We are usually so busy with the cares of this life—things like making money, staying healthy, rearing the kids, going on vacation, pursuing our crafts and hobbies, wasting loads of time on the computer—that we rarely take time to marvel at the perfection and beauty of God's creation. The leaves are just beginning to change up here in the Nashville area, and I am sure when going back home to Charlotte through the Great Smoky Mountains, we will see some beautiful fall colors.
This past Sunday, watching Sunday night football, which was in Seattle, somebody had taken a time lapse of the night sky over Mount Rainier, and they had it up there for about thirty seconds or so. It was beautiful, just those stars going across the sky from our perspective and seeing the Milky Way.
You live in a big city like Charlotte or Atlanta or some other place like that, you do not get to see that sort of thing because all the lights and the other kinds of pollution that is in the air do not allow you to see that beautiful expanse of the heavens up there.
Think about the tail feathers of a peacock and how beautiful and intricate those are. Good to just stop every once in a while and think about those things because, as Christians, we are not blind to the beauties and the marvels of creation. We know that in six days God created all that we see and enjoy in this natural environment of ours.
We bristle at the notion that this amazing environment that we live in which has supported life so abundantly for so many thousands of years, came about through random natural processes. It just boggles our minds! We shake our heads and we say confidently, “That’s impossible! Only a great, intelligent and wise God could have made something as magnificent as this.” It is obvious to us that it is how it came to be. No other way makes any sense.
Have you ever heard of the Goldilocks principle? Goldilocks and the three bears: She went in and found chairs there that were different sizes and one was too big; one was too small, one was just right. Same with the bed; same with the porridge, and she found out that it was a house of three bears: one big papa bear, one medium size mama bear, and a baby bear.
The Goldilocks principle is whatever is just right. The Goldilocks principle was originally applied to the differences between Venus, Earth, and Mars out there in the planets. Venus’ atmosphere is too hot and heavy to sustain any life. And of course Mars’ atmosphere is much too frigid and thin to support human life. But here on earth, our very pleasant mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases makes our atmosphere livable. It is just right.
From this has come the idea that earth, of course, is the perfect environment to support life. It is right in Goldilocks’ wheelhouse, you might say: It is just right. The rare earth hypothesis is a bit more complex. It posits that a lot more factors than just an atmosphere must be just right for human life or for any kind of life on Planet Earth. I got these seven ‘just right’ ingredients from science.howstuffworks.com.
I will just quickly run through these. Life on earth is possible because these seven things.
First, the right ingredients. A suitable planet needs is liquid water. It needs a stable energy source. It needs the chemical building blocks like carbon and oxygen, and hydrogen and nitrogen for carbon-based life forms, like we are, to live and to thrive.
The second thing a suitable planet needs is the right crust. Other than being a gas giant like Jupiter and Saturn or having a molten surface like Mercury, Earth possesses the suitable distribution of elements to ensure that there is a hot metallic core and a rocky mantle upon which life can live.
The third thing a suitable planet needs is the right temperature. The necessity for fluid water requires planetary temperatures allowing water to be in a liquid state at least in some areas of the earth or regions of the planet.
The fourth thing a suitable planet needs is the right moon. The moon is very important for life on earth. We probably do not know that but compared to other satellites that go around some of the other planets, our large moon ensures that our climate is stable. And it does this by minimizing the changes in planetary tilt. Because if there is no tilt there are no seasons and if there is severe tilt to the earth, it would then result in extreme seasons—something we would not want.
The fifth thing that a suitable planet needs is the right star as the energy source. The sun provides earth with energy, of course, and our sun star is relatively stable. Imagine the earth being a pot roast in an oven, and the sun the element heating up the oven. What if the heating coil suddenly surged in temperature? We would get a burnt pot roast. Or what if the element just died on us? Well then it would be frozen, or it would not get cooked at all. What if that element in our stove with our pot roast just exploded? We would have a destroyed pot roast.
The sixth thing that a suitable planet needs is the right core. Differences in temperature and composition in the two core regions of the earth that is a solid inner core and a liquid outer core drive earth’s powerful electromagnetic field, which is very important, because that protects us from deadly solar radiation. If we did not have the electromagnetic field protecting us out there, we would eventually all get irradiated and die pretty quickly.
The seventh thing, and I thought this was a very interesting, a good planet needs for life is the right neighbors. Because of Jupiter’s huge gravity, it shields the earth from constant stellar bombardment. If there were no Jupiter out there, scientists say that the earth would have to endure ten times more asteroids and comet strikes—not comic strikes! The funny pages would not be in our papers if we had comic strikes! Planet Jupiter pulls a lot of the elements that are out there between the planets, toward it, rather than allowing it to roam free throughout the solar system.
This is the kicker here coming from an article on the science.howstuffworks.com website. I will read here their final paragraph verbatim:
In short, Earth contains all the ingredients and environmental necessities for life to emerge, plus the relative safety for it to evolve unmolested for hundreds of millions of years on end.
They have gone through all that Goldilocks principle type of thing; this entire rare earth hypothesis, seen all the factors that are just perfect here on earth, and concluded that it happened by chance. It makes you just shake your head.
We think only God could have made something this perfect. Only a Supreme Intelligence could make something that hit all the right buttons to make sure that we have a beautiful life here on this planet. But even so, increasing numbers of people, especially people in the Western world, believe precisely that it all happened through random and evolutionary processes, that are either incremental or sudden and significant, that came together to make this world the way it is.
They claim the universe suddenly came into existence. However many billions of years ago it is now (it used to be like four and a half billion years and they keep pushing it back further and further. I am not entirely sure about that because I do not keep my ear to the ground on those sorts of things.), they say that earth came into existence, all that time ago, through a massive explosion of extremely dense matter. Where did that first matter come from? Well, we will just gloss over that. And over billions of years, life came into being and during that time it differentiated into billions or trillions of different plant and animal species that inhabit this earth.
When you put it in words like that, it really does not seem very plausible. In fact, it seems like a preposterous fairytale, and it is. It is something that has been made up out of the minds of man for precisely one reason—to leave God out of the picture.
If you would please turn with me to Romans 1. Dr. David Maas gave me a Bible before church today and I am very pleased to have it; I noticed that he took my age and my eyesight into consideration: He gave me a large print. “Thank you, sir.”
Romans 1:18-23 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead [or Divine Nature] so that they are without excuse [It is all there to see], because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Mankind's denial of God, I am sure, began not long after the sin in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve started this whole human world with. How long did it take for carnal men to begin to worship the creation, or their ancestors, or themselves, or some idol? It seems to me that man will worship anything, anything other than the true God. Brings to mind a quotation often attributed Gilbert Keith Chesterton but is actually written by a man named Émile Leon Cammaerts: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.”
Anything but God. Even though the creation screams that it needs a Creator. And only a Being of unlimited intelligence, almighty power, and righteous character could have created such a superb natural world.
I have got some important information here for you, a fact we need to remember every time we deal with one another, especially dealing with those who are not called: Humans are not rational. If they were rational, they would believe that there is a Creator God, and that He made everything.
God, in this little six-verse long paragraph that we just read, says that human beings are ungodly, unrighteous, ungrateful, futile in thought, and foolish in heart. Those are body blows to the human race. We cannot think straight. We do not know what is going on. When we try to put reasons together, we end up coming with the wrong conclusion, a foolish one—one that leaves God out of the picture. When we look at it impartially, and I hope we are looking at it fairly impartially, from God's point of view and from the knowledge that we have gleaned over the years from His Word, humanity on its own is rather hopeless.
This is really true when you take God as much out of the picture as possible. Without Him intervening at all what would you think the chances of humanity were? How long would it take for that irrationality to wipe us off the planet? As much as we like to think that we are pretty smart and have come a long way, mankind tends to be ignorant; also grasping, uncooperative, irresponsible, and ultimately self-destructive. In this state, without the intervention of God, mankind’s unvarying trajectory is only into further darkness and nothingness, and not into the light, not where He wants it to be.
Please turn to Ephesians the second chapter. Believe me; we are getting to the point here. We are starting here from the point where humanity is rather hopeless and far from God.
Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
In love and through grace, God has done something spectacularly wonderful for us. He has not left us there in the herd of ignorant, confused, grasping, uncooperative, irresponsible, and self-destructive humanity. God has plucked us up out of that and quickened us, as the King James Version says. God made us alive with Christ; He gave us a life and elevated us when we were still spiritually dead.
God did not just pick us up out of the mire and said okay stand in this dry spot. He did something much greater than that. He picked us up so far that we are spiritually sitting with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly places. God has given us a much better perspective on what is going on, by allowing us to have a top down view with Him on what is going on in this world.
We have been raised out of the mire, cleaned up, and allowed to sit with our King and our God to have a relationship with those Two. He has done us great honor by adding spiritual life and godliness to our human life. We have an extra element, as it were, added to us—the Holy Spirit that gives us a difference and makes all the difference.
This life that He has given us is not just for show; it is not just because He decided to pick us. There is a reason for this. It is not just a cosmic roll of the dice that God decided to pick you. It is all purposeful and it is all leading to something. He does not want us to feel special and honored because of this; He wants us to get to work. He wants us to change. That is what verse ten is there for us here in this passage that we have just read.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
God has done this. He has lifted us out of the mire and given us this grand opportunity so that we can learn to do good works and learn to live godly lives and grow in the character image of Jesus Christ. Some may think that the creation process that our God is going through or has done, as they would think of it, essentially ends with baptism. That is the kind of idea that evangelical Protestantism has with its eternal security idea. One is just given salvation right there and there is very little more to be done. One just lives out the rest of one’s life; one has been saved and nothing more is happening.
Even some people in the church tend to think that most of His work will take place in the resurrection. All you have to do is get there and God will do all the work. That is not true either. Contrary to these ideas, God is working constantly on those He has called and converted. This is exemplified in His weekly meetings with us on the Sabbath.
Today we are going to look at the role of the Sabbath in God's continuing creation of His sons and daughters. He did not just work in the creation week. He is continuing to work and it is shown in spades in the work that He does on the Sabbath day. So, let us go back to Leviticus 23 and touch base with the holy days here. We will read verses 33-35 and 39. We are all here in response to this command to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
Leviticus 23:33-35 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it.' "
Leviticus 23:39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath rest.'
We are here because God says we should be here. We are here to attend this holy convocation, in which we can learn God's way together for seven days and then there is the eighth day as well. This tells us what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. We are here to learn more about God. We are here to learn more about what He has in store for us and what He is doing with us.
I want to point out here in verse 39 that this particular verse emphasizes the holy days, or particularly this holy day and the one on the eighth day. It emphasizes it by saying that these are Sabbaths. The Hebrew literally says in this last part of the verse, “on the first day, a Sabbath and on the eighth day a Sabbath.” The New King James puts a few words in there to help us understand. The New English Translation (NET) Bible renders this clause as:
Leviticus 23:39 (New English Translation) On the first day is a complete rest and on the eighth day is complete rest.
The English Standard Version (ESV) has solemn rest instead of complete (rest); the Jewish Publication Society 1917 version of the Tanakh (JPS) also uses solemn rest. The Good News Translation (GNT) Bible, which is quite a bit more of a paraphrase, renders the same phrase a special day of rest. We then have: a Sabbath rest (NKJV); a complete rest (NET); a solemn rest (ESV & JPS); and a special day of rest (GNT). These are all rather good renderings of what this Hebrew word is.
The word here is “Shabbathon.” It is a little different from Shabbat in that it suggests a Sabbath of greater intensity; a Sabbath of specialness, a Sabbath of solemnity and all of those things we saw in those particular translations of the Bible that we just reviewed.
The root of Shabbathon is of course ‘Shabbat,’ and Shabbat, contrary to many people, does not mean necessarily to rest, but it means to cease or to stop. Of course, resting is what comes as a product of stopping. When you come to a stop after walking a long time you can rest. It is not exactly what Sabbath means. Sabbath or ‘Shabbat’ means to stop, come to an end of something.
‘Shabbat’is the seventh day of the week, the day of rest; the day we stop. We understand that after being in the church for as long as we have, the Sabbath is far more than simply a day of lounging around in your pajamas. That is not what God has in mind about the Sabbath. For one thing, we would go back to Leviticus 23, we see that the Sabbath is another day of holy convocation.
Leviticus 23:3 ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.'
It is repeated here, that this is a Sabbath, a stopping of solemn rest and then it says, a stopping of the Lord or a cessation of the Lord in all your dwellings. God wants us to get the idea as He is telling us here what the Sabbath is all about. It is a special day. This is a day of stopping what we have done normally to do something else.
Being a holy convocation also means that we are officially summoned to worship God together on this day. In that case, just thinking of what convocation is, we are all worshipping before the Lord. It is a day of learning, and because we are all there together, it is also a day of fellowship—the day when we can join together with people of like minds to learn about God and to grow.
Let us go back to Exodus and see the command that is given there. Chapter 20 which is the giving of the Ten Commandments on Sinai. As we go through this, notice how this commandment is given: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” I have always thought that God gave it this way because we tend to forget, and His people did: That was a big no-no; first thing God tells is:
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."
This Sabbath command, if we were trying to make a bit of an organizational chart about it, we would see that it breaks down into three parts or sections.
First: God gives a command to keep the Sabbath holy. Second: He gives a command to cease from work on this day. Third: God gives an explanation of why we keep the Sabbath. The reason is, because God hallowed it at creation.
Because of what God did on that seventh day of creation (third point explanation), He becomes our example; He becomes the model in how and why, and when to keep it. When we keep the Sabbath day, we are doing something because of something God did and we are keeping it in the way that God did, at least we are supposed to.
If we believe that God wants us to follow His example, which we know He does, I John 2:6 says we are to follow in His steps, speaking of Jesus Christ. If we truly believe that we are to follow the example of God, we then are going to keep the Sabbath day, because God, the One who became Jesus Christ, was the One who made it. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Is not that what Mark chapter two says? He is the Lord of the Sabbath—He made it; He gave us the example, and He also told us to keep it and so we should keep it. We should keep His rest.
Let us go see that example. Genesis 1:31 and we will go on into chapter two. We will get the timing here at the end of the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished [There was a completed work.] And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
God created everything in six days— everything that we see and enjoy here on earth and in the heavens. God was done; He looked at it and said, “I did a good job like I usually do.” It was very good and God was satisfied that it was done, finished, and made in a way that He wanted it to be made. On the seventh day, having ceased from all His labor, God rested.
And because He rested, He blessed and sanctified the seventh day. That is how it is worded here: He blessed and sanctified the seventh day because He rested. God set apart that time as different. He set it apart for holy use. He made it separate, different, or special for a use other than the other six days.
Creating physical things is different from resting. A big thing we get out of what God did here: the Sabbath day, the seventh day, is a different day, it is not the same. It may come after the sixth day and before the first day. It maybe twenty four hours of time; it may be seemingly just like one of three hundred sixty five days on our calendar but God says, “No, it’s different; it’s not the same. I marked it as different. I rested on this day and because I rested on this day, it is different.” It is a separate day and it is God's day. It is a day devoted to God.
We have a carnal tendency, being fleshly and irrational as we are; knowing about the Sabbath and what it is supposed to be, we would like to transform it into a day just like all the others. We do not like different. We kind of like steady as she goes. Let us work on seven days a week. Let us have sports and recreation all the time.
God says no; the seventh day is supposed to be distinctly different from the other six days. It is a different day or should be a different day for us, as it was for God. He is the One who showed us that the seventh day is supposed to be very different. What He did on the seventh day was seemingly the polar opposite of what He had done on those other six days, as work is different from rest.
We know, when we start thinking about this, that God does not need a rest. He never grows weary. He could work and work and work until the cows come home and beyond, constantly. As a matter of fact He does work constantly and never gets tired. This gives us the idea that resting due to fatigue is not the point; at least not the main point. It was not the point to God.
And if we are going to follow in the footsteps of God, then it is not the point for us either. It is part of it that we rest our weary bodies. Stopping or ceasing from common everyday work is very good. We know that. That is part of what He has given us here in the Sabbath.
But it is not the main point. I know that a lot of people think that. That the Sabbath is just a day to sleep in, take a nap, lounge around, maybe take another nap, and just rest all day because you worked yourself to exhaustion in the other six days. But that is not what God is talking about. It is a day in which we can get a little more sleep. It is a day we can rest because we are not lifting our heavy burdens as we do during the other six days.
The idea of rest here is not necessarily the resting of our bodies. If nothing else, observing God’s Sabbath should help us feel a sense of completion and well-being just like God felt when He finished His physical work. He did not need to rest because He was tired. God stopped to reflect upon what He had done and admire what had been created; He felt then a sense of accomplishment.
A duty, a responsibility, a project, and all the things that God had started, planned out, and needed to do, were finally brought to completion and done. God had finished a work, a part of His plan.
It is not just the resting from physical work, it is being able to sit back and contemplate what has been accomplished. We have to think that we are following God's example here. The Sabbath becomes a time when we have time to refocus on what is truly important.
We have been going nonstop for six days. We have been doing all the things we need to do. We got up and went to work; we finished that project and went on to another one; we did the laundry; we cleaned the house; we gassed up the car, and we did all these other things through the other six days. Our minds are rather scattered on all these things that we need to do. We live quite busy lives.
But when the Sabbath comes, and all that work is supposed to stop, we can then take the time to refocus on what is truly important. What did God do? God is our example. God looked at things that He had made, and He rested on that day.
It is a time of reflection and a time of contemplation. What did God do? He contemplated His creation. He blessed and hallowed the seventh day because He rested from His work, satisfied with what He had accomplished—a step in His plan and His purpose was complete.
The physical work of creation had to be done to make an environment for those of us who are going to be His sons and daughters. It was an incremental part of His overall plan and He had accomplished it. He had a sense of well-being, a sense of satisfaction that He had created and done something that moved His purpose along.
By resting, He shows that part of His work had been finished to His satisfaction. Did He just stop? “I’m done. I’ll rest and cozy up to this tree; sit here for a while and look around.” How long would that last as far as being satisfying? Maybe for a little while. Could you imagine God doing nothing all day? I do not think that is what God did. God is not a static Being. He is busy. His mind certainly is always running at top speed. By resting, God shows that part of His work was finished to His satisfaction and now He would move onto something else.
Just jot down John 5:17. This is where Jesus says: “My father has been working, and I am working.” It is a principle that is put there for our understanding. God does not stop working—ever. God is always doing something to move His purpose forward. What is the work of God? What work did He take up on the seventh day? If He is not a static God, what did He do?
Let us go back to John chapter six, verse twenty-eight. Jesus is in a “discussion” with the Jews. They were always trying to trip Him up, argue with Him, but He had that different perspective that we have been allowed to have and so He always confounded them.
John 6:28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
They thought they were God's pals and they were doing everything right, and they wanted to know what Jesus’ idea on all of this is.
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
This is what I call a definition scripture. I mark these in my Bible with a little arrow and a capital “D,” then I put down next to it what it is that it defines. This scripture defines clearly and unambiguously what God's work is. That is what a definition scripture does: It defines some theological concept clearly and unambiguously. Revelation says that incense is the prayers of the saints. It gives us a very clear definition of a symbol. Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”—a very clear definition.
This is a clear definition of God's work. God’s work is defined as believing in Him whom He sent. In other words, God is working to create and build in us faith in Christ. That is what God is trying to do—building and working out, in us, faith in Christ. This is the work God is engaged in on the Sabbath. Doing the same type of work ourselves on the Sabbath brings us at one with God and increases our faith in Christ.
What we should grasp from this is that God is constantly working. He rested at the end of the sixth day and took the whole seventh day to rest while still working. What then is God doing? God has switched from a physical work of creating mountains, lakes, and trees, and all those things that He created during those first six days, to creating faith in those whom He has called to Jesus Christ. If we want to follow in His steps, we have to join Him in His work on the Sabbath day.
Let us think about what happened there in the Garden of Eden on the sixth and seventh day. On the sixth day, God made a lot of creatures, but the crown of His creation was Adam and Eve. He then looked down and said, “This turned out very well,” and God then rested on the seventh day.
Let us think about what God did here. I have always wondered, when noticing the story flow from Genesis chapter one to chapter two to chapter three, if the sin of Adam and Eve (in chapter three) happened on the Sabbath.
We have the six days of creation in Genesis 1; the seventh day at the beginning of chapter 2. We then could presume that all the other events that happened in chapter 2 took place on the sixth day. It seems like another more personal and focused statement of what happened to Adam and Eve on the sixth day.
Beginning in Genesis 3 we then have the next period of time. I do not know if it was actually the very next day, the seventh day when Adam and Eve sinned, but let us think about it from this perspective and presume that what happened in Genesis chapter three was on the seventh day Sabbath. What happened there? Adam and Eve sinned.
When do we see God coming to the picture? He is walking through the Garden in the cool of the evening. Adam and Eve hear Him coming and they hide. God asked them, “Why do you hide from Me?” They answered that they were afraid and they sinned. God then asked them, “Who told you these things?” They answered that it was that snake, finger-pointing at each other and telling their part of the story.
God then gives His three curses, one to the snake, one to the woman, and one to the man. What does God do then? He makes clothes for them, covers up their nakedness. Jesus Christ and God talked to each other, “We don’t want them to have access to the Tree of Life because that could be really bad so let Us close off the Garden and kick them out.” They placed cherubim by the entrance to the Garden of Eden and off Adam and Eve went out of the Garden.
Think of this in terms of the work of God. Remember we have figured out what the work of God is by going to John 6:29: The work of God is that you believe in Him Whom He sent. I further dumbed it down to say that God's work is creating and building faith in Christ, which is a little bit easier to understand.
What did God do in chapter three? We see Him handling the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin. He approaches them; He hears their side of the story; He makes judgments; He tells them, within the curse on the serpent, that a Savior will come to defeat Satan. God gives them an idea, in those judgments, of the consequences of their sins. He makes garments to cover their nakedness, which is a type of sacrifice to cover sin. He gives them a picture of what He is talking about, slaying of an animal to make skins to cover their shame and nakedness, and God finally drives them from the Garden to prevent them from taking of the Tree of Life.
God cut them off from Him and denied them access to the Holy Spirit. God executed judgment according to His will and according to His plan. God sent Adam and Eve off because within His plan He was not ready to offer them the Holy Spirit.
What do we see in these things that God did? To my mind, these are all spiritual works. He was dealing with salvation issues on that day, if it was the seventh day. God had finished with their physical creation. Adam and Eve were standing right there before Him. They were alive. They were doing well as far as their health. God had made their entire environment for them and everything was ready.
What did God move on to? He moved on to creating their spirit, to building their spirit, to bringing them to a point where they could one day accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. He was dealing with the effects of sin and preparing them for life under sin.
God knew that He was going to have to send them out into the world of their making. Adam and Eve were going to have to live lives while sin was a great factor and has been ever since. Ultimately God was preparing them spiritually for life once sin would be removed.
God’s work, after that sixth day and moving into the seventh day, was now spiritual in nature. He was still creating them; not in His physical image but working now on creating them in His spiritual or character image. God had moved on from matter and now was working with spirit.
God was taking the initial steps, in what was happening toward the end of Genesis chapter three, to make Adam and Eve holy as He is holy. They were a long way off. They had sinned and needed help; they were still babes, as it were, in the faith. They did not know anything so God gave them the very rudiments of what it means to be a son or daughter of God. He started on the basics of salvation. But right at that point, God was not yet ready to call them.
That is why God moved them away, out of the Garden. What is God's work? Many of you may know this scripture by heart:
Psalm 74:12 For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
That is God’s job. He is always working salvation. How about Ephesians 4:23-24; what is God doing?
Ephesians 4:20-24 But you have not so learned Christ [Paul writes here], if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
That is what God is doing; He is working salvation; that is His job. He is working on building and creating the new man in righteousness and true holiness.
Remember, we are talking here about the Sabbath, and we are just about finished with the example of God. What was God doing on that particular Sabbath day? Not just resting. God was not just sitting there—He was doing things, He was working in another area of what He needed to get done first, the more important area. God worked first on the physical and then moved on to the spiritual.
We go here to Exodus 31 to prove that the Sabbath is a sign that identifies the covenant people of God. There is something else here that we often gloss over because we are too busy talking about the fact that it is an identifying sign; starting in verse 12.
Exodus 31:12-17 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death [He really comes at it hard, does not He?] Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”
In this section, once again, we have a link between the Sabbath and what God did in creation week. It is true that as long as we keep the Sabbath day, as we see it there in verse thirteen, the world sees us as different. Just as the Sabbath is different from the other six days of the week, someone who keeps the Sabbath is thought to be strange, weird, and Jewish.
That is not the case at all. It is different but it is not strange or weird and certainly not Jewish. It is godly because God was the One who rested on the seventh day and made it a day of rest. Because God did it, we do the same if we believe that God is our Master and Lord.
We find here that the Sabbath separates people. It marks them as different just as it marks and separates us from other people who call themselves Christians but keep another day, keep a work day rather than the day of rest. Let us read it again and get down to what it says specifically:
Exodus 31:13 ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations [And here is the important part.], that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.’
Think about this for a second. Not only do we keep the Sabbath because God observed it and it is a sign between God and us forever, but the reason why we keep it is because God is the One who sanctifies us.
We keep the Sabbath every week, every seven days, to remember, or to be reminded that God is working. God is working on making us holy. God's creation has not stopped. He has moved on from the physical creation, and now He is doing the much more important spiritual creation of sanctifying His people and making them holy. This is one of His names here at the end of verse 13: Yahweh mekaddishkem which means “The Lord who sanctifies.”
Sabbath keepers are to be reminded weekly that God is working on us. He is creating us to be holy. He is creating us to be a separate people. God is creating us to be like Him because He wants sons and daughters. He is constantly working, but a good part of that work occurs on the Sabbath. That is why He wants us to remember every week, so we can take the time, one whole day out of the week, to focus and refocus on what God is doing.
We have been focusing all week long on what we have been doing; but the Sabbath is a time to remember that God is there always working to make us holy and to be His children. The Sabbath day is the time God carved out of the week to devote to that special work that He is doing.
That is why a great deal of the work that is done is on the Sabbath. God does a great deal of that work all the time but He is doing it alone while we are not focusing on Him. God wants one day a week where we are working together. And therefore accomplishing a whole lot more in moving us along the line. God wants our full attention on the Sabbath day.
Let us put this together with a scripture in the New Testament. John 17:3 another memory scripture. We have been quoting these forever and sometimes we miss something because we know it so well. Compare John 17:3 to Exodus 31:13 because we are not going to go back there and read it.
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
We know this first very well. Consider how much it is like Exodus 31:13. John 17:3 says that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. Exodus 31:13 says that the Sabbath is a sign that we may know the One who is our Sanctifier.
Eternal life is to know the Father and the Son, and the Sabbath is a sign that we may know the One who is our Sanctifier. See the common element there? Eternal life and the Sabbath both have to do with coming to know God.
Can we not mash these two verses together? One on eternal life and the other on the Sabbath and conclude that the Sabbath is the primary day for coming to know God. Because God is working to sanctify us, the Sabbath therefore becomes the primary day for increasing our holiness and our grasp on eternal life.
Do you think we could make that link? A proper keeping of the Sabbath, then, facilitates this growth in coming to know the Father and the Son away from the distractions of everyday life, away from that work that keeps us fed, clothed, and housed, away from the intrusions and the confusions of this world—one day in which we are focused on knowing our God.
This will definitely sanctify you, set you apart because of who is doing it. Only a few. People who keep the Sabbath in this world are a mighty few people. And the people who keep it correctly are just a tiny drop in the bucket, because they do not understand its purpose.
How is our Sabbath keeping when we put it in these terms? Are our Sabbaths conducive to God's major work in our lives? Are we giving Him the time to create in us the holiness and the likeness to Jesus Christ that He desires? Are we giving Him the attention that He deserves on the Sabbath? Except for attending church, is the Sabbath day just like any other day of the week?
When we are not in our nice clothes and not at church, are we keeping or not keeping the Sabbath by making it a lot like other times during the week? Or do we truly devote Sabbath time to God's work in us?
Let us go to Isaiah 58. The last couple of verses are about the Sabbath. Notice what God says here. This is a solemn promise from God:
Isaiah 58:13-14 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
When words come out of God’s mouth, they do not return to Him empty.
God says here, if we watch our step on the Sabbath, that is what it means about “turning away our foot from the Sabbath, if we watch our step on the Sabbath, if we treat His holy time with respect and honor, if we restrain ourselves from doing our own things in thought, in word, and in deed, what will be the result?
God will give us joy. He will lift you up above the cares of this world and He will give us all that He has promised in this age and the world to come.
Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a major key to spiritual growth and preparing for God's Kingdom. We would all do well to take some time to sit down and to really evaluate our Sabbath practices. Why? So we can leap forward in our relationship with God. And would we not all want to do that? Have a wonderful holy day, everyone!