Insights #11 September 13, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
For the week of September 13, 2014
From my earliest remembrance Sabbath was the highlight of the week, looked forward to with great anticipation. The activities of Friday, the preparation day, only added to the sense that the Day would be special. We had to thoroughly clean the house, a task my dad took very seriously. He'd check the top of all the doorways for dust and all the other highest places he could find. It had to be perfect. After all it was going to be the Sabbath. My little brother would wash the gluten. For on the Sabbath we had gluten, my mom's homemade gluten!
Sadly over the centuries the Sabbath has been vulnerable, attacked because various elements of the Christian Church came to see it as an arbitrary institution. Webster's dictionary defines "arbitrary" as "not regulated by fixed rule or law, capricious, tyrannical, despotic, high-handed and dictatorial. If indeed God was arbitrary when He made the seventh day the Sabbath, then it could be gotten rid of and transferred to a more reasonable day—Sunday. Human reason dating back to just after the dawn of Christianity saw nothing that would designate the seventh day for special honor. But in Genesis we are told that a voice coming not from human reason but from Almighty God "said," and spoke everything that is, into existence, including the Sabbath day. This insight will highlight 4 points (not by any means exhaustive) that agree with our memory text, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath," Mark 2:27, 28. No the Sabbath is not arbitrary.
Genesis chapter 1 records the miraculous account of the story of creation which by
God's evaluation at the end of the sixth day was very good, a very modest evaluation knowing that it was surpassingly beautiful. We read in Genesis chapter 2, "Thus the heavens and the earth and all the host of them were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done." The next verse, verse 3, tells us of the importance of the Sabbath to God and man. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." There are 2 carefully worded pairs in verses 2 & 3 of this chapter. In verse 2 the first word pair, "on the seventh day God finished the work He had done and He rested on the seventh day," is important and will be dealt with later. The second word pair occurs in verse 3." God blessed the seventh day and sanctified or (hallowed) it." This hallowing of the Sabbath has the same import that God's name is hallowed. Both in the Hebrew and Greek hallowed means set apart as something that is due all possible reverence. That is how significant the Sabbath is to God. This second word pair is then an indication that the Sabbath is permanent and by the act of hallowing the seventh day God is announcing that the Divine presence has entered human time. The first point then is this: based on this fact of the entrance of the Divine presence into human time the Sabbath was made holy, sanctified at creation. Here was the day for which all the other days had been made, the pearl of all days. On this day God set His seal of approval. "God had driven the stake of His presence in the soil of human time."
The second point getting at the heart of the 1888 message is the Biblical truth of the Divine initiative that is toward all men and for all men. God has done something for every person on planet earth. It is the character of God to make the first move. The Biblical narrative starts with Genesis, not Exodus telling us that it is universal in scope, for every nation, kindred, tribe, tongue and people. Genesis 2:2 declares that on the 6th day God finished, completed, ended His work, which He had made and rested. Two things to note: 1) God was not tired 2) It was man's first day and Adam had named the animals which would not equate to strenuous work. When the first Sabbath came to earth only God had worked 6 days. "God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" on the 6th day. In a special sense this was God's holy day, God's rest day. In the book of Hebrews God speaks of "My rest" and invites us to enter in. The Sabbath to Adam back then and to us now is symbolic of rest in God. This point is significant. The emphasis in the creation story to Adam and to us is rest. In Exodus the 4th commandment asks us to remember before it asks us to do anything. What we are to remember sets up the meaning of the Sabbath. God sets the Sabbath apart with His presence, His faithfulness, His work on our behalf, His covenant blessings to us before there is any mention of a human response. I've heard too many say that the Sabbath is a test of our obedience to God. However, the Sabbath is the sign of God's faithfulness to us. He who began the work in us is faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6 (see also Eph 2:4, Lam 3:22, 23, 2 Tim 2:13).
Thirdly the Sabbath speaks of God's commitment to redeem His people at any cost to Himself. Embedded in the heart of the Ten Commandments we read this, "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage…observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you…and remember you were a slave in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out form there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" Deut 5: 6, 12 and 15. Israel's deliverance from Egypt was predicated on the sign of the blood of a lamb killed at twilight and some of that blood placed on the two doorposts. The Bible tells us that the people were to take this lamb on the 10th day of that month until the 14th day of the same month then kill it at twilight. According to Stephen N. Haskell in his book The Cross and The Shadow p 97, "The Passover lamb was slain between the two evenings, or about the 9th hour of the day, the great antitypical Lamb, as He hung between Heaven and earth an offering for sinful man, about the 9th hour cried, 'It is finished'". The apostle Paul tells us that "indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us" 1 Cor 5:7. M. L. Andreason writing about the creation, the Sabbath, and redemption in his book Hebrews p.184 & 185 offers this wonderful insight. "The day following the creation of man was the greatest of all days. God understood, of course what the angels but dimly comprehended and man not at all— the meaning and cost of creation. He saw the future. He knew of sin and dark days coming: but He also knew that the supreme step had been taken that would eventuate in the complete vindication of God and the final cleansing of the universe from sin." So Jesus finished His work of redemption on Friday and rested in His finished work on Sabbath. Israel was delivered and redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb and as God was instructing them in the reason for Sabbath observance, He adds to creation, deliverance and redemption. Praise God!
Lastly, we must come to the healing ministry of Jesus on the Sabbath. The lesson gives examples of a man with a withered hand and the man at the pool of Bethesda "who had an infirmity thirty-eight years" who were healed on the Sabbath. But the story that has gripped me most is the one recorded in Luke chapter 13. Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. He happened to look up at the right moment and arresting His attention, calling out His deepest sympathies was a "woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up". Jesus overcome, could not help Himself, "He called her to Him and said to her, 'Woman, you are loosed form your infirmity.'" Then the Bible says He touched her, "He laid His hands on her." Of course the rulers in the synagogue were beside themselves but it's Jesus response to them that reveals the Divine heart towards lost suffering humanity. Verse 16—"So ought not this woman being a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound— think of it, eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" In Genesis chapter 3 serious questions are raised about the character of the One who is altogether lovely. From that time till the present time the great controversy has been raging. We have been bound by Satan whether by disease, some suffering, or by sin. We were bent over and could in no way raise ourselves up. We could not even make a move toward the remedy. So Jesus Christ, not being able to stay in the glories of heaven while we were bound, came to earth and bound Himself to Humanity with chords that are never to be broken. Matthew says, "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses." He was touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Sickness, disease, and suffering manifested in those He created constantly reminded Him of the price of sin, and on the Sabbath day like no other He engaged in the work of healing and redemption. When Jesus began His ministry, He was in the synagogue, stood up to read, and chose as His introduction of Himself and His ministry, Is 61
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
On the Sabbath like no other day Jesus confirmed His commitment to humanity. He is present with us in our suffering. He is Immanuel, God with us. No, the Sabbath is not arbitrary.
1888 concepts in the Sabbath
1) The Divine initiative— It is in the character of God to make the first move.
2) The good news of the gospel is universal in its reach. Jesus died for every man and has redeemed by His blood the race of mankind. We now stand on vantage ground in Christ.
3) Jesus is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, made like His brethren.