What does the Bible say about the Sabbath?
Why did God institute the Sabbath on the 7th day of his creation? Was he tired? Did he need a nap after all that creating? Of course not. So why in Genesis 2:2-3 does God rest from all of his work, blessing the day and making it holy?
And yes, there are Sabbath commands in the old covenant, the Old Testament law, including the 10 Commandments and then given much more detail later. And no, we don’t have to follow the old covenant, we follow the new covenant in Christ. Which means we don’t have to follow the much stricter regulations to the Sabbath commanded in the law, but does the existence or non-existence of the law do anything to change what God put into the very fabric of creation as holy and blessed? Again: of course not.
What’s unique about Genesis 1-2 is they are the only chapters of the Bible completely unstained by sin. They are the world as it was always supposed to be. If you are looking for a design for humanity, go to Genesis 1-2. God created a Sabbath day of rest as part of the design of every single human being that he has created.
Jesus never canceled the Sabbath. Far from it! He said he was Lord of the Sabbath, the master of it (Mark 2:28). He said that the Sabbath is his, that he owns it, not that it doesn’t exist anymore.
What Jesus did is remove all of the non-Sabbathy parts of the Sabbath, all the legalisms that the Pharisees had added over the years that had completely contradicted the purpose of the Sabbath in the first place: which was to delight and rest in God! Jesus removed everything from the Sabbath that was non-Jesusy and pointed it back to himself.
Do you know who the Sabbath was first given to? As in, do you know who Genesis and Exodus were written to? These books were written to the just-freed Hebrew slaves. The ones who had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Do slaves get a day of rest? Of course not! The idea of Sabbath would have been so radical to the Israelites when they first heard about it. It would have been such a gift, so freeing, so refreshing. Just like it’s meant to be for us today. Jesus says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man. Sabbath is a gift for man. Just like bread is a gift for someone who is starving. He goes on to say in that same verse: not man for the Sabbath. This means man is not meant to be a slave to the Sabbath, which is what things had turned in to in the 1st century thanks to the religious leaders’ legalism. The Sabbath was never canceled, it regained its designed function.
The irony of all this is we are slaves in 2016. While not on the same level as the African American slaves who were dehumanized and abused to found our country’s economy, or the Hebrew slaves of Exodus who were dehumanized and abused to found ancient Egypt’s economy, but we are slaves nonetheless. Slaves to the treadmill of “you are what you produce.” Slaves who go, go, go, go and do, do, do, do and work, work, work, work and achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve and who can’t stop to rest if their lives depended on it. Slaves who think the world can’t go on if we take a day to rest. Slaves who think God needs us. This is a very real form of slavery as well.
Our emancipator is a weekly Sabbath rest centered on delighting in Christ. It’s in the blueprint of creation in Genesis 2 and carried on by Jesus in Mark 2. To ignore this is to willingly keep the chains of slavery bound tight, and to willingly disobey our loving God’s plan for us.
Just like a car is designed to have its oil changed every ~3000 miles, we are designed to rest every 7 days. It’s obvious what happens when a car’s oil service is neglected, and it’s no less obvious when it comes the command and the gift given to us to delight in Sabbath once per week.