Posted by: SandreS | May 5, 2010

Israel’s Sabbath: Their Sign and Covenant

The recognition and observance of holy days was something that belonged to the nation of Israel and was a part of their ritualistic relationship with God. The most common of these days of worship was their weekly Sabbath.

As we read through the Bible many are surprised to find that there is no mention of the observance of the Sabbath from Adam to Moses. Many would have you believe that during this period of over 2400 years those in a right standing with God observed the Sabbath, but there is not the first mention of any such practice prior to Moses.

There is not one example of a seventh-day Sabbath observance from Adam to Moses. Even Job, the outstanding saint of the Old Testament has no reference at all to the keeping of a Sabbath. This is because the Sabbath was given to Israel, it belonged to them as a Nation.

Thus, the observance of the weekly Sabbath was not made known until the law was given at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:9-11).

You came down also upon Mount Sinai … and made known unto them Your Holy Sabbath … by the hand of Moses Your servant (Nehemiah 9:13-14).

Old Testament saints could not possibly have observed the Sabbath prior to this time if it had not been “made known unto them.” So, clearly the first twenty-four centuries were without the observance of a Sabbath ordinance.

The Sabbath was actually a “sign” and a “covenant” between God and the nation of Israel.

And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, “Speak also unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘Verily My Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD Who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you … Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel …’” (Exodus 31:12-17).

We learn that Sabbath-keeping was a part of the Law of Moses, that it was a Jewish “sign” and “covenant” with God. It was not a “sign” or “covenant” between God and the Gentiles, or God and the Body of Christ, but God and the nation of Israel!

We must learn to make a difference where God makes a difference.

The “Sign Nation”

Israel was the “sign nation.” Signs were a divine requirement under God’s relationship with Israel.

For the Jews require a sign (I Corinthians 1:22).

By God’s design, Israel was His sign nation; signs were their birthright when He brought them out of Egypt.

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe you, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign (Exodus 4:8).

Thus, signs belonged to Israel.

We see not our signs (Psalm 74:9).

Thus, signs belonged in Israel.

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 8:18).

The “Covenant Nation”

Israel was the “covenant nation.” Covenants were how Israel’s relationship was structured with God.

Who are Israelites; to whom pertains … the covenants, and the giving of the law … (Romans 9:4).

Divine covenants made with the nation of Israel had an accompanying sign. The Abrahamic covenant had circumcision; the Davidic covenant had water baptism; and the Mosaic covenant had the Sabbath.

Many today would seek to mix the gospel of God’s grace with Israel’s covenants and signs. If one truly was to keep the law of the Old Testament Sabbaths, one must observe many different days. Besides the weekly “seventh-day Sabbath” there were at least fifteen fixed dates that were Holy Sabbaths unto the Lord.

The Sabbath, under the law, was without a doubt a day of ceasing from all forms of work. There was to be no food preparation, no leaving home; no buying, no selling, no fire and no journeys (c.f. Exodus 16:29; 35:2-3; Numbers 15:32-36). Try that for Sabbath observance.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 1989, 2010 Bible Student’s Press™

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