In our first two posts, we looked at the origin of the Sabbath, although it was simply called “the seventh day” at creation, and at it’s incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant as “the Sabbath”. It was given to Israel as a reminder not only that God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery, but that He was the same God who had created everything to begin with.
In this post, we’ll see how well Israel paid attention to what God said through Moses. In all this, remember that the NT has a further word about the Sabbath.
- 2 Kings 4:23, So he said, “Why are you going to him today? It is neither new moon nor the Sabbath.”
For the story around this, read 2 Kings 4. Our focus is only on the husband’s confusion as to why his wife would want to visit Elisha the prophet on a different day than usual, cf. 1 Samuel 1:3. It shows there was an established custom for the observance of the Sabbath and the festivals, or “feasts,” though not everyone followed it, as we’ll see.
- 2 Kings 11:5-9; 2 Chronicles 23:4, 8.
These references are together because they record the same story: the overthrow of the wicked Queen, Athaliah, who had murdered all the legitimate heirs to the throne of David, except one providentially hidden by God through one of his nurses. The full story is in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22:10 through 23:25. The verses we referenced simply tell some of the preparation for that overthrow: those soldiers who went off duty for the Sabbath would stay on with those who came on duty in order to have plenty of protection for the new King.
- 2 Kings 16:18, Also he removed the Sabbath pavilion which they had built in the Temple.
This is part of the story of wicked king Ahaz and his foolish and sinful joining together of idolatrous worship with the true worship of Jehovah, though he certainly wasn’t the first who did this. There is no other reference to “the Sabbath pavilion” which he dismantled.
- 1 Chronicles 9:32, And some of their brethren of the sons of Kohath were in charge of preparing the showbread for every Sabbath.
This refers back to the instructions given in Leviticus 24:5-9.
- 1 Chronicles 23:31, and at every presentation of a burnt offering to the LORD on the Sabbaths….
This is part of the elaborate preparations David had for the service of the Tabernacle, and then the Temple which was to be built by Solomon.
- 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13, …the Sabbaths,
The first reference is part of Solomon’s request to Hiram, king of Tyre, for the things necessary to build the Temple. The second reference is to Solomon’s activity after the Temple was built. As you read through the first eight chapters of 2 Chronicles, notice the repeated references to David’s plans and preparations for the Temple. Solomon did fine as long as the Temple was being built, and his own dwelling, but after the twenty years it took for all this, he soon fell into things the Law strictly forbade. We wonder how much of the building of the Temple was really Solomon and how much of it was just left over, so to speak, from his father. How often we see this, children getting away from the influence of godly parents, for whatever reason, and going their own way. How we need to pray that God would be with our kids when we are no longer with them, either by distance or by death!
- 2 Chronicles 31:3, The king also appointed a portion of his possessions for…the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths….
2 Chronicles 29-31 takes us near the end of Israel’s independent existence and the reforms under Hezekiah, who was the last “good” king of Israel.
- 2 Chronicles 36:21, …to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
2 Chronicles 36:11-21 describes the final overthrown of Israel and the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. V. 21 refers to Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10. See also Daniel 9:2. What Israel would not do willingly, Leviticus 25:1-6, she would do unwillingly.
- Nehemiah 9:14, “You made known to them Your holy Sabbath,”
Nehemiah was one of the books written after the 70-year Captivity was over and some of the people had returned to the land. However, Nehemiah and the others record that Israel really hadn’t learned much and more or less fell back into the ways which had gotten her into trouble in the first place. Granted, there were tremendous difficulties and obstacles facing the returnees. Nevertheless, Nehemiah and the others show the error of those who believe that the Return fulfilled all the promises God made through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and others.
Chapter 9 records one of the times of repentance and reformation brought by the ministry of Nehemiah, Ezra and others. V. 14 is part of a prayer which listed the blessings which God had bestowed on Israel. The Sabbath was one of those blessings.
There’s something else here, too, though it has nothing to do with the Sabbath. Several times in Scripture the history of Israel is recounted to show all the blessings God had bestowed on her, cf. Psalms 105 – 107. They also show Israel’s failure fully to understand those blessings and to act in accord with them.
The thing is, Israel knew her history. Granted, it was written down for them. But I wonder how many Christians know their history. There might be some familiarity with the rise of Romanism, the Reformation, Constantine, the abandonment of Greek, the language of the New Testament and the adoption of Latin, the language of pagan Rome, Martin Luther and a few others, but there’s a whole litany of names of people hunted down and slaughtered in their tens of thousands by Rome and then the Reformers, who are pretty much unknown to us: Montanists, Novatians, Paulicians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Anabaptists, to name just a few. These people were not perfect, to be sure – their enemies are quick to point that out, but then neither are we. They just wanted to remain true to the New Testament and so refused to follow the “official” church, which they believed had departed from New Testament teaching. For this, they suffered and died. “The church” has not grown through the favor of the world-system and it’s governments, as Constantine and his followers apparently thought, and think, but rather has been watered by the blood of believers. It’s history is written in red. There is more to it than that, of course, how one interprets the Old Testament, for instance, but there’s more to “church history” than might be commonly believed.
- Nehemiah 10:31, 33.
Nehemiah 10 shows the results of Nehemiah’s intercession in ch. 9. V. 31 records the people’s promise not to engage in commerce on the Sabbath, or on any holy day, even if the opportunity presented itself. They would honor the year of release. V. 33 shows their determination to supply things necessary for the service of the house of our God.
- Nehemiah 13:15-19, 21, 22.
Nehemiah 13 happens after an absence by Nehemiah in which he returned to his duties with the king, v. 6. After a time, he was permitted to return to Israel, where he found, to his dismay and anger, that things were not going well, to put it mildly. One of the reforms he started involved the Sabbath and it’s nonobservance by the people and others.
We’re going to have to bring this post to an end. We’d hoped to get all that the Old Testament says on the Sabbath, but there’s just too much material. We’ll finish it tomorrow, Lord willing.