The Meaning of Remembering the Holy Day
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)
It is impossible for man to know God with his own wisdom. There is no way for man to come to know God’s attributes with his own imagination because there is a huge difference between God and man. So God has to teach us. If He doesn’t teach us, we can never come to know God. We don’t even know other people’s hearts, let alone know God’s. Since His attributes and standards are so different from ours, we cannot possibly work out what God actually wants. That is why God is demanding what He wants. He doesn’t demand moderately but teaches us just how important those demands are. How important they are and, therefore, how much we ought to listen to what God is saying. Otherwise, we cannot be with Him. A couple that lives together needs to see eye to eye and be of one accord. Otherwise, how can they live together?
In order to reveal Himself to man, God gave the Law, and the commandment of the Sabbath teaches us just how much God emphasizes holiness. How important is holiness? For man to be together with God, the most important, above all else, is holiness. That is what we can notice from the beginning of the Bible. Though God created light on the first day, He did not dwell in that light. Even though the light was beautiful, He did not dwell in it. He created the expanse but didn’t dwell in it. The same goes for everything else. He created animals, birds, and man, but He did not dwell with them.
But on the last day, after He finished His work, He blessed the day and made it holy, and rested on that day. He was with that day. He was with the day that He hallowed. And then He made man remember that day. Where does God dwell? What does He dwell with? It is neither a place nor somewhere beautiful; He dwells together with holiness. He is teaching that He dwells with holiness. Thus to teaching man to keep the Sabbath as a holy day was for man to realize this. Without holiness, God cannot abide with us. Without holiness, it is impossible to meet God. For one to be with God, he must be holy. Abraham received the promise that God will be with him and his descendants. Yet, for that promise to be fulfilled, holiness had to be attained first.
God commanded the people to observe the Sabbath, but they misunderstood the purpose. They believed that they would become holy if they observed the Sabbath. Of course, in the beginning, they didn’t keep the Sabbath properly and were severely punished. After that, they realized they have to keep the Sabbath properly. But as they did so, they started to think mistakenly that the Sabbath itself makes a man holy. They believed that they would become holy if they observed the Sabbath. Likewise, they regarded anyone who didn’t keep the Sabbath as unclean.
Hence they lost sight of the essential meaning. The Sabbath cannot make man holy. Though the Sabbath is a holy day, the holy day cannot make man holy. If the holy day was able to make man holy, then a person can simply come to church on the Lord’s day and just remember that it is the Lord’s day because in doing so, he would become holy, wouldn’t he? But that’s not true. Even if a person came to church and worshipped, he could become unclean. He might worship in the morning, but go out with his friends in the afternoon and defile himself. Or he could fall into temptation while he is worshipping and become defiled. Therefore the holy day itself does not make a person clean. However, that’s what people believed for a long time – that the holy day can make man holy.
Also, they believed that the temple can make a man holy. This is what the Catholics believe even today. They believe that if they go to the worship place for mass, then regardless of what they have done, they would become holy if they eat the bread and drink the cup. That’s what they believe. It is a temple-centered faith. That is religiousness. Religiousness is something all worldly people have. That is why people that go to Buddhist temples believe they have faith just because they go to the temple. It doesn’t matter what they did or whatever evil they harbor in their minds. They simply think they are different because of the fact they go to a temple. Catholics likewise believe that. However, we know that the particular day cannot make man holy. Even the temple cannot make man holy.
Thus Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”. In other words, the way a man can become holy on this day is through Jesus, the Son of Man. Otherwise, he cannot become holy, even if it is the holy day. So if the holy day cannot make man holy, why did God command man to keep the holy day? It was to make man realize that God dwelt on the holy day and was with the holy day and that He blessed that day and hallowed it. Therefore man must become holy too, and understand what holiness is. We have to determine ourselves to become holy. The one who makes us holy is Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”. He is Lord of every other day as well. But in particular, the day that He resurrected is called the Lord’s Day, the day of the Lord.
Therefore the Lord’s Day is not a weekend. Chinese people normally call the Lord’s Day 主日 (Lord’s Day), but some people say 周日 (Sunday or weekday). When translated into Korean, they both have the same pronunciation. If a person has learned about God’s word and Berea, he must not say 周日 (Sunday) anymore. He ought to call it 主日 (Lord’s Day) because 周日 (Sunday or weekday) means a day of the sun. Lord’s Day (主日) means the day of the Lord, but 周日 means a day of the sun, just like every other day of the week – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. This word is derived from worshipping the sun. Therefore we must not use the word Sunday. It is the Lord’s Day.
It is our Lord who sanctifies us. It is Jesus who makes us holy. The day itself doesn’t make us holy. But the reason we must keep this day is to remember that holiness. The Lord dwells in holiness. And we want to become holy through Jesus. What we are trying to achieve by coming to church on the Lord’s day is to become holy through Jesus. And even if our hearts became defiled, we come before the Lord to restore that holiness. What is holiness? It is life. We have to have life to become clean. Therefore, we become renewed and filled with the Holy Spirit to start a new week.
The Lord’s Day is holy and so was the Sabbath in the Old Testament times. For us now, the Lord’s Day is the holy day. The Lord’s Day is the beginning of the week, not the end. If it was the last day of the week, we wouldn’t be able to come unless we were successful throughout the whole week, would we? Of course, we have to be successful in our lives throughout the week to come on the next Lord’s Day. But if we were not successful during the week, can we not come on the Lord’s Day? No, we can. Why? Because this is the first day of the week not the last. It is not a day of evaluating everything for the week. It is the start of the week that we come to the Lord.
Thus a sinner comes before the Lord at the start of the week, receiving new life and a new chance to start off a new week. Let’s say we didn’t do well for that week. It’s possible. But we start next week anew. We start another week. That is why it is good that we have the Lord’s Day. Every Lord’s Day we can be renewed and set our hearts anew. How great is it when you have a good sleep and wake up? Sometimes you feel sad at night. The word sad has the same meaning as tired in Greek. That is why the Bible says the disciples were sleeping from sorrow, didn’t it? Yes, sorrow also means tired or sleepy.
Sometimes we find ourselves feeling gloomy and down. It’s highly probably that it may be from a lack of sleep. There are times when we feel miserable. It may be because of the habit of sleeping late at night. If this is you, go to bed early. Don’t let yourself feel miserable longer but sleep early. When you wake up in the morning, you won’t feel miserable. Actually, you are full of energy and happiness in the morning. Do you go to bed late? Wake up early in the morning, and you will have energy. And when the sun goes down, go to bed. Just as your miserable heart is refreshed and renewed in the morning, the Lord’s Day similarly gives us new opportunities. Isn’t it great?
What we have to remember on the Lord’s Day is this: I must be holy and let the Lord abide with me and freely work within me. The more holy you are, the more He can do that. It is easy for us to think of moralistic uprightness when we say holiness. However, that is only a metaphor. True holiness is when we are filled with Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with grace through Jesus, we are holy. When we remember the grace of God, the grace of Jesus, and everything God has bestowed on us through grace, we are holy. Therefore on the Lord’s Day, we remember, “I am the one who has received grace”. We are given another chance. Let us pray that we will be those who long for holiness and therefore let God work freely through us.
God our Father, when we don’t have this holiness, we cannot give the Lord a chance to work and restrain Him. However, by acknowledging the grace the Lord has given us, help us to always be bold, acknowledge and experience the Lord’s promise, and experience the Lord at work all the time. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center