Friday, March 11, 2016

The Sabbath: An Examination of Universal Principles and Specific Applications

A Pentateuch Study

J. Davila-Ashcraft

The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament is an all too often ignored issue, perhaps due to the difficulties that arise from undertaking such a study. This brief study is an attempt to address this relationship by focusing on the Sabbath and its role in the life of Christians today. 

The fact of the matter is that much of the New Testament is founded upon the Old Testament. From the prophecies of the coming of Christ, His life, death and resurrection, to the very teachings of Jesus, on down to the theological principles taught by all of the Apostles, the Old Testament is the very fabric from which the tapestry of the New Testament is woven. This fact tells us that what is true in the Old Testament is indeed still true today. We will examine scripture with an eye to discerning the Universal Principles. That is, those principles that are not bound by time, place and circumstance, but rather encompass all times, places and circumstances. These Universal Principles are designed to do so because they are predicated on God's Unchanging Character. Thus these Universal Principles govern the lives of Christians today. Our responsibility is to recognize the difference between something in the Old Testament that is a Specific Application (something designed to be limited by time, place and circumstance), and Universal Principles. It should be noted that all Specific Applications, no matter how harsh they may appear, are rooted in either Love of God, Love of Neighbor, or both simultaneously. 

I. The Sabbath 
The word "sabbath" in Hebrew means "to rest." God commanded the Sabbath to be observed on the seventh day of each week. 

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made." - Genesis 2:2 

"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." - Genesis 2:3 

"For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the SABBATH day, and hallowed it." - Exodus 20:11 

"Remember the SABBATH day, to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8 

"But the seventh day [is] the SABBATH of the LORD thy God:"                          - Exodus 20:10 

II. The Purpose of the Sabbath 

Universal Principle 1: We are only to work for six days and then consecrate the seventh day to rest, as commanded by God. 

"So the people rested on the seventh day." - Exodus 16:30 

"Remember the SABBATH day, to keep it holy."- Exodus 20:8 

"It [shall be] a SABBATH of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever." -Leviticus 16:31 

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."                           - Genesis 2:2 

"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."                                   - Genesis 2:3 

Universal Principle 2: The sabbath is specified as a day of rest in which no servile work is done. 

"Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day [is] the SABBATH of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work [therein]: it [is] the SABBATH of the LORD in all your dwellings." - Leviticus 23:3

"Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed." -Exodus 23:12  

"Ye shall keep the SABBATH therefore; for it [is] holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth [any] work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people."                       - Exodus 31:14 

"Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the SABBATH of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the SABBATH day, he shall surely be put to death." - Exodus 31:15

"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a SABBATH of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. "- Exodus 35:2 

"And he said unto them, This [is that] which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow [is] the rest of the holy SABBATH unto the LORD: bake [that] which ye will bake [today], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."- Exodus 16:23 

III. Specific Applications 
Specific Applications change or may be dispensed with according to time, place and circumstance. We will now examine the Specific Applications from our scripture quotes. 

Specific Application 1: "..whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death."

This Specific Application is designed to teach us how important the sabbath is to God, and how important He considers it for our highest good. This Specific Application is no longer applicable.

Specific Application 2: "...that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed."

This Specific Application is designed to teach us that the sabbath is mandatory for our entire family, and all who live in our household. By extension this would apply to employees under our management. We should not require them to work. This Specific Application is still applicable. 

"In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the SABBATH, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the SABBATH day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals." -Nehemiah 13:15 

Specific Application 3:  "Tomorrow [is] the rest of the holy SABBATH unto the LORD: bake [that] which ye will bake [today], and seethe that ye will seethe."

This application is designed to reinforce the sanctity of the day and its purpose of resting and relaxation. This application was no doubt used as the pretext for the attack on Jesus and the Apostles recorded in Matthew. 

"At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the SABBATH day."  - Matthew 12:1-2 

However, as Jesus tells us in a subsequent connected incident, it is lawful to do good on the sabbath, which would include feeding oneself and doing works of charity and help.

"And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the SABBATH days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the SABBATH day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out?” “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days."- Matthew 12:10-12

In a culture utilizing a Theonomistic law, a law regarding a national day of rest would be clear and easy to esstablish.

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