The Sabbath was a sign for Israel that God is the Lord who makes them holy. This was God’s final instruction before sending Moses down the mountain with the tablets. The Sabbath signifies that the covenant is made between the Creator and created…
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.
14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
Keeping the Sabbath was punishable by death. No wonder Jesus was in so much trouble when he healed people on the Sabbath – he was in violation of this law in the strict way the religious leaders interpreted it.
Can you imagine cutting someone off for working on a Sunday today? That’s our day of congregational worship and rest. Are we ready to banish or kill the offenders? Of course not. We understand now through Jesus’ teaching that the Sabbath was created for us and not the other way around.
The sign of the Sabbath was a reminder of how the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and then rested on the seventh day – we focus on the rest part of the sign, yet notice that the sign is as much about God’s creativity and power as it is about rest.
Sabbath reminded Israel, and it reminds us today, that God created – spoke into existence – the heavens and the earth. The reflection of Sabbath is a reflection of God’s wonder and power. It is part of the agreement of covenant law between Israel and God.
I think it’s fitting that agreements and commands between God and his people are made against a backdrop of his amazing creativity and power. This Sabbath sign communicates that the covenant is not between equals. It is between the creator and the created…