International Sunday School Lesson for September 17, 2017
To value God’s call to rest and renew our relationships with God and one another
Background: Genesis 2:1-3;
Exodus 31:12-18; Isaiah 56:1-8
Exodus 31:12-18 (CEB)
12 The Lord said to Moses: 13 Tell the Israelites: “Be sure to keep my sabbaths, because the Sabbath is a sign between me and you in every generation so you will know that I am the Lord who makes you holy. 14 Keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who violates the Sabbath will be put to death. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath, that person will be cut off from the people. 15 Do your work for six days. But the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest that is holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day will be put to death. 16 The Israelites should keep the Sabbath. They should observe the Sabbath in every generation as a covenant for all time. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the Israelites that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day the Lord rested and was refreshed.”
18 When God finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, God gave him the two covenant tablets, the stone tablets written by God’s finger.
Be sure to keep my Sabbaths, because the Sabbath is a sign between me and you in every generation so you will know that I am the Lord who makes you holy. Keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. (Exodus 31:13-14)
This is our third lesson on covenants. We have looked the “Rainbow” and “circumcision” in our two previous lessons. This week we look at the “Sabbath.”
In order to understand fully how God ordained the Sabbath, you should read all of the background text suggested.
In Genesis 2:1-3 we learn that God, after six days of creation, found a need to rest. So it only seems logical if God that seemingly never needs rest, that we, as part of that creation should need and welcome rest.
In the Jewish tradition, the sabbath is the seventh day of the week. It begins at sundown on Friday and ends on Saturday evening with the appearance of three stars. The sabbath was the day of the week when 12 loaves of flatbread were to be set out on the gold table of the sanctuary by Aaron “on behalf of the Israelites, as a permanent covenant” (Leviticus 24:8). Later, in the Jewish synagogues, the sabbath became an important day of teaching and worship.
Allow me to interject a personal note, last Sunday most of us in Florida experienced a different kind of Sabbath worship. Very few of us were able to attend church, but more prayers were said than on most normal Sundays. We watched and waited as Irma made her way right up the middle of the state. While there was a lot of property damage, the loss of human life was kept very low. We came through without any damage, other than tree limbs and debris scattered and several days without electric and the internet.
Since the time of God’s initial command to remember the sabbath and treat it as holy, the faithful have honored it through devotion and worship, and embraced it as a time of rest and renewal.
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus described the attraction of the sabbath to non-Jews: “Even among the masses there has long existed great enthusiasm for our form of honoring God; there is no city among the Hellenists or the barbarians or anywhere else, nor any people, which does not know about the celebration of the Sabbath” (Against Apion, 2:39).
In Isaiah 56:1-8 we see a long list of things that hindered the ability of Israel to grow as a nation. The ignoring of the Sabbath was a principle cause of the captivity.
If we think about how separation from our loved ones for any extended period of time (more than a week) leaves us longing for the communion of our family and friends. Then our relationship with God should be renewed regularly, and God in His wisdom created the Sabbath for that reason, we need it to enhance our relationship with our creator. I am certain no marriage could exist without setting aside time to build the relationship.
My hymn for this week is “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,”