Living As God’s Community

KEY VERSE: “I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath Day.” —Nehemiah 13:22

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Nehemiah 13:1-3, 10-12, 15-19

THERE IS A far greater significance attached to the Fourth Commandment than simply to refrain from labor during the seventh 24-hour period of each week. The Lord said to Moses that the Sabbath was made holy because he, himself, had rested on the seventh day. But there is a better, more comprehensive viewpoint to be had. Paul gives us this, saying: “He that is entered into his [God’s] rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”—Heb. 4:10,11

Obviously the apostle is not referring to the ordinary idea of Sabbath keeping. He implies that God, having finished the creative work, ‘rested’, and that he has been enjoying that rest ever since. We are to enter into a similar rest, ceasing from our own works, as God did from his. A Christian ceases from his own works by resting in the finished work of Christ on his behalf.

When God crowned his work with the creation of man, and then saw man fall into sin and death, he placed the work of recovering this “lost sheep” into the hands of the Logos, his only begotten Son, Jesus. Through redemption, the human race will be restored to “that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) This work will ultimately be completed at the close of the greater seventh day, when God’s original purpose for mankind will have reached fruition. The Jewish Sabbath was a picture of this larger cycle of time.

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27,28) There are two important thoughts in these verses. The first is, that when the Lord enjoined upon Jews the keeping of one day in seven as a day of rest, it was not done with the idea of imposing a ritual upon the nation which would be burdensome, to which the people should become slaves. Rather, it was to be for their good, since the Lord knew that they would need this rest from labor in order properly to maintain their health and their dignity as individuals as well as nationally.

The second thought is that the Sabbath, of which the Son of man is Lord, is a larger period during which, in the service of the Creator, Jesus is the Lord or director of the work of restoring mankind to righteousness, to health, and to eternal life. This larger Sabbath was also “made for man,” for he will be the beneficiary of the great plan of redemption so faithfully executed by the Lord of the Sabbath.

Jesus illustrated the larger viewpoint of the Sabbath when he performed a miracle in a synagogue on the Sabbath Day. There he found a woman who had an infirmity eighteen years; she was so bent over that she could not lift herself up. “He laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” (Luke 13:11-16) It was especially appropriate, we think, that this work of restoration was done on the typical Sabbath Day; for it is a wonderful reminder of the divine plan to restore all the sick—even to awaken the dead—before the true Sabbath, of which Jesus is Lord, shall have ended.

We who have dedicated ourselves to have a part in this great work of the future, are indeed sanctifying the Sabbath Day, as God desires.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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