THE Sabbath was hallowed at the creation.
As ordained for man, it had its origin when "the morning stars sang together, and all
the sons of God shouted for joy." Job 38:7. Peace brooded over the world; for earth
was in harmony with heaven. "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was
very good;" and He rested in the joy of His completed work. Gen. 1:31.
Because He had rested upon
the Sabbath, "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it,"--set it apart to
a holy use. He gave it to Adam as a day of rest. It was a memorial of the work of
creation, and thus a sign of God's power and His love. The Scripture says, "He hath
made His wonderful works to be remembered." "The things that are made,"
declare "the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world,"
"even His everlasting power and divinity." Gen. 2:3; Ps. 111:4; Rom. 1:20, R. V.
All things were created by
the Son of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. . . . All
things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." John
1: 1-3. And since the Sabbath is a memorial of the work of creation, it is a token of the
love and power of Christ.
The Sabbath calls our
thoughts to nature, and brings us into communion with the Creator. In the song of the
bird, the sighing of the trees, and the music of the sea, we still may hear His voice who
with Adam in Eden in the cool of the day. And as we behold His power in nature we
find comfort, for the word that created all things is that which speaks life to the soul.
He "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2
It was this thought that
awoke the song,--
"Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work;
I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.
O Lord, how great are Thy works!
And Thy thoughts are very deep."
And the Holy Spirit through
the prophet Isaiah declares: "To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will
ye compare unto Him? . . . Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you
from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He
that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as
grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a
tent to dwell in. . . . To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy
One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth
out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for
that He is strong in power; not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O
Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou
not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the
ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? . . . He giveth power to the faint; and
to them that have no
might He increaseth strength." "Fear thou not; for I am
with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help
thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." "Look
unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none
else." This is the message written in nature, which the Sabbath is appointed to keep
in memory. When the Lord bade Israel hallow His Sabbaths, He said, "They shall be a
sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am Jehovah your God." Isa. 40:18-29;
41:10; 45:22; Ezek. 20:20, R. V.
The Sabbath was embodied in
the law given from Sinai; but it was not then first made known as a day of rest. The
people of Israel had a knowledge of it before they came to Sinai. On the way thither the
Sabbath was kept. When some profaned it, the Lord reproved them, saying, "How long
refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?" Ex. 16:28.
The Sabbath was not for
Israel merely, but for the world. It had been made known to man in Eden, and, like the
other precepts of the Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. Of that law of which
the fourth commandment forms a part, Christ declares, "Till heaven and earth pass,
one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law." So long as the heavens and
the earth endure, the Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creator's power. And when
Eden shall bloom on earth again, God's holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the
sun. "From one Sabbath to another" the inhabitants of the glorified new earth
shall go up "to worship before Me, saith the Lord." Matt. 5:18; Isa. 66:23.
No other institution which
was committed to the Jews tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as
did the Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers.
It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true
God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith
they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ. When the command was given to
Israel, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," the Lord said also to them,
"Ye shall be holy men unto Me." Ex. 20:8; 22:31. Only thus could the Sabbath
distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God.
As the Jews departed from
God, and failed to make the righteousness of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost
its significance to them. Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men away from
Christ, and he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is the sign of the
Christ. The Jewish leaders accomplished the will of Satan by surrounding God's rest day
with burdensome requirements. In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted
that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the
character of the loving heavenly Father. The rabbis virtually represented God as giving
laws which it was impossible for men to obey. They led the people to look upon God as a
tyrant, and to think that the observance of the Sabbath, as He required it, made men
hard-hearted and cruel. It was the work of Christ to clear away these misconceptions.
Although the rabbis followed Him with merciless hostility, He did not even appear to
conform to their requirements, but went straight forward, keeping the Sabbath according to
the law of God.
Upon one Sabbath day, as the
Saviour and His disciples returned from the place of worship, they passed through a field
of ripening grain. Jesus had continued His work to a late hour, and while passing through
the fields, the disciples began to gather the heads of grain, and to eat the kernels after
rubbing them in their hands. On any other day this act would have excited no comment, for
one passing through a field of grain, an orchard, or a vineyard, was at liberty to gather
what he desired to eat. See Deut. 23:24, 25. But to do this on the Sabbath was held to be
an act of desecration. Not only was the gathering of the grain a kind of reaping, but the
rubbing of it in the hands was a kind of threshing. Thus, in the opinion of the rabbis,
there was a double offense.
The spies at once complained
to Jesus, saying, "Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the
When accused of
Sabbathbreaking at Bethesda, Jesus defended Himself by affirming His Sonship to God, and
declaring that He worked in harmony with the Father. Now that the disciples are attacked,
His accusers to examples from the Old Testament, acts performed on the Sabbath by
those who were in the service of God.
The Jewish teachers prided
themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the Saviour's answer there was an
implied rebuke for their ignorance of the Sacred Writings. "Have ye not read so much
as this," He said, "what David did, when himself was an hungered, and they which
were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, . .
. which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?" "And He said unto
them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." "Have ye not
read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the
Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the
temple." "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Luke 6:3, 4; Mark
2:27, 28; Matt. 12:5, 6.
If it was right for David to
satisfy his hunger by eating of the bread that had been set apart to a holy use, then it
was right for the disciples to supply their need by plucking the grain upon the sacred
hours of the Sabbath. Again, the priests in the temple performed greater labor on the
Sabbath than upon other days. The same labor in secular business would be sinful; but the
work of the priests was in the service of God. They were performing those rites that
pointed to the redeeming power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object
of the Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing the work of
Christ, were engaged in God's service, and that which was necessary for the accomplishment
of this work it was right to do on the Sabbath day.
Christ would teach His
disciples and His enemies that the service of God is first of all. The object of God's
work in this world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done
on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath law. Jesus
then crowned His argument by declaring Himself the "Lord of the Sabbath,"--One
above all question and above all law. This infinite Judge acquits the disciples of blame,
appealing to the very statutes they are accused of violating.
Jesus did not let the matter
pass with administering a rebuke to His enemies. He declared that in their blindness they
had mistaken the object of the Sabbath. He said, "If ye had known what this meaneth,
I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless."
Matt. 12:7. Their many heartless rites could not supply the
lack of that truthful
integrity and tender love which will ever characterize the true worshiper of God.
Again Christ reiterated the
truth that the sacrifices were in themselves of no value. They were a means, and not an
end. Their object was to direct men to the Saviour, and thus to bring them into harmony
with God. It is the service of love that God values. When this is lacking, the mere round
of ceremony is an offense to Him. So with the Sabbath. It was designed to bring men into
communion with God; but when the mind was absorbed with wearisome rites, the object of the
Sabbath was thwarted. Its mere outward observance was a mockery.
Upon another Sabbath, as
Jesus entered a synagogue. He saw there a man who had a withered hand. The Pharisees
watched Him, eager to see what He would do. The Saviour well knew that in healing on the
Sabbath He would be regarded as a transgressor, but He did not hesitate to break down the
wall of traditional requirements that barricaded the Sabbath. Jesus bade the afflicted man
stand forth, and then asked, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do
evil? to save life, or to kill?" It was a maxim among the Jews that a failure to do
good, when one had opportunity, was to do evil; to neglect to save life was to kill. Thus
Jesus met the rabbis on their own ground. "But they held their peace. And when He had
looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He
saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was
restored whole as the other." Mark 3:4, 5.
When questioned, "Is it
lawful to heal on the Sabbath days?" Jesus answered, "What man shall there be
among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will
he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep?
Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days." Matt. 12:10-12.
The spies dared not answer
Christ in the presence of the multitude, for fear of involving themselves in difficulty.
They knew that He had spoken the truth. Rather than violate their traditions, they would
leave a man to suffer, while they would relieve a brute because of the loss to the owner
if it were neglected. Thus greater care was shown for a dumb animal than for man, who is
made in the image of God. This illustrates the working of all false religions. They
originate in man's desire to exalt himself above God, but they result in degrading man
below the brute. Every religion that wars against the sovereignty of God defrauds man of
the glory which was his at the creation, and which is to be restored to him in Christ.
Every false religion teaches its adherents to be careless of human needs, sufferings, and
rights. The gospel places a high value upon humanity as the purchase of the blood of
Christ, and it teaches a tender regard for the wants and woes of man. The Lord says,
"I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." Isa. 13:12.
When Jesus turned upon the
Pharisees with the question whether it was lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do
evil, to save life or to kill, He confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They
were hunting His life with bitter hatred, while He was saving life and bringing happiness
to multitudes. Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than
to heal the afflicted, as He had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart
upon God's holy day than love to all men, which finds expression in deeds of mercy?
In the healing of the
withered hand, Jesus condemned the custom of the Jews, and left the fourth commandment
standing as God had given it. "It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days," He
declared. By sweeping away the senseless restrictions of the Jews, Christ honored the
Sabbath, while those who complained of Him were dishonoring God's holy day.
Those who hold that Christ
abolished the law teach that He broke the Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the
same. Thus they are really taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews. In this they
contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared, "I have kept My Father's
commandments, and abide in His love." John 15:10. Neither the Saviour nor His
followers broke the law of the Sabbath. Christ was a living representative of the law. No
violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses
who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged, "Which of you
convicteth Me of sin?" John 8:46, R. V.
The Saviour had not come to
set aside what patriarchs and prophets had spoken; for He Himself had spoken through these
representative men. All the truths of God's word came from Him. But these priceless gems
had been placed in false settings. Their precious light had been made to minister to
error. God desired them to be removed from their
settings of error and replaced in the
framework of truth. This work only a divine hand could accomplish. By its connection with
error, the truth had been serving the cause of the enemy of God and man. Christ had come
to place it where it would glorify God, and work the salvation of humanity.
"The Sabbath was made
for man, and not man for the Sabbath," Jesus said. The institutions that God has
established are for the benefit of mankind. "All things are for your sakes."
"Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things
present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
2 Cor. 4:15; 1 Cor. 3:22, 23. The law of Ten Commandments, of which the Sabbath forms a
part, God gave to His people as a blessing. "The Lord commanded us," said Moses,
"to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He
might preserve us alive." Deut. 6:24. And through the psalmist the message was given
to Israel, "Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know
ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His
people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His
courts with praise." Ps. 100:2-4. And of all who keep "the Sabbath from
polluting it," the Lord declares, "Even them will I bring to My holy mountain,
and make them joyful in My house of prayer." Isa. 56:6, 7.
"Wherefore the Son of
man is Lord also of the Sabbath." These words are full of instruction and comfort.
Because the Sabbath was made for man, it is the Lord's day. It belongs to Christ. For
"all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was
made." John 1:3. Since He made all things, He made the Sabbath. By Him it was set
apart as a memorial of the work of creation. It points to Him as both the Creator and the
Sanctifier. It declares that He who created all things in heaven and in earth, and by whom
all things hold together, is the head of the church, and that by His power we are
reconciled to God. For, speaking of Israel, He said, "I gave them My Sabbaths, to be
a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify
them,"--make them holy. Ezek. 20:12. Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ's power to
make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying
power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.
And the Lord says, "If
thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call
the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; . . . then shalt thou delight
thyself in the Lord." Isa. 58:13, 14. To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of
Christ's creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they
delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence
of His mighty power in redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells
of peace restored through the Saviour. And every object in nature repeats His invitation,
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."