Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Fourth Commandment

Sabbath Study, Part 10

After escaping the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Israelites are led through the desert until they reach Mount Sinai. Moses climbs the mountain to meet with God and receives the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment, as spoken by the very mouth of God, states the following:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

As we have seen, the Sabbath was already known to the Israelites before the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:23-30). Here, God makes an explicit connection between the Sabbath rest and the seventh day of the creation week. The children of God were called to keep a weekly rest in order to commemorate God’s work on their behalf.

“It is intimated that the sabbath was instituted and observed before; but in their bondage in Egypt they had lost their computation, or were restrained by their task masters, or, through a great degeneracy and indifference in religion, they had let fall the observance of it, and therefore it was requisite they should be reminded of it. Note, Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect. It also intimates that we are both apt to forget it and concerned to remember it. Some think it denotes the preparation we are to make for the sabbath; we must think of it before it comes, that, when it does come, we may keep it holy, and do the duty of it” (Matthew Henry).

The Sabbath day.
The Sabbath day, rooted in the creation week and exemplified by the perfect rest of God, foreshadows the perfect rest God’s children will one day enjoy in Heaven. “Because this commandment has not been particularly mentioned in the New Testament as a moral precept binding on all, therefore some have presumptuously inferred that there is no Sabbath under the Christian dispensation. The truth is, the Sabbath is considered as a type: all types are of full force till the thing signified by them takes place; but the thing signified by the Sabbath is that rest in glory which remains for the people of God, therefore the moral obligation of the Sabbath must continue till time be swallowed up in eternity” (Adam Clarke).

Six days you shall labor.
“No work should be done on the Sabbath that can be done on the preceding days, or can be deferred to the succeeding ones” (Adam Clarke).

You, nor your son, nor your daughter…
“The charge of keeping the Sabbath aright lies specially upon the governors of families, and other superiors who are bound to keep it themselves, and to see that those under their charge also keep it” (Francis R. Beattie).

The Lord blessed.
A sanctified day of rest—one in seven—has its roots in the very beginning of history. Before the giving of the law (Ex. 16:23-30), before the Fall of man (Gen. 2:1-3), God blessed and hallowed one day of the week as a day of rest for His people. Having existed outside the law, it cannot be affected by the law. (As we see with the fourth commandment, God is not adding a new law that didn’t exist, he is simply taking something that already existed and making it a part of His law.) So even when the law of God is fulfilled in Christ, the Sabbath remains unaffected. Indeed, as we have already mentioned, and as we will see more clearly later, the Sabbath rest remains as a sign of the future and ultimate rest God’s children will enjoy (Rev. 14:13)—a rest the ungodly will never experience (Rev. 14:11).

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by Matthew Henry
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke

[Other quotes linked to original sources]

Rest in the Wilderness

Sabbath Study, Part 9

In Exodus 16, the Israelites (having just witnessed the destruction of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea) are introduced to manna, the food God sovereignly and miraculously provides for them in the wilderness. Each morning, manna covers the ground, and the Israelites are to collect only enough for that day. Then, on the sixth day of the week, a further command is given:

[Moses] said to them, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’” So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none.” Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? “See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:23-30)

This is what the LORD has said.
This is the first place in Scripture where God calls His children to observe the Sabbath, which has led some to believe that people didn’t observe a Sabbath rest until this point. Others think the Sabbath rest was observed ever since the creation week. (The language used here seems to indicate a certain level of previous knowledge of the Sabbath.) Whatever the case, we know for sure that the Israelites began observing the Sabbath before they received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest.
“There is nothing either in the text or context that seems to intimate that the Sabbath was now first given to the Israelites, as some have supposed: on the contrary, it is here spoken of as being perfectly well known, from its having been generally observed. The commandment, it is true, may be considered as being now renewed; because they might have supposed that in their unsettled state in the wilderness they might have been exempted from the observance of it. Thus we find, 1. That when God finished his creation, he instituted the Sabbath; 2. When he brought the people out of Egypt, he insisted on the strict observance of it; 3. When he gave the LAW, he made it a tenth part of the whole, such importance has this institution in the eyes of the Supreme Being!” (Adam Clarke).

Bake today.
“The words to-day are not in the original, and possibly are better left out than taken in; or if they be taken in, they do not seem to me, as they do to many others, to prove that they were commanded to bake or seethe on the sixth day all that they were to eat both that day and upon the following sabbath, or that they were forbidden to bake or seethe it upon the sabbath day; for there is not a word here to that purpose; and it is apparent from the whole context, that the rest of the sabbath is not opposed to their baking or seething of it, but to their going out into the field to gather it. Nay, the contrary is here implied, because after they had baken and sodden what they intended to bake or seethe, part of the manna did, as is here expressly added, remain over, and was reserved for the sabbath day's provision, and that unbaken and unsodden, otherwise it would not have been noted as a miraculous thing, that it did not stink nor breed worms” (Matthew Poole).

If Matthew Poole is right (and I think he is), this insight of his could help correct an overly-strict application of the Sabbath. That is, we see that it can be appropriate to prepare food on the Sabbath, but it might be wise to do as much prep work before the Sabbath so no unnecessary work takes place on the actual day. (After all, the Israelites gathered the manna the day before the Sabbath.) The point is, the Sabbath can and oftentimes will include what church fathers have called works of necessity.

Went out on the seventh day.
These Israelites exhibited a lack of trust in God’s provision. Commanded to rest, they sought to work instead. Like the Israelites, we are prone to strive, and so resting at God’s command does not come easy to us. Indeed, it takes work to practice the rest the Sabbath provides. Trusting in God involves ceasing to strive; it is admitting our insufficiency and accepting Christ’s sufficiency. On Sunday, we rest from our work in order to enjoy and appreciate Christ’s finished work. The Sabbath is a physical practice that illustrates a spiritual reality.

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke
Annotations upon the Holy Bible, by Matthew Poole

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Genesis of the Sabbath

Sabbath Study, Part 8

Now we will begin our trek through Scripture, starting at Genesis and ending at Revelation. Our first Sabbath-related passage is found in Genesis chapter 2, which, as we will see, is referenced in the Ten Commandments. So, let’s just start at the very beginning—a very good place to start. Here we see how the pattern for man’s workweek was set at the very beginning of history.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)

On the seventh day.
The concept of the week itself is unique. All other measurements of time (days, months, years) are based on the trajectory and rotation of the stars and planets, but there is no celestial basis for the week. The reason man lives in seven-day increments is because God established the pattern Himself.

God blessed the seventh day.
To commemorate His finished work, God pronounced a blessing on the seventh day. This blessing of the Sabbath day was for the benefit of mankind (see Mr. 2:27).

Sanctified it.
This seventh day was made both special and sacred; it was made for the good of man and the glory of God.

He rested.
God does not grow weary, so how could He possibly “rest”? Timothy Keller provides an excellent answer in his sermon, Work and Rest, where he also shows what implications the answer has for our own Sabbath rest. Here is a paraphrase of a portion of the sermon (taken from my notes while listening to the sermon online):

God commented on each day, “It is good.” On the seventh day He said, “It is very good”…and He rested. God “rested” not by recovering, but by being utterly satisfied with what was done. The only way you put your doing down is by being absolutely satisfied by the doing: you’re able to look at your work and life the way God looks at His. Through Christ, you can look at your life and say, “It is absolutely satisfying. It is good. All the work I need to do is finished.”

….Religious people say, if I do good works, God will bless me. Secular people set certain standards, and their happiness depends on achieving those standards. It is this goal-setting that is the problem…because it’s never going to be enough. We can never say what God says: “It is finished.” Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, we who are labored and heavy-laden are called to take up an easy burden and a light yoke….

When God looks at you [who rest on Christ’s finished work, and are accepted because of Christ], He imputes your sin to Christ and His righteousness to you. And He says, “It is good. Everything necessary to do is finished.” The only One whose opinion should matter to us says to you (because of Christ), “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Sabbath rest, set in motion during creation, is a weekly opportunity to look back on what has been done and enjoy the good, perfect, and finished work of Christ on our behalf. Obviously, this reason is not given for the Sabbath in the Old Testament, but in the fullness of the gospel dispensation we can see more clearly what real rest points to—a separation from the presence and power of sin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Sabbath: Permanent or Temporary?

Sabbath Study, Part 7

When we get to the actual Ten Commandments (in Exodus 20), we will see that God quotes directly from Genesis 2 to provide the basis for the Sabbath rest. Beginning with the next post, we will start to work our way through Scripture from the beginning, focusing first on Genesis 2 and what it means. In the meantime, I want us to examine the nature of all of God’s creation-week ordinances. As far as I can tell, there are three:

1. A RESPONSIBILITY: work (or labor).
2. A RELATIONSHIP: marriage.
3. A RITUAL: weekly rest.

Before sin ever entered the picture, there existed these three divinely ordained aspects of man’s existence. Each gives us a greater understanding of the reason for which man was made. Let’s briefly examine each one and see what we notice about the perpetuity (or brevity) of each.

First, the responsibility. When God placed Adam in the garden, He did so with a specific purpose. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Adam was placed in the garden so that he would take care of it. What this shows us is that part of man’s original design is to work. “When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Ps. 128:2; see also Ec. 5:18, 19). The Bible even says that if we don’t work we shouldn’t eat (2 Thes. 3:10).

Sin did not and could not destroy this God-given purpose for man—although it certainly made it more difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). But even with the presence of sin, we have hope for rewarding work because of Christ. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Even in heaven, satisfying labor will exist, free from the trappings of sin. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. . . . And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3, 5). Notice how the elimination of the curse of sin does not eliminate the presence of labor. After all, service and reigning will undoubtedly involve work. Without the influence or presence of sin, however, this work will be a peaceful and restful work.

The second Creation ordinance is the marriage relationship. After placing Adam in the garden, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18). Adam named this helper Woman, “Because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). We know from the Apostle Paul that this “one flesh” union—that marriage in general—was designed to point to the relationship Christ has with the church (Eph. 5:32).

So we see that marriage presupposes sin: if there were no sin, there would be no need for a Savior. If there was no wayward bride, it would be meaningless to have a faithful groom. If the stain of sin had not sullied the human race, there would be no need for One to wash and cleanse it, as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25-27). Marriage was designed as a portrait of the future wedding and marriage between Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (those redeemed by God). As such, the institution of marriage (the symbol) will last only until the marriage supper of the Lamb (the reality) (see Lk. 20:35). Once the “real thing” comes in all its fullness, the mirror image will pass away.

Nevertheless, even though it is a temporary institution, God calls all men to hold it in high regard: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Heb. 13:4, NASB). This high view of marriage is necessary, for in the relationship between a husband and a wife the glory of God is displayed; marriage is the ultimate gospel illustration. Though its days are numbered, its message is of eternal value.

The third and final creation ordinance is the Sabbath ritual. God created the universe in six days, then rested on the seventh day, blessing and sanctifying it—setting it apart as different from any other day of the week (Gen. 2:1-3). In Exodus 16:26 this day is explicitly referred to as “the Sabbath,” and in Exodus 20 this Sabbath is explicitly shown to be for man to follow in God’s footsteps.

Along with the doctrine of marriage, we learn more about the Sabbath as redemptive history unfolds. It isn’t until later in the Bible that we read of the illustrative link between the Sabbath and eternal Heavenly rest, just as it isn’t until later in the Bible that we read of the illustrative link between marriage and the gospel. Because of the nature of these two illustrations, both marriage and the Sabbath foreshadow sin—marriage by picturing God’s redemptive relationship with His people and the Sabbath by picturing the rest enjoyed in God’s finished work of redemption.

If sin really does find symbolic representation in both marriage and the Sabbath, it follows that both institutions will pass away when—and only when—sin is finally and completely eradicated. So, in the end, I believe the Sabbath is indeed temporary—albeit, in the same way marriage is temporary. But until sin passes away, there will be a need for the gospel to shine through the biblical illustrations God has set up, namely, marriage and the weekly Sabbath.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Slight Delay

There's been a slight hiccup in the process of posting the Sabbath series. I'm rearranging some of the up-and-coming entries, as well as adding a couple new ones. My plan is to resume in a few days and continue the rest of the way through the series at a relatively steady pace. Thank you for your patience!