What does the Sabbath mean to me?
I've often asked myself the question, what does it mean to keep the Sabbath day holy? As a man raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church I have heard all the arguments. No scriptural proof-stone has been left unturned. I could do a fairly good job of surgically and biblically proving to you that God never changed the day from Saturday to Sunday. It really isn't that hard to prove because, when all the biblical facts are laid out, the evidence is overwhelming that God's holy day is the 7th day of the week. It seems that at some point, the Sabbath day must become something more than just facts that weigh in favor of my Christian day of observance. And there's another question. Is it really just about a day to go and put my butt in a pew for a few hours, or is it meant to be something more?
God has a problem. He gave us His law, which includes the Sabbath-day, and He gave it to us on tablets of stone written by His own finger. At that time, mankind could not handle the law presented in any other way. However, on tablets of stone was never where God fully intended those laws to be written. In fact, when they are outside of me, they only condemn or judge me and show me my sin problem and, I might add, they do this pretty well. When the written perfect law is considered, I can come away with no other conclusion than that I am a condemned sinner - a sick man in need of healing.
Okay, back to God's problem. He needs, deeply desires, and can hardly wait to put His Law of Love and Freedom into the hearts of willing but condemned, sinful men. He wants to do this in me, and you and everyone else who is willing to come to Him for healing. However, this healing act can only be successfully accomplished in a way that does not violate our freedom of choice. Any other way would be unloving, forceful. It would be rape.
Do you doubt that this is actually God's deepest desire? In fact, it's His greatest promise. Take a look at this verse:
Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Here we see that God's true desire is to make His law a part of us and the most beautiful part of this verse is that it is a PROMISE! God is making this covenant with His people and in the covenant He will do the work. He is the one that puts the law where it rightfully belongs. Here is another verse, which is also a PROMISE!...
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Don't you just love the idea that God is the one doing the work of change in us! Here is Paul understanding that God's intent is to change the inward man and to write His character on our hearts...
2 Corinthians 3:2,3 You are our epistle [letter] written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle [letter] of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
So why is the Sabbath day part of the law?
Alright, let's get back to the Sabbath day as our specific topic of discussion. For the sake of argument, let's just say that God has accomplished His purpose. He has kept His promise and I now have, along with the other commandments, Sabbath written upon my heart.
What does that look like? How has my life changed? What am I doing differently and what am I doing the same?
I submit to you that when you have Sabbath (represented by a day) written upon the fleshly heart - the inward man - you will start to work on the Sabbath-day. Yep, I said it...work. But, my friends, you will be "working" for the Lord and even better than that; you will be working WITH the Lord.
Jesus proved to us in His life on this earth that there is MUCH work to be done on the Sabbath-day. He often referred to it as "being about My Father's business". Jesus modeled for us the idea of healing, loving and helping people on the Sabbath-day and sad-but-true, the Pharisees (who made sure the law remained outside of themselves where it condemned everyone) killed Him for it.
The very law which Christ kept perfectly - lovingly - is the "man-controlled" law which killed Him when wrongly kept.
Being a keeper of the law means much more than blind struggling obedience. In fact, obedience is only an aspect of what it means to be a "keeper"...
keep - shâmar shaw-mar' A primitive root; properly to hedge about (as with thorns), that is, guard; generally to protect, attend to, etc.: - beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep (-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch (-man).
Keeping means to observe, preserve, regard, so by beholding, looking narrowly, preserving. observing, regarding and watching we "become changed". We were also given the infinitely costly gift of the life of Jesus Christ so that we may behold the law fully written on the heart of the Son of Man as a demonstration of the promise. Amazing love! Exceeding grace! Infinity sacrifice!
And then there is me...
But, I ask You Lord, "Can this leopard change his spots?" And You say to me, "No, but the One who created the leopard can."
So I look and live. I trust, keep and continue to reach for the goal. And from "faith to faith", I am becoming changed. Not by my works, but by His Spirit. And this all brings me back to the question of the Sabbath day...
Proving It or Living It to Prove It?
I know that on the Sabbath day I need not work-for-myself, but maybe there is something more than not doing. Let's have a look at our final scripture, I think we just might find what God has always wanted us to experience on the Sabbath-day...
Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
- To loose the bonds of wickedness,
- To undo the heavy burdens,
- To let the oppressed go free,
- And that you break every yoke?
- Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
- And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
- When you see the naked, that you cover him,
- And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "If you
- take away the yoke from your midst,
- The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
- If you extend your soul to the hungry
- And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
Friends. God is looking for a people who not only love Him, but who love LIKE Him. Let's move forward to the goal...that goal is not a heavenly home, not yet anyway. That goal is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth...
- Living for others!
- Do good to those who persecute you! It is the joyous response to persecution.
- Setting the captives free by showing them the freedom in law!
Do it because God's Law of Love has been written on your hearts - where it always belonged. And if you doubt that it has been written there; if a thrill of terror seems to overwhelm your heart don't look away but continue to "keep", "observe", and "behold" the Sabbath promise. Turn to and behold the Lord of the Sabbath and become changed.
This is living it to prove it, and in so doing, proving that it is something to live for. Keeping the Sabbath is not a burdensome requirement, but a welcome promise!