God Almighty is a Creator. In six days, He re-created the heavens and the Earth—establishing the night and day, filling the Earth with all manner of life, and giving man dominion over all of it.
The seventh day, however, was different. On that day, the great God of the universe ceased from His activity and made a different type of creation. On that day, God and the Word rested, creating the Sabbath day.
Most do not realize that the Sabbath is as much a part of creation as the Earth itself. God created it, and He made it holy. He created the Sabbath for a special reason. So we must ask ourselves: How effectively do we keep the Sabbath day? How do we spend the time leading up to this holy part of the week? Do we truly understand the Sabbath and God’s command to keep this time holy? Let’s examine the biblical instructions regarding God’s Sabbath so that we can learn to keep it holy.
The Creation of the Sabbath
1. How did God create the Sabbath? Genesis 2:1-3.
After finishing the re-creation of the Earth and the creation of man, God rested on the seventh day. He set His special blessing upon this day, setting it apart to be different from the other days.
2. Why did God create the Sabbath? Whom did He have in mind when He created it? Mark 2:27-28.
Remember, God had created man only the day before. Mankind was on God’s mind; He wanted to give man every possible chance He could to make sure he was successful. The Sabbath was made for man—for you and me—and put under the direction of the living Christ. Keeping the Sabbath holy is a serious responsibility, connected to the very purpose of our existence.
Prepare for the Sabbath
1. What is God’s specific command about preparing for the Sabbath? Exodus 20:8-9.
God commands us to remember the Sabbath. The Hebrew word translated “remember” means “to be mindful of, or “to think on”—which should be done throughout the week: Before the Sabbath ever arrives, God commands us to prepare for it by working for six days. Just as God worked, we must work. That way, the Sabbath is a literal day of rest! One of the reasons the Sabbath is such a delight is that God allows us to rest and recover from our week’s activities.
2. In ancient Israel, what was a specific way in which the Israelites were to prepare for the Sabbath? Exodus 16:4-5, 22-23. Would they be able to gather any manna on the seventh day? Verse 26.
The Israelites were commanded to gather a double portion of manna on the day before the Sabbath because it would allow them to rest on God’s Sabbath. God required that they do this—if they didn’t gather double on Friday, they would not be able to eat on the Sabbath.
In commanding this, God gave the Israelites a specific day of preparation for the Sabbath. More than just working throughout the week, God wanted the Israelites to work extra hard on the sixth day. This ensured that everything was set in order for the Sabbath. Thus, from Thursday at sunset to Friday at sunset is the preparation day.
There are physical duties that must be done on the Sabbath, such as serving food. But we should do all that we can to utilize the preparation day before the Sabbath so that when God’s holy time arrives, we are not bogged down by such activities. Lesson 24 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course (1985 edition) states, “Christians today should plan to have their work completed before sunset on the evening of the sixth day (Friday). The house should be cleaned, the dishes washed, and any heavy cooking or baking done before sunset so that the entire family can begin the Sabbath in an atmosphere of rest and worship—that it may be a day truly kept holy to God!”
If there is something you can do on the preparation day that will allow you to keep the Sabbath more fully, do it! Remember, God finished everything in those six days.
3. If the Israelites gathered extra manna at any other point in the week, would it stay good overnight? Verses 16-20.
Normally, manna spoiled if the Israelites left it overnight. On the Sabbath, however, God miraculously preserved it. God performed this miracle every week for 40 years. Certainly, the Israelites should have had no question as to when the Sabbath was to be kept or how serious this time was to God—their ability to eat depended on it.
Keep the Sabbath Holy
1. Does God ever get tired or need to sleep? Isaiah 40:28. Why, then would He desire a day of rest? Exodus 31:16-17.
God desired the Sabbath day because it is a sign. The Sabbath identifies God’s people! One reason the 10 tribes of Israel lost their identity—why they cannot be readily identified by the world today—is that they no longer kept God’s Sabbath. They assimilated into the culture of their Assyrian captors, and they no longer had the distinguishing custom of keeping the Sabbath to separate them from the rest of the world. Our keeping of the Sabbath in this end time identifies us to God as His people. It is a sign of who we are—and who God is!
God also desired the Sabbath day because it refreshed Him. It allowed Him to reflect on His awesome plan, and it rejuvenated Him spiritually. We also should be refreshed and rejuvenated by this day as we strive to keep it holy.
2. How do we keep something holy? Exodus 3:5.
God commanded Moses to stop and remove his sandals because the ground he walked on was holy. Moses had to behave in a special way because the ground was set apart for holy use by God. The Sabbath is also set apart for holy use, and we must walk according to God’s instructions to properly keep it holy!
3. Does God consider it profane to violate His Sabbath? Ezekiel 22:26. And if we are participating in profane practices, are we servants of righteousness or sin? Romans 6:16.
When we choose between obeying and disobeying God’s Sabbath-day command, we are choosing between the holy and the profane. If we choose to keep the Sabbath, we are servants of righteousness—God’s servants. If we choose to profane the Sabbath, however, we are servants of sin—Satan’s servants. There is no middle ground.
Thus, in order to keep the Sabbath holy, we must choose to obey God’s instructions regarding the Sabbath, and we must obey them wholeheartedly.
4. What, then, are God’s instructions on how to keep the Sabbath? Deuteronomy 5:14; Isaiah 58:13.
Besides commanding us to prepare prior to and rest on the Sabbath, God also tells us that we are not to do our own ways, find our own pleasures, or speak our own words on His Sabbath day. God expects us to find delight in His Sabbath by doing His pleasure and speaking His words. This is not a time to watch sitcoms on Netflix, idly surf the Internet, or pursue our own desires. It is a time to pray, study God’s Word, and reflect on His plan. If we take advantage of the fantastic opportunity God has given us to deepen both our understanding of His plan and our relationship with Him, He will bless us, and we will find pleasure in keeping the Sabbath holy.
5. Are children meant to keep the Sabbath as well? Deuteronomy 6:7.
God commanded the Israelites to teach their children diligently about His way of life—including the Sabbath day. Age is not an excuse for failing to keep the Sabbath. Rather, use your young age to your advantage and establish the proper Sabbath-keeping habits now. Then, when you are older and ready to commit your life to God completely, you will already have a firm foundation in keeping God’s Sabbath holy.
6. Does God command us to go to worship services on the Sabbath? Leviticus 23:3.
A convocation is a commanded assembly. In other words, God commands His people to gather together on the Sabbath whenever possible. Sabbath services are part of God’s holy use for the Sabbath. Thus, going to services is another way that we keep God’s Sabbath day holy! For ancient Israel, this commanded assembly was the focus of their Sabbath.
7. Did Jesus Christ keep the Sabbath? Luke 4:16.
Jesus Christ went to the synagogue and stood up to read on the Sabbath as His custom was. We should follow His example of making this holy convocation the centerpiece of our Sabbath.
If we think on God’s Sabbath, work for six days, really prepare to keep this time holy, and keep the Sabbath as God intends, then it will be a delight to us, and we—like God Himself—will be rejuvenated and refreshed.