Sabbath - God Makes Us His Holy People
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.’” (Leviticus 23:2-3 NIV)
The purpose of Sabbath was mentioned in Exodus 31:13 NIV, “Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths... so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy." The purpose for observing the Sabbath, by not doing any work, was to remember that God made the Israelites holy, setting them apart for God.
We can definitely relate to that today! For many of us, work takes away our attention from God. See the similarities between the Sabbath and communion? Both serve the purpose of remembering God. The Sabbath reminded the Israelites that they were God’s holy people and the communion reminds us of Jesus’ body and blood poured out on the cross, redeeming us from the penalty of our sins. The difference between them is that Sabbath only needs to be observed once a week, but communion with God ought to be daily.
For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:4-7 NIV)
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV)
The weekly Sabbath was only the foreshadow of how we should remember God, that we are holy. God’s intention has always been to reveal Jesus, who redeemed us and made us His Holy people through his sacrifice. Thus Peter urged us to prepare our minds for action and be self-controlled in order to be holy in all we do. Remembering that we are God’s holy people should not be once a week only, but on a daily basis.
Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:1-4, 6-7 NIV)
Do we restraint our sinful nature by remembering Jesus daily? It is easy for us to be distracted, and all the more so with the pace of life we live today. Sunday services help us to remember God on a weekly basis. If we don’t reflect on God’s word and remember Jesus is our Lord daily, we would be no different from the Israelites who obeyed only in observing the Sabbath. They failed to remember that they ought to be holy because God made them holy.
The Book of Hebrews was written to second generation Jewish Christians who were tempted to drift back to Judaism to avoid persecution. The writer taught them that following Christ was not converting to an entirely new religion, but understanding that Jesus fulfilled all of God’s promises in the Old Covenant. God promised the Israelites the Sabbath-rest, yet they could not enter God’s Sabbath-rest because they “did not combine it with faith”. How do we apply that to ourselves today?
While observing the Sabbath is no longer applicable to us Christians, the requirement of faith still applies. God has always required our faith since the beginning of times. That has never changed. Do we come to Sunday services thinking legalistically that we need to be there to ‘mark our attendance’? Or do we come with faith, believing that the sermon, the fellowship and the worship are going to transform our life?
Is work causing a breakdown in our faith in Christ? Work should not stop us from being holy if we remember Jesus, but sometimes our own over-commitment to our jobs causes us to lose faith. Faith has to begin from our mind and we can’t have faith if our mind is always occupied with work. We ought to watch how we practice our faith and check if we are allowing our work to get in the way.
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)
How are we making “every effort to enter that rest”? The Sabbath-rest that God promised us should therefore remind us to fix our hearts on Jesus and by constantly applying the word of God on ourselves, our faith persists.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)
Jesus heals us through His words. The word of God works on us, cleansing us and helping us to bear the fruits of His Spirit. Daily application of His words helps our faith to persist. Do we believe that the word of God is living and active, making a difference and transforming our lives? We are His holy people, as God makes us holy.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.