PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT
1 - What Is A Covenant?
2 - The Covenant with Israel
3 - The Holy Assembly
4 - The Torah
5 - The Sabbath Covenant
6 - The Feasts of the Lord
7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant
8 - The Desecration of the Covenant
9 - The Promise of A New Covenant
PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT
10 - The New Covenant
11 - The Holy Assembly
12 - The Torah
13 - The Sabbath Covenant
14 - The Feasts of the Lord
15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant
16 - The Desecration of the Covenant
5 - The Sabbath Covenant
The next two chapters will cover Israel's holy days, which are The Weekly Sabbath and the Seven yearly feasts. Leviticus chapter 23 begins with the following statement; "The LORD said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: these are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies'". The chapter continues with a brief description of all these holy days beginning with the Sabbath Day.
"There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:3)
The first recorded command to observe the Sabbath is the fourth commandment given by God to Israel while at Mount Sinai.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex 20:8-11)
The commandment above gives five characteristics of the Sabbath.
The word "Sabbath", "shabbat" in Hebrew, comes from the root verb "shabat" which means "to cease from work or activity". The Sabbath is a 24 hour day of ceasing from work, a day of rest. Special honor was given to the Sabbath day as it is the only day which was given a name, all other days of the week were called by its place in the week, such as; the first day, the second day, etc.
The Sabbath day is to be kept holy. As we have seen previously, the word holy means "to be set apart". The Sabbath is set apart from all the other days of the week. Not only does God set this day apart from all the others, but also man is also to set it apart as a holy day.
God blesses the Sabbath day. As we will see later in this chapter, God also blesses those who keep the Sabbath day. The fourth command states that the Sabbath day is both blessed and made holy by God. When did God first bless and make holy the Sabbath day? This brings us to the last attribute of the Sabbath.
The fourth commandment connects the seventh day Sabbath with the seventh day of creation, making the Sabbath a commemoration of creation.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
The word "rested" above, is the Hebrew word "Shabat" the root of "Shabbat/Sabbath"
The Sabbath day was first blessed and made holy by God on the day that he himself rested from his labors of creation. The fourth commandment is a commemoration of this day of rest.
Did the command to observe and remember the Sabbath begin with Israel at Mount Sinai or was it given at the very beginning with Adam? The scriptures do not say, but we know that the original command to observe the Sabbath was given at some point prior to Israel's arrival at Mount Sinai and after they crossed the Red Sea as we see in Exodus 16.23.
[Moses] said to them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD.
When God gave Israel the Sabbath command within the 10 commandments, he said "Remember the Sabbath day" (Ex 20:8). It is possible that after 400 years of bondage, Israel had "forgotten" to keep the Sabbath day and God is reminding Israel of it.
If from the beginning God made the Sabbath day holy, would he not have commanded his children (Adam and Eve) to keep this day holy? The Sabbath day was observed before Mount Sinai and even possibly in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. On the seventh day of creation, God rested. Of course God does not need rest; he was setting a pattern for the benefit of his creation. Six days are for working but the seventh day is a day of rest, a Sabbath. God recognized that all creation needs a rest. Not only do our bodies need to rest one day out of each week, but also so do the animals. God also commanded to give the land a rest every seven years (Leviticus 25:4). God, who created man, knew that a man's body required one day in seven to rest. If this rest is so necessary, would God not have given that command in the beginning when Adam served in the Garden (Genesis 2:15) or at least after the fall? Also, Since the seventh day was set apart as holy from the beginning, would he not have required Adam to observe that holy day also?
If we combine all the facts identified above; the need for a day of rest and the blessing of the Sabbath in the beginning and the observance of the Sabbath before the commandment was recorded, we could make a strong case that the Sabbath day has always been a very special day to God and man.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.'" (Exodus 31:12-17)
Not only is the Sabbath day one of the 10 Commandments, but it is also a covenant between God and his people. Just as we did with the other covenants, let us break this covenant down into its six parts.
This covenant is between God, the creator, and Israel, the created.
As mentioned earlier, God blessed this day and those who kept this day holy as God commanded were in turn blessed by God.
"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13-14)
"Blessed is the man who does [what is right], the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil." (Isaiah 56:2)
Just as the Sabbath day is blessed and made holy, those who keep the Sabbath day are blessed and made holy as well. God also promises joy to those who will keep his Sabbath day for without God there is no true joy in life.
God is asking that on this one day, His people put aside their own desires and give honor to him. In this way they are made holy by God as it says in Exodus 31:13; "You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy."
The one condition that God puts on Israel in this covenant is that they keep His Sabbath day holy.
Exodus 31 tells us that Israel is to celebrate it "for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever". Three key words in this passage tell us the duration of this covenant.
This covenant is eternal. Just as the Covenant God made with Noah is an everlasting covenant, the Sabbath covenant is also an everlasting covenant.
The Exodus 31 passage tells us that the Sabbath day is the sign of this covenant. This is confirmed again in the book of Ezekial.
"Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God." (Ezekial 20:12)
Those who keep the Sabbath acknowledge that God is the creator of the universe.
God himself dedicated the command when he rested on the seventh day. The dedication of this covenant is to be remembered on each Sabbath forever.
Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner
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