The Sabbath is first enunciated in the account of creation given in the book of Genesis. On the seventh day, God rested and declared it holy (Gen 2:1-3). The work of creation was completed, so God rested.
Man was created on the sixth day, with the very purpose of entering onto the rest day (Sabbath) as his first day. Here we see the scenario in which God wants us to enter into His rest. In the book of Hebrews, there is still this invitation for us to enter into His rest :
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. [Heb 4:9-11].
Jesus is rest personified, as displayed in an incident when he was dead asleep in the boat in the midst of the storm (Matt 8:23-34). It was Him, rest, that brought peace to the storm. He is rest personified also because He can give us rest :
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28).
Rest in seated position
Rest in Him only happens when we know work is completed (His finished work on the cross; when He cried “It is finished”). Rest is always in the seated position. Jesus our High Priest is in seated position, not like all other priests that standeth (Hebrews 10:11-12). His perfect sacrifice is enough to wipe away our sins, not like all other high priests who standeth every year with animal sacrifices that can only cover their sins but not take away. We are also told that we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). So, the scriptures point to us that we are at rest in Him, but unfortunately, some do not enter because of unbelief. Unbelief is basically disobedience.
Heb 4:11 reminds us this: 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
However, Stephen saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56) instead of seated position. Why? It is because Jesus, who is our High Priest and intercessor, is interceding for us. He is also our advocate who defends us and that is why he is standing.
Jesus is not only in seated position, but He is also on the right hand of God (Heb 10:12). In the Jewish court system, the Sanhedrin, the presiding Judge has a scribe both on the left and right of him. The duty of the scribe on the left will write guilty and condemnation but the scribe on the right will write acquittal and freedom. Jesus writes our acquittal because Jesus came not to condemn the world, but the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). Jesus writes pardons for those who trust Him as Saviour. Hallelujah.
Sabbath is holy
God also declares the Sabbath holy. The reason for declaring it holy is because it was the day when he rested from his work of completion (Gen 2:3). This gives us some insight of the meaning of the word “holy”. It is related to completion. Paul Ellis explains clearly the meaning of ‘holiness’. I quote:
Holiness means wholeness. To say that “God is holy” is refer to the wholeness, fullness, beauty, and abundant life that overflows within the Godhead. God lacks nothing. He is unbroken, undamaged, unfallen, completely complete and entire within Himself. He is the indivisible One, wholly self-sufficient, and the picture of perfection.
Holiness is not one aspect of God’s character; it is the whole package in glorious unity. This is how Spurgeon describes it in his discourse on Psalm 99:5:
Holiness is the harmony of all the virtues. The Lord has not one glorious attribute alone, or in excess, but all glories are in him as a whole; this is the crown of his honour and the honour of his crown. His power is not his choicest jewel, nor his sovereignty, but his holiness. In this all comprehensive moral excellence he would have his creatures take delight, and when they do so their delight is evidence that their hearts have been renewed, and they themselves have been made partakers of his holiness. ( http://escapetoreality.org/2012/05/23/what-is-holiness/)
God also says that the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Israelites so that they know that the Lord makes them holy (Exo 31:13-14 ). This is interesting because only God can make us holy; we cannot make ourselves holy by what ever means we can concoct in our minds.
In 1Cor 1:30 : It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Here we see that it is Christ Jesus is our holiness. He makes us wholesome.
When Isaiah saw the wholeness of God, he came to realise that he had unclean lips.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.(Isaiah 6:5).
Here we see that Isaiah was undone by the God, who is complete, holy; and God changed him (Isaiah 6:6-7). Only God can make Isaiah holy, not he himself. The same goes with us.
So, as we become God conscious, instead of sin conscious, we will slowly change into His likeness and holiness as we, like Isaiah, see the wholeness, the splendour of His beauty when we dwell on the scriptures talking about Him. A lot of times we search for scriptures on what to do so as to change but God wants us to do the other way round : dwell on His goodness, wholeness and we will be changed by Him. It is the goodness, the splendour that brings us to repentance (change our mindsets and unbelief). (Rom 2:4). Too often we focus on our sinfullness to bring repentance. Wrong!
Sabbath in the wilderness – rest and favour
As we ponder on the Sabbath in the wilderness, God gave manna for 2 days on 6th day and the 7th day people rested [Exo 16]. When we keep the Sabbath (that means, entering into His rest), you will find that we are not only entering into His rest, but also into His favour. He gave abundance of manna on the sixth day so that they can rest on the seventh day. So, rest and favour are inseparable twins. Hallelujah.
It is counterintuitive to many because we are so programmed to meritocracy of our own works to earn something. We are so conditioned to believing that we need to earn our blessings, our favour, our healings and so on we go. The goodnews is that we are favoured because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. We cannot earn from God. All our righteous deeds are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The filthy rags are not like the rags we wipe the kitchen floor. The rags are menstrual rags. When a woman menstruated in the Old Testament, she was considered unclean. Imagine offering to God our dirty menstrual rags in exchange for healings etc?. Unthinkable!
Eph 1:3-7 says that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places; He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world; we have the forgiveness of sins; we are adopted us as sons and made accepted in the Beloved. Whoa!
Sabbath in the Mosaic Law – Jesus fulfils the law
We know that the Sabbath day is enshrined in the Mosaic Law. However, failure to keep the Sabbath Law requires death by stoning (Exo 31:14). In the book of Numbers, ( Nu 15:32-36), there was an incident in which a man was found gathering woods during the Sabbath. He was caught and was stoned to death. But the goodnews is that Jesus cancelled the ordinances against us on the cross :
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Col 2:14 ).
Jesus fulfilled the Law of the Sabbath for us. He did not abolish it but he fulfilled the demands and requirements of the law.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17).
When we have Jesus in us, we fulfil the Law. Jesus is the Sabbath in us. Hallelujah. The Sabbath Law is only a shadow, it is not the reality. The reality is Jesus himself :
‘16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Col 2:16-17(KJV)
The purpose of the law is to point us to Christ :
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. [Gal 3:24]
Jesus and the Sabbath
When Jesus was on earth, he made two interesting statements on the Sabbath.
1. He is the Lord of Sabbath (Matt 12:8)
When Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, He is claiming to be God as God ordained the Sabbath. He was in fact putting to nought the religious system which was set up by the Pharisees and the religious people which focussed only on external law keeping of the Sabbath.
2. Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27)
What it basically means is that Sabbath is for man’s good, not man to serve the Sabbath. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Jesus, the Sabbath, saves us! We cannot save the Sabbath! The Pharisees were slaves to the Sabbath law.
One other interesting thing about Jesus and the Sabbath day is that He liked to perform miracles on the Sabbath and that infuriated the religious people. This is shown by what was said :
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” (Lk 13:14).
The plausible reason why Jesus delighted in miracles on the Sabbath is this :
As no work was allowed on Sabbath, any miracle had to be by the grace of God, not man's own efforts. Jesus was restoring to man what was rightfully his.
The Gospel is rest
The gospel, the goodnews, is about Jesus dying for our sins so that we can have eternal life. His work of salvation is complete. The gospel is in fact the goodnews of rest, not works. We cannot add anything else to the finished work of Christ. If we can, then it means we can boast about ourselves.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But IF IT BE OF WORKS, THEN IT IS NO MORE GRACE: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom 11:6)
God’s invitation to us is always to believe; to believe in His finished work; to believe in His promises are ‘yes’ and ‘amen, not yes and but! (the ‘but’ is added by us a lot of times).
28Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” [Jn 6:28-29] .
Our only work is to believe in Him so that we may work the works of God. The works of God are miracles which we can't duplicate with our human efforts. We only believe in His promises to expect miracles.
Miracles and rest
Miracles do not happen by obeying the law (self effort) but by the finished work of Christ (rest).
5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. (Gal 3:5,NLT).