The Ten Commandments

4b - Keeping The New Covenant Sabbath

an article based on a sermon

by Jon Bowles

given 7 July 2007


In our first article on the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, "The New Covenant Sabbath," I pointed out that the main problem -- whether one accepts or rejects the clear command to keep God's Sabbath -- is the difference between the converted and the carnal mind. Romans 8:7, "Because the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

We covered how the Sabbath points back to the Physical Creator, how it is a sign between God and His people, and how it points to the Spiritual Creator, as well. Of all the commandments that God (the One who became Jesus Christ) gave from Mount Sinai, the Sabbath command is the only one where He said to remember. Exodus 20:8, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." And it is the one command that the world wants to forget.

It is also the first of all the Ten Commandments that you find set forth in scripture. It is clearly laid down in Genesis 2, where on the seventh day of creation week, God rested and sanctified, hallowed, the seventh day.

The Sabbath command has nothing to do with the "laws of Moses," the "works of the law" that were added because of transgressions. The Sabbath is one of the commands that was being transgressed. It cannot be part of the "works of the law" because it came so far before them. The Sabbath command is, in fact, the very antithesis of "works," because it is a command not to work at all.

The Sabbath was given by Jesus Christ Himself -- by the member of the Godhead, the Living Word who became Jesus Christ. After working for the six days of creation week, He rested on the seventh day. This was how the Sabbath was made. By example He created it.

When Christ arrived on the earth, He said to the Pharisees, who were trampling on the Sabbath and making a mockery of it with their rules and regulations: Mark 2:27, The Sabbath was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath. Christ pointed out the right perspective that was needed.

The Sabbath is the law highlighted as a sign of the relationship between God and His people, the people that believe in the true Creator God. The Sabbath is also the law highlighted, along with the command against idolatry (the two being tied together) as to why Israel went into captivity. It was the breaking of these two commandments specifically that led to their captivity (Ezekiel 20). God the Father and Jesus Christ do not change (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8).

In this article we will cover how to keep the New Covenant Sabbath by looking at the principle, the very mind, the attitude of God Himself in regards to the Fourth Commandment. Why is there a Sabbath? What is the purpose of it from God's perspective? How does He want us to properly keep it? To answer these questions, we will look at seven aspects of keeping the Sabbath.

The Sabbath Is Rest From Labor

Let us look at the principle of the Sabbath being rest from labor, by going to the initial command itself.

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. [The word sabbath means "rest." We are to remember "the rest day."] (9) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. [We should be working. Even those who are infirm can work at something.] (10) But the seventh day is the sabbath [rest] of the [Eternal] thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: [The command to rest covers a wide range of all those around us.] (11) For in six days the [Eternal] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the [Eternal] blessed the sabbath day [the rest day], and hallowed [sanctified] it.

The Eternal rested on the seventh day. The very heart and core of the Sabbath command is the fact that the Sabbath means "rest." In our previous article on the New Covenant Sabbath, I read from an article whose authors were against the principles of the Sabbath, claiming that at the time of creation there was not really a Sabbath command, because the word "sabbath" was not mentioned. That is not true.

Genesis 2:1-2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (2) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

God rested. He "sabbathed" on the seventh day. The idea that Genesis 2 never mentions the word "sabbath" is ridiculous. The word "rest" means "sabbath."

Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested [sabbathed] from all his work which God created and made.

The Sabbath Day was implemented at the time of creation. In trying to understand the principle behind the Sabbath command, we must not lose sight of the basis of the Sabbath, which is that we rest. The Sabbath is a rest, and the period for that rest is from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. That is the command God gave to us. Everything we do on the Sabbath Day should be from the standpoint that the Sabbath is a rest.

The Pharisees took the command to rest and made it into an art form. They said that you could not walk more than such and such a distance from your property on the Sabbath Day. They then determined that "property" meant anything larger than a dried fig. They would stuff their pockets with dried figs and walk a certain distance and drop one of them, then walk another set distance and drop another one. Total lunacy! This has nothing to with the principle of the command to rest.

Some of us have to travel a far distance to meet for the Sabbath. The principle of resting must always be maintained, but there are other scriptures regarding the Sabbath as well and we are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Convocation is also part of the Sabbath command; and if we have to travel to convocate, then we must travel.

There is one area that we need to be aware of regarding the Sabbath as opposed to other Holy Days. On other Holy Days, except the Day of Atonement, food can be prepared.

Leviticus 23:28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the [Eternal] your God. The Day of Atonement is a day of fasting; and, therefore, no work is to be done. No work is to be done on the weekly Sabbath as well.

Leviticus 23:3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation [gathering]; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the [Eternal] in all your dwellings.

In regards to the other Holy Days, no servile work is to be done.

Leviticus 23:7 In the first day [of Unleavened Bread] ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

"Servile work" means the work you normally do for your living. Exodus 12:16 explains what "servile work" actually means. "And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you."

On the Sabbath no work is to be done. The Sabbath rest is to be special, and we should try to make sure that that is the case. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is not just a matter of attending Church Services. The way we are able to have this rest from labor is given in scripture, as we shall soon see.

The Pharisees originated shortly after the time of Ezra. The Jews had gone into captivity and started to examine why they were in captivity. They highlighted two problems -- idolatry and Sabbath breaking -- and came up with the Talmud to "protect" God's laws, specifically the Sabbath, by enforcing a number of rules. One of the rules was dropping dried figs after traveling a certain distance, which we covered earlier. If you go into a hotel in Israel today, you will find that elevators go up and down automatically on the Sabbath, stopping at each floor so that you do not have to press a button and, therefore, will not break the Sabbath. They have come up with absurd rules to hedge the Sabbath around.

When Christ came, He dealt with the Pharisees. He told them how absurd their rules were, how they defeated the purpose of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

This is not the sweet-corn we are used to seeing. It was wheat or, perhaps, barley. They would pluck these green ears of grain, rub them in their hands, and then chew on them like you would chew gum.

Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

To the Pharisees, plucking the ears of grain was harvesting, which was working.

Christ and the disciples were not harvesting. They were walking through the field, plucking green ears of grain, rubbing them in their hands and chewing on them.

Mark 2:25-26 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? (26) How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

Why did Christ bring up this incident with David? If you read the account, you will find that specific instruction was given to the priest (I Samuel 22:10). The priest, on his own, did not tell David he could eat the showbread. There had to be specific answer given by either the Urim or Thummin to say, I Samuel 21:4-5, "Providing you have not had sexual relations for three days, we will count you as holy; and you may eat the showbread." This was not the showbread that was on the altar at the time. This was showbread that had been taken off the altar, having been replaced with fresh bread. Only the priests were allowed to eat the showbread.

Continuing with Mark 2:27, And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.

The Pharisees had rules and regulations regarding the Sabbath, and Christ told them that those rules and regulations were wrong. The rules of the Pharisees did not reflect the principle of the Sabbath Day, the mind of God, on the subject of the Sabbath. The mind of God on the subject of the Sabbath is that the Sabbath is made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath. Man is not to worship the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a blessing for mankind. The Pharisees needed to get it right. The New Covenant Sabbath must be a rest, but it is more than that. It is made for man, and there are other commands regarding it that we must also take note of.

Mark 2:28-3:6 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath [He is Lord of the Sabbath because He created it]. (3:1) And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. (2) And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. (3) And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. (4) And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace [they could not answer Him]. (5) And when he had looked round about on them with anger... [He was very angry at the attitude of these individuals] ...being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (6) And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

The Pharisees were totally oblivious to what had happened spiritually. What was Christ doing? He was saying that the Sabbath Day is a blessing to man. Man does not worship the Sabbath. The Sabbath has been given to man. We in God's Church have to make sure that we keep the Sabbath Day the right way -- in "The Way" Jesus Christ approached it.

Being Refreshed

When Christ was being tempted by Satan, He said in Matthew 4:4, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." It is not a case of taking one commandment and making rules around it, which is what the Pharisees did. We must take all of the words of God, put them all into effect, and look at the entire picture so that we can understand God's mind, His attitude, the principle that is behind the subject.

When Christ made the pronouncement against the Pharisees, one of the principles He applied is found in Exodus 23:12. "Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest [sabbatize] that thine ox and thine ass may rest..."

In God's Law, not only people, but also the working animals have to rest. So when we come upon an "ox in a ditch" on the Sabbath, what are we to do? We are not to merely apply the rule that we are to rest and leave our ox stuck in a ditch. We pull the ox out. Why? Because the Sabbath, the "rest," includes our ox as well. And it is very clear that this aspect of the Sabbath is not limited to oxen or asses but includes sheep and other animals also.

Exodus 23:12 (cont'd) ...and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

In a similar way, the Sabbath rest is to also include the persons that we employ and their children, the stranger, the people around us. It is not just you and me who are to keep the Sabbath. It is also the people around us that we have jurisdiction over who are to be given the opportunity to keep the Sabbath.

In Mark 2 Christ gave His disciples permission to pluck the ears of corn and eat them on the Sabbath Day. This was not a problem. Christ -- as the God of the Old Testament -- gave specific permission to the priest that David could have the showbread. Why? Because of the principle involved. Similarly, it was not breaking the spirit and intent of the Sabbath, which is that man was not created for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man.

We need to understand the Sabbath principle correctly. Mark 3 relates the account of the man with the withered hand. Of course, Christ was not going to limit the Sabbath to say you cannot heal on the Sabbath Day, the way the Pharisees did. Why? Because, as we read: "The stranger has to be refreshed." In the account in Mark 3, the man was "in slavery" with a withered hand. He could not pick anything up. Christ refreshed the man by healing him. This is the mindset of God.

The essence of the Fourth Commandment is to rest. From Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, we must rest; but the command goes beyond that. It is not just "me" that has to rest. It is the people that I come into contact with, that I am responsible for, as well.

What if people are not going to rest, as in the case of those working in a restaurant? Should we buy food in a restaurant on the Sabbath Day? People are going to be working there on the Sabbath whether we are there or not. Our being there or not being there is not going to make any difference as to their working on the Sabbath. If we had to get the workers up and make them work, we should not do that. But in most cases, they are going to be working anyway. Mr. Armstrong therefore applied the principle of resting and refreshing and did not see a problem with eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath Day.

The principle being brought out in Exodus 23 is that we need to think of others around us that we have jurisdiction over and make sure that we and they keep the Sabbath. This includes husbands helping their wives. The way we are able to rest is by applying the principle of the Preparation Day. If we do not properly use the Preparation Day before the Sabbath, then the Sabbath will not be a rest.

Ezekiel 36 talks about the New Covenant as it will apply in Israel's case in the future. At the present time the New Covenant is a marriage agreement between Jesus Christ and the Church. Now is the espousal period of that marriage agreement that will actually be consummated at Christ's return. That is the essence of the New Covenant.

But we need to be aware as well that when Christ returns the people will also then come into a very similar covenant agreement. However, that will be as children of Christ and His wife, the Church. It will be a "family agreement" the same way it is today, but it will not be an agreement between Christ and His wife. It will be between Christ and His wife, and the children that will then come into the family of God at that time.

Ezekiel 36:25-26 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. (26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh [clearly talking about a New Covenant, a new agreement, being made with people, where God's Spirit is in the heart]. Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

The laws of God will be in the heart, as Jeremiah 31 talks about; and God's laws will be kept by all people.

The Principle of the Preparation Day

In looking at the Preparation Day before the Sabbath, there is a principle we need to apply as to the way we keep the law, keep God's way, understand His mind, understand His character in order to rest and have the time to spend with our families and do the things that are important on the Sabbath Day.

Exodus 16:4 Then said the [Eternal] unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove [test] them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

This was a test, given before Israel came to mount Sinai. God was going to give them manna from heaven, from the sky.

Exodus 16:5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily [here is the Preparation Day, the sixth day of the week].

Exodus 16:24-29 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. (25) And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath [a rest] unto the [Eternal] to day ye shall not find it in the field. (26) Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. (27) And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. (28) And the [Eternal] said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? [Remember the Eternal is the One who became Christ.] (29) See, for that the [Eternal] hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

Exodus 16:35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

For 40 years, for 2,080 occasions, the children of Israel had a Preparation Day. It was shown to them by the miracle that on the sixth day they had twice the amount of manna, and that manna could be kept through the Sabbath. Any other time they would not be able to keep the manna more than one day because it would spoil quickly.

How does this example apply to us? Why is it important? How do you rest? How do you apply the principle to rest? When do you start preparing for the Sabbath? When does the Preparation Day start?

The Preparation Day starts on Thursday evening. If you come home late on Friday from work, you are not going to have time to prepare for the Sabbath. You will be going straight into the Sabbath. We are to start preparing 24 hours before the Sabbath, and that preparation starts Thursday evening. We are to be prepared and get things ready for the Sabbath -- food, the things needed for the children, etc. -- starting Thursday evening so that on Friday evening we start the Sabbath Day properly. That is what the Sabbath is, a rest day. That is the essence of the Sabbath Day.

There are other principles that need to be applied. Remember, there is also the principle of being refreshed -- not only yourself, but your wife, your children, your animals, those whom you have jurisdiction over. Mr. Armstrong gave the example of a farmer who had to feed the chickens on the Sabbath. As he had to grind the chicken feed during the week, he would grind an extra sixth each day so that he would not have to grind feed on the Sabbath.

We need to analyze our own situations, using the Spirit of God. We know the Sabbath is a rest day. We need to prepare for it so that it is, indeed, a rest day. Our judgment is right now (I Peter 4:17). We are being judged by how we apply these principles, how we apply every word of God, because we are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). God's Laws must be kept by applying the Spirit of God, the Mind of God, not merely using a Pharisaical tick list of points we have compiled.

For 40 years this principle of the Preparation Day was implemented in the case of Ancient Israel. We need to look at it and see if we can apply the principles in a New Covenant sense today. To apply it in the new agreement where the law is in our heart, where we are, in fact, trying to do what we can to make sure we are spiritually obedient to the very thinking of God.

The Sabbath Day Points Us To Our Creator

There is also the principle of the Sabbath actually pointing us to our Creator.

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: (10) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the [Eternal] thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: (11) For in six days the [Eternal] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the [Eternal] blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The command points back to the original creation and to the Creator. We need to be aware of the enormous effect our environment has on us. When Christ heard that John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod (Matthew 14), He went off by Himself to a "desert place."

Matthew 14:13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

Christ took himself away and went out to a solitary place. "Desert place" does not necessarily mean a place with no water. The word for "desert" in the original Greek can include trees and grassland. Christ's example of going into a private place gives us the principle for where our Church Services and our Feast of Tabernacles should be. A big, bustling city is not the best place for a Feast. Sometimes that is all we can manage to find, but it is best to try and have our Services away from the towns and cities if we can.

Deuteronomy 5 gives us another reason for keeping the Sabbath, pointing us to the spiritual creation as well. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the [Eternal] thy God hath commanded thee. (13) Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: (14) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the [Eternal] thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou [applying specifically to the servants that were in the house as well].

Deuteronomy 5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the [Eternal] thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the [Eternal] thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

It is not just a case of the Sabbath being a rest because of a creation. It is also a rest because we were once slaves in Egypt. This is another aspect of the Sabbath command, another part of the principle that we need to apply: Not only were the children of Israel slaves in Egypt physically; but we, today, were slaves in Egypt spiritually. In looking at the Sabbath Day, we are looking forward to the fulfillment in the time of the Millennium, of the millennial rest. The Sabbath points us to the Creator -- not only of the physical creation but of the spiritual creation as well.

One of the principles that needs to be applied is the fact that the Sabbath points us to the freedom from Egypt, the going away from sin. What is it that makes us free?

John 8:30-32 As he spake these words, many believed on him. (31) Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples [students] indeed; (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

It is the truth that frees us from the bondage of sin. Under the New Covenant agreement, the law is in our hearts. We understand that the Sabbath command not only points to the Creator but to the creation that is taking place today, to the freedom that took place at our coming away from sin, coming away from our own ways, looking forward to a world that will be totally under the ways of God. We are the disciples, the students, for that world.

James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

What does "being begotten with the word of God" mean to us? How does that affect us? What should we be doing on the Sabbath Day? We should be studying our Bibles, because it is the word of God that sets us free, that points us to a different way. We should be studying on the Sabbath -- even though we study on the other days as well. Studying God's word on the Sabbath Day is one of the principles of keeping the Sabbath, part of what we should be doing.

The question must always be: "Are we keeping the Sabbath the way Christ instructed?" The Sabbath -- made for man -- is a vital part of what God has given us to develop His Mind, His Character -- that we may be properly ready to be born into His Family, as His children.

The "Ox in the Ditch" Principle

Matthew 12 relates the "ox in the ditch" principle, but Christ uses the example of sheep.

Matthew 12:10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

We read of this account earlier in Mark where Christ and the disciples were plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath and Christ told the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? [Of course, a man would lift the sheep out.]

Matthew 12:12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Christ is applying a principle here. It is lawful to do things that are of benefit to those around you on the Sabbath Day. On the other hand, some have used the doing of "good works" on the Sabbath to try to justify joining, for example, the fire brigade and working just like everyone else. That is not keeping the "rest" day correctly. We must live by every word of God, applying "the rest" from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, applying the Preparation Day starting Thursday evening that allows us to rest, applying the fact that the Sabbath needs to be a refreshing to all those around us. And in the same way, the principle of the ox in a ditch teaches us to be concerned with those around us who need to be refreshed.

Exodus 23:12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

A refreshing is to take place on the Sabbath. This refreshing is part of the application of all the commands and words of God concerning the Sabbath.

Luke 13:10-13 And he [Christ] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. (11) And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself [probably something like spinal osteoporosis]. (12) And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. (13) And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

Christ healed this woman of an infirmity she had had for eighteen years with no relief whatsoever.

Luke 13:14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.

The ruler of the synagogue was applying the command to rest; but he totally omitted the fact that you give respite to those around you, that the ox, the manservant, the maidservant, and the stranger are to be refreshed. He did not apply all the aspects of the Law. He failed to correctly apply the aspect of refreshing to this incident.

Luke 13:15-17 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? (16) And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? (17) And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

The people could see the principle being applied, the mind of God being applied in this particular case. We need to make sure that we understand the mind of God. If we come upon an accident or see our neighbour's house on fire on the Sabbath, we need to do all we can, work diligently to help. These are cases of "an ox in a ditch." However, if we are a member of a fire brigade and our job is to put fires out and we go on the job and put fires out on the Sabbath, we are not resting. The principle, the mind of God, must be correctly applied in full -- but without neglecting the basic command to rest.

What will happen in the Millennium? Let us look at the examples of Ambassador College and SEP [Church youth camp] when things needed to be done on the Sabbath. In the case of preparing meals for the student body or the youth camp, the regular kitchen staff would rest since that was their normal job. Volunteers would attend to making meals, whatever needed doing. Do you see the principle, the mind of God, in that service? The volunteers were not there doing that as their regular job nor were they tied to the kitchen all day. Others would volunteer for cleanup. The duties were apportioned out on the Sabbath Day.

When we come to the millennial rule, the Sabbath will be kept. People will rest, and there will be a volunteer labor force to look after the various essentials that need to be done. The mind, the outlook of God, is that the Sabbath was made for man. It is not the other way around.

If we come upon a car accident on the Sabbath and others are there helping, having checked that there is no pressing need, let them help. If we are the only ones there, or there are very few and we are able to help in any way, we should help. That is the "ox in a ditch" principle mentioned in Luke 13. It is specifically allowed within the commands of the One who became Jesus Christ, who gave the Sabbath command initially.

We should not push oxen into ditches. Sometimes we do not apply the Preparation Day and when we come to the Sabbath, there is nothing but oxen in ditches -- and the Sabbath is totally wasted. Pushing an ox in a ditch is not what we should be doing. The lack of planning consistently can cause this to happen. We need to be aware that we must apply all of the words of God -- living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God -- including the planning built into the Preparation Day.


The Sabbath Day is a convocation, a gathering. Some of us travel quite a distance to meet on the Sabbath. Acts 1 speaks of a Sabbath Day's journey: Acts 1:12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.

The Jews had made a decree that defined a Sabbath Day's journey as about 1,000 yards beyond the city walls. The Mount of Olives was about a Sabbath Day's journey from Jerusalem. You could go that far and no farther until you dropped a dried fig. Then you could go another distance, and so on.

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

Christ's custom was to go to the synagogue, to gather together on the Sabbath. As we read earlier in Leviticus 23:3, the Sabbath is a "holy convocation." The word "convocation" means "commanded gathering," a gathering that is commanded by God.

Luke 4:31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

Again, this was part of Christ's custom, to go to the synagogue, to gather together on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath is a time of commanded assembly. It is the time we should gather together. Leviticus 23:2 speaks of the feasts of the Eternal, "..which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations...." The first holy convocation mentioned is the weekly Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). We should convocate on that day. We are called "the flock of God," "the sheep of God." Sheep flock together. We should reflect the same mindset. Convocating, assembling together, is another principle of the Sabbath command.

Hebrews 10:22-24 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

How do we provoke one another to love and good works? How do we encourage one another in this way?

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

As we approach the end time, as that time becomes more and more crucial, assembling together should be more and more crucial to us. The specific time that God has given us for assembling together is the Sabbath.

I John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We fellowship with one another, but that fellowship is also with God the Father and Jesus Christ. When we assemble together on the Sabbath Day, the very Spirit of God is there. God the Father and Jesus Christ fellowship with us. The words that the minister speaks are not to be his own but are the words of Jesus Christ. They are to be the words of God the Father. The minister is to be led by the Spirit of God. When a minister speaks, the speaking is to be inspired, using the Word of God, not "handling it deceitfully." To "prophesy," in Greek, means to speak under inspiration and is therefore the word used when describing someone preaching in Church.

We need to remember, when we assemble on the Sabbath, we are presenting ourselves before God. Therefore, we need to make sure we are dressed properly, in the finest that we can reasonably afford. The way we are attired is important, because our fellowship is with God and Jesus Christ. All the principles of convocating, of gathering together, are important. We need to make sure we apply them.

The Principle of Making the Sabbath a Delight

Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (2) But his delight is in the law of the [Eternal]; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

A blessed man's delight is in God's law, and part of that law is the Sabbath. His delight needs to be in the Sabbath. Part of the principle of not "walking in the counsel of the ungodly" but, instead, "walking in the counsel of God" is that we make the Sabbath a delight.

Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the [Eternal]; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Isaiah 58 talks about fasting, which is one of the ways you draw close to God, getting rid of the problems that we have in our lives. Then comes the subject of the Sabbath. Isaiah 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day...

Do we do our pleasure on the Sabbath? If a football game is on television, do we watch the game on the Sabbath? If we do, that would almost certainly be doing our own pleasure. Similarly, I used to swim competitively when I was a teenager and would be in the pool twice a day when training. If I just carried on training on the Sabbath, that also would be wrong. That would fall under this same principle by ignoring the day and carrying on with what I want to do -- merely my pleasure. However, if I happen to be staying at a hotel and know I am going to be sitting down for Sabbath Services all day later, I may take a swim in the hotel pool in the morning. That is not a problem. But can we see the difference? The principle has to be examined, and we must try and arrive at the very Mind of God -- making the Sabbath a delight, yet not just "doing our own thing."

Isaiah 58:13-14 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the [Eternal], honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: (14) Then shalt thou delight thyself in the [Eternal]; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the [Eternal] hath spoken it.

Applying the mind of God, applying the principle of God to the situation of competitive swimming, for me to carry on training on the Sabbath Day would be wrong. It is not the swimming that is wrong, but the training, doing my normal activities. To swim a few lengths in the pool to be refreshed so that I can serve better for the rest of the day though is not a problem.

If I were to allow my children to play in a football competition on the Sabbath, that would be wrong. That is just being part of this world. On the other hand, is it wrong for a father to kick a ball around with his son for a few minutes on the Sabbath? No. If that is all the father does on the Sabbath, yes, that is wrong. But if it is part of making the Sabbath a delight for his son, that is not wrong. It is part of the principle. It is being outgoing, doing something that is a help to his son.

Making the Sabbath a delight is to make sure that it is a rest, that it is God's day, God's way, that every word of God applies, that it is refreshing for our children, for the people we come into contact with. It is making the Sabbath Day a delight, not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well, and making sure that the way of God is applied on the Sabbath Day.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Israel: The [Eternal] our God is one [Eternal]: (5) And thou shalt love the [Eternal] thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (6) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

This is what the New Covenant does -- puts the words of God into our heart, puts the laws of God into our heart.

Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

If we are not spending time with our children, how can we do this? The Sabbath is an ideal time to spend with our children, to make the Sabbath a delight for them also. Part of its very function is to give us the time to instruct our children in the important issues of life.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

We must make sure not to make the Sabbath such a burden for our children that they will never want to keep the Sabbath again. The Sabbath is a delight and should be made a delight within the family. But it is also a rest. So how do you prepare the children? You wear them out before; you get them doing things; you get them involved in the preparation. The children should be part of the preparation. They should have their chores to do, so that when the Sabbath day comes they will be glad for the Sabbath. This is all part of the Sabbath command, all part of what we should be applying today -- a New Covenant, a new agreement, where the very law is in our heart and is applied in all the different aspects and facets of life.

The Friday evening meal is important. Do we make it special? It was a tradition in our home to have a special meal on Friday evening. We would use a tablecloth that we did not use during the rest of the week. If there was something our children particularly liked to eat, if it was conducive to being part of that special meal, we would have what they liked. We would spend more time with the children on the Sabbath Day. We would make the Sabbath Day special for them. They would then recognize that it was a special time, a holy occasion, a holy convocation.

The New Covenant is going to be ratified. It will come to its fulfillment just before the Millennium. Christ will marry His Church. That marriage begins the New Covenant, a spiritual covenant that will go on for eternity.

Why are we learning these principles now? Isaiah 32:1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment." This will be in the future. The King will be Jesus Christ. The princes will be the true Church of God, the future wife of Jesus Christ. We will be ruling and reigning in the right way, giving all the peoples of the earth the right direction in life.

Isaiah 32:14-17 Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; (15) Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. (16) Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. (17) And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Isaiah 32:1 "...a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment."

The work of that righteousness will be peace. There will be quietness and assurance forever. Part of the process for that is the proper New Covenant application of how the Sabbath is to be kept. It is to be a delight. It is to be refreshment for the entire earth, so the entire earth can enjoy that Sabbath rest.

Isaiah 32:18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

This is what we are looking forward to, what we are training for right now. We must make sure that we have access to the very Spirit of God, keeping the Sabbath according to that Spirit, the same Spirit that Jesus Christ had. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; and everyone we come into contact with is to be refreshed. We need to be learning this principle right now, so that we can eventually apply it for all mankind during the Millennium.

transcribed in article form by KA. Edited by JB.