In the last issue we began a study of God’s teaching in the Law of Moses about the Sabbath and possible applications to us as New Testament Christians of the margins it provided. Obviously, the Old Testament Law does not have jurisdiction over us today, for as Paul says God has “taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). However, the Old Testament gives us great insight into how God thinks, especially about what is best, both physically and spiritually, for his people.
One very important reason for God’s command to observe the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11) was to give the Jews a very important lesson on faith. In Exodus 24:8 God makes a covenant with the children of Israel
So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.
In Exodus 31 he gives them a “sign” of this covenant
You shall surely observe my Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
These actions parallel very closely the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 15:8-18 and circumcision, the “sign” of that covenant, commanded in Genesis 17:9-11. So just as each male Jew was to bear on his body the mark of God’s covenant with Abraham, God chose Sabbath observance, which had already been commanded in Exodus 20, as the sign that was to set them apart from the nations. In other words, the Lord chose their obedience to the Sabbath commandment as the chief indicator that they put their faith in Him and observed His covenant.
As was mentioned in our last article, the differences between the lifestyle of the Israelites of Moses’ day and our own may obscure what a leap of faith this would have been for any ancient people. For most at that time, staying alive required working during all daylight hours seven days a week. Day laborers depended on the wages made that day to purchase food for supper and the next day for their families. Therefore, the Law required all laborers to be paid the day that they worked (Lev. 19:13). Merchants’ profit margins were such that seven days were usually required to meet expenses and make a profit. Farmers, while sometimes having “down time” between planting and harvest were dependent on the weather to such an extent that observing a Sabbath during a busy time might mean the difference between plenty and want; for example, failure to harvest before a rain could knock ripened grain off the stalk and make it irrecoverable. The Sabbath could also be disastrous if an enemy attacked on any given Saturday.
Are you beginning to see the implications of the Sabbath for each Israelite? They wanted to eat all seven days but, by covenant, they could only work six. If they could get by on six days labor, losing over 14% of their income would certainly destroy their profit or surplus. God’s implied message was simply “TRUST ME”!
Are our super busy, overbooked lives an indication of a lack of trust in God? In our efforts to become financially independent or to “get ahead”, are we neglecting our covenant with God? I believe with many this is precisely the case. Sometimes, a second or third job, excessive overtime, or a mother with small children unnecessarily working (I realize that sometimes it is necessary), may be striving for an absolute security that only our heavenly Father can provide. We would do better to “BE STILL” and know that He is God (Psa. 46:10) and realize that if we “seek first His kingdom and his righteousness” our Father will meet all our needs (Matt. 6:33).