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Friday, 27 December 2013

The Evil of Sabbath Desecration

This is the outline of a sermon preached in March 2010 on the subject of the sabbath and its desecration, as a result of the first Irish League football match to be played on a Lord's day. It is worth posting here in the light of the recent changes to the law regarding Sunday racing.

Text: Nehemiah ch 13:15-22 & Jeremiah 17:19-27
As most of you are aware from the events of last weekend [March 2010] we witnessed the first Irish League football match on a Lord’s day. For 60 years a rule has existed, within the Irish Football Association, that prohibited such a thing taking place. It was sadly overturned last year as part of wider constitutional changes within the Irish Football Association.

It would not have been surprising if it was mainly Roman Catholic teams which chose to play on a Sunday, as the model of religion in a Sunday morning and sport the rest of the day is a long established practice among them. But it was two teams that have associations with Protestantism. It is a sad reflection on the decline in true religion in this land that these things are taking place. 

Sadder still to learn that some who profess to be believers see no wrong in such desecration of the Lord’s Day. Some have even defended this latest development and described it as moving forward with the times and not something to be concerned about.

Such sentiments on the part of any professing believer displays a great ignorance of the teaching of the Word of God. It displays an attitude that says what we profess is the only thing that is important and that there does not need to be any observance of the law of God in our lives. However, the Lord Jesus said in John 14:15: If ye love me, keep my commandments. We can profess what we like, the evidence of love for Christ is a keeping of God’s commandments!

All mankind are under the moral law of God, and especially the believer, as a rule for life. It matters not whether society in general recognises or accepts the law of God, it is still binding upon them. There are many who may despise and evade the tax laws of the land. Their despising of the law and subsequent evasion does not excuse their failure to comply. If ever caught they will have to give an answer for their way of living. The same is equally true with God’s law. It still stands, whether individuals recognise it or not, and there is coming a day of reckoning for society and individuals. Society will reap its harvest in this life. Individuals will reap both in this life and at the judgment bar of God.

Consider the evil of sabbath desecration:

I. The Institution and Change of the Sabbath Day. 
The sabbath day and marriage are the only two institutions that predate the Fall of mankind into sin. They were instituted in the time of man’s innocency.

The Lord at the beginning instituted the rule for His creatures of six days of labour and one day of rest. This is the divine rule for the good of society. This rule was restated at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the ten commandments: Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work… This explains the origin of a seven day week. During the French Revolution they sought to overthrow this principle and institute a ten day week. It had to be abandoned. It didn't work!  It is worth noting that the commandment does not say the seventh day 'of the week' as the Seventh- day Adventists seek to make out. It simply re-establishes the principle of six days of labour and one day of rest and worship.

The Old Testament sabbath was a memorial to Creation. The sabbath was first instituted at the end of the creation week. This was to be a continual reminder of the fact that God rested from His creative work. The sabbath was God’s way of having man not to forget who is was that created the earth. A day of worship was to surround this act of remembering, as outlined in Psalm 111:1-4: 
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

The New Testament sabbath is a memorial to Redemption. A change took place after the resurrection of the Saviour from the dead. The day of memorial was changed to remember an even greater work - that of redemption. The original principle still operated - six days of work, one of rest. 

The day of rest is now the first day of the week. It was the practice of the New Testament Church to worship on the first day of the week. Notice Acts 20:7 where they observed the Lord’s Table and listened to preaching on the first of the week: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight; also 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 where they worshipped God with their tithes and offerings on the first day of the week: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

God has blessed this change. Remember also that the Saviour came and stood among His disciples on the first day of the week on two successive weeks, John 20:19,26: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. The day of Pentecost took place on the first day of the week. John was in the Spirit on this first day of the week, Revelation 1:10

II. The Purpose of the Sabbath Day 
We are taught by the Lord Jesus that the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath, Mark 2:27. By that He means that it is a day instituted by God for the benefit and good of His creation especially mankind. The sabbath is not to be misused by mankind. It is not a day for mankind to do as they please. The Lord has ordained what is to take place on the sabbath day.

It is to be a day of rest. This was illustrated by God Himself at creation. He created the world over six days but rested the seventh and sanctified it as a sabbath day. The sabbath day is clearly therefore to be a day of rest. This is necessary for creation. God knows what is good for His creatures. There would be a lot less physical and mental ill health if society observed God’s law in this regard, 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, Exodus 31:17. This is the purpose of the sabbath. It is a day to refresh the body and the mind. 

In order to refresh the body and mind we are commanded to set aside all earthly employments and recreations. We are to cease from all secular work and amusements. That would take in Sunday football. All unnecessary thoughts, words or works are to be left aside.

It is to be a day of worship. In setting aside our normal activities we are to give ourselves to the worship of the Lord, morning and evening, Leviticus 23:3: Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings & Psalm 92:1,2: A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night

We are never to rest from worship. It is a resting from temporal employments and recreations; we are to give ourselves to the worship of our God, Leviticus 19:30: Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. The two go together. The Lord sanctified the sabbath day as the day of worship. 

There is public and private worship to be engaged in. There is the morning and evening sacrifices to bring on the sabbath. Every day in the Tabernacle and Temple there was a morning and an evening sacrifice. On the sabbath there was a double offering. The parallel is easy to follow. Every other day we offer a morning and evening sacrifice to the Lord in private devotions. On the sabbath we offer a double offering, ie. private and public exercises of worship. We are not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, Hebrews 10:25: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching

If we are so busy during the week that it keeps us from the house of God on the sabbath then we are too busy. It is time to change our lifestyle for we are evidently out of the will of God.

The works of necessity and mercy. God's law is never for mankind's harm. There are two permitted exceptions to the general rule as set forth. There are exceptions for the works of necessity and the works of mercy. An example as to what these are is given in Matthew 12:1-13
(i) A work of necessity, vv1-8:
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 of man is Lord even of the sabbath day
(ii) A work of mercy, vv9-13:
And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

Let us ever be careful that we do not turn unnecessary things into necessary things where we have no just cause to do so. 

III. The Desecration of the Sabbath Day 
D. L. Moody, the well known American evangelist, once stated, You show me a nation that has given up the sabbath and I will show you a nation that has got the seed of decay. Sadly our nation has for some time been sowing the seeds of decay. Woe to that individual or that society that neglects and desecrates the Sabbath day.

Sabbath desecration is a mark of apostasy. Here is a gauge by which we can measure any society. Does it respect the sabbath? If it does not then it is a society that has departed from God. Our society has sadly departed far from God on this and other matters. There is even much departure among Christians with respect to the sabbath. It has become a day for work and travel instead of a day of rest and worship.
It is a costly practice to desecrate the Sabbath. It may be deemed by the ungodly as being progressive, modern and moving with the times or even necessary in the 24/7 age we live in. But in God’s eyes it is a most displeasing thing and will bring down His displeasure, cf. Nehemiah 13:18: Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbathJeremiah 17:27: But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. Sabbath desecration does indeed become a seed of decay in a person’s life or in the life of a nation. Those seeds are well developed in Ulster and the wider United Kingdom. 

This was the primary reason why Israel as a nation went into captivity, cf. Ezekiel 20:12,13,16,20,21,24; & 22:8,26,23:38. There will be an ongoing price to pay in this country as well. That is why all breaking of God's law ought to be so grieving to every child of God. That is why we need too cry unto the Lord for a breath of His Spirit to see these and other things turned around in our Province and nation.

There needs to be a return to sabbath observance. This is true both within the Church of Christ and in wider society. There is a blessing that comes upon any individual or society that observes the sabbath, Isaiah 58:13,14: If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it & Psalm 84:10: For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness

To honour and keep the Sabbath is to honour the One who instituted the sabbath. It is to give the Lord His rightful place. They who honour God, will in turn be honoured of God. In body and mind they will be rested and in soul and spirit they will be blessed!

Let us pray, and strive by our own example, to see the sabbath day kept as it should be in our nation.


Rev Brian McClung said...


I won't be uploading your comment for two reasons:
1. It is totally off topic
2. It contains a link. I don't upload comments with links embedded as explained in comment policy.

Aleksandar Popovski said...

You said: "It is worth noting that the commandment does not say the seventh day 'of the week' as the Seventh- day Adventists seek to make out. It simply re-establishes the principle of six days of labour and one day of rest and worship" but ommited "But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God..." (Exodus 20:10) proving that the Sabbath is on the 7th day of the week not any day man choses. It is a specific day. Speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (long after His death) Jesus said: "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." Matthew 24:20 (KJV) Thus He showed that the Sanbath observance remained and wasn't changed. The idea of the Lord's day being Sunday is simply disproved by the words of Jesus who said: "For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." Matthew 12:8 (KJV). So the Lord's day is the Sabbath - the seventh day (Exodus 20:10). "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Matthew 5:17 (KJV). "To fulfil" means to carry it into full efect, to do it:

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer [it to be so] now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. Matthew 3:14, 15

Here we se that "fulfil all righteousness" doesn't mean to do away with righteousness but do it. Blessings!

Rev Brian McClung said...


For your premise to stand, after the words "the seventh day" you have had to add "of the week". These extra words are not in Exodus 20:10.

As regards Matthew 24:20, were there not Jews in Israel in AD70 who kept the Old Testament sabbath and to whom these words applied? This has no bearing upon the Christian Sabbath.

Brian McClung