Sabbath Meditation #26 –Our Work Versus His Work
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Deut. 5:13-14)
“On the Sabbath day, make an offering of two lambs a year old without defect, together with its drink offering and a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil. This is in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.” (Numbers 28:9-10)
“This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant” (Lev. 24:8).
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18).
God recognizes the work we must do to take care of our own lives. In the Ten Commandments, He calls it “Your Work.” We work to provide for ourselves and our families. There are various chores and errands to complete throughout the week. He also gives us six days to accomplish these tasks—which is 85.8% of our week. We serve a very reasonable God.
In the fourth commandment, the six days for our work is juxtaposed with the Sabbath rest. “…but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Deut. 5:14). If there is a time during the first six days of the week for “your work” then the seventh day must involve some sort of action for the Lord our God.
In the Old Covenant, God gave the priests of Aaron certain tasks to complete every day. In Numbers 28:1-8, we learn that the priests had to make two offerings every day (one in the evening and one in the morning). In verses 9 and 10, we learn that they had to make twice as many on the Sabbath. In Leviticus 24:5-9, we learn that the priests had to make twelve loaves of bread and set them out on the golden table of Shewbread every Sabbath. I have read estimates that each loaf probably weighed between 7 and 10 pounds. The priests had more work on the Sabbath than they did on common days!
How could this be? As always, the wonderful words of Jesus will help us understand more.
In John chapter 5, Jesus saw a man by the pool who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. He told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). The man was healed and began to walk immediately. The Pharisees became indignant. They accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath because He commanded this man to take His mat and walk. Jesus responded to their accusations by saying that He and the Father have always been at work (John 5:18, quoted above).
The first thing to understand about John chapter 5 is that Christ did not break the Sabbath. He simply told the man to walk with his mat as the evidence for his healing. There is not a single commandment against doing this in the whole Bible. Jesus transgressed the Pharisees’ man-made rule, not God’s law.
In the gospels, Jesus publicly read the Scriptures, taught and prayed for others on the Sabbath. He was active in doing His Father’s work. John chapter 5 is just one example. Christ and the Father engage in holy work on the Sabbath. This is a lesson for us. When the Sabbath begins, our common work ceases, but our holy work is just beginning.
The Sabbath is a call to rest, but it is also a call to action. Jesus set the example for us. Many Sabbath churches rent a facility. Someone must set up/operate speakers and sound systems to have service. Someone must lead the music service. Someone must lead prayer. Someone must preach/teach a message. Someone must teach the Sabbath school classes. Someone must help organize it all! Do not forget that we should continually encourage and admonish one another in love. The study of the Word of God should not be neglected. We can pray for others. These things facilitate the functioning of the Body; if everyone contributes a little bit then it builds up the whole that much better.
We are expected to act for the Lord on Sabbath. He died for us; we are priests for His Kingdom. “…to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…” (Rev. 1:5b-6a).
Jesus’ actions condemned the Pharisees, who taught against doing even holy work on the holiest day of the week. They restricted those things which God did not, such as prayer for the sick, yet they allowed things He did not approve of (such as putting burdens on people and plotting to harm Jesus).
Consider the holy work that you can do on the Sabbath as a priest in the Kingdom of God. It is only 14.2% of our week; we can definitely take the time to serve Him.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President www.biblesabbath.org