The Holy Sabbath
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
By Tom Ruggirello
The remainder of commandment four reads as follows. “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Jehovah made the heavens and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” Exodus 20:8-11 RVIC).
The sabbath was a rest “unto Jehovah thy God.” Ceasing all labor for a day allowed time for the Israelites to turn their thoughts to God. It was a special day of expressing gratitude for the many blessings bestowed on them and to recall His faithfulness. Recognizing Jehovah’s role in their lives was important for the mental stability of each individual. Believing their lives were directed by a higher power gave them a sense of peace. No enemy could overcome them as long as they remained faithful to Jehovah and trusted in His care.
A Practical Reason
The sabbath also provided the physical rest needed for the long-term health of both man and beast. Modern science has determined that rest is essential. It rejuvenates both the body and the mind. Our Creator knew what was needed and provided this important time of rest. It may also have strengthened the family arrangement. Those that worship together tend to have a greater sense of belonging. The acknowledgment of Jehovah’s care as a family provides a bond between its members and adds to their overall happiness and contentment.
He Blessed and Hallowed the 7th Day
The sabbath pattern was first established as part of God’s creative work. “And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created toward making it good” (Genesis 2:1-3 RVIC).
God’s act of creation is identified in the fourth commandment as a reason for Israel to observe the seventh day of rest (Exodus 20:11). After the six creative days, God “blessed and hallowed” the seventh day. Being hallowed, or sanctified (Strong’s H6942), suggests that the seventh day was also set apart to accomplish a good and noble cause.
God’s plan reveals that the seventh day has been focused on the education of mankind. It was shortly after the creation of man that sin entered the world. This began the process of teaching man right from wrong, and obedience from disobedience. Though a painful and distressing time for humanity, it is a holy work, preparing the world for eternity. The experience with sin and evil is vital for man’s spiritual prosperity. One day, the world will understand this and appreciate the experiences of the seventh day.
Entering God’s Rest
Despite the blessings of the Law and the assurance of God’s care, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years. They heard God’s words but did not believe them. As a result, they feared and complained at every turn. Their inability to trust in God meant that all but one generation of them would not see the Promised Land. They would die in the wilderness. “To whom did God swear that they should never enter into his rest? Was it not these very men who refused to trust him? Yes, it is all too plain that it was refusal to trust God that prevented these men from entering his rest” (Hebrews 3:18, 19 Phillips).
How unfortunate that the Israelites were unable to relate their previous deliverance from bondage with God’s continuing care. The memory of past experiences should aid one’s ability to trust God in their present experiences. This is a vital factor in learning to trust God. Remembering His hand in the past gives us strength for today.
Paul continues his discussion of entering God’s rest. “Since the same promise of rest is offered to us today, let us be continually on our guard that none of us even looks like failing to attain it. For we too have had a gospel preached to us, as those men had. Yet the message proclaimed to them did them no good, because they only heard and did not believe as well. It is only as a result of our faith and trust that we experience that rest. … Let us then be eager to know this rest for ourselves, and let us beware that no one misses it through falling into the same kind of unbelief as those we have mentioned” (Hebrews 4:1-3, 11 Phillips).
Our Rest in God
Paul wrote, “Let us then be eager to know this rest for ourselves.” The reason for being eager (from Strong’s G4710, to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt, or earnest) is because of the great benefits of entering into God’s rest. When confronted with a new trial, the flesh will often respond with fear or anxiety. This must be counteracted by our knowledge and memory of God. We can trust that when He promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), He will fulfill it. Believing this provides a peace of mind, knowing that we are safe in His care.
The first three Commandments describe how not to worship. The sabbath commandment provides the first positive instruction on how to worship God. Entering into His rest is a form of worship. This may be helpful when struggling with anxiety, fear, or depression. We can mentally focus on trusting God through difficult times. There is a direct connection then, between our thought process and the act of worshipping God.
In a particular trial, one way to reverse the negative response of our fleshly mind is to replace destructive thoughts with those that are upbuilding and holy. In addition, it is wise to focus our minds on Him through study, listening to discourses, and other spiritual activities. The fellowship of brethren is an important tool that can lift our minds away from the distressing events of life. Each of these tools are doorways into God’s rest.
The Underlying Principles
We have been privileged with a wonderful knowledge of our Creator and God. He has given us essential principles on which to base our lives. This includes the commandments God gave Israel that are meaningful to the followers of Christ. The underlying principles of commandment four are threefold:
● God should be remembered and worshipped regularly. ● God provides rest of heart and mind for His people. ● Trusting God is an act of worship.
God has offered everything needed for a life of rest and spiritual peace, no matter our external circumstances. Our memories of past deliverances, applied to current situations, are a vital key to fully trusting in Him.