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What happened to the Lord’s Day
Lesson 33
page 1 of 2

I said to their children in the desert, “Do not follow the statutes of your fathers or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” But the children rebelled against me: they did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws – although the man who obeys them will live by them – and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the desert.

                -Ezekiel 20:18-21

Most Christians believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the day appointed to worship God. However, since World War II, the observance of Sunday as a holy day in the United States has changed significantly. Yes, Church bells still ring and people still go to church on Sunday morning, but Sunday afternoon has become a different story. If Sunday is the Lord’s Day, why doesn’t the observance of the Lord’s Day last all day? For many people, Sunday has become a holiday instead of a holy day. Does God really care what we do on His holy day? Does He care if we work, go shopping, conduct business, wash the car, watch the TV, mow the lawn, clean out the garage, attend ball games or go skiing? The answer to these and the other questions about the Lord’s Day are found in the Bible. So, let us take a look.

The First Lord’s Day

After six days of work, Jesus created something very special. He created the seventh day. His crowning act at Creation was a gift to man. (Mark 2:27,28)   Jesus gave the Sabbath to man and He made it a sign of allegiance between man and God. (Exodus 31:16-17) His action, of course, makes the Sabbath as old as the world itself. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3) Contrary to what many people say, God did not make all seven days of the week holy. According to the Bible, the Lord made one day of the week holy. Webster says the word holy means to set apart or make unique. For example, when a couple gets married, their union becomes holy and they are “set apart” from the dating crowd. In like manner, at the time of creation, God “set apart” the seventh day of the week and made it unique from the other six days. The Bible says that God rested on the seventh day from His work of creating, blessed the seventh day and made it holy. If Jesus made the seventh day holy by resting from His labors on the seventh day, what do you think Adam and Eve did on the Sabbath? Consider this statement: There is a direct link between observing the Lord’s Day and exalting the Lord. If the Lord’s Day is not faithfully observed, subsequent generations will soon forget the authority of God. Review the opening text in this study and you will understand this important point: When the worship of God is compromised, the authority of God is lost. This point is easily demonstrated throughout the Bible. Both the antediluvians and Israel refused to worship god according to His commandments and they ended up in total rebellion against their Maker. (See 2 Peter 2 and 3; Jeremiah 25 and Ezekiel 20.) If history proves anything, it proves how quickly respect for God is lost. For example, there are ten generations between Adam’s creation and the flood. Do you think the tenth generation antediluvians doubted Noah when he told them God was going to destroy the world with a flood?

Is the Lord’s Day Optional?

In the United States, Christians overlook the sacredness of the Lord’s Day. This is a mystery since God elevated the significance of the seventh day to the same level as nine other commandments. Think about it. The Sabbath commandment is one of the Ten Commandments. In God’s sight, the Sabbath commandment is just as moral, just as binding and obligatory as the sixth commandment which says, “Thou shall not kill.” It is ironic that men will put a murderer to death, but think nothing of breaking the fourth commandment. This phenomenon occurs because God has given man the concept of government. (Romans 13:1-4) Man governs man. Is murder a serious crime because it violates the right of another person to live or because it is a violation of the sixth commandment? The answer is “yes” to both questions. Then the next question to be asked is, what about the Sabbath? Is the fourth commandment optional? Is the sixth commandment optional? Israel’s history confirms the fact that when His chosen people forgot to observe the Lord’s Day, it was only a matter of time until the nation was in complete rebellion regarding God’s supreme authority! Jesus spoke the words found in Ezekiel 20 while the nation of Israel remained in rebellion and consequently, in Babylonian captivity.

The Sabbath Brought into Focus

About eight hundred years after the flood, God sent Moses back to Egypt to lead Abraham’s descendants out of slavery. As a condition for deliverance from slavery, God required the slaves to rest from their weekly labor on the seventh day of the week. GodNaturally, every ’s demands were bittersweet. slave welcomed a day of rest. Even more, every Hebrew in Goshen wanted to be delivered from Egyptian bondage. But after Israel kept their first Sabbath, Pharaoh realized he was losing control over the Hebrews. To regain the upper hand, Pharaoh required the slaves to produce the same quota of bricks in six days that they had been producing in seven. On top of this, Pharaoh increased their workload and required them to gather all the necessary straw as well! This unreasonable demand pushed the Hebrews beyond their physical ability. Failure to meet quota provided Pharaoh the “license” he wanted to beat the Hebrews into submission. The consequence for obeying God caused the Hebrews to suffer unmercifully since it was not possible to meet Pharaoh’s demand for bricks. This Sabbath “rest test” put the Hebrews in a very difficult position.

A Rest on the Seventh Day?

Some scholars have proposed that the work stoppage by Moses and Aaron was to observe God’s seventh day Sabbath. Although the Bible does not specifically say that the slaves were required to observe the seventh day Sabbath, I believe this issue can be resolved by reviewing four texts:

From the creation of the world to the end of the Exodus, the Bible identifies one day of rest, the seventh day of the week. (Genesis 2:2,3) By divine decree, the seventh day Sabbath enjoys preeminence above all other days of the week. Jesus did not complete creating the world until the seventh day Sabbath was established and “set apart.” The continued presence of the seventh day (causing a weekly cycle of seven days) confirms this point.

The language Pharaoh uses indicates that Moses and Aaron had called on Israel to rest from their labor. The word of Pharaoh in Exodus 5:5, “You make them rest from their labor” (KJV) or “You are stopping them from working” (NIV) reveals two points. First, Pharaoh blames Moses and Aaron for causing the slaves to “rest” from labor by emphasizing “You …”Second, the word Pharaoh used for the rest is Shabbat (Strong’s #7673). This is the same word and idea expressed in Genesis 2:2 when God “rested” or ceased from His creative works on the seventh day. To suggest that Moses and Aaron required the Hebrews to rest from their labor on any other day of the week other than God’s holy day would be inconsistent with God’s declaration about the seventh day of Creation and the Sabbath day “manna test” that transpired shortly after the Exodus. (Exodus 16)

The Bible indicates that God tested Israel with the observance of His seventh day rest before He spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. (See Exodus 16.) This proves two interesting concepts: First, Israel knew about God’s seventh day rest before Jesus spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai; and second, by withholding manna on the Sabbath further confirmed the importance and holiness of the seventh day before Jesus spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. Given God’s consistent behavior, we can conclude that God’s regard for the holiness of the seventh day did not change between Creation and the Exodus, a period of about 2,500 years.

When the Lord spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai, He expressly commanded a cessation from work on the seventh day of the week. The fourth commandment begins with, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) If the observance of the seventh day Sabbath was a new concept codified in the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai as some scholars argue, why does the fourth commandment refer back to the original Sabbath day that took place at the creation of the world? The fourth commandment emphasizes the holiness placed upon the seventh day of the week at the time of Creation! Notice: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, 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 20:11)

When these four texts are aligned, we can be safe in saying that Moses and Aaron caused the Hebrews to stop working on the seventh day. The Sabbath rest infuriated Pharaoh and he began persecuting the Hebrews. The actions of the Israelites and Pharaoh confirm the thorny presence of a Sabbath rest test before the Exodus. The holiness of the seventh day of the week did not begin at Mt. Sinai as many people claim. Instead, the holiness of God’s seventh day began at Creation and the patriarchs and elders who walked and talked with god honored the Creator’s holy day.

Evidently, Moses and Aaron told the Hebrew elders that deliverance from Egyptian bondage would only be possible if they put complete faith in God. Abraham’s offspring were required to live by faith. They had to obey the higher laws of God in order to receive His deliverance. Israel’s faith was to be tested and the test centered on observing God’s Sabbath. Would Israel recognize the higher authority of His law by disobeying the laws of Pharaoh? A person’s faith in God is revealed when there is both an obedience and disobedience penalty. If the Hebrews obeyed God, they received the wrath of Pharaoh. If the Hebrews obeyed Pharaoh, they would receive the wrath of God. The elders of Israel were afraid of God’s wrath and begged Pharaoh to let them go out into the desert and obtain reconciliation with God saying,  “‘. Or He, ‘they said, ‘may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’” (Exodus 5:3)

Observing the Lord’s Day

If the Holy Spirit brings conviction to a person’s heart about the seventh day Sabbath and that it should be honored, a common question arises. “How do I observe the Sabbath?” Examining the fourth commandment and investigating the intent of the law determine the answer to this question. Fortunately, the Bible offers some good insight on observing the Lord’s Day.

Since sin began, the fourth commandment has stood in direct opposition to the ways of the world. For young and old alike, observing God’s Sabbath produces conflicts with family, friends, work, entertainment, recreation and shopping. However, the beauty of the fourth commandment can be observed through the act of obeying God, when man exalts the demands of God above the demands of this world. The world runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any rest. This was not God’s intention for His created beings. God created the Sabbath and He commanded rest on the seventh day each week for man’s benefit! When we rest according to the commandment, we admit and submit to the authority of our Creator. When we choose to obey Jesus, we are making a statement. We say to the world, “I love God’s law more than anything the world has to offer.” The commandment says: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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)

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