The Purpose of the Sabbath

The word “Sabbath” means “rest.” In the Old Testament, it was the last day of the week, on which the Lord commanded the people of Israel to do no work, but to remember that he created all things (Ex. 20:9-11) and he delivered them from Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15). The Sabbath is not just about ceasing work. But when we take a break from work, according to God’s command, that action confesses that, just as God created all things in six days, he still takes care of his creation, including you and me. He will still provide for us if we stop laboring for a day. And in Deuteronomy 5:15, the Lord explicitly commanded his people what they should do: remember the Lord’s salvation. Remembering the two great truths of creation and redemption truly brings rest to our souls.

The Israelites fell into error when they misinterpreted the Sabbath command as something they had to keep in order to please God. They saw God’s commandments as an opportunity to obtain righteousness. This created a burden that God did not intend to lay on them. So with the Sabbath command, they turned it into a burden instead of a gift.

Jesus corrected this in his ministry. He often performed miracles on the Sabbath day. Sometimes the synagogue rulers became angry with him for doing this, thinking that healing people was too much work for the Sabbath day. But Jesus was restoring the ancient concept that we receive rest from him on the Sabbath day.

Consider Luke 4:31-37. In the synagogue, on the Sabbath day, Jesus released a man from an unclean demon. What rest Jesus gave the man! Can you imagine anything more restful than being freed from a demon? And how did Jesus do it? Through his word. He said, “Be silent and come out of him!” (4:35). The Word of Jesus gave this man rest. And it still does for us.

God invites us to gather as his people. He still gives us rest through his Word. In his Word, God instructs us how we should live. More than anything, he declares peace to us through Jesus’ blood. This gives eternal rest to our souls. We gather, not to earn points with God, but because God desires to serve us here. He gives rest to our souls by forgiving our sins. He revives our weary hearts through his gracious Word and the body and blood of Jesus.

The peace of Christ be with you all,

Pastor Dan