The Sabbath or Sunday?
Part 1 of 3 of this bible study

Except a few hundred years the last two thousand years Sabbath is no longer kept by most Christians, but Sunday is celebrated as the day of the Lord. There are reasons for this of course. Well known church leaders have thought about that and formulated a number of doctrines.
What thoughts or teachings on the Sabbath or Sunday there are, it is good to examine those thoughts or doctrines to what the Bible says about those things.

So it seems good to me to explore everything in the Bible to be found at that subject. We will do this, to begin with, without conclusions. Only when we have read all the Bible portions and discussed those on this subject, we will try to establish the biblical directive to keep the Sabbath or Sunday.

You can say what dogmatic! I can't believe that I will get closer to the Lord by being busy with this kind of things.
I dare to doubt that. The Bible is full of things we call 'dogmatic'. Yet they are in it. God would seem that we know how He thinks. And the better we know how God thinks, the closer we come to Him. God had a liking to David.

And David had a great desire to live exactly according to the rules that God in his word (law) had given. (Psalm 40:8 and 119:174).

I know that the law disciplinary master (teacher) was to Christ. We, in Christ, are no longer under the law. We are not justified by works of the law, but by the blood of Jesus and our faith in Him. The cross was and is the only trues that applies. But on the other hand, we have realize that the law has not been abolished. Until there will be a new heaven and a new earth that law will still exist. Jesus even says:

Matthew 5:1

"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Reason enough for us to dig even deeper into this topic.
To start this study logically we begin in the first book of the Bible and search for texts on Sunday or on Saturday (Sabbath).
The Sunday in the Old Testament is not mentioned, so we will read for now only on the Sabbath.
The first time that in fact is spoken in the Bible on the Sabbath, is in Genesis 2. We don't read the word Sabbath here, as such, but subsequent parts of the Bible shows that this is the institution of the Sabbath.

Genesis 2:2-3

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."

Is this seventh day, that day when God was first set up the day of rest, is that day after all these centuries, still to be appointed? Those first few thousand years of history are hardly known. Can it be that the seventh day in each of the year counts are no longer found? This is indeed possible! Who knows now what the seventh day is, the Sabbath?
God knew that later in history this could be a problem. He has solved this problem by appointing that day again as the Sabbath. This story is in Exodus 16. It is the first time that the word Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible.

Exodus 16:23 and 27

"He (Moses) said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. ... Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any."
verse 27: "Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none."

In that way God has, supernaturally, indicated that He sees that day as the seventh day. From history science and from the Jewish tradition it is proven that the seventh day in our era still falls on a Saturday.

The Sabbath is included in God's Law: the Ten Commandments. (Ex.20). But before that law, those Ten Commandments, were given by God to Moses, God spoke to Moses:

Exodus 16:29

"How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days."

The Sabbath rest was a commandment of God before He gave the Ten Commandments, that is the law.
In Exodus 20 we read that God governed the Sabbath rest through the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:8-11

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 Six days you shall labour 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

It is significant that this is the most comprehensive commandment is of the Ten Commandments. It seems that God anticipated that problems can be expected. Any excuse that people could find to escape this commandment was deprived by Him by the extent of this commandment. People are so smart, God seems to think, if I tell them that they must keep the sabbath, they will let work their son or daughter for them. Even just the servants. But God says, even the alien who lives in your cities should keep the Sabbath.

The why of that Sabbath sanctification describes God in this commandment. He says: keep this commandment because it points to the great work I did. And that great work, that creation, points with everything what is in it at its Creator. God wants the people think of Him in one day of the week in particular. Will be busy with His greatness. Will be busy with him. Therefore God hallowed that day. Not because God would be tired of creating He hallowed that day, but to give people a day in which they can be busy with Him in all (enforced) rest.

In carefully reading this commandment, we must notice that in first instance it is not God's intention that people would come to rest from their work, but God says that that day is a day that belongs to Him. When God gave this commandment He directed the attention of man not to the rest, but to Him. That day belongs to Him! We have in fact no control over it. It is His day.
After Exodus 20, the word Sabbath is no longer referred till in Chapter 31.

Exodus 31:12-17

12Then 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 that 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 must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.
15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.
16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. ”

This shows that the Sabbath is so important to God that He makes it for the children of Israel a Matthew r of life or death:
"Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people."

It is also made clear that it is "a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy."
It is a "lasting covenant."

The last time, that in Exodus is spoken on the Sabbath is in Chapter 36.

Exodus 35:2

"....the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD."
Then we go to Leviticus.

Leviticus 19:1-3

"The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
“‘Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God."

Leviticus 23:3

“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD."

The land too has its Sabbath:

Leviticus 25:3

"For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards." verse 23 "....because the land is mine...."

The land is from God. Therefore it must comply with the commandment once every seven years to rest, a year long. We are also of God! Should we, in this context, not even ask ourselves what God thinks about us and our day of rest?

The next text that is on the Sabbath we read in:
Leviticus 26

Leviticus 26:1.2

“‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.
“‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD."

Both Leviticus 19:1 as in Leviticus 26:1 God first called one of the Ten Commandments: respect for father and mother and do not bow down for idols and to cut images. And both times God continues to call the Sabbath commandment. It seems, that He wants to make clear that you're not to hold just one, but also the other commandment (the Sabbath commandment). These commandments could be in one line.
Numbers 15:32-36 makes it clear that even wood gathering is forbidden by the Sabbath commandment and that death penalty is on it. That is a very heavy penalty for, in our eyes, a light offense. There must be something behind it. I think in this context of the words of Paul as he wonders: Is it about oxen that God is concerned? In response to a text which he quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4.

Deuteronomy 5:7-21 reiterates the Ten Commandments. But verse 12-15, in which the Sabbath commandment is regulated, has an entry relating to the servants also need to rest:

Deuteronomy 5:7-21

" you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

In many respects, Israel is a prefiguration for the church. Would this also be the case? We were, when we lived in the world (Egypt), servants of Satan. Now we are saved of that dominion, we must ask ourselves is the Lord asking the same to us as He did for Israel. Would He like it when we hold a day of rest in memory of slavery in our time?

Nehemiah speaks of God who descended on Mount Sinai

Nehemiah 9:13-14

“You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good."

Please note how the Sabbath is emphasized and that the Sabbath is held alongside the fair regulations, just and right laws and the good decrees and commands. The law is seen twice separately from the Sabbath commandment in these texts.

Nehemiah 10:31

Nehemiah makes it clear that "When the neighbouring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath"

Nehemiah noticed at a certain moment that the Sabbath is violated.

Nehemiah 13:17-22

" I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing--desecrating the Sabbath day?
’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”

Nehemiah clearly shows that the Sabbath desecration is the cause of the exile and the destruction of the city.

Sabbath keeping is nice, but it should not be combined with hands full of blood, angry acts or evil.
God says in Isaiah, among other things on the Sabbath:

Isaiah 1:13-14

"I cannot bear your evil assemblies"

More texts from Isaiah:

Isaiah 56:2

"Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it"

Isaiah 56:6-7

"And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant--these I will bring to my holy mountain "

It is in the sanctification of the Sabbath apparently not only about Israelites but to all those who joined the Lord.

Isaiah 58:13-14

God says: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Both for the alien and the children of Israel applies enormous promises if the Sabbath is not desecrated.

According to Isaiah 66:22-23, the Sabbath will be kept as the new heaven and new earth there will be. This is something to think about Isaiah 66:22-23

Jeremiah 17:19-27

19 This is what the LORD said to me: “Go and stand at the gate of the people, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem.
20 Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates.
21 This is what the LORD says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem.
22 Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.
23 Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.
24 But if you are careful to obey me, declares the LORD, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it,
25 then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited for ever.’”
(Jeremiah 17:19-27, NIV).

God makes it again clear that, in this case Judah, may not carry a load on the sabbath day, but has to keep the Sabbath day holy. God promises blessings to those who fulfill this commandment and make punishment in prospect if it is not fulfilled.

Ezekiel 20:10-12

(the lesson of history).
" I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert.
11 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them.
12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy."

God makes a distinction between "decrees and laws" and "Sabbath".
In the verses 16,19,20 and 21, we see again and again that distinction.

This is an important point. If we think of the subject Sabbath - Sunday people quickly say: Is that not legalistic?

We are at the end of the texts in the Old Testament about the Sabbath. On Sunday there is nothing to find in this context.

In part two we will see what can be found in the new Testament on the Sabbath and Sunday.

In Part Three, we discuss the reasons why Christians keep Sunday.

Psalm 40:8 and 119:174

8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:8, NIV). 174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (Psalms 119:174, NIV).

Isaiah 66:22-23

22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.