“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
FROM SLAVERY TO SABBATH DELIGHT
The Hebrew people were once slaves in Egypt. Slaves are often made to work day in and day out with no day off.
The Egyptians “put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.” (Exodus 1:11,14)
The Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham, had little time to spend with God. But they did call out to God for help.
“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” (Exodus 2:23-25)
The LORD heard the cries of His people and raised up someone whom He would use to free them from their bondage. Therefore, YHWH God revealed Himself to Moses. Moses was told to go to tell the Pharaoh (king) of Egypt:
“The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.” (Exodus 3:18)
But God knew that the stubborn, prideful Pharaoh would not let His people go. Pharaoh made a costly mistake! It is not a smart thing to fight against God! God is God Almighty and He Himself would set His people free through many great miracles. Pharaoh would end up enduring ten plagues and losing his firstborn son and his army.
So the LORD pushed back the waters of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could walk away from Egypt on dry land!
Thousands of former slaves are now free. Their loving Father God knew that they would need some rules by which to live. Egypt’s laws, dictated by a tyrant king, had oppressed them and kept them slaves. God’s laws were given for their own good and would help build an orderly society. The LORD gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments as a way of life.
Included was a day off from work. What a wonderful law for a people who were once forced to work day in and day out! No longer could anyone coerce or force anyone else to work every day! Even the servants were to have the Sabbath free. The God of Israel had commanded it. You see, Our loving God is not a hard task master like the Pharaoh.
God’s “commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
The Sabbath day was to be a delight, a day of rest, a day to spend with God, to meditate on His Goodness and His Word. Here is what God told them about the Sabbath:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 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.” (Exodus 20)
The traditional Jewish Sabbath is from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Today, the government of Israel still supports the observance of the Sabbath. Everyone gets the day off, except for necessary services like hospitals who help people. This, of course, is allowable.
Jesus Christ (Yeshua), the Lord Himself, healed on the Sabbath. Yeshua said,
“…it is lawful on the Sabbaths to do good.” (Matthew 12:12)
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
That is a very important statement because the LORD did not intend the Sabbath to be a burden. He wants it to be a delight! In our next lesson, we will see what “keeping the Sabbath holy” means for Christians.