As a teacher, I sometimes get to field interesting questions from thoughtful students. Sometimes they’re too deep for me, I’m frank to admit. But sometimes they lead to valuable insights. Once, after talking about how the seventh day Sabbath had been “restored” years ago, leading to our observance of it today, a student asked why it needed to be restored at all.
That got me thinking. In one sense, of course, it didn’t need restoration: it was God’s plan from the Creation that the Seventh Day should be blessed as a day of rest for all mankind, forever. Yet by 2500 years after Creation, its observance had fallen into disuse by most of humanity—even by Israel, who were by that time slaves in Egypt. Certainly the Egyptians would not have been keeping it, nor, presumably, were their slaves.
So at Sinai, it had to be “restored” to Israel: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”
Sadly, the cycle repeated, such that about 1000 years later, Israel had fallen into such national apostasy that their limping attempts to keep the law (including the Sabbath) were pretty much a failure. (This is not to conclude that no one was keeping it; we suppose there was always a “remnant” of God’s people for whom the Day was sacred every week.)
But eventually there came a day when God was so offended by their faithlessness that He sent a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel and declared that He was going to take their Sabbaths and Feasts away, period. Sure enough—off they went into Assyria, and over the succeeding centuries Sabbaths disappeared for them. The southern kingdom of Judah, by contrast, never forsook their Sabbaths, and so we see that Jewish observance still continues.
But today, most of humanity, including the descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel, still don’t keep it. This is why, in a word, it needed to be “restored.” And so it was: we believe that we are living in that period of time spoken of by the apostle Peter called “the restoration of all things.” One of those “things” was the Sabbath. And that, my friends, is why you’re reading this email on Friday night!
So yes, the Sabbath needed to be restored, and it was. Further, the impact of that restoration is extending like ripples in a pond to the ends of the earth. More and more we hear news of yet another family or another group of believers who have read the Bible, seen the plain language about the Seventh Day, and have decided to adopt it for themselves as a “Sabbath of rest for the people of God.” This time we can fondly hope that the cycle will not decay and that we are on a straight line of Sabbath observance that will steadily increase until we find the whole earth at rest and quiet in the Age to Come.
Praise God for restoring this Day! We delight in it. We rejoice in its benefits. And as we keep it, we expect to reap the promises of Isaiah 58: God’s rich blessings on our lives, culminating in the “high places of the earth,” and even “the heritage of Jacob thy father.” Now that’s a promise!
So let’s take a few moments tonight to return thanks to our good God for His gracious gift of the Sabbath—and for its up-to-date restoration, providing true rest in these needy times, for body, soul, and spirit.