We may have no God besides Jehovah.
On that we are all agreed.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” So reads the first commandment.
To have graven images to represent God and to worship as gods is a great sin.
Not one of us will deny that.
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” That we are taught in the second commandment.
God’s name is holy and must never be used in vain.
We are agreed that He will visit the iniquity of those that hate Him and reveal their hatred by taking His name in vain.
At Sinai God declared “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.”
But that we must love and honor Him in and for His works is maintained only seldom and then with little enthusiasm.
Yet God gave the Sabbath exactly with a view to this.
Indeed, our Sabbath is not the Sabbath of the Old Testament Church. Our calling is not to drop all our toils and labor in order to spend a day in idleness. The value of the Sabbath is not in doing nothing. Instead God gave us the Sabbath that we might be very active.
Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man, Jesus declared to the faultfinding Jews who complained when He was active in the good work of healing the sick and when He told the healed one to do the necessary work of taking up his mattress and going home.
Though the Sabbath was made for man, it was not made either for him as a day in which to be idle and to be able to catch up on some much needed sleep; or that he may have a day for his flesh in which he may have time to do the things for which he would not take time during the week because it was too inconvenient or would cost him a little of this filthy lucre. If we will not let go of our works during the week to accomplish a certain thing, we may not ignore the works of God on the Sabbath to steal time for our flesh. That is not why He made it for man.
God gave us one day in seven that we might serve Him in a special way and even to a special degree. And that special way in which we in the New Testament day are to serve God is that we give ourselves to contemplation and consideration of His great and glorious work of salvation. It is a day which He set aside in order that we, unhindered by our daily toils, might gather with His people to listen to what He has to say to His Church and to sing praises to His name for all His great and glorious works. He demands that we take note of His works! And He gives us a day that we may do this to a special degree, to a degree greater than the other six days of the week provide.
This He has done, first of all, because of His sovereign jealousy according to which He insists that man honor and praise Him. In His works, both creation and of salvation, He reveals Himself as the true and only God besides whom there can be no other God; who cannot be represented by any creature since they all owe their existence to Him and are dependent upon Him; and whose name is above every name and must be revered by all the creatures He has made.
According to the Psalmist in Psalm 19 He reveals Himself to us as our creator and redeemer. The Psalmist begins his psalm by stating that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth forth Hishandiwork. And having spoken of His work of creation the Psalmist then speaks also of the work of salvation accomplished by Him, pointing out the perfection of God’s law and that God must and does cleanse us from our faults and makes us upright and innocent of much transgression. Then he utters his prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation (murmuring) of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength (creator), and my Redeemer.”
There is an intimate relationship between these two works of God: the work of creation and the work of salvation. Because Ha is the creator of all things, all things owe their existence to Him, are His possession and exist for His glory. The rational, moral creature, therefore, must continuously serve Him consciously and willingly. Even in the days of his youth man must remember his creator. Ecclesiastes 12:1. But man does not. Man fell away and in Adam turned away from Him and behaved as though he had the perfect right to use God’s creation for his own carnal lusts; as though it were his own possession and as though he might use it to oppose the living God.
And exactly because the Creator is God, this all was according to His eternal counsel. For before the foundation of the world He decreed the work of salvation, Ephesians 1:4. The work of creation was necessary as the very foundation upon which the work of salvation would be wrought. The work of salvation is not to be conceived of as repair work upon the work of creation. The work of salvation was a further step in the eternal plan of God to glorify Himself in a people made like unto His Son, Ephesians 1:5, 6. We were predestinated before the foundation of the world to be “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” It is an unalterable principle according to Scripture that “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual,” I Corinthians 15:46. And in the work of salvation we are regenerated; we are bornagain. There must first be the natural birth. There must be a man that is born into this world before there can be a regeneration. We must first be born from below before there is anything to be born from above. And so in the wisdom of God the work of creation is first as the groundwork and foundation for the fall and the cross, for the entrance of sin and the coming of grace. These two: the work of creation and the work or recreation or salvation are not opposed to each other. They do not militate against each other. They are two phases of the one work of God whereby He glorifies Himself in a people made like unto His Son. And that work He commands us to consider and for that work He insists that we praise and worship Him.
The Sabbath was made for man that he might have the opportunity to do this and might thereby enter into the joy of that work and so experience the rest that remaineth for the people of God.
Adam kept the Sabbath and worshipped God and praised Him for all the wonder work of creation round about him. He did not before his fall know God as his redeemer; but he could and did hallow the Sabbath by remembering his creator and by honoring Him for all these wonderful works which He had wrought. At Sinai God gave His perfect law to Moses and through him He revealed to Israel (the Church) which He had saved out of Egypt, the house of bondage, His will that the Sabbath be hallowed. And although Israel could not keep that Sabbath as the New Testament Church can and does keep it today; and although Israel was not ready to observe the first day of the week; that very fourth commandment also served as a schoolmaster unto Christ for Israel, Galatians 3:24. Also in this fourth commandment Israel learned that the promises of God are unconditional and that there is hope of attainment of these, promises only in Christ, Who will fulfill this fourth commandment for His people, and that otherwise salvation is hopeless and impossible.
In this fourth commandment Israel also learned that the proper observance of the Sabbath has to do with God’s work. We are not to imagine that the regenerated child of God in the Old Testament times simply idled his time away on the Sabbath. There was no church service to attend. The only building for worship was the Temple. There were no Bibles in the homes of the various saints, and the greater share of them could not read them had they had them. But ceasing from their labors their minds undoubtedly were busy with recounting the works of God and instructing their children. And gradually, under the guidance of the Spirit, after the Israelites returned from Babylon and more vividly again were taught by type and symbol the great redemptive work of God, through the salvation out of Babylon and return to the typical heaven, they began to congregate in synagogues to speak and hear from God’s Word that work of salvation which He promised to accomplish in Christ. They began on the Sabbath, when they could and should let their daily toils behind, to be busy with God’s work and the rest that is the result of His finished work of salvation.
In the second place, God set one day in seven aside because man has need of such an arrangement in order to honor and worship God properly in this work of salvation. Man is after all a creature. And he is bound on every side by time and space. His mind can be on only one thing at a time. He cannot be driving his truck through heavy traffic and have it upon the mysteries of salvation at the same time. He cannot stand in his thoughts before the cross of Christ and at the same time be teaching a class of pupils the intricacies of a mathematical problem. He cannot plow a straight furrow and at the same time thumb through his Bible to compare text with text and search the Scriptures: Nor can the mother in the home tend to that which is cooking on the stove, set the table, hasten to see why the baby is crying, or feed the washed clothes through the wringer and at the same time give heed to the instruction in God’s Word. She must have her mind on her work or the food is burned, her fingers get caught in the wringer, the baby pulls a pan of boiling water upon itself. No, we are creatures of time. And by God’s ordinance we have work to do. “Six days shalt thou labor,” He declares in His Word. But we also need one day in seven when we may be separated from all these works of ours to be busy with His glorious work of salvation.
The Sabbath was made for man that he need not tend to his punch press, that he may leave his cumbersome truck in the garage, may close his book of mathematical equations and let his plow stand in the yard. Then he may put his mind on the things spiritual to a degree that was impossible for him during the six days of his daily toil and labor.
No, the New Testament Church does not want to make that day as the other six days. It wants to use that dayfully for the purpose for which it was given. Does not the Heidelberg Catechism express the sentiment of the New Testament Church in regard to the hallowing of that Sabbath when it declares in the answer to the 103rd question which deals with the requirement of God in this fourth commandment: “. . . that I especially on the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear His Word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord . . .”? For that, the Sabbath is given us.
In His fear that is the way we will use the Sabbath.
In fact, observing the Sabbath in His fear we will find that the day is one that is filled with spiritual activity and that we find it not long enough for all the things we should and desire to do.
After all, it is a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath, and that eternal Sabbath shall be filled with activity; and unto eternity we will not be finished with it. The worship and praise to God for His glorious work of salvation requires an eternal day for its execution.
The Lord willing we will have more to say of this in the next issue of the Standard Bearer.