Exodus 31:12-18. 12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It 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.’”
18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
Five times in Exodus God will tell the Hebrews to keep the Sabbath. It’s kind of a big deal. But why? Here we can see that God connects Sabbath keeping to two bigger concepts: Creation and the Covenant.
Creation – Moses’ 40 days on the mountain with God receiving the plans for the tabernacle are meant to echo the creation account of Genesis 1-2. Seven times in Genesis 1 it says “God said.” Here in Exodus 31:12 is our seventh time in Exodus that we read “the Lord said to Moses.” Genesis 2:2 tells us that on the seventh day God finished his work and then rested. Here in Exodus 31 God finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai and he is commanding their Sabbath rest. What does all this mean? It means that Israel is God’s new creation. The new humanity. God’s do-over.
Covenant – the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. Sabbath keeping IS covenant keeping. It is a sign. A sign of God’s sanctifying work in their lives – that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. To keep the Sabbath is to weekly remember that God is the one that rescued them and set them apart. And just like the covenant itself, to break Sabbath is to be put to death. To break Sabbath means you no longer want a relationship with God. You have become Adam and Eve eating the fruit of your own knowledge.
In redemptive history there have been two great creation works of God. The first occurred at the beginning of time. God created all things including his Eden temple and he set mankind in the middle of it to be its priests. But our priestly fore-father and mother rejected God. And so God began his second great creation work. The re-creation of mankind through the Hebrew people culminating in the birth of Christ.
Jesus then finished the new creation work of his Father. As the uncreated new creation, the divine new humanity, he completed the redemption work of the Trinity. His keeping of the covenant, this same covenant of Moses, allowed Jesus to stand in our place before God. Jesus was fully sanctified by God. His substitutionary death on the cross for us then finished the new creation work. “It is finished!” cried our Savior.
And on the seventh day he rested. In a tomb. The seed planted.
At the first creation God said “I have given you every seed bearing plant for your life.” At the new creation in Christ God says “I have given you the seed of my own life.” Will you eat the fruit of Jesus’ life? Will you let his seed be planted in your heart and soul?
That is what union with Christ has done for us. Like the Sabbath of Moses, the Sabbath of Christ reminds us that we are the offspring of his new creation. And in Christ’s imputed righteousness, we are the covenant keepers. New creation and new covenant. And a new Sabbath rest too.
Hebrews 4:9-10. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
Unfortunately too many Christians ask the wrong question regarding Sabbath – “Do we have to keep it?” But are they asking this question from law keeping?
Life (yes just living) is a work that we will never get right. But Jesus never lost a chocolate.
We are IN CHRIST. Every day is holy. Every day is Sabbath. Every day is rest. The work is done. It is finished! Jesus sat down in the heavenly tabernacle. Something a priest in the Old Testament never did. Have you noticed there’s no chairs in the tabernacle? Why? Because their work was never done. But Christian you are seated! You are enthroned next to Christ (Eph. 2:6). You ARE at rest. Sabbath isn’t a day for us. It’s a lifestyle.
Are there good reasons why you should take a literal day off once in awhile? Yes. And should you always make corporate worship a priority on Sundays? Yes. But why? Because it’s the law? No. Because it reflects the deeper reality of your life in Christ. Physical rest pictures the reality of your spiritual rest (and it’s good for you physically). Going to church pictures the deeper reality of your union with Christ and with the body of Christ.
Just like the Hebrews of old, how you choose to live your life reflects Christ and his new creation and his new covenant. Choose to rest! All day every day. Not physically but spiritually. Stop your striving. Stop your performing. Stop your comparing and earning and ladder climbing. Rest or die.
“To live is Christ” is to enter with Christ into a finished work. It is to enter into his rest. His perpetual Sabbath. It is believing that there is no work left for you to do, and that’s good news. Will you rest today?
An oldie but a goody. “Rest the Lord is near, refuse to fear.”