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 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 facts are laid out, the evidence is overwhelming that God’s holy day is the 7th day of the week. But at some point, the Sabbath day has to become something more than just facts that weigh in favor of my Christian observance.
You see, there is this problem that God has. He gave us His law, which includes the Sabbath-day, and He gave it to us on tables of stone written by His own finger. However, stone is never really where those laws were intended to reside. In fact when they are outside of us, they only condemn or judge us and show us our sin problem and I might add, they do this pretty well.
But let’s get back to what God really wants to do. He needs/wants to put His Law of Love and Freedom into the hearts of sinful man and He has to accomplish this without violating our freedom of choice. When you think about it, it seems an almost impossible task; but we know that with God all things are possible.
Do you doubt that this is actually God’s desire? 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.
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.
Why does God ask that day of me?
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 the Sabbath-day 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 the Sabbath-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 where it condemned everyone) killed Him for it. The very law which Christ kept perfectly…lovingly…is the law which killed Him when wrongly kept.
Being a keeper of the law means much more than obedience. In fact obedience is only a small part of what it means to be a “keeper”…
keep – shâmar
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”. The question is asked, “Can a leopard change his spots?” No, but the One who created the leopard can change the thing that He made in the first place.
Proving It or Living It to Prove It?
So, what does God want me to do on the Sabbath-day? I know that I’m not supposed to 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 from us on the Sabbath-day…
Isaiah 58:5-10 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…
- Live for others!
- Do good to those who persecute you!
- Set the captives free!
- Feed the hungry and clothe the naked!
- Visit those in prison and give them hope!
…and do it because God’s Law of Love is written on your hearts – where it always belonged. This is living it to prove it. This is keeping the Sabbath.