Work, Rest, and Worship

MEMORY VERSE: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” —Exodus 20:8

EXODUS 20:8-11

THERE are two accounts concerning God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath. In the Exodus account, which is cited for our lesson, the Israelites are told that in keeping the Sabbath they were to remember God’s work of creation, and that then God worked six “days” and rested on the seventh. In Deuteronomy 5:15 the Sabbath commandment is reiterated, and here, in connection with it, the Israelites were to remember their deliverance from Egypt. Having become slaves in Egypt it is doubtful if the Israelites had any rest days at all.

According to the Law there were to be six days for work and one for rest. The caption of our lesson mentions a third important function of the people of God; namely, worship. However, nothing is said anywhere in the Bible concerning the Sabbath that it was also to be a time for worship. The Jewish people, as well as the followers of Jesus during the present age have wisely, we think, frequently used this day of rest as a suitable time for gathering together to worship the Lord. The last section (Luke 4:16) indicates that Jesus was in the habit of attending worship at a synagogue on the Sabbath day.

MARK 2:23-28

Here we have the well-known account of Jesus’ disciples plucking corn on the Sabbath day. Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees as to why he permitted this: “Why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful?” Replying to this Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the time David, when a human need was involved, went into the house of God and ate of the showbread “which is not lawful to eat but for the priests.”

David and those who were with him were hungry. They needed food, and apparently the showbread was the only food available to them, so they did not hesitate to partake of it. Jesus’ mention of David in his reply to the Pharisees would tend to silence them, for David was held in high esteem among the Israelites, including the Pharisees.

Jesus then explained further. It is here that we are given that well-known statement, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (vs. 27) The Sabbath was designed to be a benefit to man; that is, to provide him with time for much needed rest. Jesus’ argument was that this being true, it would be inconsistent to suppose that the law concerning it should be interpreted in a way that would deprive God’s people of their real needs.

Jesus further explained that he is “Lord … of the Sabbath,” suggesting that he could not be properly criticized by the Pharisees for permitting his disciples to pluck corn for needed food on this day that was made for man.

In Hebrews 4:3,4,10 the apostle sets forth an antitypical significance to the Sabbath as God kept it on the seventh day. We quote: “For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest on the seventh day from all his works.” “For he that is entered into his [Christ’s] rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.”

LUKE 4:16-19

Here we find Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth—“as his custom was” There was nothing in the Sabbath commandment to prohibit religious worship, nor was it enjoined as a part of the Sabbath observance. This was in Nazareth, and we can suppose that wherever Jesus happened to be on the Sabbath he likewise attended the synagogue service.

He was handed the Old Testament, and turned to Isaiah 61, that beautiful outline of the Holy Spirit’s commission to preach the Gospel. Jesus said that this scripture was fulfilled in him, and the New Testament indicates that it also applies to the footstep followers of Jesus. And what a truly comforting message it contains!


What two important events are associated by the Bible with the Sabbath?

Explain what is meant by the Sabbath being for man.

Did Jesus attend religious service on the Sabbath?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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