I’m a Seventh-day Adventist. I keep Saturday as the Sabbath.* And in our culture, that’s a bit odd. When I drive down the street on Saturday, my church is almost the only one with a full parking lot. The next day mine is about the only one with an empty parking lot. So why don’t Seventh-day Adventists go along with the majority? Why be different? What difference does a day make, anyway?
The short answer is that “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” You know, the fourth commandment: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath” (Exodus 20:9, 10, KJV). A casual look at any calendar will tell you which day is the seventh, and your encyclopedia will tell you that the weekly cycle has continued unbroken for several thousand years—at least since Christ’s time. So if the seventh day was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for me.
That’s the short answer.
The long answer
There’s a longer answer too. The really long answer would require a book, so here we’ll have to be content with a summary.
Several years ago, three secular magazines came out with articles on the Sabbath, including Hemispheres (United Airlines’ in-flight magazine), Forbes, and USA Weekend. These articles don’t stress the seventh day, of course. In fact, given the religious pluralism in today’s world (Muslims worship on Friday, Adventists and a few other Christian groups and Jews on Saturday, and most everyone else on Sunday), these magazines don’t stress any day. They just say that whatever day you choose to keep, keep it—even if it’s Monday or Wednesday. The point is, everyone needs to take time to slow down and rest.
Wayne Muller, the author of the article in USA Weekend, said it well: “As a nation, we cannot live like this, endlessly rushing about in a desperate frenzy, never stopping to enjoy the blessings of family and friends, unable to taste the fruits of life. . . . Let us, for just one day, cease our desperate striving for more, and instead taste the blessings we already have been given, and give thanks.”
I like that! The point is that our spirits also need rest, a diversion from the business of making a living, a slowing down, a time to turn aside and tune in to life’s most important values. And God knew that. That’s why He gave us the fourth commandment.
I’m glad the world is finally beginning to recognize the importance of the Sabbath. But won’t any day do?
In a sense, yes. Rest and tuning in to the Spirit can happen at any time, any day, any hour. All it takes is deciding to set aside the time. That’s why in one sense I agree with the people who say, “You choose the day. God will meet with you.” He will! If you devote a full day to be with Him on Wednesday, He’ll spend the time with you, and you’ll be blessed.
So what’s the big deal about the seventh day? I’ll mention two reasons why the seventh day is important as the Sabbath.
Avoiding social chaos
The first answer has to do with a very practical problem. Let’s follow through for a moment with the argument that as long as we choose one day out of seven, any day will do.
Company XYZ, Inc., manufactures widgets. Not any old widgets, mind you, but wooden widgets. And wooden widgets have hit the culture with a bang. Everybody has to have a widget! One of Company XYZ’s wooden ones.
Now it so happens that half the people on the assembly line at Company XYZ, Inc., including the vice president for production, have decided that the best day for them to rest and worship God is Wednesday. Another 25 percent of the assembly line employees prefer Thursday, and the rest decide to stay traditional. They’ll go for Sunday.
But back in shipping and receiving, it’s Monday for everyone. (Well, at least they all agree on their day!) The people in the warehouse all want Tuesday, except for a few who opt for Sunday. And if you want an advance on your next paycheck, better not come to work on Wednesday expecting to get it, because finance has also chosen Wednesday to worship God.
Do you begin to get the picture?
And it’s not just Company XYZ, Inc., that’s got this problem. Every other company in town allows their employees to take off whatever day they choose for worship, including the lumber people—the ones who deliver raw materials to Company XYZ, Inc. The people in shipping at the lumber company have all chosen Friday, but their truck drivers all want Thursday off.
So let’s look at the problem:
The lumber company shipping department is off on Friday.
The lumber company truck drivers are off on Thursday.
The receiving department at Company XYZ, Inc., is off on Monday.
The warehouse people at Company XYZ, Inc., are off on Tuesday.
This leaves Wednesday as the only day of the week when everyone at both companies is available to load wood onto trucks, haul it to Company XYZ, Inc., receive it at Company XYZ, Inc., and stock it in their warehouse. But on Wednesday, all the finance people at Company XYZ, Inc., are gone, so if the truck drivers from the lumber company want to pick up their invoices personally, they’ll have to come back on Friday. (They don’t work on Thursday, remember?)
Now multiply this situation across the town and across the nation, and you can see the problem we’d all be faced with if everyone was free to choose their own day of the week for rest and worship. It’d be social chaos!
Fortunately, God anticipated this problem and provided the solution at the very beginning of human history. He didn’t say, “You choose the day.” He chose it for us. The Bible says that “on the seventh day [God] rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2). A couple of millennia later, He said it again to be sure we wouldn’t forget: “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8, emphasis added).
A memorial of Creation
However, when God named a specific day the Sabbath, He had more in mind than just helping us avoid social chaos, important as that may be. God wanted us to remember Him as the One who created us and the world in which we live. The fourth commandment says it best: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore [because of Creation] the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:11; emphasis added).
Stop and think a moment about your birthday. What day of the year does it fall on? Whatever your day happens to be, my guess is that it’s probably right up there with December 25 as a date you’ll never forget.
So what would you think of the suggestion that you change your birthday to the following day, or perhaps to the same day a month later?
“No way!” you say. “That’s my birthday you’re messing with!”
The same is true of the birthday of the world, which comes around once every week. To be truly a celebration of Creation, it has to happen on the seventh day of the week rather than the first or the fifth.
This doesn’t mean that the seventh day of the week is the only day you can worship God. (I hope you do that every day.) It doesn’t mean that Saturday is the only day you can attend a service in church. (I hope you attend midweek services.) But it does mean that God made the seventh day different from the other six. It means He set it apart for a special use.
God asks us to remember that day— the day He called Sabbath—as the birthday of the world.
Simple, isn’t it? And it fits the short answer perfectly: “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”