Was the Sabbath for Israel, or for the world?
I grew up being taught that the Sabbath, because it was instituted at creation was an eternal ordinance... for everyone. But after God rested on the seventh day and made it holy, we find nothing in scripture about anyone keeping sabbaths. God is silent about Sabbath until Exodus 19 and here is what He said:
Exodus 19: 5, 6 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
Deut. 5: 2, 3, The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
Ex. 31: 16, So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.'
Lev. 24: 8, Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel.
Deut. 29: 1 [The Covenant in Moab] These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.
Clearly the covenant, that included the Sabbaths and their regulations, were not made with the world, but specifically with His chosen people--Israel.
Exodus 31: 14, 15, 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. 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.
Exodus 35: 1-3, And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together , and said unto them, These are the words which the LORD hath commanded , that ye should do them. Six days shallwork be done , but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to theLORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death . Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.
In Israel you received the death penalty for breaking the sabbath. And it wasn't' just a threat.
Numbers 15:32-36, Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall surely be put to death ; all thecongregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Adventists claim the the Sabbath is for all men for all time. Yet, when we actually study these passages, we find that is an impossibility.
Unless there is a direct statement somewhere in the Bible (which there is not) that specifically says that the regulations and restrictions of the Old Covenant Sabbaths are no longer in effect but the rest is still required, then we must admit that we are still required to put to death anyone doing work on Sabbath.
Ancient Israel was a theocracy until the time of the kings, and even then, it was a type of theocratic kingship/monarchy (as God himself chose the leaders either directly or through bloodline.) The Sabbath commandment was given in the context of that theocracy. It could not have been a requirement for those outside the Hebrew covenant. Who would have enforced the law? Would the Adventists actually say that it was required of other people (the non-chosen) but without the penalty attached? That it was only a death sentence for the Israelites, but no one else? God was less strict and more merciful to those outside His covenant? (They may actually say yes to that.....)
Would it not be strange for God to have a universal law but without a universal punishment for it? Was it just a nice suggestion for everyone else to take off a day and spend it with their pagan family (because these other non-Hebrew peoples wouldn't be worshipping God on that day but a false god, so God wouldn't require worship of them on that day--just rest.) Then for His own people He commands they are stoned for breaking it.
None of this seems plausible.
The more realistic and biblical interpretation would be that the Hebrews were to keep a strict Sabbath, not just to be an example for the other nations to follow, but to witness to the other nations that God dwells among Israel. God dwells with His people and one must be holy and consecrated to engage His presence.
If non-Hebrews desired to worship the true God, they would then join the Israelite nation and enter the covenant. Then, they would submit to both the Hebrew spiritual and civil jurisdiction.
So then what do we do with the statement of Christ in the gospel of Mark (ch.2) that says the "Sabbaths were made for man [anthropos]" indicating the general sense of mankind?
This would be the first time in scripture that the Sabbath rest of the old covenant was generalized. So let's look at the context for a second. Mark 2 and Matthew 12 are describing the same incident. If we go to Matthew 11, we find that Jesus is upsetting the Pharisees for breaking the Sabbath by healing people. Within the context of the accusations of breaking the Sabbath Jesus states:
Matthew 11: 27-29, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father... Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you ...., and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
The Old Covenant with all the regulations of the laws, the rituals and the ceremonies were shadows that pointed to Christ. They were preparing a people for their Messiah and these daily rites, performed by Israel were to embed in them the symbols so they could recognize the Christ when He came. They were not an end to themselves, the law was not the purpose nor the goal! They were the signs of the promise, the map that would indicate the authentic Messiah sent from God.
So, Jesus audaciously stood there healing and having His disciples pick corn and infuriating the Pharisees telling them that now--the true Sabbath had arrived. He was the one to whom the shadows were pointing. He was the authentic Messiah and now all mankind would find rest in Him.
The rest He was to give was for anthropos--mankind! If we rip the statement out of its spiritual context, then all of a sudden Jesus contradicts his own words in the Old Covenant which was specifically for Israel, and places Himself at complete odds with His chosen Apostle Paul who tells us in Romans 14 that:
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he dothnot regard it.
And Col. 2: 16:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.
Rather than introducing a day to all mankind, Jesus was introducing a "sabbath"--a rest to all mankind found in Him. Now we come unto Him and we receive the true sabbath, the true rest.
Let's do something speculative. Look back at the penalties for breaking the Sabbath and put it into this new context of Jesus being our New Covenant rest.
For those of us who enter the New Covenant with Christ and receive His spiritual rest through faith, what happens if we profane that spiritual rest and go outside God's "camp" and begin working for our salvation? Yikes...
Tying together the Old Covenant sabbath regulations with the New may not be an authentic interpretation, but just thought I would throw it out there....