LESSON 8 *May 16 - 22
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Gen. 2:2, 3; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 58:12-14; Ezek. 20:12; Heb. 4:9-11.

Memory Text:

"Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath' " (Mark 2:27, 28, NIV).

      If there is anything in the Christian faith relevant for people living at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is the Sabbath. It is the medicine badly needed by millions in societies plagued by stress, heart problems, and burnout. It offers escape from the never-ending pressures of modern life. It provides a possibility to recharge our empty batteries and to refocus on the real priorities in life. The Sabbath tells us that there is a time to close the door of our home and our mind to the clutter and noise of the world and to come into the presence of the One who made us and who knows what we need.

"If there is any command hurried and hassled modern people need, it is the Sabbath. We are so busy trying to create meaning in our own life and serving ourselves that we forget that God is the only One who can give meaning to our lives. We show our 'resting' in Him by resting on His day."—Jon L. Dybdahl, The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: Exodus (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press® Publishing Association), p. 186.

The Week at a Glance:

Why is the Sabbath so important for us? Why did God institute the Sabbath? What is holy time? Who or what makes the Sabbath holy? How can we make Sabbath keeping a delightful and meaningful experience?

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 23.


God's Gift for Busy People

Two basic institutions for all humankind date from the first week of earth's history: marriage and the Sabbath. They are an intrinsic part of the divine program for human happiness. No wonder that both have, through the ages, been so much under attack from the evil one. God knew what humanity would need, and He therefore created time with a perfect cycle of six "normal" days plus one extraordinary day: the Sabbath. And ever since, those who have respected this divinely instituted rhythm have been blessed by it.

Why did God Himself rest on the seventh day after the creation of the world? Gen. 2:2, 3.

With what term does the prophet Ezekiel refer to the Sabbath? What do you think that means? Ezek. 20:12.

"After resting upon the seventh day, God sanctified it, or set it apart, as a day of rest for man. Following the example of the Creator, man was to rest upon this sacred day, that as he should look upon the heavens and the earth, he might reflect upon God's great work of creation; and that as he should behold the evidences of God's wisdom and goodness, his heart might be filled with love and reverence for his Maker.

"God saw that a Sabbath was essential for man, even in Paradise. He needed to lay aside his own interests and pursuits for one day of the seven, that he might more fully contemplate the works of God and meditate upon His power and goodness. He needed a Sabbath to remind him more vividly of God and to awaken gratitude because all that he enjoyed and possessed came from the beneficent hand of the Creator."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 47, 48.
What is your experience with the Sabbath? Do you enjoy it? Do you come to a deeper appreciation of God through contemplating the marvels of His creation? If not, what changes could you make that could help you have a more fulfilling Sabbath experience?


Holy Time

The word holy occurs in the Bible in different settings. People are sometimes referred to as holy; so are objects or time periods. The core meaning is "to set aside for a specific use." Priests were holy people because they were singled out for service in the sanctuary. They handled holy vessels and instruments, which were withdrawn from secular use for a specific ritual purpose. Similarly, holy days are marked by God for a specific purpose. Once they have been singled out as holy, they are no longer available for common use, because they have been destined for a higher purpose. The activities on such holy days must correspond with the purpose God has attached to such days.

We must "remember" to keep the Sabbath holy. Do we or does God make the day holy? What difference does that make? Gen. 2:3, Isa. 58:13.

"The Sabbath is a powerful testimony to the sovereignty of God. Only he can create, and only he can make something holy. This is why Adventists object so strongly to the change from Sabbath to Sunday as the Christian day of rest and worship. Without a clear divine mandate, such a development is nothing less than an affront to God."—Richard Rice, The Reign of God (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1997), p. 403.

How does the weekly holy seventh-day Sabbath impact those who choose to obey the command to keep the Sabbath according to God's appointed day of holy time? Exod. 31:12, 13.

Keeping the Sabbath combines internal with external aspects. When our Sabbath keeping is only a matter of external behavior, following a list of rules, we have missed its true meaning. But, at the same time, our Sabbath keeping is visible to others. It tells other people that we are separate and different. It is a sign of our loyalty to our Creator and Redeemer.
God wants His people to be "holy"; that is, He wants people who have consciously separated themselves from the things of this world. How should keeping the Sabbath help you in a concrete way to be "separate" from the world? How should the reality of the approaching Sabbath each week serve as a reminder to you, when facing temptations during the week, that we are supposed to be a holy people, a people separate from the defiling things of the world?


Experiencing the Joy of the Sabbath

When we talk about the Sabbath commandment, we usually refer to the version we find in Exodus 20. There the commandment is anchored in the Creation of the world. Every Sabbath we are reminded that God is our Creator and that we are His creatures, with all that this glorious truth implies. But in the version of the Ten Commandments in the book of Deuteronomy we discover an additional aspect. The weekly Sabbath is also a commemoration of Israel's delivery from Egyptian bondage and thus, by extension, of every kind of slavery from which God's grace has set humanity free.

Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15 carefully and compare it with Exodus 20:8-11. What do they add to each other? How do they complement each other? Are there possibly still other things we ought to "remember" in our Sabbath keeping? If so, what might they be?

The Sabbath is a sign not only of creation but of redemption. It points us to the salvation we have in Jesus, who not only re-creates us now (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15) but offers the hope of an eternity in a new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13). In fact, the Jews have seen the Sabbath as a symbol of the "world to come"; that is, the new heavens and the new earth. It's a weekly foretaste of what we will have for eternity and should serve as a special reminder of what we have been given in Jesus.

On a more practical level, Sabbath helps to free us from the slavery of the clock and the calendar. Many are slaves of computers and mobile phones, also. For many people it has become incredibly difficult to separate work time from leisure time. It seems that modern life requires that we can always be reached and always must be ready to switch into our work mode. The Sabbath is the perfect antidote to this disease, which threatens every form of true rest, both physical and spiritual.

"Setting aside a holy Sabbath means that we can cease our productivity and accomplishments for one day in every seven. The exciting thing about such a practice is that it changes our attitudes for the rest of the week. It frees us up to worry less about how much we produce on the other days. Furthermore, when we end that futile chasing after wind, we can truly rest and learn delight in new ways."—Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), p. 19.


Modeling Sabbath Rest to the World

Read Isaiah 58:12-14. What principles can we take away from these verses about Sabbath keeping that help us better experience the blessings God has for us if we remember the Sabbath properly?

It is an extremely unfortunate reality: Many Adventists do not truly enjoy God's Sabbath. Some remember with utter frustration the ways in which the Sabbath was kept in their parental home. Even in Adventist institutions, Sabbath keeping can leave much to be desired. Rules and regulations are supposed to ensure that the Sabbath is kept "holy." Some of these rules are based on biblical principles, but many have, in actual fact, more to do with tradition and culture than with a "thus says the Lord."

The Sabbath never must be a day mainly associated with prohibitions and restrictions. If we are looking for a model to follow, we must let ourselves be inspired by the example of Jesus.

Look carefully at the following passages and discover how Jesus, our ultimate Example, kept the seventh-day Sabbath "holy." Mark 2:23-3:6, Luke 4:16, 6:1-11.

"Heaven's work never ceases, and men should never rest from doing good. The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no labor for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God ceased His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds. The work of Christ in healing the sick was in perfect accord with the law. It honored the Sabbath."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 207.


The Sign of Rest

As Sabbath keepers we often are accused of trying to work our way to heaven by keeping the Sabbath. We hear that all the time. How should we respond?

Read again the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20. What does it tell us to do? It tells us to rest-our sons, our daughters, our servants, our animals, and even the strangers among us. It's all about rest.

Now, a simple question: How is it that the one commandment devoted to rest, the one commandment that specifically expresses rest, the one commandment that gives us a special opportunity to rest-how has this been turned into the universal "New Covenant" symbol of works? The only commandment that, by its nature, is all about rest has become, for many, the metaphor for salvation by works.

What's wrong with this picture?

Indeed, far from being a symbol of works, the Sabbath is the Bible's eternal symbol of the rest that God's people have always had in Him.

Read Hebrews 4:9-11. What is the message to us here about the Sabbath?

From the pre-Fall world of Adam's and Eve's Eden to the New Covenant rest that God's followers have in Christ's work of redemption for them, the Sabbath is a real-time manifestation of the rest that Christ offers to all. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls us to rest in Him. He will give us rest, and that rest finds one expression in His universal Sabbath day. Anyone can say that they are resting in Christ: anyone can say that they are saved by grace. But the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath is a visible expression of that rest, a living parable of what it means to be covered by His grace. Our weekly rest from our secular, worldly works stands as a symbol of our rest in the completed work of Jesus for us.

Our obedience to this commandment is a way of saying: "We're so sure of our salvation in Jesus, we're so firm and secure in what Christ has done for us, that we can-in a special way-rest from any of our works because we know what Christ has accomplished for humanity through His death and resurrection."

Sabbath is a very real, very expressive, very visible expression and manifestation of the rest that we have in Jesus and what He has done for us. We don't have to say it; we can express it in a real way, a way that those who don't keep the Sabbath can't.


Further Study:  
  Read the comments made by Ellen G. White on the giving of the Ten Commandment law in Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 303-310, and on the story about Jesus' Sabbath keeping together with His disciples in The Desire of Ages, pp. 281-289.

A rich source for additional information is: Walter F. Specht, "The Sabbath in the New Testament," in Kenneth A. Strand, ed., The Sabbath in Scripture and History (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 1982), pp. 92-113.

Note in particular this passage: "In Mark's account (chap. 2:27), Jesus then raised the issue of the purpose of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was not an end in itself. . . . It was designed to be a blessing to man, a day of physical rest, but also a day devoted to spiritual exercises. The Pharisees treated the day as though man were created to serve the Sabbath, rather than the Sabbath meeting the needs of man. R. Shim 'on ben Menasya about A.D. 180 made a similar statement [to the statement made by Jesus]: 'The Sabbath is given over to you but you are not surrendered to the Sabbath.' "—Page 96.

Discussion Questions:
     In class, compare your descriptions of what a "perfect" Sabbath would be like. What can you do to come as close as possible to that ideal?

   Earlier in the week it was suggested that some of the rules and restrictions we apply to the Sabbath are rooted more in tradition than in the Word of God. As a class, discuss what these human-made rules might be, as opposed to what the Bible says. How can we know the difference?

   Dwell more on the idea expressed in Thursday's lesson. How can we better show the world that the special rest that we enjoy in Jesus through the Sabbath reveals the reality of Christ's grace in our lives? What things might we have done that give others the wrong impression?

  The Sabbath is God's gift to humanity. It is the perfect antidote for today's restlessness and stress. It is a very specific weekly amount of time that God has made "holy" for us. The day can, if approached with the right attitude, be a source of physical and spiritual rest and a time of great joy. The ultimate example of true Sabbath keeping is Jesus, who referred very significantly to Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath.

I N S I D E Story    
The Stranger on the Bus


One family in the country of Azerbaijan is convinced that the stranger they encountered on a bus was no ordinary passenger.

Gunel's family was mourning the loss of her grandfather. One day Gunel's mother boarded a bus to visit her grandfather's grave. As she sat crying quietly, a woman sat down beside her. She comforted Gunel's mother by telling her that God is good, that Jesus will come again, and that there is hope for the future. The woman told her about a church she could visit to learn more about these things. Gunel's mother thanked the woman for her kind words.

A month later, Gunel's mother saw the woman on the bus again. The woman again encouraged her and gave her the address of the church. Gunel's mother was so moved by the experiences that she asked Gunel to go with her to visit the church on Saturday morning to see what it was like. The two women stood near the church, hesitant to go inside, for they had never been to a Christian church. A church greeter standing saw the two women and crossed the street to invite them in. Inside they were welcomed warmly with hugs and kisses.

After the service, Gunel's mother asked members about the woman she had met on the bus. She described her in detail, but no one recognized the woman from the description. The pastor, who knew all of the Adventists in the city, listened to the description and finally concluded that no such person attended the church. "I think you've met an angel," he told Gunel and her mother.

Gunel's mother continued attending the Adventist church. She studied the Bible diligently and was baptized. Later, Gunel and her brother and sister also were baptized. Now they hold a small group meeting in their home. Many of their friends abandoned them when they left their traditional religion, but they are firm in their faith. Gunel is studying to help Adventist World Radio produce radio programs in the Azeri language.

The family has never seen the woman on the bus again.

Your mission offerings support outreach to Azerbaijan and all of Central Asia through Adventist World Radio and personal evangelism. Thank you.

GUNEL (left). Benjamin D. Schoun is president of Adventist World Radio.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness.
email:   info@adventistmission.org   website:  www.adventistmission.org

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