Athlete, What Scripture says about Sabbath, Part 1


Athlete, What Scripture says about Sabbath, Part 1

Joel Pfahler

Exodus 31:17 (ESV)

It [the Sabbath] is a sign forever between Me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

The word “sabbath” appears 150 times in the English Standard Version of the Bible, giving readers a clue of its significance, especially for the original audience. Several mentions of sabbath are part of the narrative and do not offer a specific command or principle to be followed. 

Here’s a summary of what the Bible says about the Sabbath in the Old Testament.

The idea of sabbath originated at creation. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day, God rested. 

The first command for God’s people to take a sabbath rest occurred when the Israelites were in the wilderness and God provided food for six days, but they were commanded not to gather on the seventh day because “tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (Exodus 16:23-29). 

The Israelites were to trust God to provide the necessary amount of food, and they were not allowed to gather more than what was needed.

When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), He instituted the seventh day as a holy day on which they should not work. As God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, he commanded His people to do the same out of remembrance. 

The Ten Commandments are given again in Deuteronomy 5. This time, Moses reminded the Israelites that God rescued them from slavery — another motivation to observe the Sabbath day.

For two reasons, Israel was instructed to cease work for a day of rest. One, to remember that God created the earth, and two, to celebrate that God had rescued Israel from slavery. 

Exodus 31:16-17 reiterates that Israel should keep the Sabbath as a covenant between God and His people that He created heaven and earth in six days, and rested on the seventh “and was refreshed.” 

Athlete, notice those three reasons for observing the Sabbath:

  1. Remembering God 
  2. Celebrating God
  3. Refreshment

While refreshment of mind, body, and soul, was a positive benefit for keeping the Sabbath, the consequence for breaking it was death (Exodus 35:2; Numbers 15:32). It was clearly important to God that Israel keep the Sabbath. 

Before you conclude that anyone should die for breaking the Sabbath, remember that Christ has died for sin in your place. By trusting in Him, you are redeemed! 

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Part 2 of what Scripture says about the Sabbath.


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