Keeping the Sabbath
I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God. Ezekiel 20:19, 20, NIV.
At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, the Sabbath institution was brought prominently before the people of God. While they were still in bondage, their taskmasters had attempted to force them to labor on the Sabbath by increasing the amount of work required each week. But the Israelites were delivered from bondage and brought to a place where they might observe unmolested all the precepts of Jehovah.
At Sinai the law was spoken; and a copy of it, on two tables of stone, “written with the finger of God,” was delivered to Moses (Exodus 31:18). And through nearly forty years of wandering the Israelites were constantly reminded of God’s appointed rest day, by the withholding of the manna every seventh day and the miraculous preservation of the double portion that fell on the preparation day.
Before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites were admonished by Moses to “keep the sabbath day to sanctify it” (Deuteronomy 5:12). The Lord designed that by a faithful observance of the Sabbath command, Israel should continually be reminded of their accountability to Him as their Creator and their Redeemer. While they should keep the Sabbath in the proper spirit, idolatry could not exist; but should the claims of this precept of the Decalogue be set aside as no longer binding, the Creator would be forgotten and men would worship other gods.
“I gave them my sabbaths,” God declared, “to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Yet “they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.” And in His appeal to them to return to Him, He called their attention anew to the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. “I am the Lord your God,” He said; “walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezekiel 20:12, 16, 19, 20).
Christ, during His earthly ministry, emphasized the binding claims of the Sabbath; in all His teaching He showed reverence for the institution He Himself had given. In His days the Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of God. Christ set aside the false teaching by which those who claimed to know God had misrepresented Him. Although followed with merciless hostility by the rabbis, He did not even appear to conform to their requirements, but went straight forward keeping the Sabbath according to the law of God