The Role of the Law


Reprinted from The Faith of January, 1946

By C. O. Dodd

In the Book of Mark, we read where the Saviour said, “The Sabbath was made for man.” — Mk. 2:27.

The question is, “What was the Sabbath, which was made for man? Who made it? For what purpose? We trust to give the answers to this problem from the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make a man wise unto Salvation. May we now take heed unto what we find in the Bible concerning this truth.

The Sabbath at Creation

The first reference to the Sabbath is found in Genesis (2:2), where it reads, “And on the seventh day the Elohim (Mighty One) ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the Seventh Day from all His work which He had made.” Notice that after working the six days, beginning with the first day of creation, the Creator made an end to work and rested on the seventh day. From the Hebrew we learn that Sabbath (Shabbath) means rest, to desist from toil, to cease from work. Referring then to what the Master said, “The rest was made for man,” and from the text in Gen. 2:2, we learn the Creator Himself desisting from further work and resting upon a certain day, which the Scriptures say was the “seventh day.”

“The rest,” or “the Sabbath,” then, which the Creator made for man, is that period of time corresponding to that upon which He rested, and which is stated clearly to be “the seventh day.”

The Sabbath Lost?

Some claim that time has been lost, that the Sabbath was lost in Joshua’s long day, that the people of Yahweh as a whole entirely lost contact with the Creator, and hence failed to keep the identical day upon which the Creator Himself had rested; but this is easily answered from the Scriptures, if we but take heed unto them. Yahweh, Who created the Sabbath for man, certainly knew which day corresponded to that seventh day upon which He rested, and so we find Him revealing it unto His “Chosen People” in such a definite way that they could not be uncertain about it. This was 2500 years after Yahweh had made the first Sabbath for man. Israel had been delivered from Egyptian slavery, and were being provided with Manna rained from heaven, as they journeyed through the wilderness. For the first six days of the weekly cycle the Creator rained down Manna for Israel, but on the seventh day, the rest day for them, He rained none, but the sixth day they were to gather a double portion to provide for the Sabbath need.

The record states, “Then said Yahweh unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare

that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” And Moses conveyed the word of Yahweh unto the people, saying, “This is that which Yahweh hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto Yahweh: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.” Moses said, “Eat that today; for today is a Sabbath unto Yahweh: today ye shall not find it in the field. Six days shall ye gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.” Some, perhaps, doubted, and went out to see if Yahweh was really working through Moses, and then they learned that Yahweh did know which day was His Sabbath, for He provided none on that day. “It came to pass that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.” And there Yahweh revealed that not only was the seventh day still the Sabbath, as it was at Creation, but it was a part of His law and one of His commandments — and this was before His Ten Commandment Law was given to Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai. — Exo. 16:1-5 and 23-30.

The Sabbath of the Law

At Sinai, in the first week of the third month, Yahweh revealed His Ten Commandment Law unto Israel, and in that law was the command to rest upon the seventh day, saying, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh thy Elohim (Mighty One); in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” — Exo. 20:8-11.

Recall now that before this Law was given, Yahweh had made Israel to understand which day was His Sabbath by refraining to rain down Manna from Heaven for them on the seventh day. Even if every man on earth at that time had forgotten which day was the Sabbath, Yahweh had made the seventh day clear unto Israel, as He fed them week after week, for forty long years in the wilderness; therefore, the day was definite which He called THE seventh day, when He gave them the Sabbath commandment.

From the time Yahweh revealed the Sabbath day to Israel, until the Saviour came, some 1500 years later, there were always faithful servants of Yahweh on earth, who faithfully kept His commandments. Like Abraham, who kept the law before Sinai, after Sinai, obeyed Yahweh’s voice, kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws (Gen. 26:5). And so when the Messiah came, we find Him repeatedly referring to “THE” Sabbath, not “a” Sabbath. “THE Sabbath made for man,” which Yahweh had revealed to be the seventh day.

Sabbath Abolished?

That the Master did not abolish the law, nor do away with the Sabbath commandment, we may learn from His words, as in Matt. 5:17-18, “Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfill. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Heaven and earth are still here: all has not been fulfilled; therefore, not one jot or tittle, according to the Master’s word, has passed from the law, and so the Sabbath

stands firm. The women who ministered unto Him, and heard the teaching from His own lips, knew that He upheld the force of His Father’s commandments, the Sabbath among them, and so we find them, after His death, observing the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, having “rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment.” Luke 23:56.

The Sabbath in Our Week

Now, lest one wonder what day was the Sabbath in the time of the Saviour, we refer to Matthew 28:1, where it states that the Sabbath was the day which preceded the first day of the week, just as it did at Creation, as it did at Sinai, and as it does today. Nowhere in all the Scriptures do we find other than the Seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh, and our Calendar bears witness to the fact that the week still has seven days, and the Sabbath (the seventh) is that which ends the cycle.

That period of time in the weekly cycle from Friday evening at sunset until Saturday evening at sunset is, was, and will continue to be “the Sabbath” of the Bible, for we learn that it will be observed even into the Millennium (Isaiah 66:23). That it remaineth in this dispensation, we have but to hearken unto the words of the writer of Hebrews, as he says, “If Yahshua had given them rest (Sabbath), then would He not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest (keeping of a Sabbath, See margin) to the people of Yahweh.” — Heb. 4:8-9.

The Sabbath precedes Sunday, or the first day of the week: The first day of the week, or Sunday, follows immediately after the close of the Sabbath. “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn (or draw on) toward the first day of the week,” was the relation of the Sabbath and the Sunday in the New Testament. This order has not altered; the Sabbath is still at the end of the week: Sunday is still the first day of the week. (Please take time to look at your own calendar upon the wall. It will verify our statement.)

The Sabbath a Sign

The Sabbath is a sign between Yahweh and His chosen people: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” (Exo. 31:17). It is also a sign between Yahweh and His obedient people whatever the race, in all ages.

In Isaiah 58:1, Yahweh rebukes His people, saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew MY PEOPLE their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins.” And then the Sabbath sin is brought right out into the light, that “MY PEOPLE” might know wherein they transgressed, and a glorious promise is made to the one who takes Yahweh at His word and keeps the Sabbath holy. Listen: “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 Yahweh, honourable, and shall honour Him, not doing THINE own pleasure, nor speaking THINE own words; then (please get this, “Then”) SHALT THOU delight THYSELF in Yahweh, and I (Notice this “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 Yahweh hath spoken it.” — Isa. 58:13-14.

The Sabbath for All Mankind

Let’s recall that the Saviour said, “The Sabbath was made for man,” not for the Jew, not for a chosen few, but for “man,” all inclusive, for mankind, or the human race, if you please. Now, please refer to the promise Yahweh made unto “man” — yes, any man — (See Isaiah 56:1-3) “Thus saith Yahweh, Keep ye judgment and do justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man (Yes, “man”) that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.” If the keeping of the Sabbath is reserved for Jews only, and not for all mankind, then, likewise, the command to refrain from doing “any evil” is also for the Jew alone, and the remainder of the human race may do as it pleases.

And then to make the matter more clear, the prophet continues with Yahweh’s words, thus: “Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to Yahweh, speak, saying, Yahweh hath utterly separated me from his people.” Do you get this wonderful truth? Even if you are not of the Israel race, those known as “my people,” the promise is for you, whether black or white, Jew or Gentile — If you have joined yourself unto Yahweh (Have you?) then do not say that Yahweh hath separated you from His chosen people. Please don’t say, then, that the Sabbath is for the Jews only, for Yahweh has not made a separation between you and the Jews. The Sabbath was made for “man,” and being a “man” it was made for you, and the blessings attached to it are yours as well as the most devout Jew, IF you take hold and obey the Sabbath command.

The Messiah’s Example

Even if time had been lost prior to the Saviour’s advent into this world, yet would He have known the correct day for the Sabbath. He said, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness (John 8:12). Peter also said “The Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye (we) should follow in His steps.” — 1 Peter 2:21-22.

On the traditional Sabbath day, the day before the first day of the week (Sunday), we find Yahshua in the Sabbath services. “As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (the Scriptures). Again we read that He “taught them on the Sabbath days.” — Luke 4:16 and 31.

If the Messiah had wished to abolish the Sabbath day, surely He would have taught His disciples so; but that He did not so teach them we can know by the fact that after His death His intimate followers were still found resting on “the Sabbath day according to the commandment,” as found in Exodus 20:8-11.

The Apostle to the Gentiles

Paul was an Apostle especially called to take the glad tidings to the Gentiles, and as he had learned the truth by a personal experience with his risen Master, as well as from the teaching of those who had followed the Saviour in His ministry, he would surely have known of the abolishment of the Sabbath, had there been such. However, on the contrary, we find Paul following the example of his Master, and saying, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of the Messiah.” — 1 Cor. 11:1.

Since Yahshua was a seventh-day Sabbath keeper, we would expect to find Paul observing the same Sabbath likewise, and we are not disappointed, as we read: “Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). At Antioch, too, Paul went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and preached the glad tidings (Acts 13:14-16). When the Jews were gone out, the Gentiles requested Paul to preach the glad tidings to them the next Sabbath day. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Paul to have told them that the Sabbath was abolished, or that the next day was Sabbath, if he had wished, but we find no such record; but on the contrary, “The next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together (Jew as well as Gentile elements) to hear the words of Yahweh.” — Acts 13:42-44.

Again, at Corinth, we find Paul working the six days of labor, but on the Sabbath days, teaching the people the glad tidings of His risen Saviour. Here in this Gentile city he worked with his hands to support the ministry, but reserved the Sabbath day for teaching the Scriptures, not for one or two Sabbaths, but for “a year and six months,” seventy-eight weeks of toil, and seventy-eight Sabbaths to be kept holy, for the worship of Yahweh. Yes, the Sabbath was made for Paul, as well as for the Jews, or for you and me. “The Sabbath was made for man.”

Listen to this Sabbath promise, “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to Yahweh, to serve Him and to love the name of Yahweh, to be His servants, EVERY ONE that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to my mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer . . . for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Yes, Yahweh’s house is a house of prayer for all people, and the Sabbath is Yahweh’s appointed rest for “all people,” even for “every one.” Read carefully Isaiah 56:1-12, and soak in its wonderful promises for those who take Yahweh at His word, become His servants, revere His sacred name, and keep His sacred Sabbath day holy.

Hear now the admonition in Hebrews 4:1, “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest (you have just read it from Isaiah 56th chapter) any of you should seem to come short of it.” “There remaineth therefore a keeping of a Sabbath to the people of Yahweh.” — Heb. 4:9.

The Sabbath is one of the commandments of the Law, and John says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” — 1 John 3:4.

The keeping of the commandments is linked with the faith in our beloved Saviour. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of Yahweh and the faith of Yahshua.” — Rev. 14:12.

“Blessed are they that do His commandments (including the Sabbath), that they may have a right to the tree of life” (Rev. 22:14). “Blessed . . . is the man that keepeth the Sabbath” (Isa. 56:2). These wonderful promises of temporal blessings as well as eternal life are for you, dear reader. If you are not a commandment keeper; if you do not observe Yahweh’s Sabbath, make today, this very moment, the time to say, “Just now, Father, I take you at your word. I keep from this time on, by your grace, your Sabbath rest. Bless me, according to thy promises, that I in turn, may be a blessing to others.”