A Sabbath Confession
North Salem United Methodist Church
It has been said, confession is good for the Soul. And, of course, there is some truth in that. Getting a matter off of one’s chest, so to speak, does go a long way in providing peace of mind and, sometimes, a sense of reconciliation or atonement. And as it is, I have a confession to make, but neither reconciliation nor atonement figure into it. It is a confession that has been impressed upon me to make so as to share a biblical truth with you, the reader of this essay and the essays to follow.
I have for some time now been engaging in a behavior actually frowned upon by many, and understood by only a few. It is a behavior I marginally engaged in for a short time decades ago, but have returned to in the past year or so. I am sure some who know me and have read a few of my previous essays or letters, by now suspect I might conduct myself a bit unusually for a present day Christian. And, to be true, I want to be open and clear about the matter. So, this is my confession: Every seventh day of the week (Saturday) beginning at sunset the evening prior, I keep God’s Holy Sabbath. Yes, it is true - I keep Sabbath.
Keeping the seventh day Sabbath is not something a Methodist typically practices. Of course, we Methodist inherited the tradition of keeping the first day of the week holy, as opposed to the biblically ordained seventh day Sabbath, from the Anglican Church. And, the Anglican Church inherited Sunday worship from the Roman Church. Where did the Roman Church acquire its particular practice of forsaking God’s Seventh Day Sabbath for the tradition of Sunday worship? Well, the simple fact of the matter is the Roman Church inherited it from its pagan origins. Yes, when the political Roman Empire “hijacked” Christianity, it, in time, simply legislated pagan Rome’s traditional day of worship (of the sun), Sun-day, as an old “new” day of worship for those under Roman authority. The saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” speaks volumes to the current and centuries old tradition of worshiping on Sunday while actually suppressing God’s biblically sanctioned Seventh Day Sabbath.
I have frequently heard, sometimes with a chuckle sometimes with a sneer, that it does not matter what day we Christians keep as our day of worship as long as we keep a day. And, I agree -- as regards Worship -- that every day and any day is a perfect day on which to Worship. However, the day our God and heavenly Father gave, ordained, specified and made to be His Holy Sabbath was, is and will forever be, the seventh day. Undoubtedly, as far as man is concerned, whatever day we ordain for worship is good enough. Yet, it appears God wished, and still wishes, for a particular day, a day of His choosing, to be kept separate, kept holy -- and for a good number of His reasons, too.
It needs to be understood that God’s seventh day Sabbath, which He repeatedly declared as hallowed (to be set apart, separate and unique) and eternal, had, and has, a special purpose in God’s revealed, ongoing plan for mankind. In fact, the Sabbath plays a number of roles in God’s divine effort concerning this earth, His people and our relationship with Him.
As mentioned, God repeatedly and explicitly instructs His people to keep holy His Sabbath. And, it should be noted here that as He declares the Sabbath to be His Sabbath, it simply is not ours to do with as we wish. It is His Sabbath, and He wanted, and wants, His special people to keep it holy -- holy, meaning to set it apart, apart from the other six days, to be separate, and kept so for special attention.
It is interesting to note that in the Creation Narrative the Sabbath Day, contextually speaking, is there first set apart from the preceding six days. The first six days are completely encompassed in the first chapter of Genesis. But, all Bible translations begin the second chapter of Genesis with the Sabbath narrative, the seventh day narrative. That is, instead of including it with the other six days closing out chapter one, the Sabbath narrative separately begins chapter two, standing apart and alone from the previous six days. This is just the first of many signs of the Sabbath’s unique standing in the plan of God.
To be true, I feel compelled to share with any wishing to understand the Sabbath my rationale for keeping what many consider an archaic, discontinued and useless practice. So, therefore, in a series of future essays I will speak of more specific examples of the Sabbath's important and active place in the Plan of God. And, I will address the New Testament Scriptures that have been used to justify the suppression of the seventh day Sabbath in favor of the Roman Church’s veneration of Sunday.
From Genesis to Revelation the Sabbath is alive and relevant, and it is something far too few Christians understand. But as the time of our Lord’s appearing draws closer and closer, it is my conviction more and more will come to understand and embrace that most special day -- The Sabbath -- God’s uniquely chosen holy day.
Part 2 - The Two Laws
The first time we encounter the Sabbath in Scripture is of course in the Creation Narrative cited in Genesis Chapter Two. Many might think the next time the Sabbath is mentioned is when Israel receives the Ten Commandments at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). That would not be correct. In Genesis 5:4-5 Pharaoh accuses Moses of having the people rest from their labors. They were, at Moses’ direction, keeping Sabbath, and Pharaoh didn’t like it one bit. But the point here is that Sabbath was being kept before it was reiterated by God to Israel, itself, at Mt. Horeb (Sinai) in the form of the fourth commandment. It was at that time that God’s people were instructed to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy -- forever! And, holy meaning to sanctify it and keep it separate from all other days -- just as God did in Genesis Chapter Two. (By the way, to remember something requires that that something be experienced previously so it could, in fact, be remembered.)
Now, some will argue that the Law, the Ten Commandments in which the Sabbath Commandment resides, has been abolished, nailed to the cross as noted in Galatians 2:14, and no longer binding. However, if such is the case, that the Sabbath, the seventh day Sabbath, is no longer to be remembered and kept holy, then murder, adultery, theft, idol worship, taking God’s name in vain, etc are also no longer valid or binding they, too, being “nailed to the cross”. But, of course, no one holds that we are free to ignore the other nine Commandments -- just the fourth. Such a curious thing, indeed. But, to be true, such an understanding is a fundamental misunderstanding, a misunderstanding that is a logical result of biblical illiteracy.
The Law that was “nailed to the cross” is not God’s self-spoken, self-written Law, the Ten Commandments, which were written into stone tablets by the very finger of God, Himself. But rather, it was the Law of Moses, the 613 commandments written by the hand of Moses onto parchment as directed by God, and given to Israel as a result of sin, that is what Paul was referring to as “nailed to the cross”. Yes, there were two sets of what we call The Law. One was spoken to the people face-to-face and written into stone by God, Himself, with his own finger, and was spoken to Israel before the Golden Calf affair. And there was the other Law, the Law of Moses, a.k.a the Mosaic Law, hand written by Moses on parchment, by direction, given in response to sin and as a forecast as to how, and by whom, God would ultimately blot out the sin of Man - our sin.
To understand the Sabbath and the place it still today holds, we will need to examine both the Decalogue and the Mosaic Law for what they are. And that we will do in the following essays of this series on The Sabbath.
There is more to come...
The Ten Commandments
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Most people look upon God’s Ten Commandments as a list of do's and don'ts that God gave to the world for people to live a good life that might result someday in one “getting into heaven”. Sorry, but such is not correct. Fortunately, however, the truth of the matter is far more glorious and, interestingly, rather intimate. To put it simply, God’s Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, are actually wedding vows between God and His bride, Israel/Church. (Ezekiel 16:8)
Throughout Scripture the Holy Spirit uses the analogy of marriage to illustrate the relationship, in its depth of intimacy, that God desires between Himself and His chosen people. Christ and His Church are frequently referred to as Bridegroom and Bride, and in the Old Testament God speaks of He being Israel’s husband. (Jeremiah 31:31) Once again, marriage is the metaphor used throughout Scripture to illustrate God’s relationship with Israel and/or the Church. It also serves as a metaphor to illustrate fidelity towards God or adulterous wanderings away from God. (Ezekiel 16:32-33)
But again, the Ten Commandments were, and are still a vow of love and fidelity, honored without measure by God, but broken nearly immediately by the bride, Israel. Let’s look closely at those vows, the Decalogue, and we will see the vital role the Sabbath plays in binding and in witnessing to the intimate relationship between God and His chosen lover.
As with any marriage a covenant is established and vows are exchanged by promises being made. God had promised Israel through the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that God would make Israel a great nation and people -- a very great and unique people, His very own possession. All God asked in return was Israel’s faith and trust.
This ancient marriage conducted in the Sinai desert was a classic love story. The bridegroom (God), in fairytale fashion, rushes in to rescue the object of his love (Israel) from an evil rival (Egypt) holding the maiden captive in his kingdom. After a dramatic rescue, chase, escape and vanquishing of the evil rival, all focus now centers on our romantic couple as they disappear into the wilderness to conduct a private and intimate marriage ceremony.
After three new moons from her rescue and three days of being sanctified (timing is very important in all of the Scripture narrative and a subject for another essay) they come together to exchange vows. The Groom’s best man, Moses, works tirelessly to make sure the bride is ready and in full understanding of what is about to happen and how to conduct herself. After explaining to the bride the groom’s proposal, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:4-6). In response to the groom’s proposal, the bride declares, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8) All that is left to do now is for the bride and groom to come face-to-face for the final vows.
And that is exactly what happens. The Best Man, Moses, escorts the bride to the meeting place, the base of Mt. Horeb, and in a cacophony of thunders and lightings, the groom arrives, descending upon the mountain, shrouded in a thick, dark cloud as none can directly witness His revealed glory and still live. Then finally, the moment comes, the groom thunders out the vows that will eternally join He and his Bride together in marriage.
And, once again, those vows are the Ten Commandments spoken directly to the bride, Israel, from God’s own lips and in the bride’s physical presence and hearing. No middleman was employed, no mediator to pass on the divine words. This was a direct, personal and intimate interaction. This was a wedding.
The following are those vows, those Commandments shared between God and His Bride, Israel:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:2-17 ESV)
Once the vows were made, no matter what should happen between them from that moment on, the bride and the groom were eternally wedded -- at least in the eyes of the groom. For, alas, it is not long, indeed, before the new wife missteps. Nonetheless, after the wedding ceremony, the best man (Moses) ascends Mt. Horeb to receive a written copy of the Decalogue on behalf of the bride. And, whereas the “Ten Words” are etched into stone by the eternal God, Himself, and not on perishable parchment by the hand of a mortal man who passes away, it is evident that the Decalogue is intended to be eternal -- not temporary or for a limited time -- but forever.
In a later essay, we will address the matter of the bride’s “misstep”. But, as this series of essays are being written to shed light on the unique nature and purpose of God’s seventh day Sabbath, we will in the following essays focus on the Ten Commandments, themselves. And again, we will place particular focus on the Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath Commandment. After that, the matter of the Mosaic Law, that set of laws, ordinances, feast days, holy days and instructions will be examined.
The Ten Commandments
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The Decalogue (continued)
It has often been said that the first four commandments of the Decalogue concern God, Himself. I do not believe that is quite accurate. The fourth commandment concerns both God and...the Church. The Fourth Commandment’s purpose, among other things, is to uniquely identify, or mark, God’s special relationship with his Bride, the Church/Israel. Consider the following:
“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.’” (Exodus 31:13 ESV)
“Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” (Ezekiel 20:12 ESV)
Remember, the Sabbath existed before it was included in the Decalogue at Sinai. The Hebrews were keeping Sabbath while they were in bondage in Egypt and later during their wanderings before Mt. Sinai. The Sabbath was given to Israel/Church at the marriage ceremony at the base of Mt. Horeb as a sign of the marriage covenant, of their unique joining to God. It was the ring on the bride’s finger!
And, it should be noted that the Sabbath is an eternal gift, just as a wedding ring is for the life of a marriage. So the Sabbath, and the entire Decalogue, stand as long as God’s divine union stands -- and that is forever. Consider the following:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33 ESV)
The term “New Covenant” can be a bit misleading, to say the least. The New Covenant is not new in its nature, but new in the sense that the Law, the Decalogue, the words that God personally spoke to His bride Israel/Church, are now chiseled not only into stone, but now also onto the hearts of men, God now puts His Law of love and liberty within His chosen people, and it is the same law that was spoken by God at Sinai, but it is now, however, newly written on the hearts of his people. And whereas God’s chosen people violated their marriage vows which is the Decalogue thus earning death as a result, Jesus, himself the bridegroom, paid the penalty for our lack of faith and commitment, and enables us to now fulfill our marriage vows, the Law of Liberty, in honor and commitment to our husband, God! Simply put, we are not saved by keeping the Law. It was never the Law’s purpose to save us, for no one will be justified by works, but we may now fulfill, to live out, the Law because we have been redeemed from the penalty of our previous unfaithfulness.
I will not, in this essay, address Paul’s writings in his letter to the Romans on how the Decalogue is good and perfect and holy and that we are no longer under its penalty of death. For as James points out, we, being justified by Christ, are not under the Law as transgressors but sanctified as doers of the Law -- and doers of the Law from a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone. Moreover, we are assured by the Psalmist: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; (Psalm 19:7-8 ESV)
As noted, the Sabbath commandment had a very special purpose and position in the Decalogue. It's purpose was to uniquely identify God’s chosen people as a special and sanctified people, a people solely His. As previously mentioned, the Sabbath was (and still is) as a wedding ring in a wedding ceremony, identifying, to the bride and groom first and then to all others, that the two display a special mark, an eternal mark of their intimate and enduring relationship.
No, no my dear reader, the Sabbath is not abolished. It is the sign of our very special and eternal relationship with God. And thus, a very real reason why the Roman Empire and the ancient Church of Rome, as soon as it could, labored to discontinue the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath. And that matter, itself, will be explored in a later essay.
So far we have examined, in part, what the Ten Commandments are, how they were first introduced and by whom. We have also touched upon a special purpose of the fourth commandment, the Seventh Day Sabbath. There is more, however, much more. So, in our next essay we will explore the Sabbath’s strategic position, its actual placement as the fourth commandment and what else, or better said, Who else the Sabbath Day Commandment speaks of.
The Lynch Pin Commandment
In continuation of this examination of the Sabbath Commandment we will revisit an essay published on this site in April of 2016 and presently accessible from the Archives Page under the hyperlink, The Lynchpin Commandment 4.19.16. This essay (presented here in revised form) will look at a function of the Sabbath Commandment that most have never considered: The Fourth Commandment actually ties the first three and the last six commandments together. In a very real biblical sense it is the Fourth Commandment that bridges the separation between man and God. The Fourth Commandment, as it is personified in Jesus, is a shadow of God’s provision that joins man to God!
Of course, of God's Ten Commandments the Fourth stands out uniquely from the other nine. Consider the following:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it". (Exodus 20: 8-11 RSV)
The Fourth Commandment is the longest of the Ten Commandments, and it is the only one that begins with "Remember", and such an admonishment seems to lend the Commandment a special position in relation to the other nine. And so it is special, very special indeed. Not only is the Fourth Commandment the longest and the only one God singles out to be "Remembered", the Fourth Commandment, as it proves, is, in fact, the lynch pin of all the the other Commandments.
Consider this -- the first three Commandments focus on God Himself:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain". (Exodus 20:1-7 RSV)
The last six Commandments focus on man:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
“You shall not kill.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:12-17 RSV)
In biblical interpretation the number "3" frequently represents God. For example, only God is ever referred to as " Holy, Holy, Holy". God is understood by many as the Trinity. When God visited Abraham to inform him that his aged wife Sarah would conceive, God appeared in the form of three men. And in the New Testament, Jesus, at his birth, received three gifts in recognition of his being the Son of God and King of Kings. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness three times, Jesus responded three times with, “It is written”, quoting the Word of God from the Book of Deuteronomy three times. And, of course, Christ’s resurrection culminated three days and three nights in the grave. These of course are just a few examples of how the number "3" often represents or precedes a revealing of God in Scripture.
Similarly, in biblical interpretation the number "6" frequently represents man. Man was created on the sixth day, and man's work was determined by God to be confined to six days. Moreover, in the book of Revelation the number of the beast is referred to as being the number of a man calculated as 666, man (the number 6) attempting to be God (the number 6 displayed three times). (Rev 13:18)
So, the first three Commandments represent God and His character, and the last six Commandments represent man and his character.
Positioned between God (the first three Commandments) and man (the last six Commandments) is the Fourth Commandment, and as noted above, the one Commandment God specifically instructs us to "Remember". It is the fourth Commandment that is the lynchpin of the first three and last six Commandments. It is the Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath Commandment, which bridges the gap, created by sin, between God and man!
Jesus declared that He is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:18, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5). Jesus is in fact Lord of the Sabbath -- and He is even more! Jesus IS the Sabbath. He is the one and only one who can, and does, join us to God. The Fourth Commandment reveals to us that we must rest from our own work to reconcile ourselves to God, for striving to "work out" our own salvation will only result in failure and eternal death. The Fourth Commandment also reveals to us that as we rest from our own labors at reconciliation we may enter into the rest that Jesus offers, and assuredly rely on His redeeming and reconciling work connecting us to God, and as a result, receive forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. (Romans 6:23)
It is no accident that Jesus restored so many to physical wholeness on the Sabbath. In fact, his healing ministry was a demonstration of who he was and is and a foreshadow that through Jesus, our God given bridge to the Father, that we will ultimately be made eternally whole physically and spiritually -- with that metamorphosis taking place in the Millennial Sabbath. (The Millennial Sabbath will be explained later in this essay).
Jesus, the personification of the Sabbath, healed on the Sabbath to demonstrate how it was (and will be) through his work of physical healing that an afflicted person could, once healed, enter the temple to make sacrifice for the forgiveness of his sins. Without healing, an afflicted person was prohibited by the man-made, religious traditions of that day from entering the temple. If one could not enter the temple, then one could not make sacrifice for his sins. And, if one could not make sacrifice for one’s sins, then he was doomed to die in his sins and be denied entry into the kingdom of God. Jesus’ ministry to the poor and feeble, the blind, deaf, crippled, dying and dead was a foreshadow of the healing transformation he will work on those seeking communion with his Father, God, when Jesus returns for his church. Make no mistake about it; when Jesus returns at the end of this, the Church age, initiating a one thousand year long Sabbath, he will bring about a transformation of his church, healing his brethren from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible, therefore enabling his brethren to enter the heavenly temple and into the very presence of God perfected, both physically and spiritually.
And, of course, the Sabbath is the God given sign, a mark of identification, between God, Himself, and His people (Ex 31:13-14). The Sabbath is the wedding band of the marriage of the Church to God, a sign first to the Church and then to all others, of God’s and His Church’s unique relationship. And, Jesus is also that identifying mark as we are marked by his blood! By his blood we are identified as the bride of Christ; God’s very own possession.
Once again, Jesus IS the Sabbath. In all its manifestations, in all its applications, the Sabbath and Jesus are one and the same. Throughout Scripture it is declared that whoever profanes the Sabbath will be cut off from the people. Such is a descriptive metaphor, a foreshadow, of what will result in rejecting (profaning) Jesus and his redeeming work for us -- that is, judgement, rejection and exclusion from the kingdom of God.
Yes! Jesus is the Sabbath! And, the Sabbath is the lynchpin that binds us to our God. Without a doubt, the Fourth Commandment has far more meaning and importance than many have been led to believe.
And, of course, when any one or all of God's Commandments are examined, it is important to note that the Ten Commandments, unlike the handwritten Law of Moses, are the only Commandments spoken directly to the people of Israel by God, face-to-face, and then written by God Himself, with His own finger into stone, an act and a medium both implying eternal permanency (Exodus 20:1-22, 31:18, Deuteronomy 5:4,22-23).
Moreover, also unlike the Law of Moses and as declared by Christ himself, it has been determined that God's Ten Commandments will stand unchanged until heaven and earth shall pass away; and that any who teach otherwise will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:18-20).
Unquestionably, none are saved by personal works of the law but by faith alone. However, being now saved by the work of Jesus and the grace of God, we are no longer a slave to the penalty of the law -- death (Romans 6:23). But, being made righteous by Jesus (who embodies all the Commandments) we are now free to bear witness to the love, work and nature of Jesus by living all the Commandments, not just nine. Living out all Ten Commandments as best we are empowered (and in particular, the Fourth Commandment, the Lynchpin Commandment) one clearly demonstrates the Wesleyan pursuit of Acts of Piety and Acts of Mercy. Actions that are the natural result of a forgiven, spirit-filled and changed life.
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of the very Sabbath which connects mankind to God. And as He is Lord of the Sabbath, He is undoubtedly also revealed to be the Sabbath itself -- the bridge where man may cross over to join with God. Once again, he is the Lynchpin Commandment.
It is sure, this is just as God had planned since before the beginning of Creation. And, how He chose to culminate that Creation was by completing and crowning Creation with the Sabbath. He demonstrated then, and as He repeats throughout the Biblical narrative, the Sabbath is THE sign, the mark, that identifies His people as His people. The reality of Jesus as our Sabbath rest is ancient and consistent in the Biblical narrative. The seventh day Sabbath has never been abolished or redefined. Not one dot or iota has been changed or will be changed 'til heaven and earth pass away (Matthew 5:18-20). As we await the return of Jesus and the transformation of this world, the Sabbath Commandment remains as a sign that we are the people of God. And of course, it remains as the unique Lynchpin Commandment.
God’s Law (The Ten Commandments) vs. The Mosaic Law
To continue in this essay on the significance, relevance and continuing function of the Sabbath, we will explore just what the Law of God is as compared to the distinctly different Mosaic Law.
It is simply just a fact of Church life; very few understand the difference between God’s Law (a.k.a The Ten Commandments) and the set of laws, commands, statutes, ordinances and instructions known as the as the Law of Moses or simply, as the Mosaic Law. Most Christians are familiar with the Ten Commandments (or at least it is so hoped) as those commandments are numerated in Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus and in Deuteronomy 5:6–21. And, as has been explored previously in this series of essays, the Ten Commandments are actually a promised Covenant, wedding vows, declared by God to His bride, Israel. Furthermore, and as it has also been previously explored, the first three Commandments, those concerning God, and the last six Commandments, those concerning Man, are all tied together by the fourth Commandment, the Sabbath Commandment, and that Commandment ultimately personified by the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus.
It is important to understand that the Ten Commandments are complete as they are. In fact, once given by God to Israel face-to-face, in His own voice, in Israel’s own hearing, the Commandments were cut into stone tablets by God Himself signifying their completeness and permanence. Moses witnessed to such when he said, “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Duet 5:22 ESV). So, the Ten Commandments as a Covenant stands alone, complete and eternal, cut into granite not by human hands, but solely by God, Himself. And as such, the Ten Commandments stand unique and apart from the “Law of Moses” in a number of ways.
Firstly, the Law of Moses, a.k.a The Mosaic Law, separately followed the giving of the Covenant (the Ten Commandments) and was dictated directly to Moses by God apart and away from the presence of the people of Israel! Secondly, the commandments, statutes, ordinances and instructions dictated to Moses at that time were written down by the perishable hand of Moses onto perishable parchment into a book with pen and ink. Therefore, signifying a temporary condition as the hand and materials used and the “handwriting” of that Law, itself, would one day pass away -- very much unlike the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, which were written by the eternal hand of God on imperishable stone!
The New Testament reveals to us in many ways and places what was the purpose of the Law of Moses; and that purpose, of course, was to foretell and illustrate via commands, statutes, ordinances, actions and duties of the Mosaic Law the coming of the Messiah, who he would be, what he would do and how he would do it to deal with the matter of sin and to declare the coming kingdom of God to all of God’s elect. Moreover, God’s Ten Commandments on stone tablets were to be kept within the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:16) as a record of the bond between God and His bride (the ark in John Wesley’s way of thinking also representing the Body of Christ). The book of the law, the Mosaic Law, was to be kept outside of the Ark of the Covenant to stand as a witness against us (Deuteronomy 31:26).
It is not the intent of this essay at this time to explore the particular meanings, actions and intents of various aspects of the Mosaic Law. That will likely be done at another time. What is the intent of this essay is to clearly illustrate that the Law of God, a.k.a the Ten Commandments, and the Mosaic Law are two separate, distinct utterances of God with two very separate and distinct purposes. So, it can be plainly seen that the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, indeed divine wedding vows, are permanent and eternal -- just as human wedding vows are to be for the life of the wedded. And, all the while the Mosaic Law was, by design, temporary and intended, itself, to be “nailed to the cross” coming to its end as its purpose was complete at the final and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, himself.
In some weeks it will be published on this website the conclusion of this series of essays on the nature, purpose and timeliness of God’s holy day, the Seventh Day Sabbath, as revealed in the Fourth Commandment and personified in the person of Christ, Jesus.
More to come...