Relevant Passages: Genesis 2; Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5; Ezekial 20; Psalms 92; Mark 2; Hebrew 4
Sabbath As a Bond Between Creator and Creatures. Throughout the Old Testament, the Sabbath was portrayed as a special sign between God and His people; Jesus sought to present it as a day for serving people; Hebrews 4 points to the Sabbath as a symbol of eternal rest. All of these approaches to the Sabbath accentuate the striking difference between the Sabbath and the rest of the decalogue.
1. A Sign. In several Old Testament contexts, the Sabbath is described as a special symbol of the relationship between God and His people. One could perhaps give good philosophical and moral arguments for the other nine commands in the decalogue. But the Sabbath is unique, calling moral creatures to a personal commitment to the God who is seen as the guarantor of the moral order. The following contexts are particularly striking:
- Genesis 2:2-3: The day God “sanctified.”
- Exodus 20:8-11: A memorial of God’s creative work.
- Deuteronomy 5:12-15: A sign of deliverance.
- Ezekiel 20:12: A sign of the God who sanctifies His people.
2. An Arbitrary Sign? The word “arbitrary” is perhaps too strident in tone to properly represent the Sabbath. But what are the gains and losses in viewing the Sabbath in terms of “arbitrariness”?
3. Blessing the Day, Blessing the People. In Genesis, the focus is almost exclusively on God’s action in blessing the day. In both editions of the decalogue, however (Exod. 20 and Deut. 5), the Sabbath focuses on its potential to remind humans of what God has done (creating, delivering). Then in Ezekiel, the Sabbath becomes a sign that it is God who makes His people holy. How does this Old Testament focus relate to Jesus’ teaching that the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28)?
4. A Day For Worship. If Jesus presents the Sabbath as a day for serving people, the heading to Psalm 92 (A Psalm for the Sabbath) suggests that it is a day for directing our thoughts to God in worship and adoration. Is that a tension that needs to be resolved?
5. A Symbol of Entering God’s “Rest.” In Hebrews 4, the Sabbath is presented as a symbol of entering into God’s eternal rest. Does such a use of the Sabbath reinforce or weaken its meaning as a day of rest in present time?
6. A Sign of Loyalty. Adventists have seen the Sabbath as a special sign of loyalty in the last days. The Sabbath is not mentioned explicitly in Revelation 13, but has been seen by Adventists a symbolic of the great struggle between good and evil. Are there additional applications of Revelation 13 that would be compatible with the “sabbath” interpretation?