Reverence for the Sabbath

MEMORY SELECTION: “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.” —Deuteronomy 5:12

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Matthew 12:1-8; Exodus 20:8-11

SUNDAY has been known as the “Lord’s Day” to Christian people for a long time. It has afforded them opportunity to worship and praise God and has therefore been a source of great blessing and spiritual refreshment.

The keeping of the Sabbath day was one of the commandments of the Law Covenant given by God to the children of Israel. It was celebrated on the last day of the week. To most Christians, however, the Sabbath has become confused with Sunday, and human laws have generally set aside the first day of the week as a day of rest.

Although the meaning and spirit of the Sabbath have largely been lost sight of in our day of selfishness and liberated thinking, it has, nevertheless, served as a source of refreshment to the human family. Man needs one day of change and rest in every seven, and he has found it in the divine arrangement. From both the physical and emotional standpoints it is beneficial—whether it be observed on the seventh day of the week, as originally intended under Jewish law, or whether it be on Christendom’s Sunday. It is part of the built-in cycle of nature and, if interfered with, will do injury to those who attempt to disregard it.

During the time of our Lord’s ministry he came in contact with the religious rulers in Israel, who were strict to observe the lesser features of the Law. They also carefully observed the keeping of the Sabbath and other holy days. Those Jewish teachers, however, failed to recognize the spirit of the Law. Instead of responding to the lessons of the great Master Teacher and the spirit which motivated him, they sought to entrap him by their own narrow reasoning and bitterness, which prompted their evil actions.

On one occasion (selected scriptural reading, Matt. 12:1-8) Jesus and some of his disciples were strolling through the fields, and because they were hungry they broke off a few kernels of grain to eat. This was permitted by the Law, which states (Deut. 23:25), “When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor’s standing corn.” The Pharisees interpreted the disciples’ action as one of reaping—one of thirty-nine different kinds of work they prohibited on the Sabbath. Objecting to this, they said, “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.”—Matt. 12:2

Verses 3 to 8 contain Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees. He quoted from the Hebrew scriptures to show the unreasonableness of their accusations. The first example he cited pointed to the episode in which David took holy bread reserved for the priests. The account is found in I Samuel 21:1-6. The Pharisees recognized David as a man of God. Jesus, therefore, pointed to them a time when David was under stress of hunger and had eaten bread that was otherwise unlawful for any but the priests to eat. The second example recalls how the priests violated the Sabbath by the work they did to prepare and offer up sacrifice. Our Lord again pointed out that, although labor was prohibited under the Law on the Sabbath, the priests had labored sacrificially for the general welfare and assistance of others, as well as for their own necessities, and that it was therefore in no violation of the Law.

During the present Gospel Age those consecrated to the Lord have experienced a deeper significance in the meaning of the Sabbath. They recognize in this portion of the Law which was given to the Jews an illustration of a means by which the footstep followers of Jesus are refreshed along the lines of spiritual enlightenment and growth. Those who have dedicated their lives to God and have come under the terms of covenant relationship with the Master have complete rest in their Lord. They realize that this is not merely a rest every seventh day but a continual rest in which they may abide in full assurance of faith in the blessed promises that have been extended to them.

Let us therefore rejoice in the divine provisions by which we may be physically and spiritually refreshed. This rest will be realized more fully as we put our complete confidence in our Lord—not merely one day of the week, but every day of our consecrated lives.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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