Having enjoyed yesterday another Sabbath, where my soul was rejuvenated and my heart made glad, I thought I would encourage you with ten concise reasons (five coming from the Old Testament and five from the New) as to why you should honor the Lord's Day.
First and foremost, remembering the Sabbath is a command. From the first week of creation (Gen. 2:3-4), to the formalizing it in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11), to the prophets urging the people to honor it (Jer. 17:27), the Sabbath Day is a command given to God's people.
The Sabbath offers rest to you. The word Sabbath means "rest," the fourth commandment calls people to rest from their labors on this day (Ex. 20:10), and it is a promise that God will give rest to his people (Ex. 35:2).
The Sabbath is a sign of spiritual realities. In Exodus 31:12, the Lord told Moses to instruct the people, "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you." The Sabbath is a sign of wonderful blessings the Lord desires to give to his people.
In particular, the Sabbath is a sign promising redemption. In the two places in the Bible where the Ten Commandments are listed (Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21), dual acts of God are given as reasons for observing the Sabbath. The first act is the creation of the world (Ex. 20:11) and the second is redemption from slavery (Deut. 5:15). The One who made the world, then watched mankind plunge itself into sin and slavery, promises via the Sabbath that he will redeem his people.
The Sabbath prophesied that Christ would bring this redemption. The prophet Isaiah, as he looks ahead to the age of Christ, equates the Sabbath Day with the Day of the Lord (or the Lord's Day), and anticipates great blessing to those who observe it faithfully.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Is. 58:13-14)
In the Old Testament, the term "day of the Lord" was used to signify a visitation of the Lord to bring judgment on his enemies and deliverance to his people. Isaiah is seeing the Sabbath become an ultimate time of victory and blessing for the Lord and his people.
Jesus kept the Sabbath. As the New Testament opens up with the gospel accounts, we see that our Lord Jesus observed the Sabbath himself (Luke 4:16), told us he was Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), and taught the day was made for us (Mark 2:27). Knowing that Jesus kept it gives us both precept and example to do likewise.
Jesus used the Sabbath to preach and bring redemption. Jesus was most active on the Sabbath, to the Pharisees' chagrin and to his Father's delight. He preached and taught on this day (Mark 1:21, 6:2; Luke 4:14-15). And he especially healed on the Sabbath, bringing restoration to such people as the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-14), the demon-possessed man in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-37), the woman bent double for 18 years (Luke 13:10-17), the man suffering from dropsy (Luke 14:1-6), the man born blind (John 9:1-17), and the man who had been an invalid for 38 years by the Pool of Siloam (John 5:1-17). The One that the Old Testament Sabbath signified would come bringing redemption has arrived!
By virtue of his death and resurrection, the Lord transformed the day of rest to the first day of the week. The Old Testament Sabbath was on the last day of the week. Yet with Christ being crucified on Friday, in the grave throughout Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), and being raised early Sunday morning, we see that the old Sabbath with its shadows and sacrifices died with Christ. But Christ was raised on the first day of the week to show his victory over sin, death, and Satan, fulfilling what the Sabbath Day promised. Sunday then marks a new Christian Sabbath, or the Lord's Day, as he defeated our enemies and delivered us from our sins.
Repeatedly in the New Testament, the Lord indicates that the first day of the week is now the new holy day for Christians. We see this a number of times in the New Testament.
- When Jesus appeared to his disciples on the first day of his resurrection, Thomas was not there. To overcome his doubts, Jesus appeared to him a week later on Sunday and Thomas worshiped the risen Lord (John 20:24-28).
- Pentecost is the day the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to the church (Acts 2:1-4). Pentecost was an Old Testament feast day celebrating the first fruits of harvest, and it derives its name from the number 50. By coming fifty days after the Passover, or "on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev. 23:11), clearly Pentecost fell on the first day of the week. The Lord sending his Spirit to the church and reaping a gospel harvest on the first day of the week is significant of his desire for worship and preaching to occur on this day.
- The New Testament testifies that the early church began meeting on this day for worship, preaching, giving, and prayer (Acts 20:1 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Rev 1:10).
The Lord's Day points us to the great coming Day of the Lord. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." Every time we gather as the church for worship on the Lord's Day, we should be reminded, examined, and prepared for the great day of judgment and consummation that yet awaits us as Christ will return (Matt. 25:31-46).
With these reasons in mind, how we should set the Lord's Day apart for worship, rest, mercy, and preparation for heaven to take place!