The Offering of Rest: the Sabbath
Leviticus 23:1-3
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…

cf. Genesis 2:2, 3; Exodus 16:22; Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:23-28; Revelation 1:10. In the sacrificial worship we come across what is essentially different as an offering from the sacrifice of an animal or of any palpable possession, and yet is a real sacrifice all the while - we mean that of time. The sabbath, as an offering of rest, has consequently a very high place among the Jews. As Ewald has remarked, it is the only sacrifice which finds a place among the ten commandments. No wonder he regards it as "the greatest and most prolific thought" in the Jewish religion. And here let us notice -

I. THE HIGH VALUE MAN USUALLY SETS ON HIS TIME. It is indeed said to be money. Many will make almost any other sacrifice more willingly than that of their tinge. They will give money, valuables, almost anything you like to ask, except their precious time. What a fuss made about an evening devoted to you by a busy friend, or half an evening, or sometimes half an hour! Hence, in demanding from man a proportion of his time, God asks for what man esteems highly and is loth to give. Time is regarded as so peculiarly man's own, to do what he likes in, that it becomes no light sacrifice, but rather the crown of all sacrifices, when a considerable portion of time is made over unto God.

II. THE DEMAND GOD MAKES IS IN MAN'S INTEREST, FOR IT IS FOR REST AFTER LABOUR. Six days of work, and then, saith God, one day of rest. The body needs it. Seven days' unceasing toil would soon take the heart out of all workers, and bring on premature decay. God himself has set the example. After the untold labours of the creation, after the hard work - if we may reverently use such terms of God - of the creative periods, he has entered into the long sabbath of human history. He is in the midst of it now. This is implied by the words of Jesus, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17), in their connection. And so a restful Father in heaven calls upon his toiling children upon earth to rest, as he has done, one day out of seven, and not sink through unceasing labour. So consonant is this weekly rest with the laws of our physical nature, that some, who do not see clearly the scriptural proof and obligation of a holy day, believe that it might safely be allowed to rest upon the foundation of physical need. But the needs of others, alas! constitute no sufficient sanction with selfish men. God must speak and make his demand, else men will run counter to their general welfare in their self-indulgence.

III. GOD'S REST IS TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY SOCIAL WORSHIP. Man is not to spend his seventh day in inactivity. He is not to loiter about his tent or gossip at its door all the day. There is to be "an holy convocation" (מִקְרָאאּקֹדֶשׁ). The day is to be celebrated by social worship. The people were expected to gather in their thousands to praise the Lord. Were it not for such a regulation as the sabbath, with its public services, even Judaism could not have survived. The same reason still holds for a holy sabbath. In the interests of religion it must be observed. What would become of our holy religion if a set time for its weekly observance were not generally kept? Men need these "trysting times" and "trysting places" (as מועְרֵי, in verse 2, might very properly be translated), that religion may keep its position among us. We may imagine what our land 'would be if no Lord's day were kept, if no sabbath bells summoned people to public prayer, and no preachers got their weekly opportunities. It would soon be an irreligious land, carelessness and indifference reigning throughout it in a measure infinitely greater than they do even now.

IV. THE DAY OF REST IS TO BE REGARDED AS THE LORD'S. "It is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." The Jew regarded the sabbath as "the Lord's day." It was the day of the week that God regulated, and all whose hours he claimed as his. We claim as much for "the first day of the week" under our dispensation. We ask men to lay the day as a hearty offering on God's altar. They are not doing so while they spend it as they like. It is to be a holy day, not a holiday; a holy day, and therefore to a holy soul a happy day, the day in which we can rejoice and be glad. When we can say with John, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day," we are sure to have most precious visions of the Lord's beauty and glory (cf. Revelation 1:10, etc.). It is no contention, therefore, about something Jewish, but simply about something honestly dedicated as a day to God. Those who contend against the strict observance of the Lord's day either labour under a total misapprehension about the way some people spend it, or are really bent upon devoting the day to their own purposes instead of to God's. If we are commonly honest, we shall esteem it only right to surrender as the highest offering of our religious life the seventh of our time to him who deserves it all. Man, then, says Ewald, "shall release his soul and body from all their burdens, with all the professions and pursuits of ordinary life, only in order to gather himself together again in God with greater purity and fewer disturbing elements, and renew in him the might of his own better powers. If, then, the interchange of activity and rest is already founded in the nature of all creation, and is the more beneficial and health-bringing the more regular its recurrence, so should it be found here too; yet not as when, in the night and in sleep, the body is cared for, but as when, in a joyous day of unfettered meditation, the spiritual man always finds his true rest, and thereby is indeed renewed and strengthened." - R.M.E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

WEB: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

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