The Institution of the Sabbath

As we have it, we reckon our time by years: which is to say the complete cycle the earth makes around the sun; our months, which make up a year, are reckoned by the number of times the earth rotates around the moon.

Our seven day week cycle has none record of origin save the Genesis account of the creation. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” Genesis 2:1, 2. This is the weekly cycle God gave to man in his primeval at its completion.

While Genesis 2:1-2 account for a seven day week cycle, the verses do not give a command for worship. They simply state the order of events pertaining to creation and its completion. This fact remains so until we get to the next verse. “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:3. Before giving it to man, God blessed it, and last of all, sanctified it or hallowed it. To sanctify is “to separate, set apart, or appoint to a holy, sacred or religious use.” To hallow is “to make holy; to consecrate; to set apart for a holy or religious use.” -Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary on the words sanctify and hallow.

It is here that we find a command for worship, for God gave to man not just a blessed day, but one set apart for sacred or religious use.  The word sanctify is repeatedly used in the Old Testament as a public declaration.

Thus when the cities of refuge were set apart in Israel the record states, “They appointed [margin, Heb., sanctified] Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim.” This public pronouncement or declaration was to all Israel that they should know that the cities were set apart for refuge. The word is also used in the sanctification of fasts and assemblies. Thus it is written: “Sanctify [i.e. appoint] ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God.” Joel 1:14. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.” Joel 2:15. Furthermore scripture reads, in 2 Kings 10:20 “And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.” {Proclaim: Heb. Sanctify}

It is to the inhabitants of this planet that God made a public declaration regarding the sanctity of the seventh day. The days of the week are measured off by the rotation of our earth on its axis; and hence our seventh day, as such, can come only to inhabitants on this planet and not of other worlds. How else then could man have known the thoughts and intents of God so as to refrain from going contrary to them, unless these were publicly made known.

A more striking example of the manner in which we can more fully understand the usage of this word, can be found in the record when God descended upon Mount Sinai to declare His covenant even the Ten Commandments in awesome grandeur. “And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount and sanctify it.” Exodus 19:23. For the people to be able to keep off the mount, they had to know that God had set it apart to be treated as holy to Him. In like manner God gave man the Seventh day to treat it as holy to the Lord. The command in Exodus, does not adjure us to make the day holy but rather to remember that it was already made holy by God and to keep it thus.

Though the word Sabbath does not appear in the Genesis account, we are yet to understand that in commanding man to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” God is in fact commanding us to remember the rest day to keep it holy. After all is not the seventh day the Sabbath even as Moses said, “but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.” Exodus 16:26

It is also worthy of notice that none but God alone has the authority to sanctify. “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12. Neither did the man Moses in the wilderness sanctify the rest day of the Lord, “And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD.” Exodus 16:23, but referred to it as an institution that already existed, blessed and sanctified of God.

If such had to be done with respect to this day, shouldn’t there have been a record then in scripture that tells of a time when the sanctity of the seventh day was transferred to the first? We turn to look nowhere else but to Christ for such an act, for He alone is Immanuel, God with us. But from the very lips of the Saviour fall the following words, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17. He was not manifested to take away or to destroy the law but to magnify it and make it more honorable. If there was any slightest change to this blessed day He would have made it known for He,“the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Mark 2:28.

Could it have been a matter of time? We protest No! We see the Saviour taking time to establish the Lord’s supper for it reads, “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”  Shouldn’t He with the same breath have sanctified the first day of the week or rather have made of none effect the binding claims of the fourth commandment?

Should then we consent to take the claims of mortal man like as we are, and bow under his authority as it were the very authority of God: in seeking to change times and laws? God forbid! “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Thus no institution or man, regardless of rank has the authority to transfer the sanctity or solemnity of God’s rest day from the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment, to the first day of the week. Therefore, to all nations, kindred, tongue and people, the call is made to remember our Creator by remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy.