Part of the main passage for this week says, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you’ ” (Ex. 31:13).
The word surely is emphatic and restrictive. It is emphatic in the sense that God is commanding His people to keep Sabbath. This is not an optional proposition but a divine directive. It is also restrictive—we are to keep the Sabbath only and not keep anything else (or any other day). We are not to take our relationship with God into our own hands and, like Cain, bring to God sacrifices of our own liking. “He has shown you, O man, what is good” (Micah 6:8). We are to do for Him “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Keep the Sabbath
Of all the words God could have used regarding our relationship to the Sabbath, He chose the word keep. The connotation of this word is that the Sabbath is a treasure. Although some have come to relate to the Sabbath as a rule that must be followed, a weekly delay in the quest toward riches or success, or an inherited penalty for Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, the Sabbath is to God a prized possession that must be guarded at the risk of being lost.
This treasure is not to be guarded with brute force. We do not treasure the Sabbath by burying it underground. The implication of the word keep is that we guard the Sabbath by treasuring it in our mind or memory. Elsewhere, the Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Keeping the Sabbath is not a once-a-week practice. To treasure the Sabbath means that in everything we think, do, and plan, we think Sabbath first.
A Sign Between Me and You
In addition to being a treasure, the Sabbath is also a sign between two parties: namely, God and His people. The text implies that the Sabbath is a sign of a covenant. However, many times in Scripture when this word sign is used, it refers to miraculous things that God has done. In the Old Testament, oftentimes it refers to the signs that God made through the hands of Moses during the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Although the Sabbath is certainly a reminder of God’s covenant with us to assure us of salvation, it is also a reminder of the miraculous works of creation, when His Word alone established the heavens and laid down the foundations of the earth. The Sabbath as a memorial of creation reminds us of His miraculous power to create and recreate. The Sabbath as a memorial of His covenant to save us reminds us of His miraculous power to save and redeem. Thus, the Sabbath is a memorial of creation and of redemption.
It is important to note that the Sabbath was not only designed for the Israelites in Exodus 31. God said that the sign was to be between Him and His people throughout their generations.
There is a teaching component to Sabbath. Part of its design was to serve as a teaching mechanism to the next generation, explaining to our children God’s desire for communion with us. Thus, Sabbath was to be the foundation of education. It was designed to provide parents with the opportunity to be the child’s first teacher and to make the knowledge of God as Creator and Redeemer the first lessons to be learned. This method of education was to be preserved from the first parents to the last generation of the human family.