If we are to believe everything that we read and everything that we hear over the radio, then the cross of Christ has brought us into the dubious “advancement” that we have gone back to what the church had before she was enriched by the law of God at Mount Sinai. Indeed, to some that law was a dubious gift that “was not given in grace, because now we are not under the law but under grace and should not read that law in our worship services on the Sabbath.’ And so we are back to where Adam and Seth, Enoch and Noah, Job and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were. For we are told that there was no Sabbath observance until Mount Sinai. And that is practically where we are today, at least as far as a Sabbath day is concerned.
Divine worship services must have their abbreviated form abbreviated some more. Churches must and widely do have vacation during the summer months. They can air-condition their offices and stores for comfort to carry on in business in the swelteringly hot days of July and August, but it would be unthinkable to spend all that good cash and gold to make it more “advisable” for them to hold church services during these hot months. Scripture must be interpreted in the light of science, but scientific advancements and technological achievements must not be used to serve the church-life of man, because it takes away so much of the fun of going to the beach, water skiing, and hypocritically claimed, of seeing God in His wide creation. After all a holiday is so much more fun than a holy day. For we are unholy people. And children of darkness enjoy the darkness. Children of light enjoy and seek the light and Him Who is the light of the world.
All this does not change the fact that, as we wrote last time, the ten commandments have not lost one of their most lengthy and spelled-out commandments to become the incomplete number of nine rather than the complete number of ten. That commandment was engraven into the granite, the very same granite and just as deep, wherein the other nine commandments were engraven. The form and the day may be changed. But the holy day has not become a holiday and never will. Adam and Abraham were not sabbath breakers. Job and Jacob were not guilty of desecrating the Sabbath. Seth and Shem did not despise the seventh day and the rest that God had prepared for His people in Christ. Just because we do not find the word Sabbath until Exodus 16:23, does that mean that the Old Testament saints until Mount Sinai had no Sabbath at all? And let it be observed thatExodus 16 comes before Exodus 20 wherein is the account of God giving His law on Mt. Sinai to Israel. In connection with the wonderful supply of manna to Israel Moses points out to the Israelites before that law was engraven into stone and presented to Israel that they were to gather food only for six days and on that sixth day to gather a double portion, for there would be no manna on the seventh day which was “the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord.” Consult your map and you will find that from Elim to Mt. Sinai was a long distance upon which the Israelites walked. Consult the book of Exodus for the events recorded there of Israel’s journey from Elim, through Rephidim, and you will find that Israel observed the seventh day for quite some time before they encamped before Mt. Sinai and were impressed by the awesome sight and received a “printed” copy of God’s law. Even from that point of view it is not true that Israel began, or, shall we say, the believers began, to observe the Sabbath.
The very commandment itself takes us back to the very beginning of this world when it reminds us that in six days God created the heavens and the earth and then rested the seventh day. Man was created in the very spirit of the Sabbath. God created him to rest on the seventh day. There are no afterthoughts with God. And the Sabbath surely is not one of them. What a strange situation we get according to the thinking of some. God had a Sabbath day at the very dawn of history, when He rested the seventh day. For 1500 years there is no Sabbath. From Mt. Sinai onward till the cross of Christ there is a Sabbath, which God in His grace removes for His church. Thus we continue until presently we enter into an everlasting Sabbath. Now you see it, now you do not. Now it is here, and now it is gone. And all this is attributed to the works of an unchangeable God, the I AM Who never can say I Was or I Will Be! That is not the testimony of Hebrews 4.
Let us ask, therefore, what it means to rest and to keep the Sabbath as a holy day. To begin with the latter, a holy day is a different day. Is it in your life? And the question then is not simply whether your Sabbath day is different from that of the unbelievers and ungodly. That it surely ought to be and will be, if you have the life of the Lord of the Sabbath in your soul. But the question is whether the Sabbath is different from the rest of the days of the week in your own personal life. The word holy means to be cut off, set apart. There was therefore in the tabernacle and temple a holy place and a most holy place. These were precincts set off, marked for entrance only by the priest or the high priest. The one was more holy than the other and was the holy of holies because it was set apart more specifically. Into it only the high priest might enter, and that only once a year and only with the blood of atonement, which he was to sprinkle upon the mercy seat of the ark behind the veil. God is an holy God because He is cut off from all evil, is the Light in Whom is no darkness at all. And we are a holy people because we have been separated from the world, cut off not only from our guilt, which is all removed, but especially cut off from the love and power of sin in principle as regenerated, born again Christians.
And our Sabbath must be a day that is distinct, cut off from the rest of the days of the week. And it will be if we make it the kind of rest day that God gave it to us to be. To rest is to enter into and enjoy a perfected work. One cannot find rest until all one’s work is done. We really do not know here below what physical rest is. Our rest is simply a temporary cessation of work to be refreshed for more work. What we make is never perfect. So soon we have to repair it, replace parts of it, repaint it, trade it in for something newer and in better repair. But we do have a faint glimpse of what the rest that remaineth for the people of God is when we have, for the moment at least, finished a particular work and can sit down and enjoy the fruit of our hands. We toil and labor to build a house, and then we can rest from that labor and move into the home to enjoy its protection and conveniences and beauty. The housewife slaves over the hot stove and puts in many hours of preparation to the delicious meal and then sits down to rest, not simply in the sense of ceasing to cook and prepare — for this she must do and more cooking will burn and spoil the food –but to sit down and eat, and so enjoy what she has prepared. If then, our Sabbath is set apart and made to be distinct from all the days of the week, it will be exactly in that we, unhindered by the daily toils which never cease to be demanded, enter into and enjoy by faith God’s finished work of salvation. It is a day of setting aside our work and concerning ourselves with God’s work. It is a day of spiritual exercises. If then we fill the day with this instead of our usual physical labors, it will be a different day. And such it ought to be.
Shall we take the position that the saints from Adam through Moses’ generation did not do this? And shall we say today that this is not required of us? Shall we say that we will not suffer spiritually, if this is not our life? Will a holiday actually be beneficial for US and not testify against us in the day of days? No, we say again, we are not interested in legalism, and we certainly insist that we are freed from the curse of the law and may never, no never, place ourselves under the ceremonial laws of Mt. Sinai. But even as man cannot violate the physical laws of his natural existence without suffering for it, so man cannot go contrary to the laws of his spiritual existence and enjoy the blessings of God upon him. Touch the flame, and you will suffer pain. Go above the layer of air wherein God has placed the necessary oxygen, or go into the water out of which the lungs cannot extract the oxygen, and take no supply of it with you, and you are going to die! And whenever we walk in hatred against the living God, we are playing with fire, whether that be in the first or the fourth, the seventh or the tenth commandments. The inner principle of each is the same, and that principle is love to God.
As non-legalists we will not wait for the first second after midnight Saturday night to observe our Sabbath and wait till the first second after midnight Sunday night to cease that observance. But we will prepare for it already on Saturday; and if we have truly entered into the rest which God prepared for us in the perfected work of salvation in Christ on the cross, the afterglow will be there yet on Monday, and the farther we progress during the week, the more eager we become for the Sabbath to be there again, when we can again gather with the saints to feast on the Bread and Water of Life and to taste and see that God is good.
Our young people especially, although not exclusively, should bear in mind that Saturday night may belong to the week; but when its activities and its results extend over into Sunday to make it difficult for us to stay awake in church and too weary and ill-disposed even to get out of bed in the morning, we have begun our Sabbath desecration on Saturday already. And the man who sleeps in church because he did not and would not retire early enough Saturday night because of pursuing the things of the flesh not only misses the real rest which the attentive listener enjoys, but he suffers spiritually of spiritual undernourishment. And this is a vicious cycle, a tragic syndrome. He misses out on the spiritual food and becomes weaker, and because of his weakness spiritually he has neither the strength nor the desire to seek food. Let the believer arrange his Saturday so that it does not spoil His Sunday.
And if the glow of the Sabbath does not remain on Monday, there is also something wrong. If with the last “Amen” of the worship service suddenly the Sabbath falls away and we are ready to talk business, spend an hour or two of gossip or slander rather than a spiritual discourse and consideration of the Word preached or, among the younger set, a card game, a chase down the road in a jalopie or luxury sedan, the Word has not touched us very deeply. The Sabbath has not been so different after all. Different habits, different hours were kept, but the same old activities of the things of our natural life were sought; and the spiritual was still shelved for a “more convenient time.”
Is this perhaps also the reason why on Monday or the following days of the week we are not interested in group or society discussion and study of the Word? Have we too many holidays during the week that we cannot get out of the habit on Sunday? The world gets such a grip on us, you know. We have to know on Sunday what the world is doing in the field of sport. It gets such a grip on you that you cannot leave it alone one day in a week. The day is not different because we are not different inside. 0, the new man in Christ is different — the exact opposite of the old man of sin. But who rules us on the Sabbath?
Be sure that it is the new man in Christ. Be sure that you walk in His fear on the Sabbath. You will be richly rewarded and will enter into and enjoy a finished work of God, to be able to
Sing a new song to Jehovah,
For the wonders He has wrought;
His right hand and arm most holy
Triumph to His cause have brought.