Recently I was talking with another Christian on the topic of what Seventh- day Adventists believe. While discussing the Sabbath he asked, “Why does it matter which day?” I was dumbfounded.
At the time, I was dumbfounded. Since I did not want to be in that type of situation again, I determined to study the question.
As I read the Bible, I began to understand that the Sabbath is a simple test of obedience. God does not ask us to do the difficult. The commandments are straightforward and simple to obey. He made the Sabbath for all creation. God wanted us to choose to love and obey Him from the very beginning. In Bible there is documentation of when the Sabbath was established, what day it was, what the penalty for disobedience was, and why to keep the Sabbath.
In the beginning God made heaven and earth. God made Adam and Eve and gave them a wonderful home. Genesis 2:2-3: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because God had rested from all His work which God created and made.” All of creation was given a rest at the end of the first week. God established the week and the day of rest.
God placed a simple test of obedience in the garden home of our first parents. In Eden, Adam and Eve had everything that they needed. According to Genesis 2:9, God gave them a variety of good food to eat and a choice. God also told them in the rules to live by in Genesis 2:15-17.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil was in the center of the garden. The single tree was a simple test of loyalty to God. Our parents knew about the rules regarding the trees, Genesis 3:2-3. The tree didn’t seek out and tempt our parents. Adam and Eve had to go to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, pick fruit, and eat to disobey. They had to seek out the temptation. But with the encouragement of the serpent, Eve failed the test. Then she brought temptation to Adam. He chose to follow her disobedience. Thus Adam and Eve brought death to the garden of Eden by their disobedience to God. They came to know good and evil.
Adam and Eve, as part of their new knowledge, realized their nakedness. They covered themselves with leaves. But God covered them with a longer lasting covering of animal skins. This meant animals that God had created must die to cover them. This was their first exposure to death. Much like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Sabbath is a very simple test of loyalty to God.
God refreshed the memory of the world through the Israelites when the Ten Commandments were given to Moses and the Israelites. Exodus 20:9-11: “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.” This was not just for the Israelites; it was also for any who chose to join them. The Sabbath was for their families, their servants, their animals, and for the stranger with them. It wasn’t a day of rest for a select few, while others toiled for their comfort.
Other rules were given to the Israelites and their followers, but the core was the Ten Commandments. While they were in the wilderness and in need of food, God sent manna. The manna became a teaching tool for the people (Exodus 16:4-5, 14-30). Moses and Aaron told the multitudes about the food that God would provide and the rules associated with it.
Even with the simple rules, people still did not obey. At first they tried collecting more and holding it over until the next day (not Sabbath) and it rotted. Some still did not obey when it came to the sixth day’s collection (Friday). They did not gather extra and save for the Sabbath. They went out on the Sabbath to look for food and found none.
Manna became a lesson to the multitude on Sabbath keeping. God gave them an additional clarification to stay in their tents on the Sabbath. My thought is this was intended for them to not only rest, but to limit the temptation to which they were exposed. Eve had yielded to temptation from the serpent when she had wandered from Adam’s side and had come near to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Israelites had just come from being slaves who had little opportunity to choose for themselves. So as children are gradually allowed to learn and choose for themselves, so were the Israelites being educated to God’s will.
God clarified the commandment of the Sabbath. Exodus 31:13-16: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defile it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever does any work shall be cut off from his people. Six days may work be done; but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever does any work on the Sabbath day, shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.” The Sabbath was and is very important to God.
During the Exodus wanderings one instance is recorded of breaking the Sabbath. Numbers 15:32-36 give the story of a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath. The people knew it was wrong. They asked God for direction. God provided directions on the death penalty for this intentional disobedience. To have tolerated intentional disobedience in the community would have caused them to disregard the commandments and God. For each of the 10 commandments, the penalty for breaking them was death.
Even harvest and tilling the soil was not to take precedence over the Sabbath, Exodus 34:21. God wanted them to have faith in God and rest on the Sabbath. Planting and preparing to plant is time critical for the right conditions for optimum growing. Harvest time is a narrow window of opportunity to pick the crop at the prime time or it is ruined. Many people struggle with the level of faith required to rest when work is at its busiest.
Jesus expounded upon the commandments and obeyed them. Matthew 5:17-19: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” The heavens and earth have not passed away between the time of Jesus and now. So according to Jesus, the commandments are all still in effect and we are called to obey and teach them to others.
The disciples did not preach that the law was made void with the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” They talked about grace and other things, but they did not say the law was abolished. The disciples talked and wrote about the good of the law: Romans 7:12, Romans 13:10, Hebrews 10:16, and James 1:25.
Both the Old and New Testament highlight the importance of the Sabbath. The why of observing the Sabbath comes down to the statement, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” How better to show your love than through obedience in a timely fashion? We are asked to be obedient so that we are ready for the important coming event.
We need to trust that God has established laws and rules for our benefit to follow. No one questions that it is wrong to kill another person. One day of the week was set aside for us to rest and come to know God. Why do we question the importance of appointed day? Satan is the serpent whispering enticements to join his followers.
God has not asked us to do more than we are capable of doing. God has promised a home where there will be no more pain or tears. God is not promising immediate gratification; for some it will be a long wait for the promised home. But, the reward is worth the effort. I want to be ready when I am judged. May I be obedient, fully repented of any sins, and doing what God has called me to do.
Theresa Campbell is a Mechanical Engineer and a member of the West Exira Seventh-day Adventist Church.