Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Sabbath in Leviticus and Numbers

The third and fourth books of the Bible add details about Sabbath keeping that are significant.

Leviticus 23:3. "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. It is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings."

a. Here is the connection between rest, holiness, and meeting together stated plainly. Trying to keep a holy day by one's self is not envisioned here, but a communal effort.

b. However, the Sabbath is not just to be observed at 'church,' but in all the homes.

c. The context of Leviticus 23 is likewise significant. Sabbath is listed here as one of the feasts of the Lord, alongside Passover, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. All of these feasts, and Sabbath itself have a fulfillment in Christ and the life of His people, it is true. They are pictures of the true as were the furnishings of the Temple. But we are left with the question: Are all pictures to be abolished because they are pictures?

Certainly the Lord's Supper is a picture of a greater reality, a mere reminder, yet enjoined upon us by no less than Jesus Himself.

Marriage of two humans is a picture of our marriage to Christ. Should we abandon our mates because marriage is a picture?

Water Baptism is a picture, but a commanded one. Who will tell Jesus it is not important?

But some will say, there are certainly pictures which are no more. Yes, the animal sacrifices are gone for believers in Messiah. The Temple seems to be history. Yet before one says a final good-bye to all these Jewish pictures it is well to visit Brother Zechariah and his future vision of our world:

Zechariah 14:16. "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles."

The prophet here sees a worldwide opposition to Israel, followed by a Messianic victory over that world, and then the instituting of Jewish feasts for the Gentiles. Could it be that the Lord would have been pleased had we never stopped celebrating these things, just as he desired for those first 2,500 years to be filled with more obedient servants? He is longsuffering, and eventually He will have His way.

With "Jewishness" in our past and future, why not more of it in our present?

Would God truly enforce this Sabbath rule on His people? He threatens with death. But will a merciful God ever allow this to happen? Move to the next Bible Book.

Numbers 15:32-36. " Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp. So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died."

There is no comment on this story, no attempt at justification. God is not to be toyed with. The soul that sins shall die. Let no one talk of little sins but rather of rebellious hearts daring to lift themselves above the law of God.

Not every Sabbath breaker was executed. As in our day not every church gossip, not every angry man, not every lustful heart is brought before the congregation. But Christ died for all these sins, and it is just as essential that they be dealt with in our day as in the days of the wilderness. Forgiveness is full and free, but the holiness of God has never changed.

Still, we have yet to establish that Sabbath-keeping is part of the plan of God for us . We have only heard from the Lord through Moses thus far. There is much more, and I encourage my readers to seek diligently for the rest of the story. is a website I put together a few months back to get the word out to believers that they need to pray for North Korea. Just about every day I'm writing a blog featuring some news, a book, or a story of North Korea. There's a live news feed on the site, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together!

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Who are you? Would love to fellowship with believers who respond on my site.

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