Honoring the Sabbath and keeping it Holy is in the Ten Commandments. Specifically, it’s the fourth commandment found in Exodus 20. When the command is given in Exodus, the basis for this command goes back to creation.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Sabbath is important.
Throughout much of Israel’s history, they had not taken the Sabbath as seriously as they should have.
In the prophets, their failure to keep the Sabbath is pointed to as a symptom of their sin and lack of devotion to God.
In Ezekiel 20:10-26, Israel’s profaning of the Sabbath is looked at as a direct cause of their downfall.
In Amos 8:5, the Israelites are judged for their half-hearted Sabbath observance and their regular desire to have the Sabbath conclude so that they can resume pursuing their own ends and their own goals.
We see a similar idea at the beginning of the Book of Isaiah. The Israelites are half-hearted in their pursuit of God. And their Sabbath observance is mentioned in Isaiah 1:13:
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Half-heartedly going through the motions is looked upon by God as vain.
He wants true, genuine worship.
As we’ve talked about on numerous occasions, in the Old Testament, Israel is eventually judged by God and they lose their land.
When the southern kingdom was able to return to their land, they attempted to learn from their past sins in the final centuries before Christ.
Here’s something you might not have known.
In the gospels, you have Jesus constantly interacting with the Pharisees. But where are they in the Old Testament? They’re not there.
Or think about rabbis. Where does the Old Testament ever talk about someone going to their rabbi?
It was after the Israelites had lost the land and returned from exile that these institutions arose.
And part of the goal was a return to the law.
They wanted to learn from history and learn from their past sins as a people, and so one of the cultural responses was a hyper-sensitivity to the Law of the Old Testament.
The Law was good. Romans 7:12 tells us that the Law is holy. 1 Timothy 1:8 tells us that the Law is good if used properly.
But in an effort to make sure that they followed the Law, they added rules that were not Biblical onto the Biblical Law as a way of trying to ensure adherence.
By the first century, Jewish tradition had listed 39 different activities which were prohibited on the Sabbath.
In some schools of thought, adherence to the Sabbath was more important than life and death.
And so for this man who has just been healed, for him to move his bed is looked upon as a violation of the Sabbath because that’s viewed as technically being work.
They’re missing sight of what Jesus has just done for this man.
The religious establishment tells this man that it is not lawful for him to pick up his bed and carry it on the Sabbath.
But according to who’s law? It’s according to their interpretation not to a specific command of scripture.
The Sabbath command in the Old Testament relates to work. This man isn’t doing work. He’s simply picking up his belongings after being healed. He’s not committing a sin here.
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