Study 4 - Sabbath: The Rest of the Story
As our previous studies have shown, Sabbath is tied tightly to the identity of God’s people.
In the first Creation story, Sabbath features as the day humanity is to celebrate being created in the image of God by worshiping Him faithfully from week to week on the day he set aside.
In the Sanctuary system, Sabbath played a special role – particularly on the Day of Atonement of which God said, “It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you” (Leviticus 16:31). This “Sabbath” was on the 10th day of the 7th month – the Day of Atonement. Clearly, this would not always be a Saturday but God calls it a Sabbath nonetheless. And a very special Sabbath. If the people of God were not fully committed to the careful observance of “denying themselves” on this day, the High Priest would die within the walls of the Most Holy Place as he attempted to minister on their behalf. This yearly day of Atonement was a foreshadowing of the amazing gift of eternal atonement made by Christ on the Cross.
It would stand to reason that when type met reality, things would change. Rather than fading into non-importance, as some would suggest, the Sabbath rest of the people of God swelled in meaning and purpose with Jesus’ life and death. The perpetual Day of Atonement in which we now live creates in us and through us a Sabbath reality that is beyond any understanding available before the event of the Cross.
Let’s explore this Biblical and historical background so we can launch fully in understanding and action into the new Sabbath of the present.
Blessed Rest…. Creation/image
Read Genesis 2:1-3
How did God celebrate the finish of His creative week?
What do you think Adam, Eve and God did on that Sabbath?
Read Exodus 20:8-11
To whom was this passage being presented? (Exodus 19:25)
What had they been doing for the past 400 years?
Why do you think this commandment starts with the word “remember”?
Rest we Forget… Freedom
After spending 40 years in the desert, Moses repeated the 10 Commandments to the Israelites as they were about to conquer the promised land. The wording changes – particularly in the Sabbath Commandment.
Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15
What follows the word “remember” this time?
Why is this important?
How is the Sabbath a day of Freedom, today?
In God We Rest… Jerusalem falls
Read Jeremiah 17:19-27
What were they doing that God wanted them to stop? Why?
What was promised if they honoured the Sabbath?
What was promised if they dishonoured the Sabbath?
Read 2 Chronicles 36:11-21
How did the people’s treatment of the Sabbath impact their lives?
How important is the Sabbath to God?
Heart of the Sabbath… Jesus & Sabbath Kingdom Activity
Read Matthew 12:1-8
What are some things in this passage that are examples of missing the point of Sabbath?
What does Jesus see as the most important thing to do on Sabbath?
What would a Sabbath ‘well kept’ look like based on this passage?
Read Luke 4:14-21
What is Jesus teaching here?
How did Jesus bring the things in this passage into reality?
Does this passage describe what you think Jesus was like?
Read Isaiah 61:1-3
What would a place look like if this prophecy was fulfilled?
How does it bring God glory when His people are blessed?
If this passage was your mission statement, what would you spend your time doing?
Conclusion – Sabbath Attitude
Thinking back to the beginning of this study, the Sabbath attitude present in the hearts of those living in the perpetual Day of Atonement begun at the cross brings about a new way of living and loving. What does this Perpetual Sabbath-attitude look like when lived out?
Read Isaiah 58:1-14
What stands out to you in this passage?
What kind of ‘fasting’ pleases God? Fasting is ‘denying yourself’ something – usually food. What ways of ‘denying self’ are mentioned in this passage?
What is the difference between a self-centred Christian and a God-centred Christian?
How does the Sabbath act as a reminder of who we are meant to be?
How is the Sabbath a day of delight for those living this way?
Sabbath is a day to remember.
A day to remember that we are created in God’s image.
A day to remember that we are free from slavery to sin.
A day to remember that God’s Kingdom serves God, not self.
A day to remember that Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, came to bring mercy.
And, ultimately, Sabbath is a day to remind us to live this way every day.
We are God’s image-bearers selflessly showing mercy and joining Jesus in His mission to ‘so love the world’ by being willing to give up our lives in the hope of seeing His Kingdom Come, His will done – on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
This is what it means to be a people of the Sabbath.
We don’t keep the Sabbath; the Sabbath keeps us.
It keeps us living as reflectors of the image of God.
It keeps us claiming forgiveness rather than guilt.
It keeps us focused on serving rather than being served.
It keeps us speaking mercy rather than judgement.
It keeps us holy by doing good rather than being good.
The Sabbath keeps God’s people on task, on track and on fire.