Church of God, New World Ministries

Why God Revealed The Sabbaths To Israel

History proves that Gentiles, shortly after the flood, knew the Sabbath began at man’s creation. Then why did God have to reveal to Israel which day was the 7th day? Had time been lost?

God called Israel out of Egyptian slavery to perform the most important mission any nation has been given in all the history of mankind. Israel is not God’s “favorite people”, or “pet” nation. They were not chosen for any goodness of their own (Deut. 7:6-9). God called them so He could reveal Himself as Creator and Ruler of the universe so that through them He could reveal his plan, his laws, and his blessings to all nations (Deut. 4:5-9).

In order that Israel would never forget that God was Creator, Sustainer and Supreme Ruler over all the creation, He revealed to them the one great sign by which they could always remember who He is. That sign was a constantly recurring piece of time, the 7th day of the week, the Sabbath.

God revealed that the Sabbath had already existed from the creation of man (Gen. 2:1-3), archeologists have found that the Gentiles, shortly after the flood, but centuries before Moses wrote on clay tablets that God set apart the 7th day as a holy day of rest at creation. Since the Sabbath was holy time from the creation of man the patriarchs of old kept it holy. Notice what God said of Abraham. He “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5).

This could not have been said of him if he broke the Sabbath, because the Sabbath command had been a law since the creation of man. That such observance is not directly mentioned does not disprove the fact that Abraham and the other patriarchs observed that day. They kept God’s command.

Now remember that the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. They were not permitted to observe the Sabbath. The Egyptians had neither a Sabbath nor a seven day week. They lost both because their ancestors turned away from God and refused to keep His Sabbath at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel.

They possessed a 30 day month which they divided into three equal parts of ten days each (Rest Days, p. 245).The planetary week of seven days was a later Egyptian development from which the present pagan names of the days of the week were derived (Encyclopedia Biblica, p. 5291).

Even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob observed God’s Sabbath their descendants lost it during centuries of slavery. That’s why God had to reveal, again, exactly which day was the Sabbath. He did this by not sending manna on that day and by sending a double portion on the 6th day of the week (Ex. 16). Notice that the 7th day which was sanctified at man’s creation as the Sabbath was in existence before the Old Covenant was made at Sinai. The rest of the holy Sabbath to God (Ex. 16:23) and God’s law were already in force before they arrived at Sinai (Ex. 16:28).

Note Israel’s rebellion against the rule of God. Ever since leaving Egypt they refused to obey Him. “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?” No wonder Moses had to warn Israel that by Sabbath breaking they would forget the God of Creation who brought them out of Egyptian slavery (Deut. 5:15)!

The 7th day is a sign to the nation of Israel so they would never forget who God is (Ex. 31:12-17). All other nations forgot God because they forgot His Sabbath shortly after the flood. Israel alone had the sign to prove that God, the Lord of heaven and earth, was in their midst. The Sabbath also signified that Israel was God’s nation, chosen for a special duty.

Any nation without that sign was not God’s people. The Gentile countries were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the word” (Eph. 2:12).

Notice how vital the sign is! Converted Gentiles must receive this sign in order to be grafted into spiritual Israel and become God’s people.

The entire law that God revealed to Israel is spiritual, said the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14. The Sabbath is spiritual because it deals with man’s spiritual relationship to his Creator and his neighbor. It is a holy piece of time, not a religious rite. The Sabbath is never termed a ceremony or ritual in Scripture. It is a spiritual law regulating our relationship to God, who is spiritual.

When Israel was organized into a nation, the spiritual law governing the Sabbath was also described and explained in words, in letters of the alphabet, on tables of stone. Since Paul said the law of God was spiritual, it is obvious that merely writing the Sabbath law into a material covenant did not originate the Sabbath any more than writing the “law of gravity” in a book institutes gravity! Neither can the abolition of the Old Covenant do away with the Sabbath since it did not originally bring it into existence. The Sabbath had to be included in the Old Covenant because the 7th day existed during the time of enforcement of the Old Covenant.

Certain groups contend the Sabbath was originally not meant for worship but only rest. Hence they claim the right to invent their own day of worship. Notice the false assumption that the Catholic Church claims: “It is well to bear in mind also that the Sabbath law set Saturday aside not as a day of special worship but as a day of rest. As for devoting Saturday to special ceremonies and acts of worship, this never had been the law of God anyway, but merely a custom” (from the pamphlet, “Yes I condemned the Catholic Church,” pp. 3-4).

Did God or Jewish customs make the Sabbath a day of worship? What does the Bible say? Notice Moses’ account in Lev. 23:1-3 “And the Lord Spake unto Moses saying the 7th day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation.”

Moses said the Lord made the Sabbath a day for “convocation,” or commanded assembly, in order to worship God. It was not custom that set the Sabbath apart for worship. God made it a day for worship. Since the Lord God, and not the Jews, set the Sabbath apart as a day of worship forever, no church has the right to invent its own day of worship by tradition. God is to be honored and worshipped on His Sabbath (Isa. 58:13) even if you are all alone.

Besides giving Israel the Sabbath so they would never forget that God is the Creator and Ruler, the Eternal God also gave them memorials of His Plan for mankind. These memorials were seven annual festivals.

The Gentile nations had their idolatrous festivals to commemorate the mysteries of their religions. They were counterfeits of the Holy Days that God revealed to His Church, the Congregation of Israel upon removing them from Egypt. While the pagan feasts led the heathen into sin, God’s festivals were memorials to commemorate Israel’s coming out of sins of Egypt, a picture for His Church of the plan of God in delivering the world from its sins, its sorrows and sufferings.

It is customarily believed among critics that God’s holy festivals are derived from the pagan festivals of the Canaanites who lived in Palestine before the entrance of Israel under Moses. This assumption is utterly false. It has never once been proved from history. The festivals found among the Gentiles were different days filled with idolatrous revelry, something never connected with the festivals of God, revealed to his servant Moses, for all generations to come (Acts 7:38).

The God-given occasions were based on the agricultural harvest of Palestine as a type of the spiritual harvest of human beings. These festivals were not Canaanitish feasts, nor Jewish feasts, or the feasts of Moses. Not once in all the Old Testament are these days called “feasts of Moses” or “Jewish feasts.” They are the “feasts of the Lord, “My holy days.”

The annual festivals given to the Congregation (Church) of Israel began to be instituted while the nation was still in Egypt, before the Old Covenant was ratified at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 5:1; 12:1-51; 24:8). These days which were ordained forever naturally had to be continued through the Old Covenant period, but they did not cease when the Old Covenant ended. What the Old Covenant did not institute could not be taken away with its abolition.

But many will ask, “Weren’t the annual festivals instituted for the purpose of Levitical sacrifices? God says No!

“For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jer. 7:21-24).

When God first commanded His Holy Days, He didn’t mention sacrifices for sin. Sacrifices to be offered by the Levites were added later to these days (Lev. 23), as on the Sabbath, and every day of the week (Ex. 29:38).But some will ask, “What about the Passover? Doesn’t that contradict what Jeremiah was inspired to write?” NO!

It is really further proof that the constant round of ritualistic offerings was not a part of the original institution of these annual Sabbaths. Notice what God says of the Passover Lamb (Ex. 12). It was to be killed by every family group, not just the Levites. The Passover lamb is the only sacrifice whose ordinance is commanded forever in connection with these days as originally instituted (Ex. 12; Duet. 16). It is the only sacrifice mentioned in the civil law codes (Ex. 23:14-18; 34:22-25).For this reason Jesus had to substitute unleavened bread and wine symbols for the slain lamb (Luke 22:8-20).

But no other sacrifice was commanded on these days originally. Jesus never gave substitutes, different symbols for any sacrifice except the Passover lamb. This agrees with the inspired statement of Jeremiah. The sacrifices mentioned in Lev. 23 and elsewhere were added later because of sin.

Failing to understand the sacred calendar, a number of sects have wrongly concluded that the annual Sabbaths occurred on Sundays, or else that the weekly Sabbath was originally Sunday. Let’s examine why this could not possibly be true.

Annual Sabbaths have no relationship with the 7th day of the week. They are specific days of the calendar months. The new moons that begin the months (Num. 28:11) are totally unrelated to the cycle of a seven day week. This is very obvious since a sacred month has 29 or 30 days, not four weeks or 28, 29 or 30 days, not four weeks or 28 days. For this reason, the festivals may fall on any day of the week in successive years, but always on the say day of the month (except Pentecost).

Certain denominations also argue that since the 4th commandment demands six days of work per week, that the annual Sabbaths must correspond with the weekly Sabbath, What’s wrong with this argument?

A quick examination of the last high day in the festival of unleavened bread shows that it falls six, not seven days after the first high day or annual Sabbath. Also the Day of Atonement, a solemn Sabbath, falls nine, not seven, days after the festival of trumpets. Therefore the annual Sabbaths cannot possibly correspond to the weekly Sabbaths which are always seven days apart. The 4th command does not exclude annual occasions on other days throughout the year.

It is opportune here to notice that the new moons, repeated along with the Sabbaths and annual festivals (Col. 2:16) are not once called Sabbaths or holy convocations. They are not found in the complete list of festivals. This disproves entirely the contention of some that originally the new moon was more important than the weekly Sabbath, and from which certain critics believe the Sabbath emerged. New moons are neither Sabbaths nor commanded assemblies. Voluntary meetings were sometimes held on the new moon (II Kings 4:23).Their special importance is found in that they mark the beginning of months for us.

The Church in the wilderness received the knowledge of the plan of God through the annual festivals memorials commanded forever. These days were not given to punish Israel for sin as many “church fathers” supposed centuries later. They are hallowed pieces of time to be kept Holy. (Send for our FREE reprint article, “God’s Master Plan of Salvation”).

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