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Sabbath in the Old Testament

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Let’s try again, to make some simple Old Testament observations around the Sabbath day.

The first actual mention of the word rendered “Sabbath” is in Exodus, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God was feeding them with manna.

Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. - Exodus 16:25

On the Sabbath – there was no new manna and the manna from the day before stayed fresh. God was careful to create a culture in which it was necessary to stop the normal day to day tasks and give the day to different things.

Yesterday, we talked about God sanctifying the Sabbath, and today we see that it was, in deed, set apart from other days, because you had to have a different routine. If you had not gathered two days worth of manna on the 6th day, you would be hungry on the Sabbath.

See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." - Exodus 16:29

A little further down the page we read that the Sabbath was given to them. The Sabbath was a gift. I suppose there have been those through the years who have looked askance at this particular gift, but it is none the less, a gift.

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 of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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. - Exodus 20:8-11

There were plenty of things that God gave to the people before He gave the law, but not all of them got into the top 10 list. The keeping of the Sabbath is the fourth commandment.

God made it holy, and Israel was commanded to keep it holy.

In his retelling of the law in Deuteronomy 5 Moses adds this bit about Egypt

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. - Deuteronomy 5:15

Here we get the sense that the Lord is saying, remember the days when you were slaves, and had to work seven days a week for your masters. Now you have been rescued from those evil masters, and as an remembrance and thanks for the one who brought you out of slavery, stop your work for one day every week.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. - Exodus 31:12-13

Next we see that the Sabbath is not only intended to be kept holy or separate from all other days, but the observance of the Sabbath was intended to be a sign between God and Israel which set it apart from all other nations.

I live in Bergen County, New Jersey, in fact the next town over is the famous Paramus, New Jersey. It is famous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the invention of the shopping mall. I believe the Garden State Plaza was the first shopping mall in the world. But more notable is the fact that though it may well have more major shopping malls than any other town in the country, it also has the most strict blue laws in the nation.

This from Wikipedia:

Bergen County in New Jersey is notable for their blue laws banning the sale of clothing, shoes, furniture, home supplies and appliances on Sundays kept through county-wide referendum. Paramus, New Jersey has its own blue laws even more strict than the county itself, banning any type of worldly employment on Sundays except necessity items such as food and gasoline. Wikipedia: Blue Laws

So then Paramus, New Jersey is set apart from all other shopping destinations on Sunday’s. By the way, it is wonderful to drive on the State Highways in Bergen County on Sundays. Hurray for blue laws!

For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. - Leviticus 23:3

On the Sabbath there was supposed to be a convocation or meeting, assembly, or the word can even mean reading – such as a public reading of the Word of God.

Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. - Leviticus 24:8

God’s intention is for this sanctified day to be remembered as long as time is kept.

There is a very serious story in Numbers about a man caught breaking the Sabbath:

Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. ... So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. ... "It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, - Numbers 15:32, 36, 39

As we get to the prophets, and as Israel slides further and further away from Father, we have some strong words to consider:

Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. - Isaiah 1:13

God is nauseated by the celebration of Sabbath when it was polluted, and not kept holy.

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, - Isaiah 58:13

Rather than a holy convocation, it became a day to do their own pleasure, or to continue to work and pad there pockets. [Tweet This] They did not stop and honor the God who gave them the power to be free, the power to get wealth. They simply went about their business, and tipped their hats to God on the Sabbath day, and it made God sick.

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. - Ezekiel 22:26

I do pray Lord, that I would be found doing your pleasure, everyday, Sabbath included.

Ben NelsonI must ask you to come back tomorrow. Remember, we live in a New Covenant, and I promise there is some good news coming, but for today, this is enough.

See you tomorrow

Ben

10 thoughts on “Sabbath in the Old Testament

    1. Ben Nelson

      Hi Heidi, Thanks for stopping by, and thank you so much for your encouragement. come back Wednesday, this Sabbath study gets really good when Jesus weighs in.

      Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      i am always amazed that they are still standing - between that and the fact that you don't have to get out of your car to get gas (not to mention the cheap price of gas) Northern NJ is not too bad

      Reply

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