Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.’ Exodus 31:13

When the Israelites were slaves, they worked seven days a week. Now God was insisting they rest one day a week. It was suppose to be a blessing. Yet it became a burden. By Jesus’ day the Pharisees had turned keeping the Sabbath into a complicated procedure with a huge number of restrictions; and when Jesus refused to abide by their Sabbath laws they wanted to kill him! (Matthew 12:10-14).

Even in our day I know people who have also missed the point and discuss whether irrigating a field on the Sabbath is work (the irrigator is on a timer so no one actually works). How have we managed to turn something that was supposed to be a blessing us into nit picking and burdensome law keeping?

There are many reasons: we struggle to accept free gifts; we feel the need to repay God; we sense we should work to be acceptable to God; pointing to something tangible we have done for God makes us feel better; and sometimes we don’t know how to rest.

However in God’s eyes none of these reasons are valid. The Sabbath was to be a sign that God’s people trusted him to meet their needs. They could rest because they were not relying on the work of their hands but on God who promised to meet all their needs.

Furthermore it is the Lord who makes his people holy. We are not made holy by keeping the Sabbath or any other law. We are made holy by trusting what God has done for us through Christ.