Moses picked up a lamb and stroked its soft wool. His flock of sheep lay resting nearby. Moses reached for his staff and tapped it sharply on a large rock. Most of the sheep raised their heads and looked his way. Several walked toward him. “Come, sheep,” Moses called. He led the way toward a low rise on the Sinai desert. The sheep followed him up the hill.
Reaching the top, Moses noticed a curious orange light that seemed bright even in the hot sunlight and started toward it. As he got closer, Moses saw that the light came from a bush that was on fire, yet no smoke rose from the flames, and the bush seemed not to be consumed. That’s odd, he thought.
“Moses! Moses!” An authoritative Voice called from within the flames.
Jolted to a stop, Moses peered into the fire, shading his eyes with his hand. “Who are you?” he gasped. “Where are you?”
“Take off your sandals,” the Voice commanded, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).
Moses knelt reverently before God on the holy ground and removed his sandals.
Holy ground. That’s an interesting idea. When we speak of a holy man, we have in mind a person who is morally upright. God is holy because He’s very righteous. Ground obviously can’t be holy in that sense. Inanimate objects are holy because they’ve been set aside for a sacred use. That’s why the two rooms in the Old Testament sanctuary could be called the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place” (Exodus 26:33).
The Bible also speaks of holy time. When God set aside the Sabbath on the seventh day of Creation week, the Bible says that He “made it holy” (Genesis 2:3). Thus, the Sabbath is different from every other day of the week. However, animals can’t recognize this difference. Nothing happens physically on that day to distinguish it from any other day of the week. On Sabbath the sun comes up and goes down, the wind blows, and the rain falls the same as on the other six days.
We humans also don’t recognize the difference in the Sabbath with our five senses. We know the Sabbath is different because we have intelligent minds that can understand God’s instructions. Thus the Sabbath is the one part of God’s creation that was designed especially for intelligent human beings. Jesus affirmed this when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).
It’s rather strange, then, that some Christians say it doesn’t make any difference which day a person keeps. All that matters is that we keep one day of the week. However, this idea ignores completely the major difference God placed on the Sabbath: He made it holy. And He was very specific about the day He had in mind. The last part of the fourth commandment says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10, NKJV; emphasis added).1 When we stop to think about it, God had to be specific about the day. How could He make one day of the week holy and not tell us which day it was?
Some Christians say, “I worship God every day.” That’s good! We ought to worship Him every day of the week. However, the commandment doesn’t say “Remember the Sabbath day to worship God.” It says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Worshiping God is one good way to keep the Sabbath holy, but that’s not the reason God gave for keeping the day. He told us to set aside the entire day as a time to turn from the regular duties of everyday life and spend it joyfully with Him.
There are also those who say they keep every day holy. However, these same people go to work every other day of the week, so whatever kind of holiness they attribute to those six days is not the same thing as the holiness God gave to the Sabbath. God Himself told us to work the other six days of the week. We can’t do that and at the same time keep those six days holy.
why a specific day?
Some people claim that God wouldn’t be so particular as to designate a specific day. However, that’s us telling God what He’s supposed to want when, in fact, it’s the other way around. God tells us what He wants. God was very particular about which spot of ground Moses was to consider holy. It was the ground right around that bush.
Suppose that when he was standing before the Lord at the burning bush Moses had said, “God, You know that grove of trees on the other side of the mountain where I talk to You each morning before going out to tend the sheep? Let’s meet there.” Then Moses dashes off to the other side of the mountain to meet with God. Would God have followed him? Of course not! When God said, “This ground is holy,” He meant the ground where Moses was standing—not some spot of Moses’ choosing.
When God identifies a particular object, time, or place and asks us to relate to it in a special way, He means that object, time, or place—and not one of our choosing.
The same is true of the Sabbath. God told us which day He made holy, and He expects us to keep that day, not a day we choose. God could, of course, change His mind about the day to keep, but there’s no evidence in either the Old or the New Testament that He ever did that.
but which day is it?
Some people claim that God gave the Ten Commandments 3,500 years ago, and with all the calendar changes since then, haven’t we lost track of which day is the seventh? That’s a good question, and there’s a good answer.
Have you ever wakened in the morning and thought it was Monday instead of Sunday? Or maybe you thought it was Thursday when in fact it was Friday. You may even have gotten into an argument with someone about which day it was till you checked with a calendar and found out that you’re the one who was misinformed.
That happens to all of us now and then. But it would be impossible for an entire nation of people to all wake up one morning and everyone be confused about the day of the week. The Jews as a nation have kept the Sabbath ever since God gave the Ten Commandments, and the seventh day of the week on today’s calendars is the day they keep.
There have been two calendar changes in the past 2,000 years. The first one, called the Julian calendar, was authorized by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. The seventh day of the week in that calendar was called Saturn’s day, from which we get the name Saturday. And historical records show that Saturn’s day was the day the Jews observed as the Sabbath in Christ’s time.
Pope Gregory XIII authorized the next calendar change in 1582. In this calendar, Thursday, October 4, was followed by Friday, October 15. The calendar on this page shows the change that was authorized by Gregory, and you will notice that it did not interrupt the weekly cycle.
Some Christians claim that Jesus’ apostles changed the Sabbath to Sunday. However, the evidence for that is totally lacking.
There’s no question about which day of the week is the Sabbath: it’s the seventh day, which corresponds more or less to Saturday.2 Since there’s no indication in the New Testament that God changed His mind about which day is the Sabbath, it’s clear that the Bible Sabbath is still the seventh day of the week.
The only question is whether you and I will keep it holy.
1. Scripture marked NKJV is taken from the New King James Version®.
2. The Sabbath corresponds “more or less” to Saturday, because the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday whereas Saturday begins and ends at midnight.