The Sabbath Rest

sabbath

Exodus 31:13 NIV  “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”

Exodus 20:8 NIV  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

The Sabbath day. The word Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word meaning “day of rest.” To keep it holy. This four-word phrase in English is only one word in Hebrew. It means “consecrate,” “set apart,” or “sanctify.”

6 days – work – 6 the number of man – man’s efforts
7 day – 7 the number of completion – holy – God’s work – completed

The Israelites were to make a distinction between the seventh day and the rest of the week. The Sabbath was different. It was to be dedicated to the Lord. The priests were to double the daily sacrifices on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9–10 NIV), marking the day with increased sacred activity. The rest of the Israelites were to mark the day with decreased activity—no work at all—in honor of the Lord. The penalty for desecrating the Sabbath with work was death (Exodus 31:14; Numbers 15:32–36).

The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. Once again the example of resting from our labors comes into play. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly ‘laboring’ to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad of dos and don’ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn’t possibly keep all those laws, so God provided an array of sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but only temporarily. Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, so, too, did they have to continue to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 NIV tells us that the law ‘can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.’ But these sacrifices were offered in anticipation of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who ‘after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God’ (Hebrews 10:12 NIV). Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested—ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever. Because of what He did, we no longer have to ‘labor’ in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided.

Another element of the Sabbath day rest which God instituted as a foreshadowing of our complete rest in Christ is that He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it holy. Here again we see the symbol of Christ as our Sabbath rest—the holy, perfect Son of God who sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him. God sanctified Christ, just as He sanctified the Sabbath day, and sent Him into the world (John 10:36 NIV) to be our sacrifice for sin. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). We can now cease from our spiritual labors and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but continually, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

Jesus is our Sabbath rest in part because He is ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ (Matthew 12:8 NIV). As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh. When the Pharisees criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that even they, sinful as they were, would not hesitate to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Because He came to seek and save His sheep who would hear His voice (John 10:3,27 NIV) and enter into the Sabbath rest He provided by paying for their sins, He could break the Sabbath rules. He told the Pharisees that people are more important than sheep and the salvation He provided was more important than rules. By saying, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27 NIV), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.

John 6:28-29 NIV Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

Hebrews 4 NIV is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to “enter in” to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. After three chapters of telling them that Jesus is superior to the angels and that He is our Apostle and High Priest, he pleads with them to not harden their hearts against Him, as their fathers hardened their hearts against the Lord in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the holy land, saying, “They shall not enter into My rest” (Hebrews 3:11 NIV). In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews begs his readers not to make the same mistake by rejecting God’s Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9–11 NIV).

There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. We dare not reject this one-and-only Way of salvation (John 14:6 NIV). God’s reaction to those who choose to reject His plan is seen in Numbers 15 NIV. A man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, in spite of God’s plain commandment to cease from all labor on the Sabbath. This transgression was a known and willful sin, done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divine authority. “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp’” (verse 35 NIV). So it will be to all who reject God’s provision for our Sabbath rest in Christ. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3 NIV).

The phrase “the Lord of the Sabbath” is found in Matthew 12:8 NIV, Mark 2:28 NIV, and Luke 6:5 NIV. In all three instances Jesus is referring to Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath or, as Mark records it, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). In these verses, Jesus is proclaiming that He is the One who exercises authority even over the rules and regulations that govern the Sabbath day.

As such, Jesus was proclaiming to the world, especially to the legalistic Pharisees, that He was greater than the Law and above the laws of the Mosaic Covenant because, as God in flesh, He is the Author of those laws. Unable to keep the Law, however, the Pharisees had instituted a complex and confusing system of Sabbath laws of their own that was oppressive and legalistic. They had set up strict laws regarding how to observe the Sabbath, which included 39 categories of forbidden activities. In essence, these religious leaders had made themselves lords of the Sabbath, thus making themselves lords over the people.

As Creator, Christ was the original Lord of the Sabbath (John 1:3 NIV; Hebrews 1:10 NIV). He had the authority to overrule the Pharisees’ traditions and regulations because He had created the Sabbath—and the Creator is always greater than the creation. Furthermore, Jesus claimed the authority to correctly interpret the meaning of the Sabbath and all the laws pertaining to it. Because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, He is free to do on it and with it whatever He pleases.

Since the Lord of the Sabbath had come, He who is the only true “Sabbath rest” made the old law of the Sabbath no longer needed or binding. When He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV), Jesus was attesting to the fact that, just as the Sabbath day was originally instituted to give man rest from his labors, so did He come to provide us rest from laboring to achieve our own salvation by our works. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we can now forever cease laboring to attain God’s favor and rest in His mercy and grace.

Source: selected portions from gotquestions.org

 

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Disciple of Jesus, married to Peggy, with 5 grown up children, 7 grand children, ex-Canadian military and residing in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. a.k.a. "Papa"

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Posted in Apologetics, Defending Christianity, New Testament, Old Testament
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