The command “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” was given to the children of Abraham, thru Isaac and Jacob. It was a part of the “Ten Commandments” or Law of Moses.
Exodus 31:12-17 –
12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths YE shall keep: for it is a sign between me and YOU throughout YOUR generations; that YE may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
14 YE shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto YOU: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 Wherefore the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between me and the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Deut. 5:2-4 –
2 The LORD our God made a covenant with US in Horeb.
3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with US, even US, who are all of us here alive this day.
4 The LORD talked with YOU face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,
This law was never meant to be a universal law for all nations, and was abolished when Christ came, being replaced with the gospel. See Romans 10:4; Heb. 9 & 10.
Violations of the Sabbath:
Numbers 15:32-36 –
32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
33And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation.
34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.
35And the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp."
36And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Exodus 35:3 - You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day (for explanation/clarity, see previously Ex. 16:21-23).
Faithful observance of the Sabbath was prerequisite to their living in Canaan, as the blessing of remaining in the land was conditioned upon their obedience, which has always been true of spiritual blessings from God.
The entire book of Deuteronomy contains Moses’ warnings to be faithful in all that God had commanded their parents at Mt. Sinai. That first generation had NOT been faithful and died for their disobedience during the period of the 40 year wilderness wandering (Numbers 14). Even Moses sinned and was not allowed to enter Canaan (Deut. 3:23-28).
The only two people who had been in Egyptian bondage and survived the 40 years of wandering, and made it into Canaan, “from 20 years old and upward”, were Caleb and Joshua. The reason? They “FULLY FOLLOWED THE LORD” (see Numbers 14:24 and 32:11-13). The second generation of Israelites would be led by Joshua into a conquest of Canaan.
Deuteronomy chapter 28 clearly links obedience as the condition for remaining in the land. In verses 45-47 it states, “all these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you TILL YOU ARE DESTROYED, BECAUSE YOU DID NOT OBEY THE VOICE OF THE LORD YOUR GOD, TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND HIS STATUTES THAT HE COMMANDED YOU. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck UNTIL HE HAS DESTROYED YOU.”
Lev. 26:14-39 is another chapter stressing the punishment for their disobedience. In verses 34-35 it specifically states: “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, THE REST THAT IT DID NOT HAVE ON YOUR SABBATHS WHEN YOU WERE DWELLING IN IT.”
Clearly, they did NOT “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” as a nation. Sabbath observance was clearly part of their obedience (see Ex. 31:12-17; Lev. 19:3, 30; 23:3; 26:2; and Jer. 17:24).
The reason for the captivity and loss of possession of Canaan was their disobedience. As a nation, they had a stubborn and rebellious heart, “doing what was right in their own eyes”as was repeatedly said of them.
(Deut. 12:8 - Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
Judg. 17:6 - In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Judg. 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.)
Does this mindset still prevail in religion today? God’s
spiritual blessings were foreordained from the foundation
of the world for man and connected with obedience to Christ:
Ephesians 1:4 - …he hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the
foundation of the world…that we should be holy and
2 Timothy 1:9 - Who hath saved us…according to his
own purpose…which was given us in Christ Jesus
before the world began…
Titus 1:2 - eternal life, which God…promised before
the world began…
These spiritual blessings are ONLY in Christ, and they are conditional upon one’s obedience to the commandments that Jesus gave to the apostles; which they preached to all in the gospel message as they went “into all the world”. God cares for all His creation, but His intent is that they might become His children.
(Matt. 5:45 – “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”)
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Some additional passages on the Sabbath:
Jesus explained violation of the Sabbath and what 'work' was allowed in Matt. 12:1-8:
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE, YE WOULD NOT HAVE CONDEMNED THE GUILTLESS. FOR THE SON O FMAN IS LORD EVEN OF THE SABBATH DAY.
Matthew 12:10 - And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"— so that they might accuse him.
Luke 13:14 - But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesushad healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day."
Luke 14:3 – And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?"
John 5:10 - So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed."
John 7:23 - If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken,are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?