To my fellow Seventh-day Adventists, defenders and champions of the Ten Commandments. Something seems to be wrong with our observance of the Sabbath. I know I am speaking to only a segment of our church family so I ask your indulgence if this does not apply to you.
I’ve grown up in this faith, and many of my family members are loyal Seventh-day Adventists. I’ve attended churches of all sizes from a congregation of a handful to the thousands. I’ve lived in rural locations where life is slower and more relaxed. I also have years of urban living coupled with the bustle of church ministry, which is more likely related to what follows.
As I prepared for the discussion this Sabbath I was confronted anew with the purpose of the Sabbath. I reviewed how Christ had to push past the Sabbath traditions that had made the Sabbath a burden to the common people. In their zeal to “protect” the sanctity of the Sabbath, the religious leaders had created an atmosphere that did the exact opposite.
Most striking about that situation was that the people who were burdened down with the stipulations of the Sabbath were unable of their own to set a new direction. It was Christ who gave light to a people sitting in darkness–people who thought they were the light.
Instead of a hard and exacting God, Christ showed the true character of the God we serve.
“But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” Psalms 86:15
Our Sabbath observance should lead to the same revelation. Nothing can be more important than knowing God better, and the Sabbath should help us do that. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
In many of our churches this Sabbath we will proudly recite the Fourth Commandment found in Exodus 20:8-11 that begins with an admonition to remember the day and how it must be observed in holiness and goes on to speak of the Creator of all things, leaving no ambiguity about the origin of our world. It even sets boundaries for us to aid in our observance of this special day.
From there we’ll go on to have great music and hopefully a powerful, insightful sermon. We’ll worship and praise in our various ways. But what happens after the service ends? This is where I am challenged to grow.
Somehow over the years the focus of the Sabbath has shifted to exclusively what happens indoors in our various churches. The example of Christ in teaching by the seashores, in fields and plains and on scenic mountain vistas is lost in this day and age. No longer is the lesson book of nature seen as vital to our spiritual growth. We have put all of our eggs into the basket of corporate worship.
There is irony in the fact that as we repeat the commandment of creation we find so little time to commune with our God through His creation. Many lessons about God can only be learned by this process, and to neglect this means of interacting with God stunts our growth.
“So through the creation we are to become acquainted with the Creator. The book of nature is a great lesson book, which in connection with the Scriptures we are to use in teaching others of His character, and guiding lost sheep back to the fold of God. As the works of God are studied, the Holy Spirit flashes conviction into the mind. It is not the conviction that logical reasoning produces; but unless the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see Him, the ear too dull to hear His voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and the sublime, spiritual truths of the written word are impressed on the heart.
In these lessons direct from nature, there is a simplicity and purity that makes them of the highest value. All need the teaching to be derived from this source. In itself the beauty of nature leads the soul away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God. Too often the minds of students are occupied with men’s theories and speculations, falsely called science and philosophy. They need to be brought into close contact with nature. Let them learn that creation and Christianity have one God. Let them be taught to see the harmony of the natural with the spiritual. Let everything which their eyes see or their hands handle be made a lesson in character building. Thus the mental powers will be strengthened, the character developed, the whole life ennobled.
Christ’s purpose in parable teaching was in direct line with the purpose of the Sabbath. God gave to men the memorial of His creative power, that they might discern Him in the works of His hand. The Sabbath bids us behold in His created works the glory of the Creator. And it was because He desired us to do this that Jesus bound up His precious lessons with the beauty of natural things. On the holy rest day, above all other days, we should study the messages that God has written for us in nature. We should study the Saviour’s parables where He spoke them, in the fields and groves, under the open sky, among the grass and flowers. As we come close to the heart of nature, Christ makes His presence real to us, and speaks to our hearts of His peace and love.” Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, pages 24, 25
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does “observing the Sabbath” mean to you?
- What does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy?
- Is it possible to keep a day holy if the person is not holy? Why or why not?
- Isn’t it true that the main function of the Sabbath is to come together for worship? Why or why not?
- Isn’t it true that the best way to learn about God is through sermons? Explain your answer.
- What, if anything, can be learned in nature that cannot be learned from a church service?
- Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd to prepare him for his lifework. What lessons, if any, did he learn from this period spent primarily in nature?
- What, if anything, have you learned about God through nature?
We close this week with familiar words from Jeremiah 9:23, 24. Proper Sabbath observance should have this end in mind:
Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!