Did Abraham, Noah, and Adam Keep the Sabbath?
It is clear in the Bible that God wanted Israel, the physical and spiritual descendents of Adam, Noah, and Abraham. It is clear that God wanted the nation of Israel to keep the Sabbath for God restated the Sabbath inside of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20:8-11). God also wanted to testify to Israel about the Sabbath in the giving of the Manna in Exodus 16. In the example of the Manna God wanted His people to see that He would give a double portion of Manna on the 6th day (Friday) so that they would not have to go out looking for Manna on the Sabbath day. We also know that Sabbath keeping was an issue for Israel when they went into captivity to Babylon (Jeremiah 17:20-27; II Chronicles 36:11-21). When Israel came back from their 70 year captivity in Babylon the Sabbath was a point of contention between God and His people in Nehemiah 13:15-22. And then in the life of Christ we see that He also kept the Sabbath in harmony with the laws that He Himself had given at Mt. Sinai (Matthew 12; John 5 & 9).
The question for this study is whether God gave a set of commandments that was new and different from the commandments that God gave to His people before Israel? We know that God had given commandments, statutes, and laws to Abraham according to Genesis 26:5. It is the view of this writer that the commandments, laws, and statutes given to Abraham were the same laws given to Israel and I would like to share a few of the reasons why this is the case.
The central concept of Bible issues is the unchangeable nature of God. The Bible says that God does not change (James 1:17). The Bible says that Jesus does not change for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). So when God does something He wants it to stand forever. Humanity changes but God does not.
God has stated that He is the Truth (John 14:6). The Truth does not change, for it is always the Truth. In Psalms 119:142, 151 God says that His Law is the Truth. The Truth has always been existence for God has always been in existence. The Truth does not go away due to circumstances.
When Adam sinned he sinned against the law of God for sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). Therefore the Bible testifies that God’s laws were present in Eden because sin can not occur without violating the laws of God.
God, as the Creator, testified that He created the Sabbath at the Creation as the capstone on the creation week (Genesis 2:1-3). Jesus, the Christ (I Corinthians 10:1-4) is the Creator (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:13-18). Jesus, the Creator, stated in Mark 2:27-28 that He created the Sabbath for all mankind, not for Israel only. Jesus, the Author of the Bible (I Peter 1:10-12), continues to point us back to the Creation as the justification of keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:12-17; Revelation 14:7). God does not point us to Sinai as the justification of the Sabbath but to the Creation.
We know that Abel was righteous (Hebrews 11:4) for he offered a more excellent sacrifice to God and Cain did not. The righteousness of Abel was because he was interested in obeying God and His commandments. In Genesis 3:21 God introduced the sacrificial system which many people believe was introduced at Mt. Sinai. Abel obeyed God’s sacrificial system as well as kept God’s commandments for Abel was a righteous man.
In Hebrews 11:5 God says that Enoch “pleased” God because he followed and obeyed God. Enoch was not out of harmony with the will of God and God took him to heaven without seeing death. Enoch was not against the will of God and therefore was a commandment keeper, including the Sabbath.
In Genesis 6:29 we are introduced to another Bible hero – Noah. This man was considered to be a righteous man by God (Genesis 7:1) and again this would mean that Noah was not out of harmony with God or God’s laws, or God’s Truth, or God’s Way including the Sabbath. Noah was righteous because he had found “grace” in the eyes of the Lord and he did all that God asked him to do and thus God entered into covenant relationship with God.
One other aspect of Noah was his name. In Hebrew Noah means “to rest”. This is the root concept of Sabbath – to rest from ones labors. Noah was a living example of resting in the care of His Creator. Noah and Sabbath rest are united by faith in the Creator God.
My final patriarch is Abraham. God said that Abraham kept all of God’s commandments, statutes, and laws (Genesis 26:5). Abraham was clearly a sinner and yet God was willing to enter into covenant relationship with Abraham because Abraham trusted His Creator and he was willing to do all that God asked him to do, especially since God was going to help him to do all that God asked him to do. Abraham rested in the grace of Jesus, the Christ, and thus he was a Sabbath keeper by faith in the promises and commandments of God.
In the writings of Ellen White there is clear counsel that all of the patriarchs kept Sabbath. She says the following: “Before the Fall our first parents had kept the Sabbath, which was instituted in Eden; and after their expulsion from Paradise they continued its observance. They had tasted the bitter fruits of disobedience, and had learned what every one that tramples upon God’s commandments will sooner or later learn – that the divine precepts are sacred and immutable, and that the penalty of transgression will surely be inflicted. The Sabbath was honored by all the children of Adam that remained loyal to God. But Cain and his descendenats did not respect the day upon which God had rested. They chose their own time for labor and for rest, regardless of Jehovah’s express command.” Patriarchs and Prophets pages 80-81. In addition she says regarding the Patriarchs “The Sabbath institution, which originated in Eden, is as old as the world itself. It was observed by all the patriarchs, from creation down…” Patriarchs and Prophets page 336.
God is consistent in all that He does. He is not trying to fool us or to confuse us, for we do a masterful job of this all by ourselves. God is trying to make His Way, clear, consistent, and True. He wants us to follow His lead just as He wanted Adam and Eve to follow Him in the Creation. He revealed Himself as our Creator and that when we stay in harmony with His will for us we are the most happy and when we disobey His will for us we will only find heartache and shame.
God created His world perfectly in six days and rested then seventh day and all that was in the world was perfect until sin came into existence on this world. Then all nature started to rebel against it’s Creator and had no rest for they were out of harmony with their Creator. Man, the original ruler of this planet sinned against God and chose to follow another leader – Satan. God has instituted His gospel plan to bring us back and that gospel plan goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, the first sinners. God’s goal is to keep the awareness of the Creation ever in front of us so that we may remember whom it is that we are to worship. God has not changed. His special worship day has not changed either. Sabbath is a sign of our ability to rest in His care, and to rest in His ability to save us, and to sanctify us. This is the promise of the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:1-16).
We are to remember that God is our Creator, not ourselves. He created the world, and He told us how He wants us to worship Him, not for His vanities sake but to help us remember who we are and who God is. Only when we are in harmony with Him then only will be feel His rest and calm upon us for the wicked can not rest (Isaiah 57:20-21) for they refuse to enter into His Sabbath experience with Him, just as Cain and his descendent did. On the other hand God’s people, just like God’s patriarchs, can enter into Sabbath with God for they are willing to surrender to the Creator’s original plan (Isaiah 58). When we are willing to enter into God’s covenant plans for us then we will accept God’s sign of surrender – His Sabbath rest, and will display love to His, and His children. May God grant us this opportunity and may He testify to us as He did to Abraham that “he believed in the Lord: and He counted it to him for righteousness” Genesis 15:6 (Galatians 3) and then He added “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Genesis 26:5. This is the way that God speaks in the beginning and this is how He speaks in the end of His people “Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”. This is the omega of God’s testimony of His people. May we learn from the patriarchs and testify of the power of God.