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UCG IA Bible Insights Thursday, September 01 2022

God’s test commandment

The Fourth Commandment admonishes us to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"? (Exodus 20:8-11). Paradoxically the commandment God tells us to remember is the one most people ignore or forget.

by Scott Ashley

If we are to keep the Sabbath day holy, we first have to know what day that is. The Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week (observed Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). Most people go to church on Sunday—which is the first day of the week, as shown by most calendars and almost any encyclopedia. (To learn when, why and how this was changed, see "From Sabbath to Sunday").

Observance of the Sabbath is linked to God's creative acts in Genesis 1, pointing to Him as the Creator and true God. After creating Adam and Eve on the sixth day, God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 1:27-2:3). He instituted the Sabbath at that time in the presence of the first two human beings—long before there was a nation of Israel or a people known as the Jews. And, in resting on that first Sabbath, God set us an example to emulate. We are told “...the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). God alone can make things holy, dedicating them for His use.

An important event is recorded in Exodus 16, several weeks before God gave the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. God told Moses He would provide manna for the Israelites on every day of the week but one: “'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven…And the people shall…gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not…on the sixth day…it shall be twice as much as they gather daily'" (Exodus 16:4-5)..

Every week for 40 years (Exodus 16:35)—more than 2,000 times in all—God provided manna on every day of the week but one, performing recurring miracles to reinforce which day was the Sabbath. Only on the days when they were to gather up enough to carry them through the Sabbath did the manna remain fresh (Exodus 16:23-24). God reinforced the importance of the Sabbath, and of keeping it on the seventh day. The Sabbath was not any day they chose, but a specific day of the week designated by God.

God told the Israelites that the Sabbath would be "a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:13). It would be a sign that they were God's people.

By Ezekiel's time, centuries later God punished the Israelites by a devastating national defeat and captivity. One of the Israelites' most flagrant sins leading to their national downfall and captivity was profaning the Sabbath (Ezekiel 22:26; Jeremiah 17:21-27).

God wants us to have a proper, loving relationship with Him and to do that we must spend time seeking Him. The Sabbath is God's day. It is a time for reading His Word, for prayer, for fellowship with other believers and your family—but, most of all, a time for God's presence with you. Sadly, traditional Christianity has for the most part turned its back on the Fourth Commandment. The Sabbath is considered obsolete, fulfilled by Jesus Christ, although He set the example for us of observing the Sabbath. The Saturday Sabbath has been replaced by Sunday or somehow negated by the dozens of arguments that have been marshaled against it over the centuries.

Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find that the day God established at creation as the proper day of rest and worship has been changed or abolished. Most religious groups don't have a problem with the other nine commandments, but few are willing to submit to God's will on the Fourth. God’s test commandment compels us to decide whether we are willing to keep the seventh day Sabbath as we are commanded to do.