The Sabbath: In the Beginning

Professor Alexandre de Araújo
March 8, 2017
In the beginning... The Lord's day was established as a memorial of creation

In the beginning...

The Lord's day was established as a memorial of creation

 

Some Christians think that the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is a divine institution that should only be obeyed by the people of Israel. They believe that Christians who live in the new covenant are free from observing this day as sacred. However, the Bible makes it very clear that the Sabbath was instituted at the creation of the world many years before the formation of the Israelite nation. Jesus made this plain when He said that "the Sabbath was established for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). The wise man, Solomon, closed the book Ecclesiastes with the following words: "This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man."(Ecclesiastes 12:13). He emphasizes that the commandments of God are for all and not just for a specific people. The Sabbath was instituted as a blessing to humankind, not just for the Hebrews.

 

The Holy Scriptures clearly teach that the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week of the creation of the world. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day and the following full 24-hour day was God's rest day. But if the Sabbath is a day of rest, what works did our first parents do to be able to rest on this first day? None, they rested from the works that God had done for them. The Lord had prepared the world for them and now they were to enjoy this divine gift. The holy Sabbath was the time they had to observe God's creation and to realize how everything God had done was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

 

The days of creation are literal

In the desire to try to harmonize science with religion, some Bible students say that the days of creation were not literal 24-hour days. But the account written by God through Moses does not allow us to say this. He reveals that each day was composed of an afternoon and morning, that is, a light part and a dark part, day and night (Genesis 1:5, 6, 13, 19, 23, 31). If the days of creation involve geological ages spanning millions of years, how did the vegetation, created on the third day, manage to survive without the sun, which appears only on the fourth day? When God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses, the fourth commandment explicitly states that the days of creation were 24-hour periods: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Exodus 20: 8-11). God commands us to do as He did. Man works six literal days to rest on the seventh, just as God did at creation.

 

The Sabbath at Creation

The first biblical reference to the holy Sabbath is in Genesis 2:2, 3: "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made." This passage says that the Lord placed three blessings on the Sabbath. He rested, then blessed, and finally sanctified the seventh day. This divine attitude made the Sabbath a day set apart from the other days of the week.

 

He rested, not as a weary God, for "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding," (Isaiah 40:28). God concluded His creation on the sixth day and left the seventh to contemplate what He had done. On this day He arrived at the conclusion that everything was very good: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good," (Genesis 1:31). This pause in His creative activities served as an example for humanity. God rested on this day, and we must do the same. In today's consumerist and materialistic world, people do not have time for a break in their tight schedules. The Sabbath rest is a blessing. The person observing this day will have a moment to rest from his or her activities and recharge emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The Sabbath teaches us that we do not live to work, but that we must work to live. This blessed day reminds us that there are more important things in life than just earning our living. 

 

God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. The researcher Alberto R. Timm comments on this triple emphasis of the sacred day with the following words:

 

"The Edenic origin of the Sabbath is confirmed by God resting on that day, as well as His blessing and sanctifying it (Gen. 2:2, 3). By resting on the Sabbath, God provided an example for His creatures. By blessing that day, He has made it a channel of blessing to them. And, in sanctifying the Sabbath, He separated it for sacred use. This threefold act confirms that God instituted the Sabbath for the benefit of mankind."1

 

References:

1Translated from original text found in:

TIM, Alberto R. O sábado na Bíblia. Tatuí, SP: Casa Publicadora Brasileira, 2010, p. 25.