“If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)
“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… 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…”(Exodus 20:8-11).
From olden days, we have the custom of the seven-day system in Korea. For example, to keep something holy for God or to do something important, we choose the day, called the first seventh day, third seventh day or seventh seventh day and so on.
But we have adapted the western custom, and nowadays follow the week system. Moreover, according to it, we don’t work on Sunday after we accepted use the solar calendar. It became more widespread after Christianity was introduced to Korea and Sunday was kept as a day for divine worship. Therefore Sunday is a very important and joyous day for modern people to rest and relax.
But there are few people who know the origin of Sunday. Some Christian churches have their divine worship on Sunday. Others have theirs on Saturday. Most people dont understand what the difference is between them. So lets learn about the week system and the origin of the Sabbath.
The week system can be understood as a part of the calendar, but it is not related to the movement of a celestial body, the sun or the moon. The solar and lunar systems were made by observing the movement of the sun and the moon and each term was just 24 divisions of a year. But the seven-day system has nothing with them. It is strange that we think it a part of the calendar. According to the Great Britain Encyclopedia, A week is a period of seven days, a unit of time artificially devised with no astronomical basis. The origin of the term is generally associated with the ancient Jews and the biblical account of the Creation, according to which God laboured for six days and rested on the seventh. Evidence indicates, however, that the Jews may have borrowed the idea of the week from Mesopotamia. According to Genesis, the one who made the week system and ordered us to rest on the seventh day is God. It is said in Genesis chapter 2, “thus the heavens and the earth were completed in their entire vast array. 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 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done“(Genesis 2:3-5).
The fourth of Ten Commandments says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of 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).
Therefore the Sabbath is a memorial of Creation that God made at the beginning. He commanded us to remember this day and to rest on it. He told us to especially remember it because God had already known that people would forget the meaning of the day.
God prepared the Sabbath so that after we work hard for six days we can rest on the Sabbath day. But it’s not only for rest primarily. Today we need to relax our bodies but those days they didn’t get tired because there was no sin as yet. Though Adam and Eve were perfect creatures they had to rely on God as children do on their parents. They enjoyed their daily lives knowing themselves as just creatures of God and relying on a powerful God for everything. And God loved them sincerely. He wanted them to communicate with him and contemplate the love and wisdom of their Father for one day of the week. “Therefore Sabbath is the day for the relationship between God and human beings. God said this through the prophet Ezekiel; Keep my Sabbaths holy, that it may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God“(Ezekiel 20:20).
It means that Sabbath is a sign that God made us holy as His children. By keeping the Sabbath holy, we can be the precious children of God and God can be our Holy Father. Sabbath was the day of blessing from the beginning. Moreover, in this complicated and noisy world, how can we make our lives plentiful and more fulfilling but by keeping the Sabbath holy? What a beautiful scene it is when the whole family goes to church and contemplates Gods word together! If we had lived with doing that, there would be no skeptics or atheists. And there would be no horrible things that happened to those who are not afraid of God.
Those who believe in God sincerely have distinguished the Sabbath as a holy day. But there was a time when even the Israelites, the chosen people forgot this Holy day. It was those days when they were mistreated in Egypt. Therefore God lead them from Egypt through Moses in order for them to teach God’s word and commandments to their descendants. They wandered for 40 years, dwelling in the wilderness. In Exodus chapter 16, it is recorded that God gave the Israelites manna, a kind of bread, and He used it to show three miracles every week. The first was that, they could have manna for six days but not on the seventh day. The second was that, if manna that was gathered for the first five days was left until the next day, it spoiled. However, the two portions of manna that were gathered for the seventh day never spoiled; which was the third miracle.
Some people went to gather Manna on the Sabbath; but they came back with nothing. At that time God said, “how long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?“(Exodus 16:28). And when He gave them Manna, He said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions“(Exodus 16:4). The Sabbath was a test of His people’s faithfulness.
A few warnings about the Sabbath were given to the Israelites throughout the ages. The most serious one was the warning of Jeremiah when he said they would be captured and destroyed by Babylon. “But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses“(Jeremiah 17:24, 25, 27).
The rise and fall of the country depended on whether Israel kept the Sabbath holy or not. But they ignored the warning so Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and the people were captured as slaves. At the end of their 70 years of slavery, some of them still didn’t keep the Sabbath. Therefore Nehemiah said, “In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, What is this wicked thing you are doing-desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath”(Nehemiah 13:15, 17, 18).
Nehemiah thought all those things happened because they didn’t keep the Sabbath holy. So he closed the gates of Jerusalem to prevent people from going in and out. After that Jewish rabbis made the detailed rules to keep Sabbath more efficiently. For example, the people of that time couldn’t have a piece of clothing or a needle with them or couldn’t have a handkerchief in their pockets on Sabbath and so on. This way, the people came to keep the Sabbath as a matter of form and it became just an uncomfortable and difficult day for them.
When it comes to the New Testament Age, Jesus showed a sample with manifest opinion about the Sabbath. He had the divine worship at the synagogue on Sabbath according to the rule. And He said this to change their misconceptions. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”(Mark 2:27, 28). Actually because of the 39 rules and other detailed things, the Sabbath was a burden to them. But Jesus is the one who made the Sabbath at the Creation and the Sabbath belongs to him. So the seventh day that he kept is the real Sabbath and the way he kept it is the right way to keep it.
One day people asked Jesus this question in an attempt to accuse him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus replied, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”(Matthew 12:11, 12).
But it didn’t mean that we can disregard the Sabbath. He also gave them this encouragement to be ready for the destruction of Israel that would happen 40 years later.
“Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath”(Matthew 24:20).
We can know how he thought of keeping the Sabbath when we see this phrase. Therefore a person who insists that the Sabbath was changed or abolished by Jesus is far from the teaching of Jesus. Luke recorded; The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (Luke 23:55,56, 54)
The great Apostle Paul also recorded, As his custom was, “Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures”(Acts 17:2). “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God”(Acts 18:4, 11). Like this, Paul kept the Sabbath holy wherever he traveled all the time and tried hard to teach people to keep it.
Therefore the Sabbath that Jesus and His disciples kept and that the apostle Paul kept and that Jews have been keeping until today is Saturday. So, why do the Christian churches keep Sunday as a God’s day? It’s not a simple question nor is its answer. We will study it in the following lesson.