The commandment of the Lord concerning the Sabbath Day reads, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8–11). Thomas Watson wrote that “This commandment was engraved in stone by God’s own finger, and it will be our comfort to have it engraved in our hearts.”
We are to sanctify this one day out of seven; setting it apart in at least two ways. The first is to rest from the labors of the week, the second is that we perform acts of worship and service. We are to be faithful in seeing that those of our household have the same opportunity. This includes those who work for you and the animals you care for. The Lord Himself rested on the seventh day after creation. We are to obey this commandment as a moral commandment; obeying it in the same manner as we obey the others. Our Lord gives us six days in which to labor and sets apart one for Himself: “It is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God!”
On the first day of the week, Jesus said: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27–28). Also, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:24). The first day of the week is the day of resurrection. “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). The sabbath is a day of celebration, of hope, of worship and praise, of doing acts of mercy, such as comforting the sick.
It was on the Sabbath that Jesus and His disciples plucked the heads of the grain in the field and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. The Pharisees thought it was a good time to trap Jesus, whom they feared, asking him: “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” Jesus appealed to the Word of God, saying, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those who were with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” It would be foolish not to do deeds of necessity, no matter what day it is. Particularly on the Lord’s Day when we remember how much the Lord has shown mercy toward us, especially on the Cross of Calvary.
We must remember it is the Lord’s Day; and it is He who feeds us His Word, demanding obedience to His glory and our good. We are redeemed by the Savior-King; and, in His Kingdom, we honor that which He has called “The Lord’s Day.” Even our heavenly rest is one that is ours because of our Lord’s creative and redemptive activity: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:9–11).
It was on another Sabbath that Christ entered the synagogue and taught. In the synagogue was a man whose right hand was withered. Again the Scribes and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, to see if they could bring an accusation against Him. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to the man with the withered hand: “Arise and stand here.” Jesus then said to those religious leaders: “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Is this a good question for us to remember: Do I transgress the law of God by doing good or by doing evil? Jesus said: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was given as a blessing to man. When the Sabbath regulates the way of the children of God, it ceases to be a day of rest. By grace we come in obedience to Christ who is called the Lord of the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” He obeyed the Lord and the hand was restored to be as well as the other. This was certainly a deed of mercy, while the need for food was a work of necessity. The Sabbath is a time of refreshment and thanksgiving, a time of preparation for the coming week. Being able to do things of mercy and kindness prepares our spirit of doing our weekly tasks. The leaders saw nothing but their own selfish desires. They moved in darkness and could only find rage, and so they discussed what they might do to them.
How far have we gone? Some are forced to work on the Sabbath today; mammon being served rather than God. Businesses encourage church attendance by giving discounts in the afternoon. Are there traps we as Christians fall into, rationalizing our behavior? More and more school activities take up the Sabbath afternoon with the rationale that we have worshipped in the morning. We must witness to the truth that, when we worship and study the Word of God, we are doing it with joy; we are being refreshed by God, which deeds of mercy and love are honoring to our Savior and Lord.
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