Key Passage: Exodus 20:8-11
Key Thought: Satan has desired to destroy the Sabbath from the very beginning of time, because in essence it was created to bring us into close relationship with the true God. It is this relationship that Satan has sought to destroy. In considering some of the methods over time that Satan has used to destroy this relationship, five different ways Satan has attacked the Sabbath through history are reviewed. Knowing Satan’s schemes can cause the people of God to choose to honor the Sabbath in spite of the efforts of Satan to turn people away from God’s holy day.
From the very beginning of the celebration of life on planet earth, Satan has made it his point to try to mess things up. The Bible tells us this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 NKJV)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV)
Should we have any question as to who this Word really is, Paul is very clear about Him in Colossians 1:16:
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (NKJV)
At the end of the creation week, Jesus made the Sabbath, and He made it not for one section of humanity or one particular race. Jesus stated quite plainly when He was on earth, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27)
The reason why God commanded us to observe the Sabbath day is: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11)
The Sabbath, therefore, is a memorial of the creation of the earth in six literal days, and God has established it as a sign of His creative power. Through the observance of it God purposed that man should always remember Him as the true and only God, the Creator of all things. Not only was the Sabbath to be a continual reminder of God’s creative power, but it was also given as a sign, or memorial, of our salvation in Christ.
The Bible says: “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” (Ezekiel 20:12 NKJV)
As Christ is the one who sanctifies His people, the Sabbath therefore becomes a sign of what Christ is to the believer. It is a memorial of our rest in Him, our rest from sin, of the completion of His work of full salvation in us. As such a memorial it is to endure forever.
Satan has desired to destroy the Sabbath from the very beginning of time, because in essence it was created to bring us into close relationship with the true God, and it was this relationship that he has sought to destroy. In considering some of the methods over time that Satan has used to destroy this relationship, I would suggest that there have been at least five different ways Satan has attacked the Sabbath. There are others, I am sure, but these five will help us recognize a number of the devil’s schemes. Often, Seventh-day Adventists have suggested that the Sabbath was under attack in the early Christian church, and it was, but it is my conviction that in much broader and more general ways, it was under attack immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, and has continued to be attacked throughout the history of our planet.
This message is entitled, “Sabbath Wrest.” (Not to be confused with Sabbath REST!) The dictionary defines the word “wrest” in this manner:
1. To pull or move by a forcible twisting movement.
2. To gain with difficulty by, or as if by force or violence.
We’re looking at the work of Satan, as we discover how He has worked to destroy our relationship with God.
The First Attack: The Pursuit of Pleasure (Hedonism)
This attack was discussed by Jesus as He told about what happened a the time of Noah and the flood. Let’s look at it together:
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away…” (Matthew 24:38-39)
Now the words of Jesus don’t seem so unusual—eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. We still do that today, don’t we? There must be more to what He was talking about. Indeed, when we go back to the book of Genesis, things get a bit more graphic, as Moses tells us what happened:
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,
that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose…Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”(Genesis 6:1-2,5)
The apostle Peter speaks of the flood of Noah in 1 Peter 3, and uses an analogy that further demonstrates that the pre-flood people on earth were hedonistic:
“For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)
Notice that we are counseled not to do the same thing they did, in the same flood of dissipation. You see, when we are pursuing pleasure and not God, we will be distracted from the Sabbath. God knew that, and counseled us to be careful about what we pursue.
The Second Attack: Serving Other Gods (Heathenism)
Perhaps you have wondered how it could be that people actually started serving any god other than the one true God, the one who spoke with Adam and Eve face to face, and the one they told their descendants about. Somehow it happened, and Joshua reports it like this:
And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river in old times, and they served other gods.'” (Joshua 24:2)
The father of Abraham… Think about it. How many generations were there before Abraham, anyway? It’s amazing to note how quickly idol worship came into practice. There were only 17 generations before Abraham, and his father was among those who served other gods. So intense was the problem with idol worship that when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, and God gave the ten commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the first two of those ten commandments had to do with idol worship:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” (Exodus 20:3-5)
If you go to the southern part of Israel today, near the Egyptian border, you can see an amazing site. The city of Arad has been the site of major excavation in the past few years. This city was among the first destroyed by Israel as they began to cross over into the promised land after their sojourn in the Egyptian desert. (You can read the story in Numbers 21.) Under the sand at the very highest point on this fortress of a city a complete replica of the sanctuary was uncovered. One can see the altar of sacrifice, as well as the most holy place. There are also the two tables of stone that were excavated at this site, sitting in the most holy place.
There is no mention of this sanctuary in the Bible. In fact, according to the Bible, they were not to have more than one sanctuary, but apparently, this one was built because of the distance the inhabitants would have to travel in order to get all the way to Jerusalem, and we have no biblical rebuke recorded for their practice. Unfortunately, on the site of this same city, you can also find an altar to Baal which was uncovered. Apparently, at the time the city was last inhabited, there was simultaneous worship of the God of heaven along with Baal.
It is interesting to see the direct association between the worship of idols and the breaking of the Sabbath in the following verses:
“O LORD, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things. Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods?’ Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; and they shall know that My name is the LORD….” (Jeremiah 16:19-21)
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.’ But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction….But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” (Jeremiah 17:21-23,27)
Idol worship and Sabbath keeping simply don’t fit in the same sentence! The Sabbath is a continual weekly reminder that God alone is our creator, and He alone deserves our worship. Yet as we consider Satan’s attack on the Sabbath, it is evident that leading people to worship other gods was an effective attack on the Sabbath.
The Third Attack: Rules & Regulations (Legalism)
During the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites learned their lesson regarding idolatry. Their revulsion against images became so strong and was so lasting that centuries later, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews considered even the ensigns of the Roman army as defiling. They went so far as to destroy the golden eagle on Herod’s Temple, and every effort was made to isolate themselves from every influence that might lead toward idolatry.
After the Babylonian captivity, Israel eventually learned its lesson regarding the importance of honoring the Sabbath, but unfortunately, they took their piety to an extreme. During the inter-testamental period, the Pharisees bound the Sabbath about with a multitude of trivial regulations that made the day a burden instead of a blessing. These burdensome regulations, later codified in what is called the Mishnah, constituted a part of the tradition that Jesus so vigorously opposed throughout His ministry. The Mishnah lists 39 kinds of labor not to be performed upon the Sabbath day, and there were countless other minute Sabbath regulations.
Forbidden were such acts as tying or loosening a knot, writing as much as two letters of the alphabet or erasing in order to make space for two letters, lighting a fire or putting one out. The best-known Sabbath regulation concerned the so-called “Sabbath day’s journey” of about two-thirds of a mile. It was also counted as Sabbath-breaking to look into a mirror fixed on the wall. An egg laid on the Sabbath might be sold to a Gentile, but not eaten, and a Gentile could be hired to light a candle or a fire on the Sabbath. It was not permitted to carry a handkerchief on the Sabbath unless one end of it was sewn to one’s garment—in which case it was no longer technically a handkerchief but a part of the garment. The rabbis thus emphasized the negative aspect of Sabbath observance, and in so doing magnified the importance of the forms of religion while minimizing its substance. They made the Sabbath an end in itself and bound man in slavery to it. These negative, hairsplitting regulations served effectively to obscure the true purpose of the Sabbath.
The Fourth Attack: Earth Worship (Paganism)
Another way the devil has diverted man’s attention away from the Sabbath is through paganism. If you go to the Internet today, you can quickly discover that paganism, often thought of as a religion from the early Roman empire, has now resurfaced among the major players in modern religions. The following is some information that was found on a pagan web site:
Q: What is Paganism?
A: Paganism is any religion which honors the Earth. Pagans can be atheist, pantheist, polytheistic, or monotheistic. When Christianity first arose in the Roman Empire, the word “pagan” was used to describe those that had yet to convert to the newly formed monotheistic religion. In later centuries, those who had not yet converted lived on the outskirts of the cities, so the word “pagan” stood for “country dweller”. But in the modern world, being a pagan means you’re a follower of any earth-based religion. – from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/5982/faq.html
In this explanation of paganism, it mentions that pagans can be atheistic, meaning they believe there is no God. Or they can be pantheistic, meaning they believe god is everywhere, and they worship nature in a general sense. They could also be polytheistic, meaning they worship many gods. Interestingly, they could also be monotheistic, meaning they worship only one god.
All this confirms the suspicion that the devil will be happy with whatever you wish to believe, as long as you don’t worship the God of heaven – the one and only true God, and forgetting the Sabbath would certainly help the devil achieve his goals!
Paganism is one of the oldest systems of religion known to humanity. Its origins lie in European pre-history, and its traditions are premised on a view that Nature is sacred, an attitude which was widely represented in the deification of the Earth as the Great Mother Goddess. The term “pagan” comes from the Latin pagani, meaning “people of the fields” or “people of the land”, since the ancient traditions of Goddess-worship and Nature spirituality were held longest by the rural populations of Europe.
Again, from the devil’s point of view, it really wouldn’t matter about your religious preference, as long as you choose to ignore the one true God who created the Sabbath as a reminder for all that He is the source of all life!
By the way, it is significant to note that modern-day spiritualism is little more than paganism with a facelift to make it more appealing. The teachings of paganism are commonly known as new age, Wicca, witchcraft, Satan worship, or a large variety of eastern religions.
The Fifth Attack: False Teachings within the Church
Perhaps one of the most incredible schemes of the devil was that of not just having alternative religions to distract people from the worship of the one true God, but to actually infiltrate God’s very church with confusion and false teachings, which could effectively accomplish the same purposes. By creating religious traditions that distract from the worship of the true God, he could create a church that believed it was honoring the God of heaven, while actually substituting the worship of false gods and pagan traditions. This created another form of the same problem Jesus addressed when he talked about the problems among the religious leaders of His day:
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:6-9 NIV)
Throughout the dark ages, many traditions crept into the church that had their roots, not in the Bible, but in pagan traditions. This was the very issue that caused the friends of Daniel in the time of Nebucadnezzar to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. They chose to honor God’s law, which plainly stated, “Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image… Thou shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…” (Exodus 20:4-5)
Yet when you look at what happened in the church since the time of Christ, you discover that many of the images that are found in churches, even today, are really not even Christian in origin, but are rather images that were worshiped in pagan religions, and were brought into the church and given Christian names such as Peter or Paul or other well-known Bible characters. It was thought in the early Christian church that this would somehow make it easier to convert the pagans, but the net effect was to make the word of God in the Bible to be a lie.
Perhaps the most audacious attack from within the church since the time of Christ was the transferring of the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday. It was concluded that if the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the church were to ever come into conflict, the teachings of the church should prevail. Here is a typical quotation that reflects this belief that the church was actually above the Bible:
The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed the Sabbath into Sunday…not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority. –Canon and Tradition, p. 263.
Following are a few examples of the church using its authority to create traditions that actually have no basis in scripture, and in fact, are opposed to clear teachings in the Bible:
Sabbath to Sunday
Sunday is founded, not on scripture, but on tradition, and is a distinctly Catholic institution.
Veneration of Saints
Immortality of the Soul
Confession to Priests
Sabbath Wrest… W-R-E-S-T, has been happening since the very beginning of sin on this planet. It is a major object of the devil’s attack in his goal to turn people away from the God of heaven.
Realizing these things actually brings us to the point of needing to make a personal decision. Are we going to follow Jesus or Satan? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and the Bible teaches that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
We’re really choosing to follow the Bible or tradition, God’s law or human rules, Jesus’ teachings or human thoughts, divine command or human substitute, truth or error, genuine or counterfeit, God’s way or man’s way.
The choice is ours, and today, I would like to invite you to be decisive about your choice. Please take one of the “My Decision for Christ” cards* from the pew rack. As we close our service today, I would like to invite you to make several very important decisions.
* If do not have a decision card you routinely use for sermon appeals, you may wish to consider doing something along this line. If you would like a sample of what Glenn Holland currently uses in his sermons, send an e-mail request to Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Glenn Holland. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines. This sermon is also available with PowerPoint slides! For information, see www.adventsource.org or send an email requesting information directly to the author, Glenn Holland.