The Ten Commandments, Part IX – The Sabbath is a Delight

For many people, the Sabbath is a time to dwell upon those things for which they think they do not otherwise have time, and it seems that their thoughts are upon everything but that upon which they should be dwelling. We can be sanctified through Sabbath observance only if we are dwelling on sacred themes. If we are only observing a 24-hour period because that is what the commandment says to do, not recognizing the spiritual impact that the Sabbath is to have upon our lives, and merely using it as a time to dwell upon anything and everything for which we think we do not have time otherwise, we are not going to be sanctified. God wants us to be sanctified on the Sabbath day.

Interestingly, most of us talk most about that which we know the most. When the mind is focused on secular pursuits the majority of the week, you would think that it would be a delight to leave those things behind and on one day of the week think and speak on sacred themes. But so often this is not the case. We come to Sabbath School and the worship service, but even there we have trouble dwelling on sacred themes. If we are spending time during the week with that thoughtful, contemplative hour on the life of Christ, as we have been told to do, our minds will not have trouble redirecting and focusing when it comes to the Sabbath School and church services, because we will have an abundance of materials upon which to dwell.

A problem comes if we are not spending time in Bible study and prayer during the week and we decide that we are going to sleep in and not attend church or Sabbath School on the Sabbath. If this is the case, yet we still call ourselves Seventh-day Adventists, whom the Lord loves and in whom He delights, we are only fooling ourselves. If the Sabbath is the only time we have for some kind of spiritual fulfillment, then we most definitely need to be in church.

In many countries outside the United States, the lives of the people are very difficult and filled with just trying to eke out a living. When Sabbath comes, many of them are at Sabbath School by 8:30 in the morning. They start singing and preaching and praying, and they continue singing and preaching and praying until the sun sets on Saturday night, because this is the only time they can recharge their spiritual batteries. It is far better to acquire some kind of nourishment than no nourishment at all.

Sabbath Reform

“There is need of a Sabbath reform among us, who profess to observe God’s holy rest day. Some discuss their business matters and lay plans on the Sabbath, and God looks upon this in the same light as though they engaged in the actual transaction of business.” Evangelism, 245.

What goes through your mind on the Sabbath day is of great significance. The Bible says that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so [is] he.” Proverbs 23:7.

A number of years ago, one of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s schools was showing a film on skiing. This was in the days of the old 16-millimeter movie projectors, and the film that evening included two spools. The man who brought the film to show to the students and staff at the academy owned the ski lodge where they would go to ski. Of course, he took the opportunity to do a little promoting, trying to bolster his business. The first spool of film was shown, and while the second spool was being loaded, he wished to say a few complimentary words to the staff of the school concerning the young people who attended there. He said, “First of all, I want to compliment you on your young people. I think they are tremendous. You know,” he continued, “on Saturday afternoons they drive up to the ski lodge, but they sit in their cars until the sun goes down. They will not even go on the ski lift until after the sun sets.” The principal of the school did not feel complimented at all. He, as a matter of fact, was quite embarrassed that this kind of activity was being observed.

We need to think about this for a moment. We need to ask ourselves, How are we keeping the Sabbath? Is the Sabbath such a delight to us that we hate to see it go, or has it become burdensome for us, and we anxiously await the setting of the sun, so we can again go about our own activities?

The Sabbath is the Lord’s special time with us. If we cannot wait until it is over, we will never be happy in heaven, because the whole atmosphere in heaven is directed toward the worship of God.

Anxious for Sunset

The idea of being anxious for the sun to go down is not something new with us. This was the same problem that ancient Israel faced. They could not wait for the sun to go down, so they could be about their business. It even got to the point where they were bringing goods and setting them up outside the gates on the Sabbath day.

The situation is not a whole lot different today. A number of people, particularly in the Evangelical world, are looking to Israel and saying, This is a fulfillment of prophecy. God is blessing these people. They are His people, even though they are not keeping or observing the Sabbath day in Israel. Yes, they shut everything down on Saturdays. If you were to go to Israel on any given Sabbath, you would see that everything is closed down. On some streets there are even barricades so the traffic cannot go up and down the streets. But as sundown nears, the shopkeepers are inside their shops, ready for the whistle to blow indicating to all that the sun is set. When the whistle blows, the shades on the shop windows go up, and the carts go out into the streets, and they begin selling their wares again. This is the kind of thinking that pervades Israel today, so, regardless of what people may think prophetically, they are not living in harmony with even what they have written on the statute books. Where are their minds? Certainly not on the Sabbath.

Where are our minds at times? Are they on the Sabbath or on secular pursuits, the dollar, and self? Ellen White tells us, “The fourth commandment is virtually transgressed by conversing upon worldly things or by engaging in light and trifling conversation. Talking upon anything or everything which may come into the mind is speaking our own words.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 703.

We can converse on the Sabbath day. We can greet one another. We can make inquiry as to their well-being and the welfare of their family, but it is not the time to carry on light, jesting, joking kinds of conversation or deal with business matters.

Two Points

  1. The easiest way to keep the Sabbath and to keep the conversation on Sabbath topics is to converse with true Sabbath keepers. Although we are to spend some time in doing good deeds for those who may be of the world, too often we use this as an excuse to go to the homes of non-Sabbath keepers and spend God’s holy time visiting on Sabbath afternoons. One of the easiest ways for us to trample the Sabbath is to visit with relatives who are not Sabbath keepers. It is certain that they are not going to be speaking on sacred themes. Sabbath is not the time to visit unconverted relatives who do not realize the true keeping of the Sabbath. Leave that for another day of the week. If you are a Sabbath keeper, you will want to have Sabbath conversation.
  2. Included in not speaking our own words is not hearing other words spoken that are not Sabbath orientated. This means that we should not watch or listen to worldy, non-spiritual programs on our radios and televisions, and any materials that are not Sabbath orientated, such as newspapers and worldly magazines, should be put away.

Many Seventh-day Adventists feel that it is not a problem to sit at home on Sabbath afternoons and watch television, as long as it does not affect anybody else. But if we are going to follow what the Scripture has to say, we should not only guard the words that we speak but also the words that we hear.

Necessary Rebuke

“Ministers of Jesus should stand as reprovers to those who fail to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. They should kindly and solemnly reprove those who engage in worldly conversation upon the Sabbath and at the same time claim to be Sabbathkeepers. They should encourage devotion to God upon His holy day.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 704.

If there are Sabbath keepers that we are to rebuke because their conversation is not on Sabbath issues, it should be done “kindly and solemnly.” Great emphasis is to be put upon “kindly.” We need to make sure that, as we encourage someone in his or her Sabbath observance, it is done gently and kindly. One of the ways that we can gently and kindly rebuke someone, as far as conversation on the Sabbath, is to take charge of the situation. When the conversation is going in a direction other than sacred themes, you may say something such as, “By the way, I do not mean to change the subject, but the other day I was reading in Patriarchs and Prophets about . . .” If you make the rebuke in that way, it will be done in kindness, and they will not feel that you are shaking a finger right under their nose.

Repairers of the Breach

Some may think that this is getting down to some pretty fine points of Sabbath observance. Well, perhaps so, but the Lord has spoken to us on these issues through the Bible and through the counsel of Ellen White. Therefore, we cannot lightly set these things aside. God sent them to us for one purpose and for one purpose only, and that is because we are called to be reformers. We are called to be repairers of the breach. (Isaiah 58:12.) This verse has been specifically applied to the hole that has been knocked in the Sabbath. We are to repair that hole; we are to restore the old paths upon which we are to be walking. The reform message that has been given to us needs to be carried out in our being the kindest, the most courteous, and the most thoughtful people in the world. We also need to be true to the mission to which God has called us. In doing that, we will find that the Sabbath is going to be more meaningful to us because we understand its principles.

If the Sabbath is to be a delight, then we need to delight ourselves in the God of the Sabbath. If we delight ourselves in the God of the Sabbath, we are then going to have true understanding of what the Sabbath is all about and the blessings that are in it for each one of us.

Thorough Bible Students

“Every position of our faith will be searched into, and if we are not thorough Bible students, established, strengthened, settled, the wisdom of the world’s great men will be too much for us.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 386. That is quite an awesome statement! When you consider it, you will understand precisely the reason why we are lingering over Exodus 20:8–11 and Deuteronomy 5:12–15. Both of these passages of Scripture deal with the Sabbath, the fourth commandment.

Unless we are “thorough Bible students,” unless we are established in the faith and have incorporated these truths into our hearts and into our minds—so we are prepared, when called to appear before magistrates and in legislative courts, to give an answer for our faith—the wisdom of these men will overwhelm us. One issue with which we must really come to grips in the last days is the issue of the Sabbath and Sunday.

Inspiration does not say that the test will be over whether or not we have stolen, lied, committed adultery, or built graven images. Those things are important, and I am not trying to minimize them in the least, but they are not going to be the confronting focal point. We will be confronted over the issue of the Sabbath and Sunday.

When asked why we are keeping Saturday, the seventh day of the week, instead of Sunday, the first day of the week, we must be able to give an answer. We will need to be able to defend the observance of the seventh day of the week.

New Testament Only

What would you say, what kind of a response would you give, if you were called before a panel or before a group of Sunday keepers, and they asked, “Can you defend the observance of this day you keep from the New Testament only? We know that Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 talk about the Ten Commandments and about the Sabbath day, but we are New Testament Christians.” In that circumstance, you will need to give a definitive answer from the New Testament.

Perhaps you would remember Hebrews 4:9: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” But is there more to New Testament Sabbath observance than this passage? Even though you may know New Testament texts to argue against the sacredness of the first day of the week, it is not enough to just do away with Sunday keeping. Establishing Sabbath keeping from the New Testament is really the issue. Can we establish Sabbath keeping from the New Testament?

Jealous of Jesus

We know, as we near the end of the world and the approach of Jesus’ Second Coming, that the devil will move to convince the world that the seventh-day Sabbath is history and that Sunday, the so-called Christian Sabbath, is to be reverenced and observed as God’s rest day. We see movements even now taking us in that direction, but we know from the Word of God that these things are nothing more and nothing less than the workings of the devil. The devil hates the Sabbath, because he hates Jesus.

Why does he hate Jesus? He hates Jesus, because he is jealous of Jesus. Satan’s jealousy is motivated by the fact that Jesus is much better than he, and he hates that fact. Recognizing this, he would want, in a moment, to do away with Jesus and to take His place, if he could. He has tried that on more than one occasion.

“I will be like the most High,” declared Lucifer before being thrust out of heaven. Isaiah 14:14. Do you know who the “most High” was to whom he was referring? Jesus Christ. He wanted to take Jesus’ place and, ultimately, take the whole throne of God.

But since the devil cannot touch Jesus, he has determined to attempt to try to obliterate anything that would serve to remind a follower of Jesus about Him. That is why it serves the devil’s end to try to obliterate the Sabbath, because the Sabbath reminds us of Jesus Christ. It tells us so much about Him.

Developed from Ignorance

It is often said that the New Testament does not teach about the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. It is also said that when Christ and the apostles brought the gospel message to us, they did not give any teachings about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is really downplayed and virtually ignored, as far as New Testament teachings are concerned, so people conclude that they are justified in believing that the Sabbath is not really a Christian institution and has very little to do with Jesus’ plans for our lives.

Such a concept as this comes entirely out of the sophistry of human intelligence, which is nothing more than ignorance. It does not come as a result of Bible study. The New Testament has its own Sabbath theology, and, indeed, it is quite a well-worked-out Sabbath theology.

Jesus had a lot to say regarding the Sabbath. In fact, it was the subject of several of His discourses that are recorded for us in the New Testament. A number of people have the idea that if something is not stated in the New Testament, then we do not have to pay much attention to it. If stated in the Old Testament, it had its life, but that life is now past, and we no longer need to deal with it.

The Sabbath is just such an issue, but it is going to play such an integral part in the scheme of last day events that it is taught throughout the Gospels and in the teachings of Jesus.

Problem of Observance

The problem has always been the observance of the Sabbath. In Old Testament times, consider Elijah on Mount Carmel. What was the issue? It was the Sabbath. (See 1 Kings 18.) Many people do not understand that this event concerned the Sabbath—whether the people were going to worship Baal, the sun god, or whether they were going to worship Jehovah, the God of the Sabbath day. That was really the issue. When John the Baptist came with his Elijah message, it was a message about the keeping of the Commandments of God. It was an issue between the traditions of men and the Commandments of God.

This is why God raised up the Seventh-day Adventist Church—for the purpose of bringing back the truths of the seventh-day Sabbath. This is why its message is called the Elijah message, because it is an issue over the worship of God on the Sabbath or worship on Sunday.

Old Testament Sabbath

As far as the Sabbath is concerned, in the Old Testament, we see there that God is described as the Maker and the Owner of the Universe, the One who initiates the covenant with His people. The Sabbath in the Old Testament describes God’s authority. It shows us the right God has to own us as His people, the right He has to make His people whole again. It describes God as the Maker and the Restorer, the One who sanctifies, and it is the Sabbath that becomes the hallmark. It is the Sabbath that really identifies God as the Maker and the Owner, and it is the covenant of God.

So the Sabbath, in the Old Testament, gives God His authority over His people. It ascribes to Him all authority that is in heaven and in earth. It ascribes to Him the sole proprietorship of the universe. Why? Because He created it all, and the Sabbath is the hallmark—the sign or the seal—of His creative ability as God. He is the One who is in charge of it all; the One who has the authority over all things.

Arbitrary Argument

It is for this reason that some have argued against the Sabbath, saying that the fourth commandment is so arbitrary. If you looked to common sense, what is known as natural law, there is good reason for all of the other commandments. It just makes good sense, for instance, not to kill someone, because, for one reason, whoever is killed probably has a surviving relative who will come to kill you in revenge. It makes good sense not to steal from someone, because they may come after you and take back what was stolen from them plus some of your possessions. So natural law tells us that there is common sense in these commandments.

From an historical point of view, there is what is called The Code of Hammurabi. The stone containing this code was discovered through an archaeological dig. It is dated as a contemporary with the times of Abraham. The interesting thing about The Code of Hammurabi is that most of the laws that we find written in the Old Testament, such as the laws of Moses, are contained in it, yet the stone has been dated centuries before the time of Moses. So many have declared that Moses was just a lawgiver. They say that he came up with these laws, patterning them after the lands around him.

From an intellectual point of view, one could almost fall for this explanation, because there is evidence that would tend to support this idea, if it were not for the Sabbath. The Sabbath, located right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, is a declaration that the commandments are beyond human wisdom. The validity of the Sabbath cannot be argued from any of the natural laws. Some have tried, but God has arbitrarily said that the week shall be seven days long, that the seventh day shall be the day in which we shall turn our eyes to Him, acknowledging that all things come from Him, and that He has all authority over all things.

That is arbitrary. That is God’s divine implant. That is God’s divine insignia in the Law of the Ten Commandments. This proves to me, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this law has a divine origin, because what man would have thought up a law like that, giving everyone a day of rest during the week, that governs man’s time so fully? It has to be of divine origin. It turns our eyes totally to God for its source and for its appreciation.

God’s Sabbath Activities

You and I know that we should not do anything on the Sabbath, right? The fourth commandment says that we should not work on the Sabbath, so most of us do as little as possible. Some do not even make it to church on Sabbath morning, because they are trying to do as little as possible.

The Bible does say that God rested on the Sabbath, but is that accurate? (Genesis 2:2, 3.) It says that God rested on the Sabbath from His work of creation. The Bible does not say that God rests on the Sabbath.

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the Lord thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: 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 20:9–11. [Emphasis supplied.] Note that rested is the past tense form of rest.

Remembering that we are studying how to better understand the Sabbath in the New Testament, it is important for us to get the point that the Sabbath is an institution that has more to teach us than the fact that God rested on the Sabbath day after creating the world. As important as it is to know that God did His work and that He finished His work, it is also important to know that the Sabbath has to teach us something today—currently, right now—about the authority and the work of God.

If we believe that we may someday soon be called to give an answer for why we are keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, that Old Testament Sabbath, when all of the rest of the world is keeping Sunday, then we must have a biblically founded explanation that not only satisfies us but also satisfies those who are making the enquiry. We must be “thorough Bible students” now.

To be continued . . .

A retired minister of the gospel, Pastor Mike Baugher may be contacted by e-mail at: