The Sabbath and Israel

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.

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Has God Forgotten Our Children?

“What kind of a question is that?  Of course He hasn’t.  Jesus called little children to Himself.  ‘God loves the little children, all the children of the world’.”  It’s certainly true that the Lord Jesus loved children and children seem to have loved Him.

At the same time, it’s a shame that so much of what we believe comes from Sunday School and sentiment instead of from the Scripture.

Certainly, God can’t and doesn’t “forget” in the sense that there become “gaps” in His memory.  There is a verse, however, in which He Himself say He will “forget your children.”

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children,” Hosea 4:6.

This came as a result of God rebuking the people of Israel for their wickedness:  “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed,” Hosea 4:1a-2 (emphasis added).

When God talks about “forgetting” their children, does that mean that there will be a gap in His knowledge, that He actually forgets them and has no memory or knowledge of them?

Of course not.

But read the first part of the verse to get the context of the second part:  Because you have forgotten the law of your God….  Don’t get upset about the second part without understanding the first part.

This verse may be one of those “hard sayings” that skeptics and unbelievers rail against, but, you see,  that’s because, it says actions have consequences.  Every action has a consequence.  Israel, God’s favored, chosen nation found that out the hard way.  We don’t like that; we want things our way, as if God just ran some sort of cosmic Burger King where “you get it your way,” instead of being the King of Eternity.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and made them into a nation, what was one of the main things He told them to do?

In Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, God said, …these words that I command you this day shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (emphasis added)

“Teach them….”

He had already warned them about this earlier in chapter 4.  In v. 9, after reminding them of the great blessing and privilege they had, things not given to other nations, vs. 6-8, he said, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life, and teach them to your children and your grandchildren (emphasis added).

“Teach them….”  

Talking to the generation that was about enter the land, Moses reminded them of all the things God had done for them, bringing them out of Egypt and sustaining them through forty years in the wilderness, where there was neither grocery story nor Walmart.  “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years,”  Deuteronomy 8:4.  In Deuteronomy 29:5, he repeated this thought:  “Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.”  In fact, they were still wearing those same clothes and sandals.

When Moses warned them against forgetting the Lord, forgetting what He had done for them in the land of Egypt, and how He had provided for them in their wilderness travels, was he just warning them against a mental lapse of some sort?

No, no.  It was so much more than that.  In 8:11, he said, “Beware that you do not FORGET the Lord your God BY NOT KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS STATUTES,which I command you this day” (emphasis added).

Israel never “forgot” God in the sense that she lost the memory of Him.  She just, for the most part, did her own thing and went her own way.  This is what Hosea was complaining about.

The sad thing is, there is never a single time when Moses ever expressed any hope that Israel would actually “remember” the Lord like she was supposed to.  It was always from the standpoint of warning her what would happen if she went astray.  She had already done that before he ever came down from Sinai the first time!

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

He “forgot” them by leaving them to the consequences of their actions.

Is there a lesson here for us?  I write of the US, though it’s applicable to other nations and people as well.

There’s a university that does a lot of advertising in various magazines and through the mail.  One time they sent me a sample CD, with lessons which covered the settling of our country by the Pilgrims.  The thing I found striking was that there wasn’t a single mention of the Mayflower Compact.  This was actually the first document of American history, in which some of the passengers on the Mayflower put into writing for the first time in history the idea of self-governance, an idea later formalized by our Constitution.

The interesting thing in this document is found in it’s opening sentences.  After the obligatory reference to King James, of whom they were “loyal subjects,” they referred to the reason for their own coming to the new world:  “….having undertaken [it] for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith….”

Not a word of any of this in this CD.  And this has pretty much become the norm: ignoring the idea that Christianity had any part of the founding of this nation.  Granted, it was never the “established religion,” as it was in England or Germany or other countries.  Some of the founding fathers had suffered under such regimes, a thing which always happens when religion has civil power.  Witness the Inquisition under Rome and the slaughter of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Anabaptists and other nonconformists under the Reformed churches.  The same thing is true in Islam.  So the Constitution was written to prevent the establishment of any religion as “official.” However, the founding fathers did not, by this, intend the founding of atheism as the official viewpoint, nor the preventing of religious observances, as it has developed.

In fact, the first universities in this countries were founded as “seminaries.”  One of the important founders of Yale University was a man named Asahel Nettleton, whom probably not 1 of a 1000 Americans has ever heard of.  He was, however, a successful evangelist and preacher, much used of God in the early 1800s, who opposed Charles G. Finney, his preaching and his popularization of the “New Measures,” which Finney used, methods which were the beginnings of the altar call and modern fundamentalist forms of “soul-winning.”

McGuffey’s Reader, which was widely used until men like Horace Mann and John Dewey urged the secularization of public education, started off teaching the alphabet with “A:  In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”  You can imagine what would happen today if a teacher tried to teach that to her little students.

There has, until the last two or three generations, been a strong Biblical influence in this country.  As time has passed, though, this influence has been challenged and today it is even illegal in schools and government.

And parents have to a large degree fallen by the wayside in the teaching of spiritual truths to their children.  I speak from my own experiences in “church,” but parents tended to drop their kids off for Sunday School and expected the church to give them the teaching they needed.  There was little if any corresponding teaching at home. Any such teaching at school, of course, was, and is, out of the question.

And look at our kids today – generally speaking.  There are still good kids out there, but I fear they are in a growing minority – a minority that will never have government approval. You see kids shuffling down the middle of the street, underwear hanging out, a look of arrogance on their faces.  Drive-by shootings.  Bombings. Schools being shot up.  Drugs. Violence.  Sexual degeneracy.  Gangs.  Nurseries for babies in high schools. Teenage abortion.  Rap “music.”

For the most part, our kids are a mess.

They haven’t been taught the Word of God.  In fact, they have been taught against it. They suffer the consequences of these actions every day.

Though it isn’t just the kids.

There’s a lot of concern in the community about “stopping the violence.”  There’s a lot of church leaders in the lead here, along with the police and other concerned citizens. They want the young people to turn in their guns.  Go to counseling.  Hold vigils.  Light candles.  “Stop the violence.”

But “guns” aren’t the problem.  No, they’re not.  The high school I graduated from was the “tough” school in town.  It’s in what is now probably a hotbed of violence and youthful troubles.  Though I’m sure it’s not still there, in the basement of this school, there was a rifle range (*gasp*) with rifles, locked up, of course, and ammunition.  They were common back then.  I, myself, qualified as a marksman on this range.  But there was never, ever, any trouble with these guns.

Furthermore, most of the fellows carried pocket knives.  No stabbings.  I carried one myself for years, even after I graduated, until the day I tried to make a delivery at the local courthouse and had to go through a metal detector.  Oops.  Why, I was carrying a dangerous weapon!  *sigh*  I had to take it back to my truck and leave it there.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I blame these pastors and church leaders for much of our youth’s troubles.  Instead of preaching the Gospel and requiring repentance, faith, and holy living, they want “social justice.”  “Diversity.”  $15 an hour to fry hamburgers.

They want to take folks out of the slums, without stopping to consider the “slum” that is in folks.  We’re all sinners by nature, preference and habit.

Now, social justice is important.  Even our Lord taught that we’re to treat others as we would like to be treated.  And there’s a great deal more about that in the Old Testament.  However, that’s not the emphasis in these modern times. It’s not at all about how we treat others.  It’s about how they are supposed to treat us.  At the same time, we can treat them pretty much as we like.

But isn’t our God a God of love?  Surely, He wouldn’t do as He might have done in the Old Testament.  Praise His holy name, He is a God of love, but He’s still a God where actions have consequences.  America, and most of the rest of the world, has largely forgotten God by neglecting or denying His Word.  We’ve thrown His Word out and told Him He’s not welcome.

As a result of our actions, He’s “forgotten” us by leaving us to their consequences.

I think we can imagine Him asking, “How’s that working out for you?”

[I’m sorry for the “negative” tone of this post.  It’s just that there’s not much to be “positive” about in this year of our Lord 2014.]

The Worst Part of Christ

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of  [for] Christ greater riches than the treasure in Egypt; for he looked to the reward,  Hebrews 11:24-26 (NKJV).

One of the Puritans is the source of this post’s title.  He made the point that Moses thought serving God, (and, please note, the writer of Hebrews says that he was serving the Lord Jesus Christ,) serving God as a member of a captive, slave populace, was worth more than the treasures of Egypt, even though it led to exile and reproach.  Remember, Moses spent 40 years in the splendor and riches of that great, ancient empire.  We marvel at the relics scattered throughout museums around the world.  Some are able to travel to Egypt and see the marvels of the pyramids and Great Sphinx for themselves.  Moses lived there.

Besides, he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and perhaps was in line for the throne, or, at the very least, he could be in a position of great power and authority, power and authority which he could use to improve the conditions of his people.  Think what he could have done along that line –

if social reform is what “serving God” is all about.

He turned his back on all that, as well.

What does this say to, and about, “Christians,” at least in 2013 America?

Not much, and yet, too much.

We want the air conditioning and the padded pews.  Nice buildings, conveniently laid out.  Stained glass windows.  Coffee machines.  A well-delivered, but not too long, sermon. An early service time, so we still have the day to do whatever, eat out, watch football, whatever.   Theatrics, bright lights, what someone has called, “the trappings of religion.”  The right kind of music.  Loud, percussive.  Health, wealth.  Happiness.

Granted, there are those, even in this country, who suffer for their faith, perhaps not to death, but suffer, nevertheless.  Certainly, in other countries, martyrdom for the cause of Christ is not uncommon.  It just isn’t the stuff of news at 6:00 PM.

Then there are those who believe that all our problems would be solved if we could just get rid of social injustice.  Granted, social wrongs should be made right, but that’s not the thrust of the Gospel.  Social reform wants to take the man out the slum; the Gospel wants to take the slum out of the man.  Move the man, he takes the slum with him.  Convert the man, he takes care of the slum himself.  The Gospel is not about solving social problems; it’s about solving sin problems – which are the cause of social problems.  The Gospel cures the disease, reform just puts a bandaid on it.

Then there are those who believe that if we could just get the right man into political power….  There is nothing wrong with Christians taking part in the political process; the old saying is true that evil triumphs only when good men do nothing.  It’s just that when “the Church” has political, or civil, power, all sorts of evil happens.  That’s the genius of our Constitution, the separation of church and state.  [This, by the way, isn’t the same as the separation of church from state, as it is contended today.  The church has a great deal to say to the government; the government has nothing to say to the church.]  Just look at the Inquisition by Rome and the persecution and slaughter of Anabaptists by the Reformers.  Christ never meant for His church to have political power.  Our power is from another world, not this one.  You cannot legislate righteousness.  Immorality, yes; righteousness, no.

So.

Moses.

Had all we look for today, and more.

Turned his back on it all

for a far greater treasure:

the reproach of Christ.