“Sabbath is to humbly surrender to God for an intimate heart to heart relationship and seek His will and power for rest in our life’s efforts”
Moses entered the cloud of God’s glory on Mount Sinai and was called by God on the seventh day while for six days he rejoiced in His presence carving out an intimate relationship with Him. Sabbath is to be still and see and hear with the heart what God wants to tell. God presents this one day as a shelter in His Divine protection for us to enter and rest and this day is not about resting perfectly but finding rest in the One who is perfect. It is about pausing from busyness for prayerful listening to that “still small voice” that brings everything back into focus. It is this time to receive the greatest gift from God, He Himself in the form of His only begotten Son.
Why did God create Sabbath? – At the end of the creation process all animals and other living beings were brought before Adam to name them with the basic aim of getting to know whole of creation and establish a close relationship. The narrative of creation in Genesis 1 is balanced out with the same in chapter two. And God visited the two, Adam and Eve; everyday to help them learn and assess their day’s performance in relation to the ‘will of God’. Man was given dominion over everything but his role was “to tend and keep” the garden while expanding it over all the earth. The Hebrew word ‘le avedah’ translated as to work or tend also means to serve it, thus making man as the master and servant of nature. The second word ‘le shomrah’ translates as keep or take care actually means to guard it as a guardian of someone else’s property. Mankind is thus entrusted with the role of custodian and caretaker of creation and nature as God’s representative on earth to ensure its proper upkeep without causing any damage.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1) and God has given us user rights over His creation holding us responsible for its integrity much like any other tenancy agreement. The dominion given over everything in Genesis 1:28 is not technical but moral and we are to exercise control within our means towards the service and purpose of God. This control is limited by the provisions of Genesis 2:15 to serve and guard it. God’s command is to care for nature and keep it in its original state of being. Mankind, on the other hand, has over exploited the nature and its resources while many species of living beings have become extinct. God established Sabbath as a means of rest and recuperation for man and nature both and declared it holy.
Purpose of Sabbath – Moses was called up to Mount Sinai and the cloud of glory of God covered the mountain and “On the seventh day God called Moses from the midst of the cloud” (Exodus 24:15-16). What was Moses doing for the first six days on the mountain while being in the cloud? The Hebrew word for abide or rest is “shakan or shekin” meaning rest, abide or dwell and the cloud of God’s glory abode/rested on Mount Sinai. The three letters of this word are ‘shin, kap and nun’ where the first two letters mean rest while the third defines the type of rest – faith, revelation and intimacy. Thus Moses rested during the first six days while getting intimate with God and the discussion or God’s commands were given from the seventh day onwards. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) where Hebrew word ‘harephu’ is translated as still. This word originates from another word “rapha” which means to be healed. Thus being still is not only about physical stillness only but silence of the heart and mind, when in silence we hear not with the ears but with the heart, while joining our hearts with God’s heart to see and hear what God sees and hears. Being still is the process of joining and aligning our hearts with God’s heart to see and hear Him. Being with God is thus about knowing Him intimately, praying to Him to seek His blessings as also to receive healing of the body and soul.
Seventh day is perceived as the day of rest but inn actuality it is something different. With six days of silence and stillness, Moses was ready to receive instruction from God about His Divine law. In the Garden of Eden God visited Adam and Eve on all six days and the seventh day or the day of Sabbath was for being still in His presence – this is Sabbath – being in His presence.
Man was commanded to dominate the earth by expanding the boundaries of God’s kingdom in the Garden of Eden by planting the available “trees and herbs” in other regions. This work was reviewed every day during meetings with God in addition to their spiritual teaching and growth for six days a week and on the seventh day “God rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3). All work was ceased and man was required to meditate and review all that he had learnt from God, assess the work on the ground, repair any damage to any partner, animal or beast and fellowship with each other and worship. Thus Sabbath has a spiritual and a physical aspect attached to it, where the meaning of rest implied “You have done your bit now leave it to Me to give you the fruit thereof”. On Sabbath returns the borrowed world back to the Owner God for its repair and restoration in recognition of His power and authority.
Sabbath rules were further clarified through the Law as given by God to Moses where the seventh year was designated as a Sabbath year and after seven Sabbath years, the fiftieth year the Jubilee Year slaves were to be set free, any land sold to pay any debts was to be returned to the original owners (Leviticus 25:4; 8-9 & 23). Sabbath day, year or jubilee year were all commanded by God for the benefit of His creation and Lord Jesus declared the same, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). God’s rest implied for man – I have finished all the work, you rejoice in this, take care of the created things and find rest in My work.
Who could enter God’s Sabbath rest? – King David listed out all those who could abide in God’s tabernacle, His holy hill – who walks uprightly, works righteousness, speaks the truth in his heart, does not backbite, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up reproach against his friend. Also a person in whose eyes a vile person is despised but one who fears the LORD is honored and one who swears/ takes an oath and does not change even at great loss to oneself. Also those who do not charge interest nor accept bribe against an innocent person will not be moved from God’s hill and find rest and blessings there.
Should a Christian observe Sabbath? – Sabbath is about rest from all activities and our main work on earth is continuous fight with evil and forces of darkness. Lord Jesus warns Peter “Satan has asked for you to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). Lord Jesus calls out Peter’s original name, Simon, and then assures him of his turning back – word ‘when’ is used and not the doubtful ‘if’. In like manner in the Gethsemane Park the three, Peter and sons of Zebedee, James and John are taken along and asked to watch and pray with Him “so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. After repeatedly praying for three times Lord Jesus tells them “Sleep on now and take your rest”, and this after rebuking them for not staying awake earlier. Once Lord Jesus, who is now our Intercessor in heaven, has prayed for us, we can enter into His rest – the Sabbath.
Lord Jesus, through His atoning sacrifice, has forgiven all our sins and given us new birth and life by setting us free from the clutches of sinful living. All our sins were “nailed to the cross” and the hold of “principalities and powers” was broken for He “made a spectacle of them, triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:13-15). The dominion that mankind had conceded to Satan and his forces of darkness, was retaken by the Lord by overcoming death and having risen from the dead on the third day. Lord Jesus’ call to “all weary and heavy laden to come to Him and find rest in Him” is confirmation of this freedom from sin (Matthew 11:27-28). In the Garden He rested on the seventh day and on the cross also He made seven statements fulfilling various prophesies and God’s commands to find rest in the tomb. “It is finished” is a declaration of completion of the same work – in Garden it was creation and on the cross it was restoration. On the first day of the week, a Sunday, Lord Jesus’ resurrection is the final inspection of the restoration process to approve it as “very good”.
Lord Jesus fulfilled all the statutes the Law of Moses and after freeing us from that brought us under grace and rest in Him – not of our effort but due to faith in Him (Romans 6:14). The early church gathered together on Sunday to worship, celebrate the resurrection of Lord Jesus and for Holy Communion thus starting a new Sabbath for Christians. The seventh day Sabbath is no longer applicable to the believers for though Lord Jesus as a Jew did observe this day, He was mostly accused for violating the statute. Apostle Paul neither himself observed nor commanded the church to follow this command in any of his epistles but rather declared “Sabbath is a shadow of things to come but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
How to enter into His rest today? – The procedure for rejoicing in the finished work of God and Lord Jesus is the same as it was in the Garden of Eden – surrender all our efforts to Him for success and fruit bearing. Thankfully seek His will for our lives with guidance and strength to obey to expand His kingdom established through His Spirit within us into others to lead them into His Light. The only change is in the worship procedure for one had to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to seek forgiveness of sins with sin offerings but the Redeemer has provided this to the believers.
The first step in the creation process is “Let there be light” and the Light of God’s glory filled the earth till other lights, the sun, moon and the stars were created on the fourth day. God separated light from darkness for man was to establish godly dominion over all of creation in His Light. Darkness prevailed over man snatching the authority from him but Lord Jesus “having disarmed the powers and authorities, made a spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). Saul was on his way to Damascus under the authority of forces of darkness was confronted by the “Light of the world” to transform him into Apostle Paul. The Holy Spirit in us in like manner separates us from darkness and fills us with His glorious light to enable us to be victorious in Him. All believers rest in the victory on the Cross of Calvary through faith.
In addition Lord Jesus established the new worship mode “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) where letter ‘s’ is small denoting human spirit. God further helps us to connect to Him, His “Spirit helps in our weaknesses. For we do not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8;26). My spirit joins the Holy Spirit in worship and prayer and is led into the right way to pray.
In the Old Testament David was “a man of God’s heart” and Job was classified by God as “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil, none like him on earth” (Job 1:8). Yet David in the Psalms while laying bare his heart before God sought vengeance on his enemies while Job cried out to God “You scare me with dreams, my soul chooses death than my body” (Job 7:11-15). On the other hand those who entered rest of the “finished work of Lord Jesus” were totally changed and when Apostle Peter and other disciples were beaten and chastened by the Jewish leaders for preaching Lord Jesus in the Temple, they rejoiced for being counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:40-41). In like manner Apostle Paul could exclaim “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Lord Jesus commanded all believers “to lay up treasures in heaven” where He has destined us to be (Matthew 6:19-21).
God descended on Mount Sinai to issue commands to the Israelites but Moses was warned to “set bounds” that nobody could “go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 19:12). On the other hand the three disciples who were taken by Lord Jesus onto the mountain not only witnessed His transfiguration and presence of Moses and Elijah but “a bright cloud overshadowed them” and God spoke to them from within (Matthew 17:3-5). Lord Jesus through forgiveness of our sins has given us God and taken us into His presence confirming a new relationship with God setting us free from our bonds.
Every time we turn to Lord Jesus in faith it is a moment of Sabbath – His eternal rest and glory for He has shared His glory with the believers (John 17:22). As for the burden of care of nature and His creation –loving others – we should seek His help and empowerment through the Holy Spirit. In the new dispensation, not coming to church is not a sin but we come to the church to be the church – the body of Christ. But if we really desire to be in Him we have to connect for He is the Vine and we are the branches and without Him we can do nothing. And anyone who does not abide in Him is cast out, is withered and thrown into the fire (of eternal damnation) (John 15:5-6). Since this command is for all believers, who were grafted into Him, He not only expects us to bear fruit but also to remain in Him. We stray away from Him at our peril!
Lord Jesus has set us free from the bondage of sin and restored to us the life of the Garden of Eden while giving us the freedom to choose the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Neither did He force His will on the first two nor does He compel us to follow Him. Though He has broken the chains through His sacrifice, we can still choose to follow darkness and step out of His Light and life in Him to embrace death and eternal damnation – choice is ours!!