The Sabbath is a Gift for the World, not a Burden Just for the Jews

They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…. Exodus 16:29 NLT 

Regardless of our personal stand on wedding rings or wedding watches for that matter, we all understand that in many cultures the wedding ring is a gift symbolizing a relationship. Men will pick out a ring that they hope

their fiancés will appreciate and they usually pay a pretty penny for it. Now both parties realize the ring is not the relationship itself but they cherish their rings because of what they represent. Now imagine if a wife told her husband she threw her ring away because after all she has him and no longer needs what the ring represents? Wouldn’t the husband be hurt that his gift was not appreciated?

Or take for example your nation’s flag. On April 25, 1976 The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team were playing a home game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. While the Dodgers were up to bat, two men ran onto the outfield with a United States flag, and opened up a lighter. Rick Monday, the Cubs’ outfielder saw they were trying to burn the flag right there in front of the crowd. He ran and grabbed the flag away from the men before they could catch it on fire. He took the flag to the Dodger’s dugout while the entire crowd cheered for the opposing team’s outfielder who just saved the United States flag. The Dodger’s even put a message on the board saluting the Cubs’ outfielder, “Rick Monday you made a great play!” The crowd cherished and protected the flag because of what it represented. The flag is not our country it is a piece of cloth, but we honor our flags because they represent our country. 

Even though married couples have each other they do not throw their wedding rings away. I even heard a pastor who was against wearing wedding rings counsel a couple who were no longer wearing their rings to keep them away. He counseled them to keep their rings in a special box. So please lets not get sidetracked and miss my point here. The real marriage does not do away with the ring symbolizing the marriage. The real country does not do away with it’s flag symbolizing the country. Likewise God has given us the Sabbath as a gift. He gives us a weekly rest to remind us of His promise to save us by resting our faith in Him alone. He gives us the gift of not working that day to remind us that our works do not save us. God alone saves us. 

Now I have heard people say that  Jesus replaced the weekly Sabbath when He gave us spiritual rest. I have heard people say that in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus gives us a spiritual rest, thus doing away with the Sabbath. However throwing away the weekly Sabbath because we have a spiritual rest now would be the same thing as throwing away wedding ring (or watch) because we now have the wedding, or going ahead and burning our nation’s flag because we now have a nation. People keep their rings and the marriage. People honor their nation’s flag and their country. Fact is in the Old Testament we had a spiritual rest and the weekly Sabbath just like in the New Testament. We have had the Sabbath ever since creation as an eternal sign of the rest we have always had in God in both the Old and New Testament. The Sabbath never saved anyone in the Old Testament or New Testament. We have always been saved by grace, and not by works, and the Sabbath is the everlasting sign and promise that we were created by God’s works and not our own, and that we were redeemed by God’s work on the cross and not our own in both the Old and New Testament. 

Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed. Exodus 31:13-17 NLT

The Sabbath is a sign of God’s promise that He alone makes us holy. Our works don’t sanctify or make us holy. No work is to be done on the Sabbath to symbolize that God’s people understand they are not saved by their works. They are saved in the Old Testament as well as New Testament by resting their faith in God’s works and merits. The rest Jesus offered in Matthew 11:28-30 is the rest the people had in the Old Testament. 

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. Exodus 5:12-15 NLT 

The weekly Sabbath was given as a sign in the Old Testament that their own works did not save them from slavery. God’s works saved them from slavery. In Egypt the Jews did all the work so Pharaoh could rest. God gave them the Sabbath as a gift to remind them He would do all the work so they could rest. In Eden the Sabbath was a sign for Adam and Eve to know that “It was God who made us and not we ourselves.” At Sinai the Sabbath was a sign that God worked out their salvation from Egyptian bondage and they did not save themselves. 

Was the Sabbath rest an Old Testament sign for the Jews alone?

I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. Isaiah 56:6 NLT

The Sabbath is a sign that we are God’s people regardless if we are Jews or foreigners. The Sabbath was not given to the Jews as a sign they were Jews. It was given to the Jews as a sign they were God’s people. That same sign is given to the foreigners that they are God’s people. Old or New Testament, Jew or Gentile, the Sabbath is God’s eternal gift reminding us every week that we are saved by resting our faith in His promises of grace. Like a wedding ring, like a flag, the Sabbath is God’s gift symbolizing every week the rest we have in Him. We don’t throw wedding rings or wedding watches away because we have marriage. We don’t burn flags because we have our country. Likewise we don’t throw the weekly Sabbath away because we have Jesus. The Sabbath is His gift reminding us of His amazing grace. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

You may study more about the Sabbath here.

Better Promises Make a Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had cut down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day.” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not cutting down nearly as many trees as the others are,” the foreman began. “Yes I know, Sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?” 

The new worker did not realize he was not expected saw down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

A popular urban legend tells about a captain on a battleship who spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The response came back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, threatening reprisals, if his demands were not met. The response was, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change. The law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The New Covenant was not an afterthought after the first covenant did not work. The new covenant was actually God’s original plan. What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea – thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort. It was not a faith response. (See Heb. 4:2) Man’s effort failed, so in what we call the New Testament God re-introduces His original plan from the Old Testament, and says “Are you ready to give up trying to do it on your own? and let me write my law on your heart Myself?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they confidently replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go. He knew they could not keep His Law in their own power. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about in Hebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

Circumcision; Gospel or Barbaric Ritual?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, mentions circumcision, which some people in some cultures now classify as barbaric. I have heard a few good Christians question why God chose circumcision for a sign that you belonged to Him? I have heard Christian men ask, “why the penis of all places?”

We all know circumcision is no longer a sign of a covenant between God and us – thank goodness! Still it puzzles some believers as well as unbelievers alike as to why God ever had anyone do this. My purpose here is to answer the question, “why did God ever tell us to do this” and in the process we will see the gospel where before many people only saw a painful ritual.

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT

God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating anymore, so instead of just trusting in God’s promise, he took his much younger handmaid Hagar and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This is the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of just trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (SeeGalatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.

So God had Abraham practice circumcision.

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT

Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Abraham was trusting in his flesh to work things out, so God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh he was trusting in, so that he could realize the gospel is not “me plus Christ” but “Not I but Christ.”

For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT

… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98

Abraham had that part of his body circumcised because that was the part of his body he was trusting, more than he was trusting in God’s power. Now we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water washing self away, and dying to self, we rise up taking the new breath we now live, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.

Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual. For example, female circumcision,  which has no Scriptural significance is still widely practiced. It is seriously harmful to women and its practice often has ulterior motives.

It is worth noting that there is some evidence that circumcision does have health benefits. There is evidence to suggest that certain health issues are less prevalent in communities where circumcision is widely practised (http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/basics/why-its-done/prc-20013585)

Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer Biblical or morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would say, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or “embarrassing” an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second,  most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available. And with the health benefits, your parents may have made no mistake at all.

Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.