The Present Truth : October 8, 1896
It is with singing that the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion. The song of victory is an evidence of faith, by which the just shall live. The exhortation is, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” Hebrews 10.35. “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3.14. The Israelites had started well. “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land.” On the other shore they had sung the song of victory. True, they were still in the wilderness; but faith is “the victory that hath overcome the world,” and they had just received the most wonderful evidence of the power of God to carry them safely through. Had they but gone on singing that song of victory, they would speedily have come to Zion.
But they had not yet perfectly learned the lesson. They could trust the Lord as far as they could see Him, but no further. They “provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left. Then believed they His words; they sang His praise; they soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel.” Psalm 111.7-13
Only three days’ journey in the wilderness without water sufficed to make them forget all that the Lord had done for them. When they found water, it was so bitter that they could not drink it, and then they murmured. This difficulty was easily remedied by the Lord, who showed Moses a tree which, when cast into the bitter waters, made them sweet. “There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them.” Exodus 15.25
Encamped by the palm trees and wells of Elim, they had nothing to vex them, so that it must have been nearly a month before they murmured again. During that time they doubtless felt very well satisfied with themselves, as well as with their surroundings. Now they surely trusted the Lord! It is so easy for us to imagine that we are making progress when we are only lying at anchor, and the tide is flowing past us; so natural to think that we have learned to trust the Lord, when there are no trials to test our faith.
It was not long before the people not only forgot the power of the Lord, but they were ready to deny that He had ever had anything to do with them. It was only a month and a half after their leaving Egypt that they came to the wilderness of Sin, “which is between Elim and Sinai,” “and the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness; and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
“Then said the Lord 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 and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of Egypt; and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that He heareth your murmurings against the Lord; and what are we, that ye murmur against us?” Verses 4-7.
The next morning when the dew was gone, “behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost upon the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna; for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.” Verses 14-18.
“And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank; and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every man according to his eating; and when the sun waxed hot it melted.” Verses 19-21.
“And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for every man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord; 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. And Moses said, eat that to day: for to day is a Sabbath unto the Lord; to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.” Verses 22-26.
“And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the Sabbath the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of His place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.” Verses 27-30.
We now have the entire story before us, and can study its lessons in detail. Remember that this was not written for the sake of those who participated in it, but for us. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” If they failed to learn the lesson that God designed they should from the event, there is so much the more reason for us to learn it from the record.
The Lord said that He would prove the people, whether they would walk in His law or not. And the special thing upon which they were tested was the Sabbath. If they would keep this, there was no doubt that they would keep the whole law. The Sabbath, therefore, was the crucial test of the law of God, Even so it is now, as the following points that we have already learned will show: —
1. The people were being delivered in pursuance of the covenant made with Abraham. See Exodus 6.3, 4. That covenant had been confirmed with an oath, and the time of the promise, which God had sworn to Abraham, had come near. Abraham kept God’s law, and it was on this account that the promise was continued to his descendants. Genesis 26.3-5. The Lord said to Isaac that He would perform all the oath that He swore unto Abraham his father, “Because that Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Now when God was bringing the children of Abraham out of Egypt, in fulfillment of that oath, He proposed to test them to see if they also would walk in His law; and the point upon which He tested them was the Sabbath. This therefore proves beyond all controversy that the Sabbath was kept by Abraham, and that it was in the covenant made with him. It was a part of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had before he was circumcised.
2. “If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Now since the Sabbath—the very same one that the Israelites kept in the wilderness, and which the descendants of Jacob have kept, or professed to, until this day—was in the covenant made with Abraham, it follows that it is the Sabbath for Christians to keep.
3. We have already learned that our hope is the very same that was set before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the children of Israel. “The hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers,” was that for which the Apostle Paul was judged (Acts 26.6); and the promise to the faithful is that they shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. The Lord has set His hand the second time to deliver the remnant of His people and therefore the test of obedience at this time is the same that it was at the beginning. The Sabbath is the memorial of God’s power as Creator and Sanctifier; and in the message that announces the hour of God’s Judgment at hand, the everlasting Gospel, which is the preparation for the end, is preached in the words, “Worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14.6, 7
This test was made before the law was spoken from Sinai, and before the people had reached that place. Yet we find that every feature of the law was already known. So far was the giving of the law from Sinai from being the first announcement of it, that more than a month before that event the children of Israel were tasted upon it; and the words, “How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?” show that they had known it a long time, and had often broken it through their unbelief.
When we come to the events connected with the giving of the law, we shall be able to see more clearly than now that the Sabbath, which the Jews were, expected to keep could not by any possibility be affected by the death of Christ, but that it was for ever identified with the Gospel, centuries before the crucifixion. In this connection, however, we must note one point in regard to the definiteness of the Sabbath day.
The people were told, “Six days shall ye gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.” This is the very same expression that is used in the fourth commandment, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work.” Many people have been led to believe that the commandment is not definite in its requirement, and that the Sabbath is not by it fixed to one particular day of the week, but that any day of the week will answer, provided it is preceded by six days of labor. The account of the giving of the manna shows that this is a mistaken idea, and that the commandment requires not simply an indefinite seventh part of time, but the seventh day of the week.
The giving of the manna showed most positively that the Sabbath day was definite, and that it was not left for man to decide which day it is. Moreover is showed that “the seventh day” does not mean the seventh part of time, but a definitely recurring day. If “the seventh day” means one seventh part of time, then “the sixth day” would at the same time mean the sixth part of time; but if the children of Israel had proceeded upon that assumption, they would have been in difficulty the first thing.
There is but one period of seven days, and that is the week, which was known from the creation. God worked six days, and in those first six days He finished the work of creation; “and He rested the seventh day from His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” Genesis 2.2, 3. Therefore, when God says that the seventh day is the Sabbath, He means that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, the day that is commonly known as Saturday. The sixth day, upon which the children of Israel were to prepare for the Sabbath, is the sixth day of the week, commonly called Friday.
This is also settled beyond all controversy by the account of the crucifixion and burial of Christ, where we are told that the women came to the sepulcher “in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (Matthew 28.1); and by another writer that it was “when the Sabbath was past.” Mark 16.1. We refer to these texts to show that the first day of the week immediately follows the Sabbath, and that no time intervened between the close of the Sabbath and the visit of the women to the sepulcher. Now when we read the record in Luke, we learn that when Christ was buried “that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.” The women came and saw where He was laid, “and they returned, and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” And “upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher.” Luke 23.54-56; 24.1
The Sabbath followed “the preparation,” and immediately preceded “the first day of the week.” Therefore the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week. And it was “the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” Therefore the Sabbath of the commandment is none other than the seventh day of the week. This was the day, which God marked out in the most special manner as the Sabbath, by performing wonderful miracles in its honor for forty years. Let this fact be well considered. Let it be remembered that whenever in the Bible the Sabbath is spoken of, the seventh day of the week, and that only, is meant. That long before the days of Moses, this Sabbath of the fourth commandment, together with the whole law, was inseparably connected with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will be very apparent as we proceed in our study.