Sabbath Food: Part 4

John Plunkett
February 16, 2013

Last month, we examined God’s Sabbath instructions in Exodus 16, in which we "saw" the Israelites encamped in the wilderness of Sin.

Today, before we move forward in time and place with the Israelites, I want to examine two points that came up in recent conversations on this Sabbath Food topic:

The first one, a couple of weeks ago, was on the sub-topic of "back-to-back" Sabbaths and Holy Days.  There are a few times in the average year
certainly every Pentecost; but there are other times as well when a weekly Sabbath and a Holy Day fall back-to-back.  If we look back to the days of the manna, the question comes up, Did God provide and did the Israelites collect three days worth of manna on the preparation day?  I don’t see any reason whatsoever why that is not a real possibility.  If God was able to miraculously provide and preserve the freshness of one or two days worth of manna, was His hand somehow shortened so that He was unable to provide and preserve the freshness of three days worth?  I'm sure that that would not have been a problem at all.  Time means virtually nothing with God.

How does this same concept apply to God’s people today?  How does it apply to us?   How should we prepare for back-to-back Sabbaths and Holy Days?  It is obvious that extra planning and preparation are required prior to those special weekends.  However, two full days of preparation should not really be necessary.  Only one day of preparation should be necessary.  

Some brethren believe that, in Exodus 12:15-16, God made an allowance for the Israelites to collect and cook manna on the Holy Days, and therefore makes the same allowance for us to prepare and cook our food during the Holy Day.  I respectfully disagree with this point of view because, if true, it would make the Holy Days less holy than the weekly Sabbath.  We were talking about this just this morning and speculating whether or not the weekly Sabbath rules take precedent over the Holy Day rules.  However, are the Holy Days somehow less holy than the weekly Sabbath?  I don’t think that they are?  Let's go back and read it again:

Exodus 12:
15:  Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16:  And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work there
{N.B. Hebrew: "Melakah"} shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.

Please note what this verse does not say.  It does not say that God permits seething, baking, or any other kind of cooking on the Holy Days.  It doesn’t mention cooking at all. 

Once we get to Exodus 16, please note that there is no differentiation between the weekly and annual Sabbath Days regarding the provision, collection, preparation or the cooking of manna. 

Also, even though the weekly Sabbath is a day of rest, it should not be a day of laziness. As we will see in future sermons in this series, we are to fill God’s Sabbaths with appropriate activities. 

So, if the weekly Sabbath is a full day, which it normally is, does it make sense that the annual Holy Days would be any less so.  On the contrary, we have found that the Holy Days, especially at times when we have two services and a lunch in between, those are really full days, even more full than the average weekly Sabbath.  How would we have more time for food collection or cooking on the Holy Days than we would on the weekly Sabbaths? 

In our own Church of God history with our own family, we have never really had a problem preparing food for the weekly Sabbath and Pentecost.  I realize that it is definitely more work on the Day of Preparation for back-to-back Sabbaths; but it is doable.

As an example, last year when we were in England for the Pentecost weekend, we had an absolutely amazing meal
a true Feast!  We had such an array of foods, and the only "melakah work"  we had to do was lay it out; as everything was cooked and prepared before hand. 

The second preamble question that came up was this: What do we mean by the word ‘rest’?

In the same way as some brethren seem to have "gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick" regarding God’s command: "Abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:29), some brethren have done the same with the word "rest." 

Again, I am not "knocking" anybody with how they choose to keep God’s Sabbaths; but I used to know a lady in the church who sincerely believed and probably still does –  that God wants us to stay at home every Sabbath and to do literally, absolutely nothing!   This lady even took it so far as to stay in bed all day every Sabbath Day! 

Is this really true zeal for God’s Word?  Or is it the opposite?  Is this what God really wants?  I don’t believe that it is.  I believe that there are two ditches.  One of them is the overly strict, overly conservative one; and the other one is the overly lax, overly liberal one.  We have to be very careful of both of those ditches.

This "total rest" idea is also symptomatic of another problem
one that I call “selective scripture picking.”  We have probably all done this is the past.  Many of us engage in a proper kind of scripture picking from time to time in order to prove a doctrinal point.  But if we do engage in scripture picking, let’s be up-front and fair about it.  Let’s not be excessively selective about it.  Rather let’s pick all of the relevant scriptures on the topic under discussion.  Sometimes this can take a long time.  This sermon series is a case in point!  The series began as a result of a couple of personal experiences in which some of our fellow brethren were engaging in selective scripture picking in order to justify their own approach to Sabbath keeping; but which had led to some evidently unrighteous judgment of other brethren who happen to choose differently. That unrighteous judgment contravened God’s Word in Colossians 2:16.  We are not to unrighteously judge each other on these things. 

When God told the Israelites
both physical and spiritual to rest on His Sabbath Days, just what is that rest?  What does He want us to do?

The best answer to these questions is to begin via other questions: What would Jesus do?  What did Jesus do?  What was His example for us?

Avoiding the two ditches, do we ever read of the human Jesus Christ or His disciples and apostles staying in bed all day on the Sabbath?  No.  They were active.  We read about them walking on the Sabbath Days.  We read about them attending Sabbath services in the synagogues and in the temple and
in the case of the apostle Paul out by a quiet river-side sometimes.  They did good, work-free deeds such as healing.  They were appropriately active and yet they were resting at the same time.

On the other hand, we never read of them going out grocery shopping.  We never read about them cooking on the Sabbath Day.  We never read about them eating out at restaurants on the Sabbath Day.  By the way, I used to think that there were no restaurants in those areas back in those days.  But we were watching an archaeological television program the other night, and we learned that the Romans did have restaurants
–  and some pretty fancy ones throughout their empire.  We'll learn more on this in future sermons in this series.

As we learnt last month, this Hebrew noun "Shabbath" which we pronounce "Sabbath" stems from the primitive root verb "Shabath," which translates into our English verb "Rest."  This indicates that, in time order, the verb "Shabath" came before the noun "Shabbath."  The noun form is not seen in the scriptures until Exodus 16 whereas the verb form appears five times before that scripture. 

The verbal similarities between these two words set me wondering whether there might be any other similar words that might shed light upon this topic.  

I looked up all of the Hebrew words in Strong’s Concordance between 7670 and 7679, as they all come in Hebrew alphabetical order there. 

There I found two versions of the word "Shebeth (Strong’s 7674) – another noun stemming from the verb "Shabath" and which can mean: sit still, cease, or cessation.  The other version of "Shebeth" (Strong's 7675) means: seat, place, or dwelling. This one stems from another verb "Yashab" which means: dwell, sit, down, abide, inhabit, remain, tarry, and be still.  These are all clues as to how we should keep and enjoy God’s holy Sabbath time.

The overriding idea is that we must be taking things a lot easier than on the other six days of the week.  God is telling us to "chill," stop working, take it easy, slow down and stick around!  Also, He is telling us to take some quality time with our family and brethren. 

There is one more related word
"Shabbathown" (Strong’s 7677), a noun which is translated as "rest" eight times and as "Sabbath" three times in the scriptures.  The extended meanings of this word are: Sabbatical year, Sabbath observance, and Sabbatism which means strict observance of the weekly Sabbath and the Holy Days.  This word indicates once again that God’s people are to "chill" on His Sabbaths and that we are to keep them with a certain respectful level of strictness which includes a holy convocation.

Now that our two preamble questions are done with, let’s move on.  Again, last month we finished Part 3 in Exodus 16, where we concentrated on some of the Sabbath Food lessons that were being learned by the Israelites. We visited them there in the wilderness of Sin, which is located between Elim and Sinai.  They were receiving Sabbath-keeping lessons with their manna and their quails.

Today, let’s move along with them in time and place as they follow the pillar of cloud and fire and move on from the wilderness of Sin.

As we go through these scriptures, it is important for us to note where they were at any given time. 

Exodus 17:1:  
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

Rephidim is an interesting place name for our study because it means “resting place.”

Verse 5:  And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.
6:  Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.  And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

This is interesting because the LORD brought Moses right back to this place called Horeb.  This was the very place where God had talked with Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3).

I looked up the article on Horeb in Easton’s Bible Dictionary; and he says that the word means "desert" or "mountain of the dried-up ground."  When we think of the pillar of fire and of God talking to Moses through the burning bush, we can see why the ground may have been dried up!

Also, Easton says that Horeb is a general name for the whole mountain range of which Sinai was just one of the summits.  The modern name of the whole range is “Jabal Musa” which means "Mount Moses."  It is a huge mountain block about two miles long by about one in breadth, with a very spacious plain at its north east end called "Er-rahah" in which the Israelites encamped for nearly a whole year. 

I am trying to give you an idea of where they were and where they were approaching:

Exodus 18:5: 
And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:

As we see here, they were at "the mount of God" at this time.  I am quoting these "geography scriptures" to give the idea of exactly where they were and when.

Exodus 19:1:
In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.

As we all know, they came out of Egypt on the night of Abib 15.  This is interesting.  It is only a side point; but the wording of this verse implies that the Israelites may have arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai on the 15th day of the third month, which is Sivan.  In other words, sixty days after they left Egypt.  That is the way that this verse reads to me.  The traditional view and teaching of many scholars including many Church of God ministers was that the Law was given to Moses on the Feast of Pentecost. We have to wonder about this as Pentecost was only fifty days from the morrow after the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:11-16).  

Continuing now in Exodus 19:

2:  For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness.  So Israel camped there before the mountain.

So here we find them in the Sinai desert, at the foot of Mount Sinai.

3:  And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel...
5:  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

Please notice the term “my covenant” in the singular.  There is no mention, whether here or anywhere else, of any other, second, valid covenant that applied just for the duration of the forty year manna period.  

I don’t want to get into a discussion on the various covenants as that would take a whole series in itself; but please keep this intriguing question in the back of your mind: "Was this covenant the same one that God made with Abraham?"  This is an interesting thing to think about. 

It is one single covenant.  Please remember that God is talking through Moses to the Israelites about this covenant that He is going to make with them imminently with the Ten Commandments, the details of which are coming up in the very next chapter.  But continuing now still in chapter 19:

Verse 11:  And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

This could be referring to Sivan 18. 

Verse 16:  And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

Please try to visualize this.

18:  And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19:  And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
20:  And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.

In the middle of all of this major awe, the LORD the YHVH the “I AM” the Logos the Spokesman of the Elohim Family proceeded to give His Ten Commandments to Moses to all Israel and to all mankind:

Exodus 20:
1:  And God spake all these words, saying,
2:  I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
8a:  Remember the sabbath day…

YHVH commanded them and He commands us to remember His Sabbath Day.  The weekly Sabbath Day is blessed and sanctified time; and it had been so since Elohim made it so at the end of the re-creation week. 

Here, perhaps twenty five hundred years later, around 1500 BC, YHVH was commanding His people to remember it.  They had been in captivity in Egypt where they had likely lost some of His true knowledge.  Back in Exodus 16 they had received some stern reminders of the Sabbath, and some of the truth certainly must have come back to them then.

Let's take a look at this word "remember."  The Hebrew word is "zakar"  (Strong’s 2142).  It is a verb and it is translated in the King James Version as remember, bring to remembrance, record, be mindful and think.  The extended Hebrew meanings are: recall, call to mind, remind, be thought of, cause to remember, keep in remembrance and make a memorial.  

This memorial of the Sabbath is going to become the very sign between God and His people.  But all of these words reveal the vast importance that God places on this weekly Holy Day and that He places on His people remembering it, and on keeping it in the forefront of our minds. We must never forget it!

Verse 8b: ... to keep it holy.

I want to plagiarize a point here from the British minister, Jamie McNab.  Whenever he talks about this verse, he often mentions that Church of God brethren commonly say, "I keep the Sabbath."  But Jamie always notes that just keeping the Sabbath is not enough.  God commands us to keep His Sabbath holy!

We know that Elohim God the Father and Jesus Christ made the seventh day holy.  They sanctified it.  They set it apart for sacred use.  They did this at the time of the re-creation of the world.  Not just that one Sabbath; but every subsequent seventh day.  The sanctification of the Sabbath was not initiated at Mount Sinai.  It was sanctified approximately 2,500 years earlier at the end of that re-creation week.  God the Father and Jesus Christ (YHVH) made is holy way back then; and right here they command us to keep it holy. 

Have you been keeping God’s Sabbath Days holy?  Have you been keeping every minute of every Sabbath Day holy every week?  Or have some of us slid into watering down, liberalizing and belittling God’s sacred time, even to the point of misusing some of it.  Have any of us done any of that?  Many of us have done so including me!  It seems that in recent months or years, God has been giving us a "kick in the pants."  He seems to be reminding us and saying, "Come on, you guys!"  He seems to be waking us up to certain things; and this is one of them.  You don’t have to admit any of this to me; but we should not neglect these questions; certainly not now as we approach the Passover season.  We should be thinking about these things on a frequent, regular basis.  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Verse 9:  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

God says “all your work."  All your "melakah."  This means just what it says.  Not just our work at our day jobs.  I am retired and don’t have a day job any more; but I can go and work out in the garden or I can work around the house, pounding nails and things like that.  This "melakah" work is not just the work of our breadwinner brethren.  It certainly does include that; but as we saw last time, it also includes any and all work that is done at home and outside the home, the work that is done by a housewife, by children, or by retirees like myself.  It includes grocery shopping, other shopping, vegetable gardening, cooking and major food preparation.  

I am not going to write a list for you of what to do or what not to do with regards to what constitutes prohibited cooking.  Is it a sin to pick a tomato or radish out of your garden in order to add it to a fresh salad?  I don't believe so.  Jesus' disciples' example in the cornfield indicates that such minor produce-picking is not a sin as major gardening would be. 

When you do go out grocery shopping during the first six days of the week and you get peckish and you want to stop for a coffee and a muffin, or for a more substantial lunch, go ahead there is nothing to stop you!  But! continuing in verse 10:

Verse 10:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

Whose Sabbath day is it?  Whose holy time is it?  Whose twenty-four hour weekly time period is it?  Who owns the Sabbath?  It is owned by the One who made it "the LORD our God (YHVH-Elohim)" it says here.  The One who became known years later as "the Son of man" who repeated this and shows clearly that He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 11:28-29; 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5 and John 1:1-3; 8:58; 13:13; Hebrews 3:11-18; 4:1-11).

We are told to do no work (melakah).  This also means not even anyone in our family or in our home.  He is pointing to you and me, saying, "You who are the head of your household."  The head of every true Christian household is effectively the master or mistress of that household and God is telling him or her that he or she is to prohibit any work being done on his or her property by any resident or guest.  That is not always easy. But if any of them, whether they be family members, boarders, or whatever else, are not willing to abide by God’s Law and the rule of the house in this or any other respect, then it is the solemn duty of the head of the household to advise them to find alternative accommodation.  Again, it might sound harsh, but it is not. This is what God is telling us here, and this is His sacred and eternal Law.

Why? For what reason do we have to do all of these things? 

Verse 11:  For {i.e. Because} in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Those are the reasons why.  Because the LORD did it first and so set the example for us.  Also, because He blessed it and He hallowed it.  He made it holy. 

Right here in verse 11, God ties this repetition of His Sabbath Law right back to its origin at the end of the re-creation week.  He even solidifies the inseparable connection between Sinai and the re-creation week by giving a direct quotation from Genesis 2:1-3 about the sanctification and the blessing of the Sabbath Day.

There is one small difference between Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 2:1-3; and that difference is that, instead of the Hebrew verb "shabath" for "rested," here He uses the verb "nuwach."  Let’s take a quick look at that word.  It is Strong’s 5117 and it is variously rendered in the King James Version as: rest, cease, be quiet, remain, settle down, repose, and lay down.  It is almost an exact synonym of "shabath." 

What happened next?  Immediately after He gave Moses the Ten Commandments, in verse 22-26 the LORD began to magnify them and to expand on them.  Then in chapters 21, 22 and 23, He continues to magnify them by giving the Israelites something that He calls His "judgments."  The Hebrew word is "mishpat."  Although these were lesser ordinances, they were still very important and eternally binding parts of the Law of God, firmly based on the Ten Commandments.  They covered the treatment of slaves, servants and animals.  They specified the differences between murder and manslaughter.  They gave the penalties for various kinds of manslaughter, murder, bodily injuries, theft, fraud, property damage, sexual sin, lying, slander, respect of persons, rebellion, blasphemy and idolatry.  These ordinances and judgments also covered the treatment of the firstborn, tithing, offerings, aid for the poor, immigration, food (what we should and should not eat), farming practices, Sabbatical and Jubilee years, the annual Holy Days and – surprise-surprise! – more details on the keeping of the weekly Sabbath.  We cannot take the Sabbath out of here; and we cannot say that the Sabbath applies, but all of these other laws don’t. 

Some Christians believe that these secondary, supplementary judgments and ordinances are not valid in our day and age – not applicable to God’s New Testament people.  I have even heard ministers and other Christians ridicule some of these things as being unnecessary.  

It is true, of course, that God’s people today must live in Satan’s world.  We are like ambassadors of the Kingdom of God living in what we might think of as foreign nations. Okay, they are our nations to a limited extent; but they are foreign to us because we are primarily citizens of the Kingdom of God, where our primary allegiance resides.  As ambassadors, we don’t have the authority to apply or enforce some – or even most – of these ordinances.  Some of them we would love to have the authority to enforce, wouldn't we?  But far from being obsolete or out-of-date, if our modern human governments would adopt these wonderful laws of God, today’s world would be a much better and safer one to live in.  As much as we are able to, we should apply and practice them.  But please never think that they are obsolete or done away with. 

Right in the middle of God's listing of all of these judgments and ordinances, just look at what we see:

Exodus 23:12:
Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

I will repeat what I said before: that if we are to throw out all of the other judgments and ordinances in the midst of which this command is listed, we must throw this one out too!  But no!  You can’t have one without the other.

In this verse, the last word is "refreshed" which is translated from the Hebrew verb "naphash" (Strong’s 5314).  It basically means to take breath what we, in our day and age, might refer to as "taking a breather."
If we want to continue doing all of the things on the Sabbath that we do on all of the other six days of the week, then we are failing to obey this command to take the weekly breather that God commands for us.  He is not just offering it to us.  He is commanding it!
Back in the 1990’s when the church leadership was pulling out all stops to try to prove that New Testament Christians do not have to keep God’s Sabbaths, I remember one person trying to use this verse to claim that the only reason for God’s Sabbath Day was limited to Old Testament Israel, and was to give a weekly rest day to servants and farm animals; and, because the vast majority of modern-day Christians do not have servants or farm animals, the Sabbath Day is no longer necessary.  That is the kind of twisted reasoning and "selective scripture picking" that we were talking about earlier on.  That is the kind of false "proof" that people can come up with. 

It is true, of course, that there are very few modern-day Christians that have servants or farm animals.  Those few that do certainly should give them the day off every Sabbath Day.  If you have a little farm, the cows still have to be fed and milked; but God’s Word covers and makes provision for those necessities on the Sabbath.  God doesn’t want the poor cows to blow up on the Sabbath! 

We can extend this concept of servants and their families being given this weekly rest day to what we might refer to as our "temporary servants."   Here are just two examples of temporary servants.  The first example is that of trades people: electricians, plumbers, car mechanics, etc.  Should we have trades people coming to our homes to do non-emergency work on God’s Sabbath Days and Holy Days?  I believe that this verse covers this kind of thing; and that we should not have these trades people working for us during God's holy time.  If you are having a house built or if you need some other kind of work doing, remember, you are the boss of the house and they have to work on it only when you permit them to. 

The second example of temporary servants is that of restaurant employees.  We will delve into this in more detail when we get to the book of Nehemiah.  So many people will try to tell you that restaurant employees really do not work for us.  Well I'm sorry to have to disagree; but yes they do!  They do work for us on a temporary basis!  When you walk into a restaurant, a young man or woman will come up to your table, smile and say something like, "Welcome to our restaurant.  I'll be your server this evening" or "I'll be serving you this evening."  The very terms "waiter" and "waitress" mean that their job is wait on their customers.  Yes, for the hour or so that we are in their restaurant, they most certainly are our servants. 

Should we be doing business with cafes and restaurants during God's holy time?  Should we be doing monetary transactions, effectively buying the services of chefs, cooks, hostesses, waiters and waitresses on God’s Sabbaths or Holy Days?  I don’t believe that we should.  This verse Exodus 23:12 gives us the basic principle which is backed up by many other scriptures.

There are a few other interesting and important points about this particular verse; so let us briefly look at them before we move away from it:

Both Hebrew words for "rest" are used here.  "Nuwach" rest is commanded for the animals and "Shabath" rest is commanded for the human beings. 

The Hebrew word translated into the English word "work" is not "melakah" in this case; but is the noun "ma'aseh" (Strong’s 4639) which is translated in the King James Version as "work."  But there is much more to this word – it means much more than just "day job" work or business pursuits.  It expands into acts, doings, art, deeds, things done, undertakings, enterprises, achievements, making things and products, even needlework.  Plus, its meaning includes a list of twenty-three other miscellaneous activities which you can take the time to look up for yourself if you so desire. 

In Exodus 24, Moses lays out YHVH’s Commandments and secondary ordinances before the Israelites in the form of a covenant.  This is the very same covenant that we read about in chapter 19.  The Israelites accepted that covenant.  It was a two way agreement.  God said,  "Here is my side of it; and your side of it is that you have to obey it."

Then, in the subsequent chapters after chapter 24, all of the way to chapter 31, God gives Moses His instructions for His Tabernacle
the portable Tent Tabernacle.  He goes into all the details of the furnishings, offerings, the priesthood.  All the details are commanded in there.  The, at the very conclusion of all of this instruction, right out of the blue, look what God says: He brings them right back to "Remember the Sabbath Day":

Exodus 31:
13:  Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
14:  Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 
15:  Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 
16:  Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.

This is a repeat of YHVH’s Sabbath command.  He gives reminders here and He says that it is a sign between Himself and Israel.  We can extend that to from ancient Israel to modern Israelboth physical and spiritual Israel. 

He says that it is a sign of Israel’s sanctification, that it is a perpetual covenant, and that it is eternal and valid throughout their generations. He says that it is holy time and that He imposes an automatic death penalty for defiling it. 

Was this perpetual covenant a separate one?  Was it a different covenant from the one that is mentioned in Exodus 19:5?  Some say it is; some say it isn't.  The covenants are a huge subject.  Going through them in detail would take a whole sermon series to cover them adequately and I want to keep this short for today.

This Exodus 31 mention of the perpetual Sabbath covenant effectively solidifies what we can call the "Sabbath part" of the "main covenant."  The Sabbath covenant is actually the heart and core of what we can think of as the main covenant. 

We have the main covenant with all of its many details; and as we have seen, God keeps coming back and plopping the Sabbath right in the middle of them, implying that that His Sabbath is the very core of it. 

He talks about what they were to do with the tabernacle and the priesthoodagain a huge set of instructionsand then right in the middle of those instructions, He talks about the Sabbath again. 

Yes, the Sabbath is a perpetual and eternal covenant.  Even though the 
tent tabernacle has gone and the stone temples are gone (even though some of its stones are still there), the Sabbath still is the very core of it all.  When God brings the temple back again, the Sabbath is again going to be the core of it.

Still in Exodus 31, in verse 14, God tells us that everyone who defiles His Sabbaths will be put to death.  That is no small thing!  As we alluded to earlier, in our day and age, we cannot go to our neighbours and say that, because they are not keeping the Sabbath, we are going to put them to death.

The subsequent verses after verse 14 imply that the most common way that God’s Sabbaths are defiled is with people doing work on them. In verse 15, He specifies "any work."  Does "any work" include cooking or other major food preparation?  I believe that it certainly does.

Let’s look at the word "defiles" in verse 14.  We will finish today's study with a very stern warning from God.  I hope that you don’t think that it is negative.  The Hebrew word for "defiles" is "chalal" (Strong’s 2490).  It can also mean profane, pollute, break, wound, slay, sorrow, stain, desecrate, violate, violate the honour of, dishonour, make or treat as common; and the last one: prostitute!  

We might cringe when we think of this that we could apply this word "prostitute" to God’s holy Sabbath.  But God seems to be trying to tell us here to get serious.  He is warning us that defiling His Sabbaths is a big deal –  a huge deal and that it is even equivalent to committing the gross sin of adulterous whoredom!  But not just against our physical spouses; but even more seriously, against our spiritual Husband, Jesus Christ! 

Do we really want to do such things to God’s Sabbath, to something that is so very precious and holy to God? 

As we conclude for today in this vein, I would like us to read a few verses from Jeremiah 3.  I want it his words to resonate on the seriousness of what we are doing when we break God’s Sabbath Days.  I want you to think about these words and then judge for yourselves if Sabbath breaking is serious or not:

Jeremiah 3:
1:  They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again?  Shall not that land be greatly polluted?  But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

We see here how forgiving and compassionate He really is.

2:  Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with.  In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.

We don’t want to get into the detailed meanings of all of these words; but suffice it to say that there are some absolutely filthy activities going on here!

3:  Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refused to be ashamed...

6:  The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done?  She is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot...

8:  And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. 

Ancient Judah failed to learn from the awful example of her sister, Israel; she failed to learn from the severe penalties of captivity and scattering that YHVH imposed upon Israel. 

Please ask yourself: Do you want YHVH
the LORD, Jesus Christ, our spiritual Bridegroom to put you away even before the wedding has taken place?  Of course you don’t!  Then please heed these serious warnings from God’s holy Word.

9:  And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks...

The ancient Jews and Israelites thought that it was no big deal.  Do any of us think that it is no big deal?  That "just a little bit" of work on the Sabbath is a light thing?  Do any of us think that "just a little bit" of defiling of the Sabbath is a light thing?  Do any of us think that "just a little bit" of spiritual adulterous whoredom is a light thing?  

Our spiritual Bridegroom is saying these things to us:

13:  Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
14a:  Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.

March 20, 2013