Sabbath

Preaching Christ From the Old Testament-Jesus And The Law of Moses-pt.5

There are other questions as well that need to be addressed when speaking about the Sabbath and the Christian. Because the Sabbath represents such a foundational and substantial part of Moses’ Law, what you do with the Sabbath regulation, built upon the actual seventh day of creation week, determines how you handle the rest of the Law. It is no easy task to wade through all the issues that are raised when speaking of the Sabbath. Some of the questions that come to mind are: “What about the rest of the Law. Should we obey that too? If we ignore the Sabbath, which God sanctified, do we also ignore the rest of the creation work, e.g. the creation of the man and woman and their respective responsibilities? Did God truly supersede the day that He sanctified? As Christians, are we to ignore the Law completely?”

 

These are just some of the questions that are raised. I would like to attempt a solution to these questions based upon a variety of Scriptures that deal with this subject. It will center around the Christian and the Law of Moses and, I think, will directly relate to this issue of the Sabbath. By the way, when I speak of “The Sabbath”, I am strictly speaking of that seventh day of creation, our Saturday, and never Sunday, the so-called ‘Christian Sabbath.’ It is clear from Scripture that the Lord’s Day, Sunday, has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath for the Christian. Most of the confessions born out of the Reformation (e.g. The Westminster Confession, chapter 21, VII, VIII) erroneously made that assertion and they are incorrect. Therefore, the Sabbath is strictly Saturday.

 

As we have seen before, the Law, and the Prophets, and the writings all prophesied that the Messiah was coming. Jesus, speaking with the two on the road to the town of Emmaus, said to them, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. ” (Luke 24:27). Later in the chapter He said, “Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44–45). Jesus affirmed that the OT spoke of Him often and taught through those passages with these disciples. When Jesus did come, one of the first recorded sermons of His, one of the most grandiose, is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5-7. In it, Jesus exposits the Law in relation to Himself, as well as conduct in His kingdom. In fact, this reality of the Law is explained in the Sermon as the foundation of all that is said. Thus, you could say, this Sermon is Jesus’ explanation of the Law of Moses in light of His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ ‘law’ is superior to Moses’, yet does not contradict it, but rather accomplishes the intent, or requirement of that law.

 

When Jesus begins this exposition, He begins it by assuring His listeners that He did not come to “destroy” the Law, but to fulfill it. In Matthew 5:17, the Lord Jesus gives us His teaching on the Law and it relationship to Himself, His teaching and His entire ministry. He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. ”  What Jesus said here is paramount. It is a consummate and far-reaching statement that requires some attention. It may appear to the disciples, the twelve, that because of the impossibly high demands of Jesus’ teaching (i.e. Matthew 5:48), that Jesus was trying to remove the Law of Moses and make it useless, as if it never had meaning. In other words, they might think that Jesus was trying to contradict that law and thus completely destroy it. Why would they think that? Because of how far the Jews had gone in completely twisting and rearranging and reinterpreting Moses’ Law to their own gain. They had taken the Law and made it a tool of their own religion, and not, as it was, the Word from the Lord.

 

However, that is not the case. Jesus did not come to remove the Law as if He were contradicting it. He came to install the Law and to complete its requirements.

 

This reality is seen clearly in the writer to the Hebrews. This writer understood these realities and labored long in explaining them to the hard-to-reach Jews in his writing audience. He makes a statement in Hebrews chapter 7 verse 12 that condenses this reality into one statement. He writes: “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. ” If we just pluck this verse out of the letter, it seems to be saying that there was a change in the priesthood of some sort and that change necessitated a change in the law as well. But, with the consideration of the context, we see that the writer is here speaking of the similarities of the high priest of God, Melchizedek, with that of Jesus Christ. In Genesis 14:17-24, we are introduced to this man, Melchizedek. In that passage, there are a couple components that are critical to understand in order to grasp what the Hebrews writer is saying. First, Melchizedek was a “priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). This is substantial. If he was a priest, who installed him? What was the origin of his priestly order? What family line was he from? Aaron came from Levi (Exodus 2:1; 6:20). Thus, the priestly line which was ordained through the Law of Moses came through the tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:1-7). But, we have no record in Holy Scripture of this man Melchizedek’s family line, or prodigy. So, who was he? We don’t know…and that is the point that God is making. Hebrews 7:3 indicates that the ‘mysterious’ reality surrounding this man is commensurate with the reality of Jesus Christ-he remains a priest forever. He was a priest in Genesis 14. There is no record of his beginning nor ending of his priestly service. Thus, his priestly order was different in quality from the Levitical priesthood through Aaron. The Law appointed the priest from Aaron on down. Further, that priesthood also had multiple priests, and not just one, because each generation saw the death of the previous priest (Hebrews 7:23). However, Christ, being similar in quality to the Melchizedekian priesthood, holds his priesthood for eternity (Hebrews 7:24).

 

Now, in this discussion is a very important concept. The issue in the priesthood is the fact that the priest existed to bring people to God and God to the people. That is, the priest was a kind of mediator who would approach God on God’s terms to perform a religious function, whether atonement, prayers or offerings. He would also represent God to the people in that he would bring to the people God’s Word and judgment on a matter. Further, it would seem incongruous of God to recognize multiple priesthoods. Even Melchizedek was before the Law. Therefore, since we are speaking of that priesthood which God recognizes and has ordained, it must be concluded that there is only one choice between the Levitical priesthood ordained through the Law of Moses, and the Melchizedek-like priesthood of Jesus Christ ordained through God’s own promise or ‘oath’ (Hebrews 7:20-21;cf. Psalm 110). The obvious point of Hebrews is that the ministry of Jesus is superior to the ministry of Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and Aaron and the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:26-28).

 

Now, as it relates to the issues that we are talking about, i.e. the Sabbath, we find in this whole discussion the very important concept that when the approach to God has been changed, then the Law itself has been changed, since the priest in the likeness of Melchizedek was not appointed to that position by the Law. The writer states this in Hebrews 7:12. There he writes that the priesthood did in fact change and Jesus Christ has now assumed the role of a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, thus making the Aaronic priesthood obsolete, or better, completed. Remember, we are not talking about philosophical notions here. We are trying to understand how people are brought to God now in this economy on God’s own terms. He has installed His High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; Romans 9:27). And what was the result? What happened to the entire Law of Moses? It was set aside. What does this mean? Hebrews 7:18 says that the previous commandment was “set aside.” That word means that the previous commandment was made invalid in light of the present administration. That is, the present administration in Christ, i.e. His mysterious kingdom (Matthew 13; esp. 10-17), which is defined as that age of salvation (Mark 10:45), only allows for one priesthood and with it, one Law and the Law of Moses is inadequate for this kingdom. Therefore, the Law of Moses has been set aside because of its “weakness and uselessness.” Why? Because “the Law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19), but on the other hand, Christ is able to offer eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). This the Law could never do, although the problem was not with the Law, but with us (Romans 8:1-4).

 

The religious observance of the Sabbath was a part of Moses’ Law. It was observed encyclically, that is it kept coming around every week, month years and succeeding years. It was more than a simple seventh-day observance. It was the bookends to festivals (Leviticus 23:4-8). A kind of Sabbath was recognized during the seventh month (Leviticus 23:27, 32). It was also recognized for an entire year every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-4), and every 50th year (Leviticus 25:8-22). Thus, the benefit of a Sabbath, or rest from labor, was regulated by the Mosaic Law as a regular observance to Israel. However, now in Christ, that regulation is annulled, rendered ineffective. In Christ’s kingdom, every day is alike (Romans 14:5-6, 14-17). In His kingdom, His Law does not contradict God’s Law given through Moses, it rather fulfills it and accomplishes it and we, in Christ and by the provision of the Holy Spirit, can live out the intent and requirements of the Law. That is, we are able now, by the Spirit of God, to accomplish the intention of the Law of God given to Moses, which is summed up in this: “And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39). Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets ” (Matthew 22:40). That is, the Law of Moses is the regulation of love for the nation in relation to God and to man. However, it was unable to accomplish that goal of love because of the sinfulness of the people to whom it was given. However, that was the point. The Law is a proper tool to show people God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness (1 Timothy 1:8-10; cf. Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:19-22).

 

As was stated before, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it. He came to complete it and thus remove it since it was completed by somebody. However, He did not contradict it or treat it with contempt. He upheld it and obeyed it Himself. However, we, as Christians, find ourselves not in Moses’ administration, but in Christ’s. Christ is superior to Moses and Christ’s commandments superior to Moses’, although given by God (indeed, Christ Himself gave Moses the Law that day on the mountain!). But now, Christ has satisfied the sacrifice that propitiated God (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:10). Thus, there are no more religious observances for we who are in Christ. God accepted, once for all time, Christ’s sacrifice and thus accomplish the promise of death for sinners (Genesis 2:16-17; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:12; 10:10). God now only recognizes the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as well as His current priestly ministry of bringing the concerns and needs of men to God. God is not approached by the Law. God is only approached through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son (Hebrews 7:25).

 

One final word on this matter. For those who still have it in their hearts to observe the Sabbath out of love for Christ and cannot quite understand all that is written above, we who are strong should not condemn those dear saints. Rather, we are to bear with them in love and build them up in hopes that they come to full realization of the accomplishment of Christ (Romans 14).

Preaching Christ From The Old Testament-Jesus And The Law Of Moses-pt.4

One topic that needs more explanation in the popular realm is that of the Sabbath. There are a number of perspectives on the Sabbath and those that I have investigated have been found to be incorrect. Why does this matter? It matters because what you believe or don’t believe about anything in the Scripture determines how you live. And how you live determines the degree that God is glorified or not. God is not glorified in rules that originate from the flesh (Matthew 9:13), but rather in behavior that stems from a heart that is regenerate and is conformed to His Word (Mark 7:6-13). This issue of the Sabbath is a seemingly mysterious subject and appears to create in the hearts of many a tension that does not need to be there. Some might say, “We should not drive cars on the Sabbath.” Others may say, “We should not work at our jobs on the Sabbath.” Still others may equate Sunday, The Lord’s Day, with the Sabbath. Some even are self-serving in that they see the Sabbath that they have formulated in their imaginations as a kind of cultic mantra wherein they achieve oneness with the universe from their supposed rest. None of these really hit the mark concerning what is revealed in the Scripture about the Sabbath. Since one of the bones of contention between the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the Jews was Jesus’ behavior during the Sabbath, I thought it would be appropriate to cover that in this series on Jesus Christ and the Old Testament.

 

Strictly speaking, the Sabbath is no other day than the seventh day of the week. It is not one day in seven, but rather the seventh day. This is clear from the very first usage of the term ‘Sabbath’ in the Old Testament (OT). In Exodus 16:23-30 the regulation or pattern of the seventh day as a day from which to refrain from labor is set in motion, although the commandment for it was not revealed for another two weeks (Exodus 16:1; 19:1). The newly formed nation of Jews, the House of Israel, has left Egypt in an astounding display of the power of YHWH’s power to subdue the earth to make it do what He wants it to do, i.e. to move the waters aside for the sake of the Israelite’s escape. This display leads to a song of triumph (Exodus 15:1-21). However, the walking in the desert also brings out the grumbling in their hearts as well (Exodus 16:1-7). God then promises to provide a food for them, quail in the evening and “manna” in the morning. In providing this, they would have to gather it and prepare it as it becomes available, every evening and every morning. However, God’s people Israel are called upon to observe that one day which God pronounced blessing and sanctification (Genesis 2:1-3). It was an eternal day, so to speak because there is not the typical refrain, “there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day.” The “very good” condition (1:31) would be the condition of life on earth forever and ever. Thus, eternal life.

In that day, all Israel was to cease from going out in the morning for manna and going out that evening for quail. Instead, they were to gather enough on the sixth day for the seventh too. God would make sure that the food would not rot or decay in any way. At this time, Israel would be introduced to that day in which God rested from His magnificent work. This would become the regulated Sabbath which was introduced as legislation in Exodus 20:8. The day in which all work ceased and all production stopped in honor of God’s rest is inserted in the Law as a mandatory rest day. How good of God! But notice that nowhere in this passage does it indicate that the Sabbath can be any day but the seventh.

Further, there were other ‘Sabbaths’ as well. There was a Sabbath on the seventh month (Leviticus 23:26-32). There was also a Sabbath to be observed in the seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). Also, every 49 years, on the tenth day of the seventh month (the Day of Atonement), Israel was to inaugurate the subsequent 50th year of rest (Leviticus 25:8-12). So, Israel was at all times to be circulating in the midst of many different kinds of Sabbaths. All of this was to remind them of God’s rest in which all was very good and the need for a return back to that condition. Of course, a return was impossible. However, although impossible, God would one day return all creation back to its rightful owner and under that sovereignty, with the Last Adam, it will all be “very good” once again.

Although the Sabbath day for Israel is a particular day and, indeed, one to which all of Israel would be working toward each week, there are a couple realities associated with that day that need to be explained. The priests were not permitted to stop working on the Sabbath. Leviticus 16 give procedures for the priest to perform the ceremony related to the Atonement sacrifices. The work listed here is done on the Sabbath regulated for that day. However, the priest seems to be exempt from rest on that day. This is very interesting. Are the priests somehow above Sabbath regulations? Do they not do ‘work’ when they offer the sacrifices? How is it that God commands Israel to remember the Sabbath, and yet it is not remembered by the priests? Jesus confirmed the fact that the priests were exempt from resting on the Sabbath and are innocent in Matthew 12:5. The ‘work’ which the priest performed was not only prescribed by God, but is also not contrary to the Sabbath itself. This will be explained more in the subsequent post. The point is, the Sabbath as it stood was largely misconstrued for most of Israel’s existence. Not because of God’s lack of explanation. But, simply because of a faithless heart that led to disobedience (Romans 9:30-33). A clear example of this reality is the Babylonian exile which was the result of a refusal to recognize God’s Sabbath regulation (Leviticus 26:34-35, 43; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:1; Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 7:5).

The Sabbath, also, was a sign to Israel that they were God’s people. In Exodus 31:12-18, God makes it clear that this Sabbath observance, as defined by Genesis 2:1-3, is the sign of the nation as God’s people. This sign was for the purpose of Israel’s own sanctification (v.13). It was a sign, an indicator of relationship, to Israel of who God is. Thus, it was very important.

So, Sabbath was an integral part of Israel’s life and for good reason. It was the day of recognition of not only God’s work from which He ceased, but also of the very character and nature of God Himself as sanctifier. Thus, this day was like no other.

In the next post, we will see what Jesus has to do with the Sabbath. We will answer the question that is often asked by people, “Should we, as Christians, observe the Sabbath?” Also, many Christians believe that the Sabbath transitioned into the Lord’s Day and as such the Lord’s Day became the Christian’s Sabbath. Is that true? Does the Bible teach that? We will see.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: