Special days are nothing new. Not by any means, when one considers the need most of us have to celebrate and commemorate—yes, and even to vegetate!
We love to celebrate our children’s birthdays and those of our friends and loved ones. What would childhood be without balloons, candles and plenty of gifts to unwrap? We also commemorate heroic people, events and happenings. So many have done so much to ensure the safety and well-being of our nation. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and have laid down their lives with gallantry. We honor them and miss them, so we set aside days to enter into a spirit of national pride and thanksgiving in a gesture of united patriotism.
And where would we be were it not for the men and women who have forged new pathways of hope for future generations? Men like Martin Luther King Jr., who defied great resistance because he had a dream that all people are equal in the eyes of God. Little wonder our nation consecrated a day in his honor–a day to remember. A day to give thanks. A day to listen and learn. A day, perhaps, to refocus, reanalyze and rejuvenate what ought to be.
God told us to “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8), not because He needed a break from the work of creation but, rather, because He had us in mind. I think He wanted us to know that our worship of Him is not a suggestion. God created us to be unique and purposeful. And the issue of worship lay at the heart of His divine purpose for us.
This commandment brings God, Jesus, Moses and man into focus. God occupies our prime consideration because He did what only He could do in the very act of creation. The Book of Genesis rolls out God’s sequence of creation and provides the first clue concerning His divine order. God is the God of order. And out of this order comes the need for people to stop and consider all that He has done. This “consideration” is the very act of worship itself. And just as the Lord Jesus led us in every way through His example on Earth, so the Father leads us by stipulating a definite time and day to stop and worship Him.
God’s command to keep the Sabbath was not in any way meant to suggest that worship should be relegated to one day a week. Every day is God’s day. Every minute is God’s minute, because there is never a moment when God is not fully engaged in the lives of those for whom Christ died.
But as God looked on the people Moses was leading, He knew them intimately. After all, He had created them in intricate detail. He had “woven” them and “knit” them together–each individual, one stitch at a time. And He knows the heart of man. Moses was simply the mediator between God and His creation–and God knew full well that people could never live up to this commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.
And so, when Jesus Christ came to Earth, He came not to replace this law, but rather to fulfill it. Moses does not run the believer’s life. If he did, then the believer would be subject to the legal interpretation of the law and would, in fact, fail to meet God’s standards and would sin in His sight.
Jesus is the One to whom we must look for a clear understanding of this commandment. If Jesus came to fulfill the law, consider what He did. On Thursday, He went to the garden of His betrayal. In complete obedience to the Father, Jesus drank the cup of His suffering and went to the cross–thereby taking on Himself the sin of the world. On Friday, He hung on the cross. Satan must have been “licking his chops” with satisfaction at the thought of having killed the Messiah. On Saturday, Jesus lay in the grave.
But on Sunday, everything came to life. The stone was rolled away and our Savior stepped forth in majestic glory, having been raised from the dead by the power of God. That same day, believers came to the tomb with the intention of anointing His body with spices. On that day they saw the empty tomb and heard Jesus speak. On that day Jesus presented Himself to them. On that day they ran and shared the Good News with others.
On that day they brought their friends to see this for themselves. On that day Jesus appeared to His friends on the road to Emmaus. On that day He talked with them and walked with them. On that day their eyes were opened and they knew that He was “the way, the truth, and the life.” On that day they cooked food and ate with Him. On that day He taught them, and they went on their way rejoicing because they had been in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and had worshiped Him.
What a day! A day of worship. A day of remembrance. A day of witness. A day of giving. A day of identification. A day of instruction and learning. A day of rejoicing. Jesus showed us what to do about this special day. He showed us what to expect and how to act.
There are varying viewpoints regarding specifically when the Sabbath should be observed. Messianic Jews and some other believers observe the traditional Jewish “Shabbat”–sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. A majority of evangelicals regard Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” on which churches hold their primary worship services, in keeping with the day of Jesus’ resurrection. And others believe the point is to set aside one day per week–any day–to rest and focus on the Lord.
We must be careful about this special day. Yes, indeed, every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before. Every day is cause for worship, just as every day is another opportunity for someone to place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and be saved.
Here’s the bottom line. God took time out from His labor and He told us to do the same thing. He also instructed us to “keep this day holy.” Perhaps some serious reflection is in order.
©2013 Don Wilton
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.