Leviticus 23:1-3

Leviticus 23:1-3
The Feasts of the Lord
The Sabbath

We enter today into the Feasts of the Lord. There are varying views on these Feasts, but in a quick categorical outline, we can identify a few major ones. The first is that these feasts are “for Israel.” Some even call them “The Feasts of Israel” or the “Jewish Feasts.” Type either into your search bar and this will come up immediately. This is wrong from the outset as will be explained, but simply stated, Scripture calls them “Feasts of the Lord.” We are to go no further.

A second view is that these feasts are divided up into “spring feasts,” and “fall feasts,” and that these divisions are then given in relation to Christ’s two advents. In other words, He fulfilled the first four feasts in His first advent, and He will fulfill the last three in His second advent. This is problematic for several reasons.

First, there are actually eight feasts, not seven. The first is a weekly feast throughout the year, and the other seven are annual feasts. Secondly, He fulfilled all, not half of them in His first advent. I would say that this makes that view rather problematic.

Another view is that the spring feasts are fulfilled in His first coming, and the fall feasts are too, but they have a future application in His second advent which pertains to the nation of Israel alone. This is problematic because it then makes these, by default, Feasts of Israel, which is something that those who hold to this view explicitly state. They equivocate on the naming of the feasts in order to justify this unjustifiable stand.

What is true and correct, is that all eight feasts are Feasts of the Lord, and they are fulfilled in the work of Christ. They are a part of the law of Moses, a law which is explicitly stated to be fulfilled by Christ in the epistles, and which is recorded numerous times in the word of God. And not only is the law fulfilled, it is 1) obsolete; 2) annulled; 3) set aside; 4) nailed to the cross. These terms are all explicitly stated in the New Testament. The law is done. It is true that Israel is given seven more years under the law to accomplish certain things according to Daniel 9, but these things are in relation to Christ’s finished work of the law, not in acceptable observance of a now-obsolete law.

To say that Christ has yet to fulfill the three fall feasts, is to say that Christ did not fulfill the law. If Christ did not fulfill the law, then Christ is not the end of the law for all who believe. If the law is not fulfilled, then the law is still in effect for all people. When it says in Romans that there is “now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” we can be assured that this is in error because the law brings wrath, and it brings condemnation. If Christ didn’t fulfill the law, He is not the Messiah, we are not “in Christ,” because we have put our hope in someone who is not Christ, and the law, in its entirety, is still binding on us today.

This doesn’t just mean the parts that we want to observe, like maybe the Sabbath or not eating pork (ewww bacon!), but all of the law. It means that we are condemned for wearing clothes made of two different materials. We are condemned when we fail to tithe (give, give, give!). We are condemned when we harvest anything in the seventh year of the Sabbath-year cycle. We are condemned if we don’t have tassels on the four corners of our garments… Shall I go on? Remember what James says, if we keep the entire law, and yet stumble in one point, we are guilty of it all. If Christ didn’t fulfill the law, including the feasts, we stand – condemned.

Text Verse: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17

I imagine you will hear this text verse for the next few weeks as we open each sermon on the Feasts of the Lord. Paul’s words about food and drink are given in relation to the dietary laws of Israel. Let no one judge you in such things. The law is dead; nailed to the cross. His words regarding a festival are “the Feasts of the Lord” found here in Leviticus 23. Let no one judge you in such things. The law is dead; nailed to the cross. His note about “sabbaths” is inclusive of the Feast of the Lord known as the Sabbath, and of all Sabbath observance. He uses the plural to cover any and all Sabbaths which are found in Israel’s yearly calendar. Let no one judge you in such things. The law is dead; nailed to the cross.

In fact, what Paul is doing in this verse is citing Hosea 2:11 concerning these same things in relation to Israel. Israel would be judged by such things, but in Christ, we are not. It’s fun for heretics to pick and choose what they will or will not do in the church, but it won’t be fun when they stand before the Lord and find that they made a mockery of His finished work by deciding that what He did wasn’t enough in their own narcissistic minds to please God. He asks us to trust in Christ, and in Christ alone. It’s not that difficult unless you just can’t stop looking in the mirror all day.

Today we will look over the Feast of the Lord known as the Sabbath. There are four major views within what we would call “Christianity” on the Sabbath. The first is that of the Seventh Day Adventists – it is a moral law of God, and it is binding. Saturday is to be a Sabbath, and it is mandatory for all “Christians.” This is something the Hebrew Roots movement also teaches.

The second is the “Christian Sabbath” view. This is where the Sabbath is changed to Sunday, and it is a mandatory day of observance. The third belongs to Luther. He says that the Sabbath was for the Jews, and it does not pertain to Christians, but rest and worship, though required, are not connected to any particular day.

The fourth view is the “Fulfilled Sabbath.” Fulfilled means… fulfilled. In Christ, we enter our rest, as the Bible states. Paul says in Romans 14, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (verse 5). Obviously, taking Paul’s words cited earlier, and this verse here, along with simple Christian logic, the fulfilled view is correct. The first is heresy, and it will only bring condemnation. The second will be addressed later, but it is nonsense. The third is not found in Scripture, although it isn’t heretical or necessarily nonsense. It’s just not correct.

As far as the first, the heresy of Sabbath observance as a necessary requirement in today’s church is pitiful. All the information we need for salvation is found in Paul’s epistles. He, as the apostle to the Gentiles, defines clearly and precisely what we need to do to be saved; what we need to do in order to be pleasing to God; and how to also instruct others in meeting those same goals.

Nowhere does he say anything concerning the Sabbath, except to argue against observing it. What part of the concept of “grace” these heretics don’t understand is hard to grasp. It’s a simple word with a simple meaning, as is the concept of a gift. One does not work in order to receive a gift. And though the Sabbath is a day of not actively working, it is a day of spiritual work in order to not physically work. Our hope and our rest is in Christ alone. This is a fundamental truth which is found in sound Christian doctrine. It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Feasts of the Lord (verses 1 & 2)

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

The main addressee here, as is most commonly seen, is Moses. It is he who will receive the laws laid out here, directly from the Lord. In the preceding chapters, we have been given directions and commands concerning the holiness of the sanctuary, the holiness of the priests, the holiness of the people, the holiness of the sacrifices, and so on. All of these were in relation to the holiness of the Lord. This chapter now details the holiness of the Lord in relation to the annual calendar – times of special observances within each year.

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:

The Lord’s words to Moses are directed to bene yisrael, or “the children of Israel.” The term ben literally means, “son.” However, the translation as “children” is appropriate. The reason for this is theological in nature. In the book of Galatians, Paul writes that as long as an heir is a child, he is no different than a slave. He then says in Galatians 4:3, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” However, He goes on in the next verses to say, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (4, 5).

In Christ, we go from being “children,” with no true rights in the family, to becoming sons with full rights. As he says in Galatians 4:7, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” That alone stands as a testimony to the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old. The Old simply anticipated the New. In Christ, the Old is gone because it has been fulfilled in Him. The address now as “children” is appropriate. They will now be given instructions as children, who are required to do certain things, in anticipation of the time when these things are realized in Christ.

(con’t) ‘The feasts of the Lord,

moade Yehovah“Appointed times (of) Yehovah.” The name Yehovah, translated as “the Lord,” is used 36 times in this chapter. There then is a heavy stress on this divine name. In contrast to this, the name “Israel,” when speaking of the people of the nation, is used only seven times, and it is always in the sense of being the addressee (five times), or of the responsibilities laid upon them (two times). This is rather important to remember. These are not “Feasts of Israel,” nor is that term ever used in Scripture. When the feasts are mentioned, it is always in relation to the Lord, directly or indirectly. In using the term “Feasts of Israel,” as has become popular in modern times, it takes the focus off the Lord entirely, but it is the Lord, meaning Jesus, who has fulfilled each and every one of these feasts.

By stating they are feasts of Israel, a misguided concept of these somehow having a future fulfillment in national Israel is seen. This makes for incredibly bad theology, and it harms evangelistic efforts which otherwise might be effective. If people see the fulfillment of these feasts in their proper light, meaning in Christ Jesus, they will then be able to see their need for Christ Jesus. If Israel is the focus, this truth becomes obscured, or even eliminated.

The Hebrew word for “feast” is moed. This comes from yaad, meaning to appoint, assign, designate, etc. That in turn comes from a primitive root meaning to fix upon, as by agreement or appointment. Thus, the moed is a specific meeting in time, place, and/or appointment. Its first use in Scripture was in Genesis 1:14 when the stars were set in the heavens to be for signs and l’moadim, or “for seasons.”

Charles Benson states, “These, in our translation, are termed feasts; but the word here used, rather means solemn seasons, or meetings, and as the day of atonement was comprehended in them, which was not a feast, but a fast, they certainly are improperly termed feasts.”

If one looks at these set times in a forward-looking way, he is correct. There is as much set restriction as there is command to accomplish. One cannot work on the Sabbath. In the Feast of Weeks, the people are told to do no customary work, etc. However, if one in our dispensation looks back on what these feasts anticipated, and rightly sees their fulfillment in Christ, then they truly are “feasts” of the Lord for us to revel in. He did the work, we receive, and feast upon, the benefits of that work. Still, Benson is right. what is a more appropriate term would be “appointed times.”

(con’t) which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations,

asher tiqre-u otam miqrae qodesh – “which you shall call out calling-outs holy.” The word “convocations” here is miqra. It comes from the word qara, which is also in this verse, translated as “proclaim.” Moses is instructed to “call out” the coming feasts as assemblies, thus “calling outs” or “convocations.”

(con’t) these are My feasts.

eleh hem moadai – “These they, My feasts.” The term moadai, or “My feasts,” is only used here and in Ezekiel 44:24 where it is speaking of the future millennial reign of Christ where His feasts and Sabbaths will again be observed. This should in no way cause confusion with the believer in Christ in this dispensation. In the millennium, some feasts will be observed by Israel in commemoration of what Christ did. This in no way means that these are to be observed now. In fact, to mandate observance of these feasts is to set aside the grace of Christ who fulfilled them for us. Paul speaks of this in Galatians 4:9-11, where he says –

But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

It is a futile thing indeed to attempt to merit God’s favor apart from the work of Christ. To set aside what Christ has done, and to attempt to please God through observance of an appointed meeting that has met its appointed fulfillment in Jesus’ work, is to merit bringing God’s wrath down upon oneself. Let us not be so foolish as to have this attitude of ingratitude. If we believe we can attain holiness through observing these feasts, we maintain that we have not become holy through Christ. What a slap in the face of God!

Feasts to the Lord; they were accomplished as is appointed
Together we celebrate what the Lord has done
They are fulfilled in Christ, the One who was anointed
In these feasts, we see the work of God’s own Son

Our observance isn’t as the law mandated
No, our observance is in how we act toward our Lord Jesus
In Him we have our Sabbath rest; so the Bible has stated
And that is just the first of eight fulfilled by Christ for us

Each reveals something marvelous accomplished by the Lord
And so to Him, we gratefully give thanks and praise
With Him always in our thoughts, and contemplating His word
We find the fulfillment of these special, festal days

II. The Feast of the Sabbath (verse 3)

‘Six days shall work be done,

sheshet yamim te-aseh melakah – “six days you shall do work.” These words are directive in nature. Therefore the week is divided into two sections, active work and active cessation from work. Man is not to be idle when he should be working, and man is not to be working when he should be at rest. What is curious is that one person is being addressed. The verb is second-person singular. This is odd because at the end of the verse, the verb will be plural.

The workweek in Israel is based on a seven-day calendar, beginning on Sunday and ending on Saturday, just as it is in the US today. Unlike our time schedule today though, each day begins at evening and goes through until the next evening. Thus Sunday, the first day of the week, begins at evening – literally sundown – on Saturday, and goes through until sundown the next day.

Things that needed to be done were to be done before the Sabbath so that no work was to be done on the Sabbath. This, however, does not mean that one must work every day. If so, for example, it would violate the other mandated feasts of the Lord. Rather, what should be done was to be done, but not on the Sabbath.

This pattern of working six days has its source in the early Genesis account. The evening/morning schedule is recorded at the end of each day of creation, beginning with Genesis 1:5. With the completion of creation on the sixth day, the record then states –

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3

Thus, Israel was instructed to labor six days and rest on the seventh, as is next seen…

(con’t) but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest,

Here the term, shabath shabathon, or “(a) resting day of solemn resting” is used. This specific term, shabath shabathon, is only used six times in Scripture. Four times it speaks of the weekly Sabbath, once for the Day of Atonement, and once concerning the year of Jubilee. The people were to rest, and they were to contemplate God and His works on their behalf.

Concerning this term, shabath, or Sabbath. It first must be understood that this is referring to Saturday. Biblically, there is no such thing as a Sunday Sabbath. To say, “Today is the Sabbath,” only means, “Today is a Saturday, and it is my day of rest.” There is no transfer of Sabbath to Sunday to be found in Scripture. That is a fallacy known as a “category mistake.”

Understanding this, the word shabath implies rest and cessation from labor. This cessation of labor for Israel merely looks forward to a different type of rest. It was a foretaste of the blessed eternal rest which man lost, but which was promised to be restored. Man was created outside of the Garden of Eden and was rested in the Garden to worship and serve His God. This was lost.

Despite this matching the pattern of creation, and despite the Lord sanctifying the seventh day as a day of rest, even from the seventh day after the creation began, there is no record of anyone observing a Sabbath, meaning a Saturday day of rest, until after the Exodus from Egypt. At the time of the giving of the manna, the Lord, through Moses, instituted the first Sabbath –

Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’” Exodus 16:23

Those who say that a Sabbath is still required today must make things up about what occurred at that time, saying that there was confusion in the elders about what to do on the Sabbath because they had this double portion on Friday and they were confused about what to do with the second portion on Saturday. Would they be allowed to violate the Sabbath to prepare it?

This is nonsense. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the Sabbath existed at all until that point in history. Not a single verse outside of Genesis 2:3 hints at it. Further, the text itself later disproves it. Secondly, Genesis 2:3 only became a written fact at the giving of the law through Moses, and more, it was only written after the account concerning the manna in Exodus. Genesis 2:3 simply describes the fact that God sanctified the seventh day, but it goes no further than that.

There is nothing prescriptive added to the general statement which was made in Genesis. Thirdly, the reason is given for the Sabbath in the presentation of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5, but the reason given for it is different in both. In Exodus 20 it is based on Creation, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” (20:11). But in Deuteronomy 5, it is based on Redemption, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (5:15).

Despite this, the two are tied together. Israel was already redeemed at the giving of the law at Sinai. Therefore, as a sign of God’s rest following His creative efforts, which had subsequently been lost in the Garden of Eden, the redeemed of Israel were given the Sabbath.

Thus there is no contradiction between Exodus and Deuteronomy. One acts leads to another. The fallen world could not be redeemed unless it had first been created. Everything is looking forward to God’s rest; a rest which can only be found in Christ. As the law could only bring a curse, then the Sabbath was only a shadow, looking forward to Christ’s fulfillment of it.

At the time after the Exodus, the Sabbath was uniquely revealed to Israel. It was at the time of their organization as a nation to show that the Lord is Creator and Redeemer. Until that point, there was no need to mandate the Sabbath to the world. And further, the words to the people in Exodus 16 when the Sabbath was first given directly clue us into this because it said there, “Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest.” It does not say ha’shabbat, or “the Sabbath.” Instead, it leaves off a definite article. If the people were aware of the Sabbath as an institution, it would have said ha’shabbat, “the Sabbath.” It does not. Instead, Moses was made aware of it in connection to the giving of the manna.

Unfortunately, some versions, utterly mistranslate that verse and add in two definite articles which don’t exist in the Hebrew. They say, “To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD” (KJV). By adding these in, they insert inappropriate and confused theology to the text.

And finally, in the same line of thought, Moses gave additional specificity by repeating the words and adding in the word “holy.” He said to Israel, “Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.” The entire phrase of Exodus 16:23 smacks of, and implies, uniqueness, and thus first-time instruction concerning Sabbath requirements.

The reason why it’s important to know this is because of the highly divergent teachings on the Sabbath within Christianity. Those who teach that a Saturday Sabbath is required for Christians today, will make the claim that it is an eternal standard of God that always existed for humanity. This verse in Exodus shows this is not true.

In the giving of the Sabbath in connection with the Manna came two pictures of Christ. He is our Bread, and He is also our Rest. That He is our Rest is seen explicitly in Hebrews 4:3, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” By faith in Christ, our heavenly Bread, we enter into God’s eternal rest, pictured by the giving of the Sabbath along with the Manna. It is only a picture. This continued to be revealed in Exodus 16. In verse 25, it then said

Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.” Exodus 16:25

Again, there was no article in front of “Sabbath.” It simply said, “a Sabbath.” However, this was the formal institution of the Sabbath for Israel, and so it actually precedes the giving of the law. As the formal institution, the name was given to designate the day. Next, Exodus 16 shows that God provided in advance of the Sabbath for the Sabbath by providing manna. And third, He directed that what was provided on Friday was to be prepared on Friday, in advance of the Sabbath. It then formed a picture of Christ coming after the giving of the law. He gave us Christ, and then He gave us rest in Christ via fulfilling the law.

The law was annulled through His completed work, and with it the Sabbath day requirement was annulled. However, as an ordinance to Israel, there was more for them to learn at the time of the giving of both the manna and the Sabbath. In verse 26 of the same chapter, it said, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

In saying this to Israel, it was to be understood that this first Sabbath wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Rather it was to become the standard at all times and as long as the manna was provided. However, it could be inferred at that time that the Sabbath was then only to be observed during that period when the manna was given. It wasn’t until the giving of the law, that the Sabbath was fully incorporated into what was expected of Israel, even apart from the times when manna was given. One might ask, “Who cares about that?” But for Israel, we see an incremental giving of instructions for the Lord to progressively reveal His intentions to the people.

Step by step, the Lord methodically shaped Israel to become His obedient people. By giving them the Sabbath in connection with the giving of the manna, He was preparing them for a time when the Sabbath would be required apart from the manna. Which would have been easier for people to adjust to? Being given two portions of manna and being told to prepare them on Friday and then not work on Saturday, or being told to prepare food on Friday and not do anything on Saturday when houses were full of things they had stored up through normal life?

The giving of the manna for six days and withholding it on the seventh, before entering a normal agricultural setting, was a valuable preparation for the time when the manna would no longer be provided. The wisdom of God is seen in how He introduced the Sabbath into the lives of His people, Israel.

After this initial giving of the Sabbath, it was incorporated into the Ten Commandment in Exodus 20, giving specifics about what could not be done on that day. After that, it was introduced again in Exodus 31 where it was given great specificity. In those verses, a unique chiastic structure was given –

Exodus 31:13-17 – The Sabbath Rest
A Sign between the Lord and Israel (7/11/2016)

a. Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep
—-b. For it is a sign between Me and you
——–c. Throughout your generations,
————d. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you
—————-e. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death
——————–f. For whoever does any work on it
————————x. Work shall be done for six days,but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord
——————–f. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day
—————-e. He shall surely be put to death
————d. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath
——–c. Throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant
—-b. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel
a. On the seventh day He rested and was refreshed

In the first half of the chiasm, it explains the requirement. It then gives the naming of the punishment first and then the reason for the punishment. The second half of the chiasm does the opposite. It gives the reason for the punishment, then the naming of the punishment, and then the explanatory basis for the sequence.

In the Old Covenant, man worked and then rested. In the New Covenant, man rests and then works. A picture is made of the process of salvation in the two dispensations. Israel worked six days and then rested on the Sabbath. It was in anticipation of the time of rest which lay ahead when all things would be restored.

With Christ’s coming we rest in honor of His finished work, and then we conduct our work week. This is why in the first half of the chiasm, line e gives the penaltydeath, and then line f gives the reason for the penalty – working on the Sabbath. Whereas in the second half of the chiasm, the order is reversed. First is noted the reason for the penalty – working, and then is given the penalty – death. Our rest is in Christ and what He has done. We have died to the law; we now live and work in Christ.

Understanding this, we see in Exodus 31 that the Lord told Israel that the Sabbath would be a sign between Him and them, a sign of sanctification. However, for the believer in Christ, we do not receive our sign of sanctification through an external observance. Rather, our sign of sanctification is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. It is received simply by placing faith in the finished work of Christ. Paul notes this in Romans 15 –

Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:15, 16

The sign of the Sabbath is not at all for this dispensation. With Christ’s coming, we rest first in Him and in honor of His finished work, and then we conduct our work. This is the lesson found back in Exodus 31 for those who will pay heed. After that, the Sabbath was mentioned one more time in Exodus. In 35:2, the mandating of the Sabbath is given with the warning that anyone who works on that day was to be put to death. After that, it immediately added in something new to the Sabbath laws saying, “You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day” (Exodus 35:3).

Along with all the other things that the people were already told to not do on the Sabbath day, a new requirement was added in. No fire was to be kindled in any dwelling on the Sabbath. No manna was provided on the Sabbath and so they were to prepare their food a day in advance of the Sabbath. As a further restraint, they were told to not even kindle a fire. To kindle a fire was a laborious process of work. As food wasn’t cooked, they were not to consider making a fire for any other reason. As John Lange says about this –

The addition, prohibiting the kindling of fire, indicates that the law of the Sabbath is made more rigorous in the matter of abstinence.” John Lange

The Israelites were to actively abstain from work in every possible way. The same is not true now. In Christ, we are given a different aspect of the same precept. We are not told to abstain from every work in order to attempt to merit God’s favor. Instead, we are to rest in the finished work of Christ. In the end, whether before the cross or after, it is all done in relation to Christ.

And that brings us to the relationship of the placement of the Sabbath requirements given in Exodus 31 and then in Exodus 35. In Exodus 25 through the first half of Exodus 31, the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle were given. Immediately after that long section came the giving of the Sabbath law verses, showing that they were a sign of sanctification to Israel.

In chapter 35 came the details of the actual construction of the tabernacle. That went all the way until the end of the book. But just prior to those details was the final note concerning the Sabbath requirements. Understanding the placement of these two Sabbath law passages shows us a simple and profound truth. The keeping of the Sabbath by Israel was tied directly into the presence of the Lord among them. It was He who sanctified them, and the Sabbath was a sign of that sanctification.

Now, in Christ, we have what that sign only pictured. As it says in Hebrews 4:3, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” The word used there to describe this rest is found in Acts 7 where Stephen cites the Lord’s question concerning His place of rest, and then it is used 11 more times, but only in the book of Hebrews. There it explains the meaning of entering God’s rest. It is a rest which is not at all found in the Sabbath day, but in Christ.

In fact, in the New Testament, outside of the gospels, which describe Jesus’ fulfilling the law, the term “Sabbath” is found only 10 times. Nine of those are in Acts, and are only used in relation to Jewish/Synagogue observance. The final time is in Colossians 2, our text verse today, where Paul adamantly speaks against being judged by anyone in relation to Sabbath observance.

The reason for this is that Christ is our place of rest. It is through Him that we are granted access, once again, into that Garden of Delight that we were expelled from so long ago. As Paul says, “the substance is of Christ.” What is important to understand is that Paul’s epistles are doctrine for the church age. To ignore his letters means there is no doctrine for the church age. All theology thus becomes a pick and choose path to God.

Attempting to be justified before God through works sets aside both the notion of receiving a gift as well as the granting of grace. This is the error of those who state that we are to observe these festivals of the Lord, including the Sabbath, in order to be pleasing to Him. One cannot merit grace. It simply must be received. Anything else… is not grace. Mandatory Sabbath observance is a heresy.

(con’t) a holy convocation.

miqra qodesh – convocation holy. This is what verse 2 specified for the feast days, and this is what is now repeated for the Sabbath. It is a holy convocation. The Lord is calling His people, Israel, to observe this day as a holy calling. Unlike the next seven feasts, this is the only weekly one, and thus it is set apart from the others. However, this in no way means that it is not a Feast of the Lord. What is does mean, however, is that no other feast was to take precedence over it. Some of the feasts lasted a full week, and at times, others may have lined up with a Sabbath day. In such cases, the Sabbath requirements were not to be set aside. Instead, the Sabbath was to be kept to the Lord, despite whatever else occurred. This included the prohibition that…

(con’t) You shall do no work on it; 

kal melakah lo taasu – All work no you shall do. The verb is second-person plural. No work was to be conducted on a Sabbath day. There is no exemption from this. However, it is noted in Scripture, and by the mouth of the Lord, that priestly duties were to continue even on Sabbath days. This is seen in Matthew 12 –

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-8

The priest’s duties to the Lord took priority over a Sabbath Day observance. Think it through. As those whose duties to the Lord were exempt, how much more then are those who are “in” the Lord because of His finished work also exempt from this. He is the Lord of the Sabbath; we are placed in Christ through faith in what He has done, and therefore we are no longer under the laws which only pointed to Him.

*(fin) it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

This translation here is confusing and should rather read, “…it is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.” Otherwise, it seems like the Lord is even now working six days and taking the seventh off. Rather, they were to work and then rest to the Lord, honoring Him on this special day dedicated to Him.

Now, with His having fulfilled the law, we enter God’s rest. This is the reason why the first part of the sentence is in the second-person singular – “Six days you shall work.” The Lord speaks specifically to Christ. “You (alone) shall do the work.” In the second half, it is in the second-personal plural – “All work you (all) shall not do.” This cannot be arbitrary, and it cannot simply be attributed to scholarly error. It is far too obvious to be a mistake. Instead, it is instructive.

It is speaking of us resting in Christ’s accomplished work. “You Christ My Son, shall do the work. You all, My people,shall rest in My Son’s work. It is His effort, and not in our own effort. The words of Jesus, Paul, and the author of Hebrews all agree that our true rest is found in Christ, and in Him alone. The Sabbath was only a picture of what was to come. Concerning the Sabbath, in Christ we proclaim, “Feast fulfilled.”

With that knowledge, we are to rest in Christ, trust in Christ, and be pleased to have been reconciled to God solely by the work of Christ. Thank God for Jesus Christ. If you are listening to this sermon, and if you are trying to merit God’s favor through your works, be it Sabbath observance, or helping ladies across the street, you’re a making a fundamental mistake. You are placing yourself in the equation. What you need to do is to remove yourself, and put Jesus in it, completely and wholly. By trusting in what He has done, you will be in the sweet spot, and on your way to glory.

Closing Verse: “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” Hebrews 4:10

Next Week: Leviticus 23:4-8 Redeemed and living in holiness; Christ as our Head… (The Feasts of the Lord, The Passover and Unleavened Bread) (37th Leviticus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Feasts of the Lord, The Sabbath

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying
These are the words He was then relaying

Speak to the children of Israel
And say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord
Which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations
These are My feasts; pay heed now to My word

Six days shall work be done
But the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest
A holy convocation
You shall do no work on it; as previously addressed 

It is the Sabbath of the Lord
In all your dwellings, pay heed to this word

Lord God, a Sabbath of rest You gave to Israel
A weekly feast to honor You
But in this feast is a story to tell
A story of what Christ Jesus did do

He came to this place of work, toil, and sweat
And He labored for us so that we could truly find rest
In Him the work is finished; the requirement is met
And so now in Him, we are eternally blessed

We read in Hebrews 4 and verse number 3
That in Him when we believe we find our true rest
The feast is fulfilled; we now rest peacefully
Yes, in Christ Jesus, we are eternally blessed

Hallelujah to You, O God, great things You have done!
Hallelujah to You, O God, for the giving of Jesus Your Son!

Hallelujah and Amen…

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