“So do you have any plans this weekend?” This is a common question we all hear as we get closer to the end of each week. When I was young, after hearing about all the fun and exciting things my friends had planned for the weekend, I would usually answer in a sheepish way, “Uh… no, not really,” and the conversation would move on without me. In reality, I always had something planned for the weekend – every week, my family and I go to church to keep the Sabbath day. But back then, I was afraid of telling my friends about it because I was afraid of being different, of standing out from the crowd. Nowadays though, if you ask me what I’m doing for the weekend, I’ll probably still say, “Nothing much.” But, I’ll also say, “I am going to church though!” What changed my mind?
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying; ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.'” (Ex 31:12-13)
The Sabbath is not only a day for us to remember God’s creation and salvation. In fact, the Sabbath is a sign between God and His people, to remind us that God has sanctified us. To sanctify something means to set it apart from others. In Genesis 2, God sanctified the Sabbath day as a day set apart from all other days, reserved for Himself, His own day. Similarly, God sanctified the Israelites when He brought them out of Egypt to be His own people, set apart from other nations, and He made a covenant with them (Ex 19:4-6). One of the signs of the covenant, to prove its validity, was God’s Sabbath day, given through the Ten Commandments. As long as the Israelites kept the Sabbath day holy, they fulfilled their end of the covenant and also proved to others that they were truly God’s own people. If they refused to keep the Sabbath or neglected it, that would be equivalent to rejecting their status as God’s chosen people and the sanctifying work of God, essentially breaking the covenant. Therefore, keeping the Sabbath was both a blessing and a serious reminder of who they were and who God was to them.
For us, we have also been sanctified by God through the precious blood of Christ and His Spirit. We are no longer our own, but we have entered into a covenant with God and we belong to the almighty God, our Creator and heavenly Father. The Sabbath day continues to be a sign of our covenant with God. We know this because in both the Old and New Testament, God did not reveal His Sabbath day to just any group of people, but only to His chosen people. Therefore, whoever keeps the Sabbath must belong to this special group. If we willingly and gladly keep the Sabbath day holy, we are also keeping our covenant with God and it proves that we belong to God. But if we do not, we are also rejecting the Lord as our God and our status as His chosen people. Therefore, we ought to keep the Sabbath with both gladness and reverence.
This is one reason why I’m no longer afraid of being considered different by my peers when they ask me why I go to church every week or why I seem to be at church events a lot. I also don’t feel left out when all my friends go to parties, go on trips or to the movies or even study sessions on Saturdays. Rather, I thank God that I have the privilege to go to church every week and keep His Sabbath because it means that God calls me one of His own. May we all come to treasure the Sabbath day every week as the sign of God’s covenant of grace with us.