LO, I COME TO DO THY WILL

Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do thy will, O God (Hebrews 10:7).

This is a reference to Jesus. The volume of the book refers to the entirety of the old testament scriptures which testify of Jesus. In the volume of the book it is written of Him.

At the beginning of this verse he says, “then said I.” This is a response to what has been said in the previous verses concerning God not desiring those sacrifices which were offered by the Law.

Now consider this: according to the testimony of the Law, God never desired those sacrifices upon which the law covenant was ratified and renewed year by year.

There are some who have claimed that the new covenant is actually the renewed covenant. This is not correct. The new covenant is an entirely new covenant, better and superior to the first.

Now, there was a renewing of the Law Covenant every year on the Day of Atonement. The reason the law covenant had to be renewed is because it’s representatives were imperfect and it’s sacrifices could not take away sin. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had to first offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the priesthood, before he could make sacrifice for the people.

Jesus, however, is our perfect representative. He does not need to offer sacrifice ever year for himself and for us. He offered himself once and for all and has put away sin because he is perfect and holy.

Jesus is perfected forever for us as our great high priest, and by his blood, he has put away sin in the presence of God once for all. God is so eternally pleased with Jesus that there will never again be the necessity of another representative, that is, a high priest to offer sacrifice for sin.

The first Covenant could not give this. It had to be renewed every year and as long as that system was in place there is a remembrance of sins again year after year. Yet in his mercy and grace, God so ordained that the first Covenant be set up in such a way that it would foreshadow the one to come, that is, the one in Christ.

Those things which were only a shadow were never the things which God desired. Jesus, on the other hand, pleases God in every respect. He is unblemished and holy in every respect and he fulfilled God’s will perfectly and completely.

It is not merely that he is holy because he never sinned. Rather, he never sinned because he is holy!

He did the will of God, not against his own will as one forced to serve, but as the expression of his own will, for it was his continuous delight to please the Father in everything. Jesus did the will of God from the heart because God’s will was his will and this is what God had always desired. This is what made Jesus the perfect representative to take away our sins.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:5-10).

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THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID

At the beginning of Acts 15 there were certain men which came down from Judaea to Antioch and taught the Gentile brethren that if they were not circumcised after the manner of Moses they could not be saved. This did not set well with Paul and Barnabas who vehemently disagreed with them. Therefore the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas along with some local believers to Jerusalem to discuss this issue with the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

When they arrived in Jerusalem Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported everything God had done through them among the Gentiles. However, some from a certain sect of the Pharisees protested in opposition to the testimony of Paul and Barnabas; claiming that it was indeed needful to circumcise the Gentiles and command them to keep the Law of Moses. Therefore the apostles and elders decided to meet together to resolve this issue.

During the meeting, Peter stood up and testified saying the following:

Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, GIVING THEM THE HOLY GHOST, EVEN AS HE DID UNTO US; And put NO DIFFERENCE between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore WHY TEMPT GOD, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:7-11)

Notice that Peter doesn’t say, “they shall be saved even as we.” Instead Peter says, “we shall be saved even as they.”

In the mind of the first century Jew, covenant relationship with God was dependent on Jewish membership and circumcision and allegiance to the Law of Moses.

However, God had done something so unexpectedly different and entirely new when he sent Peter to Cornelius’ house. He had called out a people from among the Gentiles for his Name and he had done it apart from the Law.

In Acts 15: 7-11 (cited above) Peter recounts his visit to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10). Peter along with the other Jews who accompanied him saw firsthand the salvation of Gentiles as Cornelius and his house were instantly filled with the Holy Spirit in similar fashion as the Jewish followers of Jesus had experienced in Acts 2.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was confronted by the Jews for lodging at the home of Gentiles and eating with them.

And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (Acts 11:2-3)

Peter then rehearsed to the Jews his experience from the beginning (Acts 11:4- 17). Notice the following from Peter’s explanation to Jews in verses 15-17:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? (Acts 11:15-17)

Then in verse 18, the scripture says:

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

The evidence which convinced Peter and the Jewish believers at Jerusalem that the Gentiles had been accepted as the people of God, was the Holy Spirit. God had given to the Gentiles the same gift had been given to the Jews at Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit had now become the new identity of the people of God replacing the old identity of physical circumcision.

This is the experience which Peter is recalling in Acts 15.

After Peter gave his testimony, Barnabas and Paul testified of the miracles and wonders God had done among the Gentiles by their ministry. After Barnabas and Paul testified, James stood up and said the following:

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. (Acts 15:14-18)

The apostle James makes appeal to a prophecy given by Amos concerning the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, as the scriptural evidence that God would have a people apart from the Law of Moses.

The tabernacle of David can either be a reference to the tent that David pitched for the ark of the covenant after the ark was recovered, or a reference to the Kingdom under David’s descendant who is to reign forever: the Messiah.  The latter seems to be the most likely as this theme appears multiple times throughout the book of Acts.

In Acts 15:16 -17, the apostle James makes reference to this prophecy specifically and applies it to the Gentiles becoming the people of God apart from the Law.

James goes on to say: Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

It was therefore determined, based on the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas; along with James’ interpretation of the scriptures, that the Gentiles were not obligated to come under the yoke of the Law of Moses.

Furthermore, it might be worth mentioning that it was the apostle James, and not Paul, who made the final decision to inform the Gentiles that they were under no obligation to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses. James says; “Wherefore my sentence is…” (Acts 15:19).

Afterwards we read, “then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church…” (Acts 15:22).

They then sent the following letter to the Gentile believers at Antioch:

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For IT SEEMED GOOD TO THE HOLY GHOST, AND TO US, to lay upon you no greater burden than the necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (Acts 15:24-29)

The council at Jerusalem – the apostles, the elders, and the church – came to the conclusion that if they required the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses after God had established his name among the Gentiles, they would most certainly be in opposition to the work of God.

The testimony of God had already been established by the gift of the Holy Ghost being given to the Gentiles, and the Jerusalem council decided to agree with God. Therefore they said, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us.” They were persuaded by the Holy Ghost and agreed!

Once this letter was delivered to the Gentile believers at Antioch, and read, the Bible says: “THEY REJOICED.” (Acts 15:30-31)

WHAT ABOUT EZEKIEL’S TEMPLE?

There are teachings by some that the levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices will once again be placed into operation when Christ returns. This assumption is based on Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 40 – 48. Yet there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to support such claims. In fact, such ideology undermines the finished work of Jesus Christ because the sacrifices that Ezekiel references include the sin offering and are said to be for atonement (Ez 45:17 see also Ez 42:13 and 45:23).

Everything that Ezekiel saw was visionary in view of the pattern given to Moses which was only a type and a shadow. Therefore Ezekiel’s vision cannot refer to literal animal sacrifices in the Kingdom of Christ.

If Ezekiel’s vision applies to the millennium (a debatable topic) it certainly would not be predicting a return to animal sacrifices because that would go contrary to the whole counsel of scripture. It would mean a return to the shadow once the fulfillment has come.

The sacrificial system which employed animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ until he came and fulfilled all that was written of him. To suggest that we will return to the levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices is to suggest that we are returning to the old system that has been made obsolete. It also suggests a return to sacrifices for sins that could never take away sins after Christ has put away sin by the offering of Himself.

According to the scriptures, animal sacrifices were never desired by God and they never brought Him any pleasure. They were only given as a type and a shadow of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns in all of his glory we will not be living in a Kingdom with types and shadows. We will be living in a Kingdom where the fullness of the light of the glory of God abounds. 

When Jesus returns, he will come in all of his majesty, honor, and glory. According to the scriptures, the coming of Jesus is the “glorious appearing” of our great God and Savior. We will see him face to face, and we will be like him for we will see him as he is. The scriptures also tell us “we will appear with him in glory” (1 John 3:1-3, Phil 3:21, 1 Cor 13, Colossians 3:4).

Why would anyone be compelled to think that the glorious return of Christ will usher in a reinstatement of an obsolete system of worship which employed the offering of animal sacrifices? It is because of the lack of revelation of Jesus Christ!

It is not good idea to interpret scripture which was visionary in nature under the Old Testament with interpretive claims that are contrary to the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ. The New Testament writers are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament scriptures as they pertain to Jesus Christ. The ideology of a return to that which was only a foreshadowing of Christ now that Christ has come is a contrary to New Testament doctrine.

Many of the old testament prophecies have a spiritual fulfillment rather than a literal fulfillment. Many are symbolic of a greater truth. We have an example of this in Acts 15 when James says the following:

And to this agree the words of the prophets; AS IT IS WRITTEN. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”

If James had not said this someone could build a doctrine that the literal tent in which David placed the Ark of the Covenant would be rebuilt and we will worship the Lord there, or the literal Kingdom of David would be restored. Instead,  James applies this particular old testament prophecy as being fulfilled in the salvation of the Gentiles.

It is so important to interpret the Old Testament scriptures in view of the revelation of Jesus Christ given to us by the New Testament writers.

The Old Testament sacrifices were only types and shadows pointing to a greater truth. The greater truth has been revealed and we are not going back to the shadow. We are not going back to animal sacrifices which never please God. It is Christ in whom God is pleased. He is our sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-14).

The writer of Hebrews tells us that as long as the first tabernacle/temple was standing wherein were offered animal sacrifices, the Holy Ghost was signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet manifested (Hebrews 9:8).

Those things which Ezekiel saw were based solely on the pattern given to Moses, and was only a figure or a foreshadowing of something much greater. Christ has entered that which is greater. With his own Blood he entered once and for all into the holy place of the greater and more perfect tabernacle (in the Heavens) and has obtained eternal redemption for us!

DOGMA

The theology of the Hebrews Roots Movement teaches that the “handwriting of ordinances” mentioned in Colossians 2:14 does not refer to the Law of Moses. They claim that since the word “ordinances” in Colossians 2:14 comes from the Greek word dogma (dog’-mah) it cannot refer to the Law of Moses.

They insist that this word, dogma, refers to man-made laws each of the other four times it is used in the New Testament which makes it impossible to refer to the Law (the Law of Moses).

Is this a doctrinally sound conclusion? No it isn’t and here are some of the reasons why:

First, the Greek word dogma (dog’-mah) is found 5 times in the New Testament. It appears in Colossians 2:14 and in four other places.

In Luke 2:1 and Acts 17:7 it is DECREES from Caesar and Caesar’s decrees were authoritative.

Secondly, in Acts 16:4 it refers to DECREES given by the apostles and elders. Specifically this is a reference to the decision made by the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders along with the whole church determined that the Gentiles were not obligated to follow the Jewish religious code contained in the Law of Moses. As a result they sent Letters to the Gentiles informing them that they were under no obligation to come under the Law of Moses. They instructed them only to abstain from food offered to idols, from consuming blood, and from fornication.

During this meeting in Acts 15, it was determined based on the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, along with James’ interpretation of the scriptures that the Gentiles were not obligated to come under the yoke of the Law of Moses.

When they sent letters to the Gentiles informing them of their decision they said. “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”

The apostles and elders believed: (1) God had already chosen the Gentiles for His Name apart from the Law based on the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. (2) The scriptures of the prophets confirmed that the Gentiles would be the people of God without the Law of Moses. (3) The Holy Spirit had guided them in their decision.

Again, the word decrees translated from dogma (dog’-mah) in Acts 16:4 refers to the apostles instructions and is based on the testimony of God (witnessed to by Peter, Paul, and Barnabas), the scriptures of the prophets, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is authoritative and not simply a reference to man – made commandments.

The other use of this word dogma (dog’-mah) is found in Ephesians 2:15 where it refers of the law of commandments contained in ordinances, a specific reference to the Law of Moses as the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles.

In Colossians 2, “the blotting out of the handwriting of ordinances that were against us” is coupled with the forgiveness of all our trespasses. God forgave us of our trespasses by blotting out the handwriting of the ordinances which were against us.

In Deuteronomy 31, God told Moses to write the words of the Law in a book which was to serve as a witness AGAINST His people. Hence the use of the language “the handwriting of ordinances that were AGAINST US.”

In Christ we have forgiveness of all our trespasses (transgressions of the Law for the Law reveals our sinfulness) because the handwriting of the ordinances “against us” have been blotted out!

The Old Law which condemned us cannot serve as THE LAW for the new man in Christ, for the old law was given to govern the old man which has been destroyed in the cross of Christ. Those who are crucified with Christ are no longer under the law because the old man to whom that law applies was nailed to the cross with Christ and hence the law which condemns the old man is no longer binding. If any man is in Christ He is a new creature and old things have passed away, behold all things are become NEW!

CLEANSED FROM DEAD WORKS

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14).

The dead works mentioned in Hebrews 9:14 is not a reference to such things as helping the poor, taking care of the elderly, showing brotherly kindness, etc. These are good works and demonstrations of godliness. The “dead works,” contextually speaking, refers to those things which pertain to the old system (the tabernacle/temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices) which had been made obsolete at the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews.

Because of persecution, the temptation was present to abandon the true faith in Christ and revert back to Judaism which was now a dead religion. Though once ordained by God to serve the purpose of foreshadowing Christ, that system of worship under the Old Testament had now given way to a new and better covenant, a covenant established by the blood of Jesus.

Through the Blood of Jesus sin has been completely dealt with and there is no longer any need for those things which had no power to take away sin. Those “carnal ordinances” such as the levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices with the sanctuary and everything that pertained to them have no value in purifying the conscience before God. They were only a shadow for a set time until Christ came and brought eternal redemption through His blood.

Jesus our Great High Priest in the Heavens is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High and through His blood we are liberated to serve the Living God without any those restrictions which were imposed on those who were under the first Testament.

Those “carnal ordinances” which were imposed on them were a constant reminder that sin had not been dealt with and that the way into the holy presence of God had not yet been manifested. Therefore there was no boldness to enter God’s presence with a pure conscience through those things which are now dead works because that covenant has been fulfilled and it’s rites have been made obsolete.

Through the Blood of Jesus Christ we are cleansed from such “dead works” so that we may now serve the Living God, in the Spirit of Christ, with a pure conscience.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuaryFor there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:1-14).

JESUS AND THE SABBATH (PART FOUR)

REST FOR YOUR SOULS

Attempting to refute error with error is not a good idea. For instance, it’s not a good idea to attempt to refute legalistic Sabbath keeping by attempting to refute the Sabbath. The Sabbath according to the scriptures is not the problem; it’s the wrong ideas of people who don’t understand what they are talking about that’s the problem.

I have heard the stories of men who have lost their jobs because they refuse to work on the Sabbath and others who can’t find a job because they refuse to work on the Sabbath. This has caused much grief to their families and put some of them in real financial straits.

Is this really what God intends? Is this God’s intended result for those who keep the Sabbath? Is it right in the eyes of God for a man to neglect His family in order to keep the Sabbath?

If those who claim to be Torah Observant would actually and prayerfully read the dialogue between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day, they would discover that Jesus does not support their interpretation of the Sabbath.

It is right and godly to do that which is good on the Sabbath and providing for your family qualifies as doing right and good.

On the other hand, it is wrong to attack the Sabbath itself by attempting to refute it simply because some have abused it. You cannot refute the Sabbath because there is absolutely no scriptural grounds for refuting the Sabbath.

Now, read carefully, and don’t misunderstand what I just said. You may refute the legalistic interpretation of the Sabbath as Jesus did but you can’t refute the Sabbath with scripture. The Sabbath was ordained by God in Genesis 2:2-3 and it is a part of the Biblical narrative. It’s how the Sabbath is understood or misunderstood that needs to be addressed. When the Sabbath becomes about pleasing a “rules driven God” rather than about a beautiful and personal relationship with God in Christ, then people go into error.

The first ever Sabbath in scripture is recorded in Genesis 2:2-3. God rested on the seventh day and sanctified it. This was God’s Sabbath and it was a DAY which God sanctified. Exodus 20:10-11 and Exodus 31:16-17 tells us that God later commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath because He had rested on the Seventh day.

From Adam until Moses, there is no recorded Sabbath command for man. The only Sabbath is the one mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3, the seventh day in which God rested from His work.

In Deuteronomy 5:14-15 the Bible gives us more insight into the reason that God commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath. God gave this command because the children of Israel had been slaves to the Egyptians. Israel was not only to have a day of rest but their servants were to rest also. We ought to see the heart of God in this. God delivered Israel and gave them a day of rest, something they did not have as slaves in Egypt.

God’s intended purpose was rest and that is the concept that we need to latch on to. If we’ll hear the scriptures with our hearts we will understand that God is in favor of our rest and we’ll understand the heart of God in Christ with regards to the giving of the Sabbath. Instead of being bound by the letter of the Law we need to hear what Spirit is saying in view of the person of Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but MY EARS you have OPENED — burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; YOUR LAW is within my heart.”

Sacrifices and offerings were an actual requirement according to the letter of the law. Yet the Psalmist says “sacrifice and offering you did not desire” because the Lord had opend his ears and consequently he understood that this is not what God truely wanted. The writer of Hebrews quotes these verses in reference to Jesus.

In like manner, God’s desired purpose concerning the Sabbath is not a legalistic observance of a holy day. Instead, it’s intended purpose is rest for our souls and that rest can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If a person keeps the “technical Sabbath” after the letter of the Law yet his soul finds no rest because of worries and cares, has he really kept the Sabbath? And if true rest can only be found in Jesus then can true rest be found but observing the “technical Sabbath?”

Again, you cannot refute the truth of the Sabbath with Scripture because scripture never refutes it. You can refute interpretations of the Sabbath observance and what it means within the context of New Testament doctrine but scripture does not turn us against it.

There is a beautiful truth within the Sabbath and that truth is discovered in the person of Jesus Christ. When understood in view of *the rest* which we have in Jesus Christ the purpose for the Sabbath within the Biblical narrative becomes a very liberating. In addition, we ought to learn from the scriptures as well that observing the ““technical Sabbath” has never been able to bring God’s people into the rest that God has for them.

The writer of Hebrews addresses this issue telling us that God rested on the seventh day form all His works and as pointed out earlier the reason that God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath was because He had rested on the Sabbath day.

The command which God gave to Israel to keep the Sabbath is uniquely tied to the promised inheritance of the land of Israel. Inheritance and rest go hand in hand and both are to be obtained through faith. In Hebrews 3 and 4 the writer of Hebrews speaks of the first generation of Israelites who failed to enter the Promised Land as failing to enter into “God’s rest.”

Hebrews 3:7-11 says the following:

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into MY REST).

Notice that the writer of Hebrews refers to the first generation of Israelites not entering the promises land as falling short of God’s rest.

When Hebrews 3 – 4 is read in its entirety, we see that the first generation of Israelites did not enter in the Promised Land (God’s rest) because of their unbelief. The writer of Hebrews says this as an exhortation to us with regards to faith. In chapter 4 he speaks of God resting from all of His works on the Sabbath day within the context of exhorting us to labor to enter into THAT REST. We are to labor to enter into GOD’S REST for us and THAT REST is in the finished work of God in Christ Jesus.

For us who are under the new and better Covenant, keeping the Sabbath is all about finding true rest for our souls by completely trusting in Jesus Christ!

“Let us therefore fear, lest, A PROMISE being left us of entering into HIS REST, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was THE GOSPEL preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For WE WHICH HAVE BELIEVED DO ENTER INTO REST, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into MY REST: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did REST the seventh day FROM ALL HIS WORKS. And in this place again, If they shall enter into MY REST. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of UNBELIEF : Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Joshua had given them REST, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore A REST to the people of God. For he that is entered into HIS REST, he also hath CEASED FROM HIS OWN WORKS, AS GOD DID FROM HIS. Let us labour therefore to enter into THAT REST, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (capps for emphasis only)

As previously stated, “There is a beautiful truth within the Sabbath throughout the narrative of scripture and that truth is discovered in the person of Jesus Christ. When understood in view of *the rest* which we have in Jesus Christ the purpose for the Sabbath within the Biblical narrative becomes a very liberating truth.”

Paul tells us that the feasts and the Sabbaths were a shadow of good things to come and those good things are found in Jesus. It think it would beneficial of us to teach the good things in Jesus of which the Sabbaths foreshadowed rather than fighting against the Sabbath itself simply because some have abused the truth.

Scripture does not refute or support refuting the Sabbath as some attempt to do. Scripture supports refuting the legalistic and religious abuse of the Sabbath as Jesus did. Jesus did not refute the Sabbath but brought to full light what the intended purpose for the Sabbath was all about and that purpose was rest for the soul and THAT REST can only be found In the person of Jesus Christ.

JESUS AND THE SABBATH (PART THREE)

In Isaiah 1:13 God referred to backslidden Israel’s observance of the Sabbath and feasts as worthless assemblies because they were full of iniquity in their hearts towards God and in how they treated others. It is how we treat one another that really matters to God.

1 John 4:19-21 says, “We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

Backslidden Israel was in rebellion against God and doing those things which were detestable to Him. In their rebellion they had forsaken those who were the most feeble and vulnerable among them. They were far from being a nation that demonstrated mercy and true justice, therefore God sent them into exile. They became so rebellious towards God and repulsive in His sight that God said to Jeremiah “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people.” And through Isaiah the prophet God refers to them as “you rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah.”

“Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 1:10-20).

The Sabbath never was about the day of the week. It is about the ways of God which is mercy, justice, and faith which Jesus referred to as the weightier matters of the Law.

God gave the Sabbath to Israel to remind them that they were at one time slaves to the Egyptians and He had delivered them from oppression to bring them into their promised rest. He also commanded them to treat their servants with the same kindness that they had received from the Lord.

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, SO THAT YOUR MALE AND FEMALE SERVANTS MAY REST, AS YOU DO. REMEMBER THAT YOU WERE SLAVES in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

The Sabbath command was not about the day only, instead it is about people whom God loves and wants to bring out of oppression as Jesus said of the woman in Luke 13, “ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were more concerned about the legality of the Law, rather than God’s intent of setting people free from oppression. The letter of the Law in the hard hearted does not reveal God’s heart.

It is Jesus who reveals the Father. Jesus brought the true revelation of the Father that those who were in bondage to the letter of the Law did not know. When people attempt to enforce the law legalistically they only promote bondage and death.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day put all kinds of restrictions on people with the letter of the law because they did not know the Father. And since they did not know the Father, they did not understand the heart or intent of the Law.

The Sabbaths and feasts which God gave to Israel were intended to reveal HIM and His glorious saving and redeeming power. All the feasts point to Him and His love for His people but the religious leaders of Israel were blind and did not even recognize Him when He walked among them in the flesh. They condemned Him for not keeping the Law (according to their legalistic bondage). In their self righteousness and hard-heartedness they had hi-jacked God’s law with their traditions. They condemned Him for breaking the Sabbath because they were in bondage to their own sins and rather than giving life they could only condemn others with the letter of the Law.

JESUS AND THE SABBATH (PART TWO)

In Matthew 12, Jesus and his disciples were walking through some grain fields on the Sabbath day. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw this and objected. They accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.

The response given by Jesus is very intriguing to me. Jesus does not protest he and his disciple’s innocence in typical fashion. He actually cites two accounts from the scriptures where the “technical” breaking of the Sabbath occurred and He cites these to defend his actions.

In verses 3-4 Jesus says, “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?”

Then in verse 5 He says, “Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple PROFANE THE SABBATH, and are blameless?”

Profaning the Sabbath (KJV), is a reference to the priests who carried on the service of the Temple on the Sabbath. In other words they were working. For instance notice the following translations:

1. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? (NIV)

2. And haven’t you read in the Law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? (TNLT)

Jesus goes on to say, “But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is LORD even of the Sabbath day.”

Jesus is greater than the Temple because He is the Son of God and by definition He is greater than those who are blameless for working in the Temple on the Sabbath. He is Lord of the Sabbath.

There is a hint here that we do not need to overlook. Jesus’ Lordship trumps the mere rules and regulations. The Sabbath is not Lord. Jesus is Lord and the Sabbath serves Him and His purposes not the other way around.

Suffice to say, Jesus’ theology really irritated the religious leaders because his understanding of the purpose of the Sabbath wasn’t conducive to their religious bondage.

Now, in John 5 we have another interesting set of events. During one of the Jewish feasts Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda and healed a man who had been sick or infirmed for 38 years. This healing by Jesus happened on the Sabbath and this infuriated the religious Jews.

Verses 16-18 says the following, “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had BROKEN THE SABBATH, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

First, Jesus actually claims that his Father God, was working on the Sabbath as the defense of why he healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus says “My Father WORKETH hitherto, and I work.”

Secondly, John (the Gospel writer) doesn’t say Jesus was falsely accused of breaking the Sabbath, John says He broke the Sabbath and claimed that God was His Father.

This is a real problem for those who point the finger at others as lawless for not keeping all the rules according to their standards.

In Luke 13, as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath day, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. The KJV says she had a spirit of infirmity. When Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.” Then Jesus laid his hands on her and immediately she could stand straight, and she glorified God.

The ruler of the synagogue became indignant because Jesus had healed this woman on the Sabbath day. He said to the crowd in the presence of Jesus, “there are six days of the week for working, come on those days to be healed, NOT on the Sabbath.”

Jesus then replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

They had no understanding of the REASON for the Sabbath. It’s wasn’t about a legalistic observance to please a Law-driven God. Instead it should have been observed as a gift for a day of rest in remembrance of the goodness of the God Israel who is gracious and full of tender mercies and loving kindness. If they had sought God by faith, rather than by the works of the Law (i.e. their ethic status) they would understood this.

On another Sabbath the Scribes and Pharisees watched Jesus to see if he would heal on the Sabbath day. They did this because they were looking for the opportunity to find an accusation against him. Luke 6 records this as follows:

On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him. (Luke 6:6-11)

The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees had no desire to celebrate the man’s healing because their hearts were hardened to the purpose for which the Sabbath was given. They were bound in their legalistic traditions and completely blind to the goodness of God.

Throughout the gospels we have Jesus’ interpretation of the true meaning and purpose of the Sabbath. He taught, healed, worked Miracles, and cast out demons; all on the Sabbath day.

According to Jesus, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). One translation of Mark 2:27 says, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath ought to be about finding rest in Jesus and abiding in Him. He is the true rest that we are all looking for and in Him alone there is the TRUE SABBATH REST!

Jesus met the needs of the people on the Sabbath and in meeting their need they experienced their true Sabbath rest and that is the rest that is found in Him alone.

Jesus said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that LABOR and are HEAVY LADEN, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:27-30).

JESUS AND THE SABBATH (Part One)

If I were in a public debate concerning the Sabbath, I would in no way attempt to discredit the Sabbath or the observance of it. Those who take this approach ought not to get involved in such a debate because you cannot discredit the Sabbath with scripture.

I would instead address Jesus’ interpretation of the Sabbath and pose the following question:

“If we are to observe the Sabbath, shouldn’t we also do the works which Christ did on the Sabbath? If we are to truly observe the Sabbath, shouldn’t we follow Christ’s example and do what He did on the Sabbath?

When the New Testament is surveyed we find the following:

• First, Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders as a Sabbath breaker.
• Secondly, Jesus never condemned anyone concerning the Sabbath.
• Thirdly, Jesus was actively working on the Sabbath meeting the needs of people.

I would also show how Christ is the true rest that the Sabbath foreshadowed using both the Old and New Testaments. The scriptures testify of Jesus and in Him is the true rest to which the Sabbath pointed.

Someone my object that the New Testament doesn’t teach that Jesus is our Sabbath. Ahh, but it does. How? You may ask. Well, each of the feasts given to Israel was in and of itself “a Sabbath” in addition to the weekly Sabbath.

For example Leviticus 23:23-25 says the following:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have A SABBATH, a memorial of blowing of trumpets (the festival of trumpets), an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

Notice that the festival of Trumpets is called a Sabbath, and the Sabbath is repeatedly described as a time in which “Ye shall do no servile work therein.”

Also, Leviticus 23:34-36 refers to an eight day Sabbath following the feast of Tabernacles:

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: YE SHALL DO NO SERVILE WORK THEREIN. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the EIGHT DAY shall be an HOLY CONVOCATION unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a SOLEMN ASSEMBLY; and YE SHALL DO NO SERVILE WORK THEREIN.

If we are going to teach people to follow the teachings of scripture concerning the Sabbaths, then lets go all the way. The feasts were ceremonial Sabbaths in addition to the weekly Sabbaths and lets describe them as such.

In the New Testament the apostle Paul says, “Christ OUR Passover is sacrificed for us.” In Christ and in Him alone, we have the rest foreshadowed in the Sabbaths, both in the weekly and ceremonial Sabbaths.