The Intention of the Sabbath Law
Text: Matthew 12:1-14
(Key Texts: Jeremiah 6, 23; 2 Chronicles 36)
How did God intend the Sabbath Law to be kept? It is important that we understand the intention of this and the other laws of God. Three things may be highlighted especially.
1. As a Means of Instruction
The Laws of God provided a wonderful means of instruction for the nation of Israel. Through studying the Torah, knowledge and faith had every chance to grow. Worship was designated as part of the national lifestyle! Everybody must set aside time to give worship to God for who He is and for what He had done for the nation. He is to be worshiped as both Creator and Deliverer!
2. As a Means of Identification
The Keeping of the Laws of God (not just the Sabbath) identified the nation of Israel as belonging to God in a special relationship. Through the keeping of the laws they reflected the glory of God! They were to reflect the holiness of God especially!
3. As a Means of Regulation
The Sabbath Law specially protected workers. In those days when slavery was something practised widely, the Sabbath Law ensured that slaves would have some respite from their labours! Unscrupulous masters would be restrained from over-working their slaves!
A SAD HISTORY OF DISOBEDIENCE
Israel’s history was a checkered one. Jeremiah was one of many prophets who lamented the way Israel had departed from the laws of God. Let us consider just one of many texts that indicted Israel for practising a ritualistic religion that was little more than a shell.
“Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring
calamity on this people –
The fruit of their (own) thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words,
Nor My law, but rejected it.
For what purpose to Me
Comes frankincense from Sheba,
And sweet cane from a far country?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
Nor your sacrifices sweet to Me.”
Israel had an empty religion, as far as God was concerned. When the nation rejected God’s laws and did not heed His words, God also rejected their worship!
THE PUNISHMENT METED OUT AGAINST A REBELLIOUS NATION
As Jeremiah preached to a wicked and rebellious nation, he proclaimed God’s judgment upon Israel.
“Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because
you have not heard My words, behold , I will send
and take all the families of the north,’ Says the
Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon,
My servant, and will bring them against this land,
against its inhabitants, and against these nations
all around, and will utterly destroy them, and
make them an astonishment, a hissing and
And this whole land shall be a desolation and an
astonishment, and these nations shall serve the
king of Babylon seventy years.”
Jeremiah 25:8-9, 11
The chroniclers of Israel noted the awesome truth of this prophecy.
“And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings
to them by His messengers, rising up early and
sending them, because He had compassion on His
people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked
the messengers of God, despised His words, and
scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord
arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
Therefore He brought against them the king of the
Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword
in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion
on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak;
He gave them all into his hand.
And those who escaped from the sword he carried away
to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his
sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfil
the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until
the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she
lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfil seventy years.
2 Chronicles 36:15-17, 20-21
It is necessary to have this brief historical background of Israel before we can fully appreciate the significance of the controversy that raged around the issue of keeping the Sabbath in the days of Jesus. The 70 years of captivity changed Israel’s perspective of the Sabbath law permanently. The pendulum had swung to the other end. The Jews had become rigid in the keeping of the Sabbath Law!