Human beings have traditionally honored men and women who make significant contributions to the human family. We remember George Washington’s birthday, named an airport after JFK, built a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, and put Queen Elizabeth’s picture on currency.
But there is an individual who’s done far more for mankind than any of the great or famous people we commonly recognize; someone who’s a greater inventor, artist, humanitarian and philanthropist than any of the human beings we normally honor. And yet most of the time we fail to properly appreciate and remember all that he’s contributed to the human race.
Just who is this powerful and talented individual who’s given us so much? By now you’ve probably guessed: He’s the Creator and Maker of this universe, the one who’s done more for mankind than all the Nobel prizewinners and great men who have ever lived: the one who took the time and trouble to make us and everything around us!
We like to remember men, but God wants to be remembered, too, not for reasons of ego, but for a very different reason. And God has set up His own memorial to that end.
People usually don’t get to decide what kind of memorial they’ll have after they’re dead. But God is alive, and He’s decided what His memorial is to be. It’s not just a few words carved in stone or written on parchment somewhere, but a living, dynamic reminder of what He has done in the past, what He’s doing now, and what He’s going to do in the future.
This memorial to God is the Sabbath day. It’s a memorial to Him. But, also a generous gift to humanity. Mark 2:27 tells us: “The Sabbath was made for man.”
In Genesis, the first chapter, God reveals Himself as the Creator and Giver of all good things: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There’s an awful lot contained in that short statement, mankind is only now beginning to scratch the surface of the complex and wonderful world God put together. Think about it. Everything you see around you, from the gigantic and ancient sequoia trees to the smallest and short-lived gnat, was designed, given life and brought into balance with the rest of the incredibly complex environment by the Great Creator God. God’s fantastic magnum opus includes the stars, the sun, and this floating greenhouse we call the earth that goes hurtling through space in orbit around the sun. It includes our weather patterns, our oceans, and all the teeming life forms that inhabit this planet.
Now if a person or a company had done what God did, developed a fly, or a bird, or a tree, for example, how much publicity do you think they’d want to receive? But God humbly summarizes these mind-bending accomplishments in just a few paragraphs in the book of Genesis. And after that brief summary, He inspired these words to be written: “On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all 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” (Gen. 2:2-3).
Now why did God insert a day of rest into this seven-day cycle of creation? He could have rested on the first day, or the 5th. He could have ended the cycle at six days. But God inserted an extra day in which He did nothing in the way of creating.
So why the Sabbath? What is it for? Just this: The seventh day is an integral part of the same process of creation. It symbolized the fact that God is still creating, the crowning part of His creation is still incomplete. And the Sabbath day is a memorial to that creation process.
As a reminder and memorial of creation, it shows us that God is still the Creator and the Life-giver, and that His process of creation for us is not finished. The Sabbath reminds us that it is God’s intention to give us physical life now as human beings and life eternal later on as spirit beings. So the Sabbath is a reminder of a life-producing sequence that is as yet incomplete.
In the account of Adam and Eve, God said of the epitome of His creation, humanity: “Let us create man in our image, after our likeness, let us make him like us.”
Well, people are certainly not like God now. We might have the general form and shape of God, and we might, to a limited degree, have some of His attributes and qualities, but we don’t have the character or power of God. When we compare ourselves to Him, we are quite limited. But our potential for growth in this direction is limitless.
In the Bible God reveals Himself over and over again as a multibillionaire trying to give something good away to humanity. God tried to bring the nation of ancient Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey, the “glory of all lands.”
But the people then, and people nowadays, stand back and try to second-guess this multibillionaire, saying, “Hmm I wonder what He’s after.” He wants to give us everything- ultimately: the good life He has, including a purpose in life, palatial surroundings, a sense of achievement and contribution, and joy, forever and ever.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, that God is having such a hard time giving all these good things away? Human beings seem to always say, “Aw, forget that, I want to live my life my own way.”
If you met a rich man, one of the first questions you might ask him is, “How did you make your money?” “Have you got any tips for me?” These are natural questions, and they’re questions God answered for ancient Israel. He showed them how wealth could be acquired. He gave them a system, told them how it was done, He didn’t hold anything back. Then he said, “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them” (Ezk. 20:12). God is the source of instruction in how to live; the source of all good things!
But ancient Israel wanted to do it “their way.” And God told them over and over again through the mouth of His prophets, “Remember that I am the Lord your God,” keep my judgments, “walk in my statutes, and hallow my Sabbaths.” But Israel didn’t do these things; they failed to keep His Sabbath and gradually lost contact with Him. Similarly, those who today fail to keep the Sabbaths have lost the connections link between man and God. And when man forgets the Sabbath, He’s in trouble. So every time Israel forgot God, they got in trouble. They polluted His Sabbath, ignored His laws, and began to follow the practices of the pagan nations around them, even going so far as to practice infant sacrifice. God’s warning came to pass: “I swore that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes” (Ezk. 20:23-24).
The book of Lamentations is a pitiful account of how far Israel fell when they forgot who God was. The Bible says that all scripture is inspired by God for our instruction. So, what does the book of Lamentations teach you and me today? It shows how far a nation can sink into depravity, even cannibalism, once they forget their Maker.
And God wants us, for our benefit, never to forget that. That’s why He gave us the Sabbath. That’s what it’s all about. Such a memorial is worth remembering.