Sabbath School Lesson for July 13-19, 2019
This week we explore some facets of the Sabbath commandment that might impact our ministry to others…
- the many lessons provided by the daily provision of manna (Sunday)
- remembering both reasons for keeping the Sabbath: to commemorate our creation AND redemption (Monday)
- the Sabbath reinforces equality–all God’s creatures are meant to be blessed by Sabbath rest (Tuesday)
- Jesus came to show how the Sabbath was meant for healing…all kinds of healing (Wednesday)
- why even the land was given a rest (every seven years, and on the fiftieth year, the Jubilee) (Thursday)
The Sabbath commandment is nested right in the middle of the Ten Commandments given to Moses and the Hebrews after their years of Egyptian slavery.
Curiously, it is the most lengthy of the ten principles, and seems to be a symbol of our worship and devotion to God, but also of our care for others. It specifically outlines who are to be blessed by keeping it..all classes of people, including slaves and guests residing with us, and let’s not forget, even domestic work animals (Exodus 20:10).
Key Text: “And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’ “ Mark 2:27 NKJV
Often, the Sabbath is seen as a day of restrictions, with many man-made rules preventing this-or-that activity. But God wants us to enjoy the Sabbath and rejoice in it as a day of freedom.
Jesus came to model for us what He felt was appropriate and necessary for our full blessing on this sacred day. Many times He healed people on the Sabbath, facing much opposition from religious authorities for doing so.
We are likewise reminded to look for ways to help others, even and maybe especially so, on the Sabbath. It was meant to be a blessing for all mankind, as a way of healing, not just our bodies, but our relationships as well.
When the Sabbath is remembered for its true worth, we will find it changing us every other day of the week. And if kept properly, others will be blessed as well.
Sunday: Manna Enough
How interesting that God began to teach the Israelites about the Sabbath even before they were shown it in the Ten Commandments. That’s because it had existed since creation.
Many had just lost sight of its significance, however, during the long, Egyptian captivity. But those few who remembered it were given an opportunity to teach about it when people began to wonder why there was no manna on the seventh day. They were told to collect twice as much on Friday, the preparation day, and miraculously it stayed fresh over the Sabbath.
But there were other lessons to be learned from the provision of manna. Besides the trust in God it required, they must trust that someone staying in their tent would bring back precisely enough for each person residing there. A daily amount of an omer, which was 9.3 cups per person.
The manna, which appeared on the ground with the dew every day but Sabbath, would be ground and baked as a cake or wafer with oil and was said to taste like honey (Numbers 11:8, 9 and Exodus 16:31).
The trust that grew from this experience of grace, was evidenced by the generosity and sharing among their fellow travelers that accompanied the activity. All of our heavenly blessings are to be used to bless those around us. Just as the whole camp was part of this demonstration of God’s grace.
Read Exodus 16:16-18. Why did God specify such a precise amount to be allotted to each individual in the camp? Wouldn’t their dietary needs be different? What was this meant to teach them?
Read 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. How should our giving reflect the demonstration of the manna? What did it teach them about equality?
Read Numbers 11:4, 5, and 6. What caused many to complain about the manna? What motivates some to complain today about God’s blessings, even keeping of the Sabbath?
Monday: Two Reasons for Sabbath
Let’s not forget both reasons for remembering the Sabbath. It not only commemorates Creation, but as pointed out in Deuteronomy 5:15, it also reminds us of God’s role as our Redeemer.
Notice in Ezekiel 20:12, it says: ” ‘Moreover I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.’ “ Therefore God not only created us, but He re-creates us with a process called sanctification, which restores us by making us holy again.
God has always envisioned a church that is kind to strangers and a blessing to the world. Since God has been so gracious to us, we need to be gracious to others, remembering our lost condition when He found us.
What better time to do this than on the Sabbath, a day designed for immersing ourselves in God’s beautiful world of nature, but also in meeting with fellow believers and engaging in ministry, recognizing this symbol of God’s power to redeem us from the bonds of sin.
Read Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. How does our observance of the Sabbath change, when we recognize both reasons for it? What kinds of activities should we focus on, in order to celebrate both of these reasons for Sabbath?
Read Exodus 20:2. Why is it important for us not to forget our troubled past, before we were saved? How does the Sabbath help us remember that we are freed from sin?
Read Ezekiel 20:12 and Mark 2:27. Why is it important to remember that the Sabbath is a gift for all mankind? How can we best thank God for this special gift?
Tuesday: A Day of Equality
The Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20 includes many details for how, when, and why it is to be observed. The second commandment about making graven images is almost as inclusive in its details. (And understandably so, considering the way Satan has so dominated the world by causing its inhabitants to worship other gods.)
If the Sabbath were remembered and properly kept, however, there would be no pagan services and idolatry in the world to worry about. There would be no evolutionists, atheists, criminals, or infidels either. Our whole Christian experience is guaranteed through a proper observance of this one day, the Sabbath.
Much of the description of the Sabbath is focused on who is to be included in its observance. It lists specifically many of those who are blessed on that day. Indeed, we see that it is a day of equality, with all God’s creatures benefiting from the sacred hours of the seventh day.
Read Exodus 20:10. Why were those mentioned in the Sabbath commandment considered the most vulnerable in that society? Why do we need to look out for those under our charge, allowing them a day of rest as well? Is there a difference in allowing it and enforcing it upon one’s household?
Read Nehemiah 13:15. Why was not buying and selling merchandise on the Sabbath one of the reforms Nehemiah recommended when he helped build Jerusalem after all those years in Babylonian captivity? How did it encourage equality among the inhabitants of the city?
Read Deuteronomy 16:11. Who else are included, besides strangers, in our efforts to share the blessings of God, even as we rejoice in His praises on the Sabbath?
Wednesday: A Day of Healing
Jesus had a difficult time cutting through all the religious traditions and regulations that were being enforced by the Jewish leaders at the time of His birth. The Sabbath had especially become a burden for the average citizen to keep.
One of the ways Jesus tried to change attitudes about His holy day was to heal individuals on the Sabbath when there was opportunity. People were shown by these acts of mercy that Sabbath observance includes doing good deeds for others on that day.
These healings bring to our attention that fact that the Sabbath was meant to grow our relationship with God, but also to enhance our relationship with those in our family, church, and community. Jesus was all about doing for others by actively engaging in merciful acts, even on the Sabbath day.
Read Matthew 12:9-13 and Mark 3:1-6. Why did Jesus say it was appropriate to do good on the Sabbath? Why were the Pharisees questioning Jesus about the Sabbath?
Read Mark 1:21-26. What does this incident tell us about Jesus’ healing of, not just the body, but our minds and souls as well?
Read John 9:13-16, 39-41 and Revelation 3:17. Who was really blind that Sabbath? How did Jesus try to open the eyes of the Pharisees?
Thursday: Sabbath Rest for the Land
God’s instructions to Moses, as part of the program to build a new nation that would represent Him, included some restrictions that might seem unusual to us today. Every seventh year the Israelites were to release any slaves among them, cancel debts that were owed, and allow their fields to be unplowed and unplanted (or lie fallow).
These measures, along with the Jubilee (which fell after seven of these seventh years, or every fiftieth year) lessened the effects of social inequality, and also were good for the land. Those who study agriculture find that this practice of not planting occasionally was a valuable tool for increasing yields and improving the quality of their crops. And it certainly helped keep the wealthy from gaining too much power over the poor.
But like the manna, these Sabbath rests for the land also served the purpose of building their trust in God. It took faith in God’s ability to provide for them on those years they refrained from farming. It reminded them, just like the weekly Sabbath, that we should rest from our own labors and trust that God will sustain us the rest of the week, or in this case, the rest of the year.
Read Leviticus 25:1-7. Why did the land need a rest, and why did part of that rest include providing for the poor and needy, who were allowed to glean whatever grew on its own that seventh year?
Read Deuteronomy 15:1, 2. How did cancelling debts also require an unusual trust in God? How was this practice a way of providing for those less fortunate, and why was that important for the nation as a whole?
Read Matthew 6:32, 33. How should Sabbath rest affect us the rest of the week?
The Sabbath brings things to our attention that are often overlooked as we consider ways to minister to others:
- Properly kept, it restores relationships–with God, but also with each other. We should include activities on Sabbath that promote this. Spending time in nature must be balanced with time spent with fellow believers. Nurturing relationships with those in our family, church, and community shouldn’t be neglected.
- All creation, the animals and even the land, benefit from the rest God prescribed for His creation. Trust in God is often needed to faithfully observe the Sabbath as God intended. It teaches us not to rely on our own labor, and recognizes that God is the real Provider and Sustainer of life.
- The Sabbath is a great equalizer. Those who are wealthy are not to gain power over those who are marginalized, or kept on the fringes of society. Our attempts to restore relationships must include family, but should also reach out to those in need.
Yes, God identifies and sympathizes with those less fortunate, as evidenced by Jesus’ merciful acts, even on the Sabbath. Although we will never eliminate poverty on this earth of sin, we can do all we can to reach out to everyone in our community and show them by our love that Jesus does care.
Next Week’s Lesson: Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/