Do you enjoy a day off from work? Lonnie Melashenko explains that God provided for that when He created us.
Have you ever been in the delivery room when a baby was born? Some babies come into the world wide-eyed, gazing around at everything. You can see them trying to figure out what this sudden change in their environment is all about. Others take one look around and shut their eyes tight, almost as if they want to go back where everything is warm and dark and safe!
But Adam and Eve were created with their faculties fully functioning as adults. We see Adam already able to speak and to name the animals, fish, and birds that God paraded before him. Have you ever tried to picture what it must have been like for Adam and Eve that first day of their lives as they went on a tour of their garden home with their Creator? It must have been an exciting yet exhausting day.
Imagine, then, their relief when God announced that now it was time to rest. They needed a bit of R & R, and God understood that. Notice what the Bible says about the seventh day of Creation week:
“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1–3, NKJV).
The Bible says that God sanctified the seventh day. To sanctify in the biblical sense means to set something aside for a special purpose. When God sanctified the seventh day, He set it aside as a sanctuary in time.
If you’re a parent, you know that the most precious gift you can give to your children is your time—those precious moments shared with them just to let them know you care. God gave to Adam and Eve the precious gift of His time. He set aside the very first full day of their existence so He could spend it with His “kids” and they could spend it with Him.
The gift from Sinai
Just how important that time together with His kids was to God was reinforced when He gathered the children of Israel together at the foot of Mount Sinai after liberating them from slavery. On the day He thundered His Ten Commandments from that stormy summit, He asked His people to remember Him as their Creator. The fourth commandment says:
“ ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it’ ” (Exodus 20:8–11, NKJV).
Believe me, this law was no burden to a people who had just been liberated from seven-day-a-week slavery. In fact, I think it probably was their favorite commandment out of the ten!
The pagan plan for rest
The idea that God wanted people to rest was unheard of in the ancient world. One of the creation stories making the rounds at that time gave a very different account about the relationship between the gods and the people they created. This story, known as the “Enuma Elish,” originated in Mesopotamia, but it spread throughout the ancient world.
According to the “Enuma Elish” story, the gods got into a fight. Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon, eventually won the battle against Tiamat, goddess of the sea. After the war was over, the gods all bowed to Marduk and proclaimed him king of the gods. Marduk then decided to do them a favor in return. Sitting on his throne with his newly minted crown on his head, he came up with a plan:
“I will create Lullu,
‘Man’ be his name,
I will form Lullu, man.
Let him be burdened
With the toil of the gods,
That they may freely breathe.”
Putting his plan into action, the Babylonian god seized one of the gods who had fought against him, cut him in pieces, and then,
From his blood
He formed mankind,
Imposed toil on man,
Set the gods free.
Two very different stories
Do you see the stark contrast between this story and the Creation story found in Genesis? In the Mesopotamian story, human beings were created to labor all their lives so the gods could rest. In the Genesis story, which is echoed in the fourth commandment, God created Adam and Eve and immediately told them to take the next day off for rest. When God rested, people rested!
What a pity that most of the world has lost sight of this wonderful privilege that God so freely gave to His children right at Creation.
Yet the Sabbath is more than just a privilege. It’s the law!
Now don’t misunderstand. I know we’re saved by grace, not by obeying the law. But that doesn’t make the law irrelevant. While it’s grace and not my obedience that saves me, that doesn’t mean I should go out and start bowing down to idols or that I should start killing or stealing just to prove that I don’t have to keep the law to be saved. So, why would I argue against taking a day off to fellowship with my Creator every week?
I can’t think of a good reason, but I can think of some bad ones. Such as that I’m so self-centered that all I can think about is what I want to accomplish, with no regard for taking time for worship. Or that I’m actually so works-centered in my life that I can’t stop working even on the Sabbath day when God commands me to put aside my works and worship Him.
I’m part of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, one of the few Christian organizations that still proclaims the holiness of the day God set aside as holy. And I find it peculiar, almost amusing, when people tell me that I’m works-centered or that I’m trying to be saved by works when I tell them God wants us to take the Sabbath day off from work every week!
Oh, yes, I must confess that there were times in my life when I considered the Sabbath day an onerous burden that took me away from the things I really wanted to be doing. But that was mainly when I was a young child. Today, I’ve learned to look on it as a tremendous privilege.
Why not you?
Have you discovered the marvelous privilege that’s stashed right in the middle of the Ten Commandments? If not, you’re missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts to His children.
I urge you to reorganize your life; restudy your priorities and bring them into line with God’s original plan—the one He put in place the very next day after He created our first parents. Join me. And join your Creator in enjoying the privilege of rest. The privilege of the Sabbath, the seventh day of each week!
Extracted from The Ten Commandments Under Attack. See page 48 for a Signs of the Times® reader special offer.