The Sabbath: God’s Story

October 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here on the Learning Leadership Blog I am always working to bring readers relevant topics that will impact your work skills and life relationships. Today is a topic I have not written about which is the topic of the Sabbath (or known as a simple day off). Taking a Sabbath day is something I am passionate about and grateful to share with you because it has had an incredibly positive impact on my life.

The Sabbath

In order to simplify and keep this topic of the Sabbath clear I have divided the topic into three separate blog posts:

  1. The Sabbath: God’s Story
  2. The Sabbath: My Story
  3. The Sabbath: Your Story

The concept of a Sabbath day comes from the Bible which is why today’s post will start there: in the Bible. The Sabbath is mentioned several times throughout the Bible1 but is most prominently described in the Old Testament book of Exodus in chapter 16.

The context of Exodus 16 is an exciting one! Moses has just led God’s people–the Israelites–out of slavery in Egypt. With God’s guidance Moses leads them out away from Egypt despite the desire for Pharaoh, the Egyptian King, who wants to recapture the people whom he just let go. Thus God parts the Red Sea and allows the Israelites to pass through it safely while the Egyptian Army fails to cross.

At this point, the Israelites complain about two things:

  1. Not having enough food to eat
  2. That they would have been eating good meat and bread if they were still in Egypt

This context leads us to the revelation and teaching about the Sabbath to God’s people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual. . .”2

 Then we skip some verses where people complain and God gives them meat.

These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.” So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them. After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. And as the sun became hot, the flakes they had not picked up melted and disappeared. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much as usual—four quarts for each person instead of two. Then all the leaders of the community came and asked Moses for an explanation. He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.” So they put some aside until morning, just as Moses had commanded. And in the morning the leftover food was wholesome and good, without maggots or odor. Moses said, “Eat this food today, for today is a Sabbath day dedicated to the Lord. There will be no food on the ground today. You may gather the food for six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath. There will be no food on the ground that day.” Some of the people went out anyway on the seventh day, but they found no food. The Lord asked Moses, “How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place. Do not go out to pick up food on the seventh day.” So the people did not gather any food on the seventh day.3
There are a four important observations which should be made about God and human nature from this story.
  1. God has a plan for the Sabbath at the beginning: If you look at the Bible as one long story of God’s revelation to us about Him, His teachings, and His people, this story is at the very beginning of what is shared in the Bible. The Sabbath was part of God’s plan from the beginning.
  2. God has not even given the Israelites Manna (which was the food they would eat daily for 40 years) yet, but He is already talking about the Sabbath: In this story, God has not given the people the food they will be eating, yet He is telling them how to live and how to work with the Manna.
  3. God has not given Moses any commandments or laws to teach the people: Perhaps the insight I find most interesting about this story is that God reveals his teaching and purpose of the Sabbath before He gives his commandments and laws to Moses. This topic of the Sabbath precedes any other laws or commandments given to the Israelites to obey.
  4. The tendency of the Israelites was to provide for themselves, not to trust God: It is fascinating how relevant this is to the American culture which we live in. Often we do not trust God even if He has told us He will provide. It is our human and independent nature to attempt to provide for ourselves, not to trust God.

I hope you will come back tomorrow for part two of this series titled, The Sabbath: My Story. (If you are not subscribed to this blog, you can do that here via RSS feeder or by email.)

1Two additional times in the Bible the topic of the Sabbath is mentioned. The first is when God created the world and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) and the second is Jesus’ commentary on the Sabbath throughout the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
2Exodus 16:4-5 (New Living Translation)
3Exodus 16:16-30  

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."