Introduction: If I asked you to describe a specific man or woman,
would you do it by saying what that person is not? “She is not short,
not fat, not blond, not beautiful, not dark and not big boned.” Would
that description help? Wouldn’t you rather have a positive
description? One of the problems with describing how to keep the
Sabbath holy is that the Bible contains several statements(that we
often repeat and expand upon)about what we should NOT be doing on that
day. This week we will attempt to positively describe the Sabbath.
Let’s jump in.

  1. Work

    1. Read Exodus 20:8-11. This text tells us what we should not
      do on the Sabbath – work. But it also directly and
      indirectly tells us some positive things. What are they?
      Let’s list them.

      1. “Remember the Sabbath.” What does that suggest we do?
        (It tells us that we should mentally set the Sabbath
        time apart from other time.)

      2. “Keep the Sabbath holy.” What does that mean? (It is
        not described here except in the context of not
        working (or having any of our family or household
        work) because God rested from His work of creation.)

        1. What positive message can you find about Sabbath
          holiness in this idea of resting because God
          rested from His work of creation? (This suggests
          that we should do things that remind us of God as
          the Creator.)

        2. What positive idea comes from the fact that no
          one in your household should be working — even
          your animals? (This seems to be a complete shut
          down of normal household activities. The tone of
          the day is obviously much different than other

        3. Read Leviticus 25:4-7. In addition to your
          animals, what else gets a Sabbath rest? (Your

          1. How does this make any sense? (In fact, the
            idea of rotating crops – giving the land a
            rest from a certain crop is an established
            agricultural practice.)

          2. If the ground can be shown to grow better
            crops if it gets a Sabbath rest, what about
            you? Do you work more efficiently if you
            have a Sabbath rest each week?

          1. Notice that the owner of the land could not
            “reap” the land, but could eat whatever
            grew on it and give it to the members of
            his household. Is there a Sabbath practice
            lesson in this? (This infers that
            commercial activities are inconsistent with
            the Sabbath, but activities to benefit the
            family are consistent with the Sabbath.
            (Note, however, they would not be picking
            what grew on the weekly Sabbath – see
            Exodus 16:26.)

    1. Read Exodus 34:21. Are there practical exceptions to keeping
      the Sabbath? (We will discuss later how Jesus kept the
      Sabbath and look at what the Pharisees thought were
      “exceptions” to Sabbath keeping. This text suggests that
      even if we have a lot of work which needs to be done, we are
      not authorized to work on Sabbath. The positive aspects of
      refraining from work continue even when we have lots to do!)

    2. Do these texts in Exodus mean that all work is prohibited on
      the Sabbath?

      1. Read Matthew 12:5. What does Jesus mean when He says,
        “the priests in the temple desecrate the [Sabbath] yet
        are innocent?” (The worship service was work, yet it
        was a permitted (required) work on the Sabbath.)

      2. Let’s turn next to the issue of enjoyment and the

  1. Delight

    1. Read Isaiah 58:13-14. What do these verses say is the reward
      for Sabbath-keeping? (I think this means (v.14) that you
      will have health, wealth and happiness! That is positive!)

      1. Let’s look at how we get to joy, health and wealth.
        How do we keep “our feet” from breaking the Sabbath?
        I thought this was a matter for the other end of the
        body! (Isaiah uses the word “feet” to refer to
        intentional activity. For example, Isaiah 59:7 says
        (using the same Hebrew word), “their feet rush into
        sin.” Obviously, “feet” do not sin, so this refers to
        a person’s activities. Our activities need to be
        consistent with the nature of the Sabbath.)

      2. We are told to “call” the Sabbath a delight. If it is
        not a delight, why should we lie about it? (What we
        say has an effect on what we think. God calls on us to
        have a positive view of the Sabbath. To say good
        things and not bad things about it.)

      3. What does it mean to give “honor” to the Sabbath?

      4. How can you reconcile the Sabbath being a joy and a
        delight when you are not allowed to “do as you
        please?” (The text does not require us to do
        unpleasant things. It simply says that our unfettered
        will is not the standard for keeping the Sabbath holy.
        We can do things that are consistent with God’s will
        for the Sabbath and are fun!)

  2. Attending Church

    1. Is attending church on Sabbath an important, positive
      activity? (Remember the last two weeks we have learned the
      Sabbath is a memorial to God as our Creator and our
      Redeemer. What more appropriate activity could we engage in
      than worshiping Him on His “memorial day?” If there is any
      doubt, the following texts show that both Jesus and His
      disciples attended “church” on the Sabbath. Acts 13:14, Mark
      6:2, Luke 4:16&31, Luke 6:6)

  3. Jesus’ Positive Examples

    1. Read Mark 2:23-24. Remember in Exodus 16:26 the people were
      not allowed to pick up Manna on the Sabbath. With this
      example in mind, what do you say about what the disciples
      are doing? Do the Pharisees have a point?

    2. Read Mark 2:25-27. What is Jesus saying? If you are hungry,
      you can break the Sabbath?

      1. If the disciples were properly keeping the Sabbath,
        wouldn’t they have prepared for it by making sure they
        had enough food on Friday — just like God’s people in
        the wilderness were instructed to gather double the
        manna on Friday? (Something dramatic is being said
        here. If we simply looked at the facts – casual
        gathering of grain as the disciples were walking along
        – you could conclude that the Pharisees were being
        ridiculous. But Jesus’ response is not “You are being
        ridiculous.” His response goes far beyond the
        technical. He seems to say that part of the purpose of
        the Sabbath is to meet our needs. This means not only
        rest, but also food.)

      2. Jesus refers to a story found in 1 Samuel 21. In this
        story, King David lied to the priest about his
        situation (v.2), told the priest he needed bread
        (v.3), and then took some of the old bread that had
        been in the sanctuary, but was now replaced. (v.6).
        This bread was to be eaten only by the High Priest and
        his family and it was to be eaten only in a special
        way. See Leviticus 24:5-9. A lot of rules got “bent”
        in this story. What lesson about the Sabbath do you
        draw from Jesus’ reference to this story of David and
        the holy bread? (Meeting man’s needs is one of the
        most important reasons for the Sabbath.)

    3. This story (in Mark 2) is immediately followed by another
      story about the Sabbath. Read Mark 3:1-4. What is your
      answer to Jesus’ question? (If you don’t get this right, it
      seems that Jesus(v.5) will not be pleased! The answer is
      that it is always lawful to do good on the Sabbath.)

      1. Read Mark 3:5. Did Jesus need to heal this man on the
        Sabbath – in the synagogue even? (No!)

      2. What positive thing does Jesus teach about the Sabbath
        through this example? (Ask yourself, “What is really
        going on in this story?” Jesus is not working. He is
        simply invoking the power of God (available to us,
        too) to combat the effect of sin on another person.
        That should be prime, positive, Sabbath activity.)

      3. The teacher’s helps to our lesson refer to a plumber
        who went around fixing the plumbing of the poor for
        free on the Sabbath. This activity is applauded. Does
        that come within Jesus’ example in Mark 3? (I’ve got
        some doubts. I could go to a “poor peoples” legal
        clinic on Sabbath and give free advice. But I don’t
        think I would feel like I was promoting the kingdom so
        much as just plain working.)

    4. Read Luke 13:10-14. Was the healing of this woman some sort
      of emergency? (No! Her life was not threatened. She had been
      like this for 18 years. One more day would not have made any

      1. Was the synagogue ruler right? (If I had been sitting
        there, I would have voted with him if I hadn’t just
        read the Mark 3 shriveled hand story.)

      2. Read Luke 13:15-17. What do you think about Jesus’
        response? Do you agree that giving your animal water
        is like healing someone who has been crippled for 18
        years? (At first blush, these situations seem not the
        least comparable. Your animal needs to be watered
        every day. However, consider this: your animal is
        getting released for good purpose (drinking) on the
        Sabbath. This woman was being “released” for good
        purpose on the Sabbath. Her situation was more
        compelling in that she had been “tied” for 18 years.)

        1. What is Jesus teaching us about the Sabbath in
          this story? (I think He is teaching two things.
          First, the lesson from Mark 3 that invoking God’s
          power for good is the essence of the Sabbath.
          Second, Jesus elevates the comfort and well-being
          of people over the “technical” arguments about
          the Sabbath.)

    5. Friend, God calls on us to keep the Sabbath holy. Will you
      determine to set it apart from the rest of the week?

  4. Next Week: The First Angel’s Message.