#3.1 WHAT NOT TO DO ON THE OLD TESTAMENT WEEKLY SABBATH DAY
Paul said, "For we know that the law is spiritual:" (Romans 7:14), and "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning," (Romans 15:4). The scripture says, "the word of our God shall stand for ever." (Isaiah 40:8), so even though we may not believe that we should always keep every commandment of God literally, there must be something spiritual in them for us today. This is a bible study examining the instructions where we are told not to do something on the Sabbath day, and we will be looking for the spiritual understanding that we are meant to fulfil.
Note: This commandment was taken literally in the days of Moses, and on one occasion a man was put to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (See #3.13), but Jesus showed that human need was above the letter of the law, and on one occasion told a man to take up his bed and walk on the Sabbath (John 5:8). Today we are still meant to do no work on the Sabbath day, but whenever there is a conflict with the higher commands of love and mercy, these overrule the command not to work. This Sabbath commandment has also a spiritual significance, and we can see several different kinds of works that we need to cease from in order to fulfil it, and enter into spiritual rest:
(1) Cease from our own works
(Hebrews 4:10) "For he who is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his."
(2) Cease from the works of the flesh
(Galatians 5:19) "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Every one of "the works of the flesh" are sin, and they are also referred to as "the sins of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11). This is why we must cease from them. In a spiritual sense, ceasing from the works of the flesh is putting away sin, and is similar to carrying no burden on the Sabbath day (See #3.15).
(3) Cease from the works of the law
(Galatians 2:16) "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
These "works of the law" included the animal sacrifices which were done to cover sin under the law (See #4.04), and could never justify anybody in the sight of God. The body of Jesus Christ is the only acceptable offering for sin (Hebrews 10:10).
(4) Cease from self righteousness
(Deuteronomy 6:25) "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before Yahweh our God, as he has commanded us."
Self righteousness is the righteousness that comes through obedience to the letter of the Law in the flesh (Deuteronomy 6:25), [such as the animal sacrifices (See #4.25)] as was also confirmed by the apostle Paul:
(Philippians 3:9) "And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law,"
We must cease from all self righteousness in order to be justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16).
(5) Cease from dead works
(Hebrews 6:1) "let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,"
Dead works are the works that are done through the spiritual death that exists in people (Romans 5:12; 5:14; 7:24). It includes all sin, our own works, the works of the flesh, the works of the law, and self righteousness. Ceasing from all of these types of work spiritually fulfils the commandment, "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your God; in it you shall not do any work," (Exodus 20:10).
Note 1: God gave Israel instructions not to prepare food on the Sabbath day, so that food had to be cooked and prepared ready for the Sabbath, and all they had to do on the Sabbath was eat it. In a spiritual sense, preparing food is equivalent to rightly dividing the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15), and obtaining the truth from it. When we enter into true spiritual rest, all we will be doing with spiritual food is continually eating it:
(Joshua 1:8) "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate in it day and
night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success."
An example of this was Jesus, when he started his ministry, he had already obtained all the truth from God's word. He didn't have to keep going back to study the scriptures to get some more truth from it, all he had to do was keep on meditating it, and live it.
Note: One purpose of preparing a fire was to cook physical food, so this could be seen as the
same as the previous section (See #3.12 Note). Spiritually it matches up because God's word is like a fire: "Is not my word like as a fire? says
Yahweh;" (Jeremiah 23:29). So when we enter into true rest, we will not be preparing God's word (the fire), by rightly dividing it (2 Timothy 2:15), that
will have already been done. We will just be eating it (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2).
(Matthew 3:11) "I indeed baptize you with water to repentance: but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to loose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire:"
Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, "I would you were cold or hot." (Revelation 3:15), but he really wanted them to be hot. To be hot for God is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and busily going about doing his will. We won't have to work anything up in the flesh, trying to make it look like something is happening when it isn't, nor will we be seeking to be filled with the Spirit, that is equivalent to preparing a fire. We will be spiritually on fire, and be spiritually fulfilling the Sabbath commandment, "You shall kindle no fire ... on the Sabbath day." (Exodus 35:3).
Note: It was lawful to pluck the grain (Deuteronomy 23:24-25), but not on the Sabbath day. This was similar to gathering manna on the Sabbath day which was also forbidden (Exodus 16:27-30), so they were literally breaking the letter of the law. However, Jesus showed them that human need came above the letter of the law (Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26), that mercy (attending to human need) was better than sacrifice (sticking rigidly to the letter of the law) (Matthew 12:6), and that his disciples were guiltless in the eyes of God (Matthew 12:7). Those who are aware of the spiritual meanings behind the law, and it is spiritual (Romans 7:14), are free from the bondage of it, and in some cases we no longer have to keep it to the letter (See Introduction 3). In the natural sense, reaping is lawful on the Sabbath day for an individual when there is a great human need, but as part of a secular job, or just to make more money it would be wrong. In a spiritual sense we can see this as the Harvest of souls:
(Luke 10:2) "Therefore said he to them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."
This then shows us that evangelism, and winning souls for God, which is God's work and not our own, is quite in order on the Sabbath day.
Note: For the Jews this command was literal. When Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda, he told him to take up his bed and walk (John 5:8). The man was immediately healed, and took up his bed as Jesus had commanded him, but then got into trouble with the Jews because it was against the letter of the law to carry it on the Sabbath day (John 5:10). However, it was not contrary to the spirit of the law, otherwise it would have been wrong for Jesus to tell him to do it. Jesus was acting in mercy towards the man by making sure that he did not lose it by leaving it behind. It cannot therefore be a sin to carry something on the Sabbath day, as long as we walk according to the Spirit. So what spiritual significance is there in this scripture (Jeremiah 17:21-22) for us today? Spiritually, the heavy burden with which we are laden before we come to Jesus is sin:
(Psalm 38:4) "For my iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me."
When we come to Jesus this needs to be laid aside, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us," (Hebrews 12:1), then can we take his yoke upon us (Matthew 11:29) and become yoked together with him. This will enable his spirit to work through us in order to fulfil God's will for our lives. Once we have laid aside our sin, then we have spiritually fulfilled the Sabbath commandment, "bear no burden on the Sabbath day," (Jeremiah 17:21-22).
Note: Again, by the letter of the law it was a sin to buy and sell on the Sabbath day. It was work for many people, and a lot of work was involved to enable them to do it. For example, they brought much food into Jerusalem to be able to sell it, but this involved a lot of human work, and also work for the animals (Nehemiah 13:15). Everyone was supposed to rest on the Sabbath day, even the animals (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14). We also should not buy or sell anything on the Sabbath day except where the higher commands of love, mercy, or justice overrule it. So what is the spiritual significance of this for us today? What is it that we spiritually trade in, and exchange with others? Our business is doing God's work, which still has to be done on the Sabbath day (See #3.3). So we can preach the gospel, teach God's word, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons, and do it all freely just as Jesus commanded, "freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8). When we receive the knowledge and power to do it freely from God, together with our needs supplied (Matthew 6:31-33; Philippians 4:19), and minister it freely, then we are fulfilling the Sabbath commandment not to buy or sell on the Sabbath day.
Note: Not doing our own ways, is the same as not doing our own works (See #3.11), but here we are told not to do or find our own pleasure also.
(Hebrews 11:24-26) "By faith Moses, when he came to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Jesus has called us to a life of self-denial:
(Matthew 16:24) "Then Jesus said to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Satan's golden rule is to please ourselves, but Jesus requires us to deny ourselves. When we deny ourselves the pleasures of this life, and rather please God as Jesus did (Matthew 3:17; John 8:29), then we will be spiritually fulfilling the command not to seek our own pleasure on the Sabbath day.
(Joshua 1:8) "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth;"
This meant that it should always be in their mouth.
(Deuteronomy 6:6-7) "And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
The New Covenant that the Father made with Jesus was the same:
(Isaiah 59:21) "As for me, this is my covenant with them, says Yahweh; My spirit that is upon you (Jesus), and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your seed (the apostles), nor out of the mouth of your seed's seed (us who have been saved through the words of the apostles), says Yahweh, from now on and for ever."
Jesus kept this commandment perfectly, according to his own testimony he spoke only what the Father told him to say:
(John 8:28) "as my Father has taught me, I speak these things."
We have the same instruction, because if we are a partakers of the New Covenant God's laws will be written in our heart (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16), and if Jesus lives in our heart, as he should (Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 4:6), then he will speak through us:
(Matthew 12:34) "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."
We are called to be like Jesus (Luke 6:40; Romans 8:29; 1 John 2:6), and when we are we will be fulfilling this part of the Sabbath commandment, "nor speaking
your own words:" (Isaiah 58:13), every day of the week.
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