of the privilege in being God’s people, Sabbath-keeping, was a sign of what God’s Kingdom entails. The Israelites could not have appreciated the significance of Sabbath-keeping, except being religiously enforced to obey what God had said.
Nevertheless, Jesus is the symbol of freedom to humanity: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19) (ESV).
Let us keep in mind that the entire plan of salvation entails Sabbath-keeping, which implies connecting with the Creator. Sincere repentance is what brings the person to eternal rest. This type of repentance brings the reality of God’s Kingdom. Understanding the significance of Sabbath-keeping is conditional to appreciating the value and purpose of Jesus Christ.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32) (ESV).
The Sabbath-keeping Law made it an offence—as punishable by death—to break the Sabbath rest. However, the reason for enforcement was necessitated by lack of freedom, which grants certainty of what one is doing. To attain freedom, one needs truth, found in Jesus alone.
The significance of inability to get into the eternal rest, as prescribed by Jesus, exposes a person to eternal condemnation. A person is dead, as long as remaining in slavery—imposed on humanity—due to Adam’s sin, at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-19).
The sin of Adam incurred death on humanity: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17) (ESV).
Eternal Life is intertwined with the Sabbath-rest principle. The Sabbath day symbolises the Sovereignty of the Almighty God, who created humanity in His own image. Just like a fish out of water is exposed to death, humanity outside God is also exposed to death. Interestingly, everyone knows that in the life of a human being there is certainty of passing on, whether one like it or not.
In his rendition, King Solomon continues: “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 3:19) (ESV).
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon repeats the word ‘vanity’, as often as can be imagined. This word is associated with pride, described by John as sin of the world that Jesus came to specifically address, on behalf of humanity. (John 1:29). The Lord’s Sabbath, ensures that there cannot be vanity, on Sabbath-day, as no work is involved. See [Works bring the opposite of what is intended].
Christians are divided on the question of whether the Seventh-day Sabbath needs observance or not. But the real question ought to be whether Jesus should be regarded as Lord of the Sabbath or not? If regarded as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is the reality of what the Seventh-day Sabbath stood for.
The one who declared that the Sabbath was a sign between Him and the Israelites, was the same Lord who became Jesus Christ. The only difference is that the same Lord—when projected as an ordinary human being—could not be accepted by the Israelites.
In Jesus, the significance of Sabbath-keeping is established, as removing necessity to continue toiling in vanity. Faithful Sabbath-keepers avoid work of any kind, except commitment to Bible studying and praying. Such activities lead them towards being guided by the Holy Spirit.
However, most Sabbath-keepers fail to grasp that it is on Sabbath days that they relate with their Creator. Grasping that significance, should enable them to appreciate that, in one’s entire lifetime, nothing surpasses continuously relating to one’s Creator.
Just by focussing on Sabbath-keeping, as attached to one’s relationship with the Creator, everything else gets taken care of. Jesus Christ came to give us freedom. There is no more any reason to continue toiling in vanity. What King Solomon described as vanity, is not applicable to a person having discovered rest in Jesus Christ. See [By rejecting the child born, they became antichrists].
Relationship with God, is dependent upon how one relates the significance of Sabbath-keeping with commitment to Jesus Christ. The starting point is in knowing who Jesus is, before commitment to His cause. Jesus is the real significance of Sabbath-keeping Commandment, as was given to ancient Israel.
The strictness of Sabbath-keeping Law signifies strictness in how Jesus should be regarded, including everything He taught. There is no longer any need to toil in vanity, after Jesus has come. As Jesus came for the freedom of humanity, continuing to toil in vanity reflects ignorance.
Jesus frees us from the sin of vanity. That freedom enables us to rediscover our respective positions of responsibility, as God’s children. It is not difficult to know how one can relate to His Saviour in the Christian dispensation. The law of Sabbath-keeping, as given to the Israelites, clarifies everything, through Bible studying. All the trappings of humanity are released in Jesus Christ, who is the Sabbath Rest for the entire humanity.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope. Intermittently
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