Lesson 11

The Sabbath

(Genesis 2, Mark 2, John 1, Matthew 12)
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Introduction: I love the Sabbath! In general, it is hard for me to rest. If I'm at home, and I see something that needs to be done, I almost always do it. When I'm at work, I always have something I must do. At any other time than the Sabbath, I feel guilty (or something like that) when I'm resting and there are things to do. On the Sabbath, however, my guilt is gone. If I start thinking about the work I must do, I say to myself, "This is the Sabbath, work is off-limits." What a blessing to have a guilt-free time of rest! The Sabbath is an important Bible doctrine, so let's dive right into our study!

  1. How It Started


    1. Read Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 2:1. How long did it take for God to create the world? (Six days.)


      1. Do you think He could have done it in less? (Read Genesis 1:14-19. We see that God created the sun, moon and stars, and put them in motion in one day. My thought is that if He could do that in one day, nothing is impossible for Him.)


      2. Could God have taken more time to create the world? (Of course, if He made that decision.)


    2. Read Genesis 2:2-4. If God could have taken less time or more time to create the world, why do you think He took six days? (Read Mark 2:27-28. God did it for us. He wanted us to rest.)


      1. Look again at Genesis 2:3. What do you think it means that God "blessed the seventh day and made it holy?" (Something that is holy is set aside, it is special. The Sabbath is a special day.)


  2. God's Authority


    1. Read Isaiah 45:11-12. What is happening to God here? (He is being challenged. Humans are second-guessing God.)


      1. What does God claim as the basis for His authority over humans? (He is the Creator! I researched this and found that God's principal claim to authority throughout the Bible is the fact that He is our Creator.)


    2. Read Exodus 20:8. What is the reason why God says we should keep the Sabbath? (God links the Sabbath to His power and authority as the Creator. He says that in a literal six days He created the world, and therefore on the seventh day we should rest as He did.)


      1. Let's take a philosophical moment. If you are Satan, and you want to challenge the authority of God, what kind of strategy would you form? If you were God, what would be your strategy?(If I were Satan, I would try to create doubt about the creation, and I would try to make it irrelevant. If I were God, I would do exactly what we read in the Fourth Commandment - I would have a weekly reminder that I was the Creator.)


        1. Do you see these strategies being played out in the world? (Yes, both the literal six-day creation and the seventh-day Sabbath are under severe attack.)


    3. Re-read Exodus 20:11. Recall that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. I've read claims that the "days" of Genesis 1 were not days as we know them today. How were "days" understood in the time of Moses? (What God conveyed to Moses is beyond debate. Moses and the people understood these were literal days.)


      1. I am not a scientist. I'm a logician and a debater. There are many so-called Christians, including in my own church, who do not believe in a literal six-day creation. Set aside the science issue. What is the proper conclusion if the world was not created in a literal six days? (God lied. There is no room for the argument that humans in Moses' day were primitive and would not have understood, thus God told them nonsense. God did not have had to give any specific explanation of His Creation. But, he did. In Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 He is very specific.)


        1. If God lied, what is the logical conclusion that follows? (God lied about the very thing that He claims as the basis for His authority over humans. This goes to the heart of the matter of who God is. It goes to the heart of the matter of being a Christian.)


    4. Read John 1:1-4 and John 1:14. Who is this "Word?" (Jesus.)


      1. What does the Bible say about the Word and the creation? (That Jesus is the Creator of Genesis 1. This is why accepting the creation account is essential to accepting the authority of Jesus.)


  3. What Should Sabbath Look Like?


    1. Read Matthew 12:1-2. What is the charge leveled against Jesus? (He is not properly controlling his disciples. They are breaking the Sabbath.)


    2. Read Matthew 12:3-5. Is Jesus' answer the same as our children would answer - my sibling is doing the same thing? Don't pick on me, he is doing it too!


      1. Are Jesus' disciples like the priests working in the temple?


    3. Read Matthew 12:6-8. Wait a minute! Jesus is saying something much greater than "everyone is doing it." What is Jesus claiming? (He is saying that His disciples are like the priests working in the temple because Jesus is the reason for the temple. More than that, Jesus is saying that He has authority to decide what is proper to do on the Sabbath.)


      1. If the Sabbath were about to go the way of the Dodo bird (become extinct), would Jesus have responded the way He did? (No. Jesus gives no hint that the Sabbath is no longer binding. Rather, He says He is "Lord of the Sabbath.")


      2. What does Jesus mean when He says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice?" And, why are His disciples "innocent?" (Notice the pattern in the examples Jesus gives. The first is showing mercy to those who are hungry. The second is helping those who have come to the temple. In both cases, showing kindness to humans is more important than the letter of the law.)


        1. I recall being at the zoo on Sabbath with a church group. One couple had young children who were crying because it was hot and they wanted a cool drink or ice cream. The couple would not buy anything for their children because it was the Sabbath. How do you think Jesus would have reacted to that decision?


    4. Read Matthew 12:9-12. What flaw do you see in Jesus' logic? (The sheep is in distress. This looks like an emergency. The man with a shriveled hand is no emergency.)


      1. If I'm correct in making this distinction, what lesson is Jesus teaching? (Whether you have an emergency or not is irrelevant. The only question is whether you are doing good on the Sabbath. If you are, then what you are doing is appropriate.)


      2. I often say that the Bible is very limited real estate. Any lesson that made its way into the Bible must be important. What is the important lesson here? (This is powerful proof that Sabbath-keeping would continue. These are instructions on how to keep the Sabbath.)


    5. Read Matthew 12:13-14. What are the religious leaders doing on the Sabbath? (They were not doing good. They were plotting murder!)


    6. Read Matthew 24:15-21. Jesus is speaking about the destruction of the temple which took place in 70 A.D. Would it violate the Sabbath to flee death on the Sabbath? (That is certainly "doing good.")


      1. If I'm right, what is Jesus saying? (Winter is an unpleasant time to have to flee. You want to enjoy your Sabbath, not be running for your life. I think that is the sense of this.)


      2. Notice the timing issue. If the Sabbath ended at the cross, would Jesus' statement make any sense? (Jesus intended the Sabbath to continue to retain its importance.)


    7. Read Revelation 14:6-7. This is an end-time message. What role does the Sabbath play here? (Recall that the Sabbath was created as a memorial to creation. The call to worship the Creator directly implicates the Sabbath.)


    8. Friend, some who are reading this may have the wrong view of Sabbath-keeping and may have missed the message about mercy. Others, may be disregarding the weekly memorial to the authority of God, and losing out on a guilt-free time of rest. Will you resolve today to try to properly keep the Sabbath?


  4. Next week: Death and Resurrection.

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