Old Testament

Three Women and a Baby

Joy Bible Institute Chapel • Thursday, 7 May 2020
J. Gary Ellison

NIVO Exodus 2:1-11 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.

INTRODUCTION

What is it like to raise a child in difficult times? How do you keep your children safe when the world is not a safe place? Where do parents get the resources to raise godly children in an ungodly world?

We find in this second chapter of Exodus the story of three women and a baby.

1. A Mother

The first woman’s name is Jochebed. We get her name from

ESV Exodus 6:20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.

We know that Aaron was three years older than Moses.

ESV Exodus 7:7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

So when we come to Exodus 2, Aaron would have been about three years old. It does not seem that he had been in danger of the Pharaoh’s order.

We have seen in chapter 1

  • how God’s blessing had multiplied the children of Israel
  • how the Egyptians had seen this population growth of the Israelites as a growing threat,
  • how Pharaoh had put cruel taskmasters over the Israelites to try to work them to death,
  • how the blessing of God had thus made life bitter,
  • how Pharaoh then instituted his gender selection policy to have all the male children killed by the midwives and how that did not work.

Then we come to the end of chapter 1 where we read,

ESV Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

It was in this context that we read that Jochebed became pregnant.

What was it like for a Hebrew woman to be pregnant in Egypt at this time? What was it like for Jochebed to realize that she was pregnant? Jochebed and Amran had been married for several years. They already had a young daughter, and three years before Jochebed had given birth to a son whom they named Aaron. But that was before Pharaoh’s edict to kill the newborn males. Pharaoh’s ethnic cleansing policy, his command to all his people to throw newborn Hebrew males into the Nile river, was new.

  • It had been bad enough that the slave masters had made life bitter for the Israelites. But they had been able to endure it.
  • It was worse that the midwives had been instructed to kill the male children. Those women feared God and not the king.
  • But now, Pharaoh had commanded all his people to take the male babies of the Hebrews and to throw them into the river.

What was it like for Amran and Jochebed to know that she was pregnant? In other circumstances, the awareness that they were going to have another child would have been a subject of great joy. They would have seen this as the blessing of the Lord even as God had been multiplying the nation. Now God would be using them to fulfill His promises.

But what it if were a boy? How had they prayed during those months of waiting? Had they prayed that God would give them a girl and not a boy? Had Pharaoh’s edict turned a subject of great joy into a great worry?

And then the day came. Jochebed gave birth to a baby boy. What would this mother do? What did she say when the midwives announced to her that it was a boy? “Oh, no! Not a boy!” Was she fearful? What would she do? What would they do?

It would be very dangerous to defy the king’s edict. If it were discovered that they were hiding a male child, the penalty could be very severe.

Was Amran on the same page with her? Were they in complete agreement about the child, about running the risk of keeping the baby boy?

How are we to face uncertain days? How did Amran and Jochebed face an uncertain future? With fear? Or with faith?

The writer to the Hebrews gives us the answer:

ESV Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

They were not fearful, nor were they foolish. They did not parade the baby boy around for everyone to see, singing, “We are not afraid.”

They were motivated, not by fear but by faith. By faith, they hid the child for three months. They hid him to protect him.

Faith Sees What Fear Cannot See

Verse 2 tells has a strange explanation in it:

ESV Exodus 2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months.

Translators hardly know how to translate this verse.

  • ESV: a fine child (NIV, NIVO)
  • NAU: beautiful (CSB)
  • NET: a healthy child
  • NLT: a special child
  • FR: beau (all French versions)
  • BSL: i gud tumas

Maybe that’s the best translation. The word in Hebrew is טוֹב, tov and is used 300 times in the Old Testament, seven times in Genesis 1 where God saw that it was “good.”

Again, Hebrews 11:23 says, “they saw that the child was beautiful.”

Steven in his final sermon in Acts 7 tell us:

ESV Acts 7:20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house,

Did you see that? Hebrews tells us that the parents “saw that the child was beautiful.” Steven tells us that “he was beautiful in God’s sight.” That tells us that the parents saw what God saw.

The parents saw what God saw.

  • God saw that the child was beautiful.
  • The parents saw what God saw.

When you look at your child, do you see what God sees?

God says things like this:

ESV Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Believers through the ages have said things like this:

ESV Job 10:8 Your hands fashioned and made me…

ESV Job 10:11 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

ESV Psalm 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

ESV Psalm 119:73 Your hands have made and fashioned me…

ESV Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

When you look at a child, what do you see? When you look at your child, what do you see? Do you see what God sees? Do you see that God has created that child with purpose and destiny?

It is clear from the Scriptures that abortion is a terrible sin against God. The child in the womb is God’s handiwork. However that child was conceived, it is God Himself who is making that child in His image.

Amram and Jochebed saw what God saw. And because they saw what God saw, they did everything they could to protect that child from the evil king.

2. Child in the Nile, Baby in the Boat

Jochebed and her husband hid him until they could hide him no longer. In case you did not know it, babies have a tendency to cry. Little babies have a little cry, but big babies make a big noise. This baby would soon be discovered. They baby’s life was in danger, and so were the lives of Amram and Jochebed. Something had to be done.

Pharaoh had commanded, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (1:22). So this baby would be put into the Nile! But not without protection.

NIVO Exodus 2:3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.

The baby was protected from the elements. He was placed in a safe place among the reeds. Now the child was completely in God’s hands.

There are times when a parent has done all that he or she can do. You have taken care of your child. You have protected it, fed it, nourished it and done everything to insure its health and success, but then you can do no more. How many times have you taken your little one to the doctor because you could do nothing else? You entrust your child to God and to others to do what you cannot do, to heal what you cannot heal, to fix what you cannot fix. This too is part of faith.

With a heavy heart she must have made the basket and made it waterproof. How difficult was it for Jochebed to put her baby in that basket? How did her heart break to leave him there in the waters of the Nile?

I imagine that she nursed her baby boy one last time and put him in the basket made of bulrushes or papyrus. She took him to the place and mixed her tears with the waters of the Nile.

The word here used for basket is tébâ ‎תֵּבַת (Exodus 2:3 WTT). It is only used here and one other place in the Bible. It is found in Genesis 6:14 where God instructed Noah to build an ark. Noah built the world’s largest ark and covered it inside and out with pitch. Jochebed build the world’s smallest ark and covered it with tar and pitch. Noah’s ark would save the human family from the judgment of God. Jochebed’s ark would save the baby who would deliver the people of God from Egypt.

3. Big Sister

We now read that the baby boy has a big sister, not very big, but bigger than him. This is the first time we see this sister, but it will not be the last time. We read about this family in Numbers:

ESV Numbers 26:59 The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed… And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister.

It is estimated that Miriam was six to twelve years old. How often had big sister helped her mother with the baby boy? Had she changed him? Had she bathed him? Had she held him and rocked him to sleep?

What had her mother told her about Pharaoh’s decree? Did Miriam know that her baby brother was in danger? How many times had she asked her mother, “What’s going to happen to him?”

Miriam would be part of the plan. She would be the first Israeli spy!

NIVO Exodus 2:4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Miriam was old enough to carry on a conversation, and she was able to do it in Egyptian, a second language. But she was young enough not to stir up suspicion. Who would suspect a little girl walking along the river bank of being a spy?

No doubt she was following her mother’s instructions and her heart as she stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

4. A Daughter Who Was a Princess

Miriam, the daughter of Jochebed, was soon to meet the daughter of Pharaoh.

NIVO Exodus 2:5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.

The waters of the Nile were considered sacred. This princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, had probably come to the river to a ceremonial cleansing rather than simply a bath.

But then she saw something strange. Something in the reeds. A floating basket. She sent one of her attendants to get it.

NIVO Exodus 2:6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

This is not what she was expecting. She had not come to the Nile to find a basket with a baby, but a crying baby in front of her feminine eyes provoke motherly instincts and feelings of compassion for the child.

Why was it here? Why was it in this basket? Who had put it here? There could only be one answer. This had to be one of the Hebrew babies. Someone had hidden this baby in the basket to protect it from her very own father! It was her father who had ordered the killing of the Hebrew baby boys.

This princess no doubt knew of her father’s concerns. She no doubt knew of his edict that Hebrew baby boys were to be cast into the river. Well, here was a Hebrew baby boy in the river, just as her father had commanded. Immediately there was a bonding with this infant. But what to do? She could hardly take the baby boy home. “Dad, look what I found in the river!” “Throw it back!”

Just then, in steps Miriam.

NIVO Exodus 2:7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

Where did this come from? Where did Miriam get these words? Had she rehearsed them with her mother? Were they expecting the princess?

Or were these words given by the Spirit’s inspiration? After the crossing of the Red Sea, Miriam will be called “the prophetess”:

NIVO Exodus 15:20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you”?

If her words were not according to the careful plan and instruction of her mother, then her inward prompting must have come from God—not a moment too soon or too late, with not a word too many or too few!”[1]

Perhaps it was these very words of Miriam that put the idea of adoption in the heart of the princess.

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“One of the Hebrew women.” Did the princess see through this? Did she discern that this little girl was not just any little girl walking along the river bank, but perhaps the baby’s own sister? Did she understand that Miriam would bring back not just any Hebrew woman, but the boy’s very own mother? Did the princess willingly go along?

One word in the Hebrew: “Go.” “Yes, go.”

I can imagine Miriam trying to maintain her composure. She walks home, quickly, without running. She gets to the house, “Mom! Mom! You’ll never believe what just happened! Come, you’ve got to come!”

She tells her Mom the whole story while they hurry to the river.

ESV Exodus 2:9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

Jochebed tries to act normal. “Sure, I can babysit for you. I’ll nurse the child for you. Salary? Oh, right. Whatever the going rate is, that will be fine.”

“The woman took the child.” Not “the mother.” Of course, it was his mother, but did the princess know that? Does she know that she is paying wages to the child’s mother to nurse him?

Steven tells us:

ESV Acts 7:21-22 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

Now the big question is: How do you get a deliverer for the Hebrews from a boy who is brought up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians? How does that happen?

The Nurturing of a Deliverer

Notice these two phrases side by side:

ESV Exodus 2:9-10 …So the woman [Jochebed] took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son…

How much time elapsed between the time when Jochebed took the child and brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter? How much time did Jochebed have with her son as “the child grew older”?

The princess would have to wait until the boy was older. She would have to wait until her father, the Pharaoh, would be able to accept it. How much time did the boy’s mother have to invest in this baby boy?

All indications are that Jochebed did not have much time, perhaps a very few years. But Steven is clear:

Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.

Verse 11 is very instructive.

NIVO Exodus 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.

Steven tells us that he was forty years old when this happened:

ESV Acts 7:23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.

“His own people.” “His brothers.” “It came into his heart…”

I thought that he was Egyptian. I thought that he was raised as an Egyptian. He was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Later when he flees to Midian, the daughters of Reuel refer to Moses as an Egyptian:

NIVO Exodus 2:19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

He must look and dress like an Egyptian. But no, he is a Hebrew. How is it that Moses, forty years after being fished out of the Nile and brought up as an Egyptian, identifies with “his own people,” “his brothers”?

I will tell you in one word. It was his mother.

During those few short years, while nursing little Moses, she would sing him songs about the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This is not written in the text, but this is what must have happened.

  • Jochebed told her son how God had called his many times great grandfather Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and had promised him a land and a family that would be like the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens.
  • She told him that God had told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13)
  • She told him how according to God’s promise, his many times great grandmother Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was 90 years old!
  • She told him how that God had put his grandfather Abraham to the test when he was about 116 years old and was told to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, and how that by faith Abraham offered up Isaac, knowing that God would provide a lamb.
  • She told him how that God had led Abraham’s servant Eliezer to find Rebekah, a wife for Isaac.
  • She told him how that God had answered Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah who had been barren, but God gave her two sons, Esau and Jacob.
  • She told her young son about the LORD appearing to Abraham’s son Isaac and renewing the covenant and promising to multiply his offspring as the stars of the heavens and to give them the land of Canaan. He promised that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 26:3-4).
  • She told him about Jacob and his twelve sons and how his great Uncle Joseph had become the Prime Minister of Egypt, and how the LORD had used Joseph to saved all the descendants of Abraham.
  • She told him about Joseph’s last words:
  • ESV Genesis 50:24-25 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

  • She explained to him how God had been fulfilling His promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants there in the land of Egypt, and that the four hundred years would soon be coming to an end, that the exodus from Egypt would take place in his lifetime.

Over and over again, Jochebed told little Moses of the promises and the faithfulness of God. And when he had grown up, Moses knew who he was and who his people were and who his God was because he had a mother who instilled faith in his heart.

ESV Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Mothers have a limited time but a powerful influence on their children. Tell your children the story of Jesus. Tell them the stories of His wonderful works. Tell them of His love and His plan for their salvation.

Then the time will come when you will have to let them go. Trust God to bring back to their mind and hearts the Word of God that you have planted and watered through the years.

In these first two chapters of Exodus, God uses women to preserve the line of Israel and defy the wicked king who is dead-set on killing the Hebrew male children.

  • The midwives Shiphrah and Puah fear God and not the king.
  • A mother: the mother of Moses is moved by faith in God rather than fear of the king.
  • A sister: Miriam, the sister of Moses. She helps save her brother by her courageous suggestion to Pharaoh’s daughter.
  • And the princess: the daughter of Pharaoh has the compassion and courage to adopt a baby boy that her father was intent on killing.

Never underestimate what God can do through you, man or woman, boy or girl.

The daughter of Pharaoh named the boy “Moses.” “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10).

This baby boy who was drawn out of the waters of the Nile, would draw out from Egypt the children of Israel.

1,400 years later, a tyrannical king named Herod the Great, like Pharaoh before him, would order that all the baby boys in Bethlehem be killed. Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, believed the promises of God and fled to Egypt.

“Just as God saved Moses to save his people,
so God saved baby Jesus to save his people…
He delivered Moses so that he could deliver the Israelites.
1,400 years later, he would deliver Jesus so that he could deliver us.”[2]


[1] Kaiser, Exodus (EBC), p. 309.

[2] Kevin DeYoung, https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/sermons/three-women-and-no-funeral/

Law and Sabbath, the Old and the New

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Good morning, friends. This week a listener texted me this question:

Wenam nao ceremonial sabbath o law and wenam difference blong hem n how nao e finish hem?

So what is the difference between the ceremonial sabbath and the law, and how can we say that it is finished?

I appreciate the good question. What are we to make of the Law and of the Sabbath in particular?

1. The Law

1.1. The Importance of the Law

First we need to affirm the importance of the Law in biblical theology.

The Law was good.

Romans 7:12 ESV So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

1 Timothy 1:8 ESV Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

It reveals sin:

Romans 3:20 ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7 ESV ¶ What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

The Law was a guardian:

Galatians 3:24 ESV So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Most importantly, the Law prophesied the coming of Christ; it pointed to Christ as its fulfillment.

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

1.2. Four Approaches

Dispensationalism holds that nothing in the Old Testament law applies to the Christian life unless the New Testament repeats it and endorses it. For example, the New Testament says nothing about wearing clothes woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19), so we feel free to wear shirts made of polyester and cotton, though that would have been forbidden under the Old Testament.

On the other hand, the New Testament says nothing about consulting mediums or spiritists (Leviticus 19:31), yet surely this is inconsistent with the life in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Secondly, Covenant Theology takes the opposite approach: everything from the Old Testament carries over into the New Testament unless it is forbidden. So the Old Testament would rule out consulting mediums. But what about clothes made of two kinds of material? Most of us have violated that Old Testament commandment!

Third, one common approach has been to distinguish between Old Testament ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws. We first find this approach in Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Catholic theologian. Ceremonial laws would have to do with the temple and the system of sacrifice that is no longer in existence. Civil laws would deal with everyday life in ancient Israel. Moral law would deal with theft, lying, hatred, slander, etc.

But many laws do not seem to fall into these categories and frequently there is no attempt to group them in categories. Where, for example, do we put the Leviticus 19:27?

Leviticus 19:27 ESV You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

Is it moral, civil, or ceremonial? And that command is sandwiched between commands to not eat flesh with the blood in it, to interpret omens or tell fortunes or to tattoo yourselves. And if the Lord God has given all of these 613 commands of the Old Testament, isn’t our obedience to them somehow a moral issue and not just a civil or ceremonial one?

A fourth approach is to privilege the “Big Ten,” the Ten Commandments. Yet, in no place in the New Testament are all of the Ten Commandments dealt with together. In fact, there is one of the Ten Commandments that is never repeated as a commandment in the New Testament.

# COMMANDMENT TIMES
1 We are to worship God alone. 53
2 We are not to have any idols. 12
3 We are not to take the name of the Lord in vain. 4
5 We are to honor our parents. 6
6 We must not murder. 7
7 We must not commit adultery. 12
8 We must not steal. 6
9 We must not lie or bear false witness. 4
10 We must not covet. 9

Guess which Old Testament commandment is never repeated in the New Testament: the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is never repeated in the New Testament. Each time the Sabbath commandment is mentioned, it is diminished, made smaller and shown not to be binding on New Covenant Christians.

Lists of sin in the New Testament:

Mark 7:21-22 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. Romans 1:29-31 ESV They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Guess what is never mentioned: not keeping the Sabbath.

2. The Sabbath

2.1. Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Sabbath

In the last several broadcasts, we have considered what the Bible says about the Sabbath, the Law, and the kingdom of God.

We noted first that Jesus and the Pharisees were always on opposite sides of the conflict over the Law. The Pharisees insisted on outward observance of the Law but ignored the intention and purpose of the Law. The Pharisees were concerned with appearances. They wanted everything to look just right on the outside, but they gave no attention to the inside. Jesus said that they were like people who washed the outside of the cup but never worried about cleaning the inside. He said that they were like the tombs of the dead: beautifully painted and kept up on the outside, but inside they were full of corruption and dead man’s bones (Matthew 23:25, 27). Those are strong words that Jesus had for these keepers of the Law.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed many of these questions. The Law had said, “You must not murder.” So the Pharisees figured that as long as they didn’t knife someone, they had kept the commandment. Jesus say that if you hate someone, you have already committed murder in your heart. If you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment. If you insult someone, you are in danger. If you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Murder is a matter of the heart.

The Law had said, “You must not commit adultery,” so the Pharisees figured that it was enough to avoid climbing into bed with someone. Jesus said that if you desire someone sexually, you’ve already committed adultery. Adultery is a matter of the heart.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees continually put the accent on the external conformity to the Law:

  • No murder, but it’s okay to hate, insult, and curse someone.
  • No adultery, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
  • Tired of your wife? Give her a piece of paper so you can marry the woman you want.
  • If you made a vow, you’ll have to honor it. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you said.
  • Someone hurt you? Hurt them back.
  • Got an enemy? It’s okay to hate. Just love those who love you.

And where did they put all their emphasis? The put it on keeping the sabbath.

Jesus’ greatest enemies were strict sabbatarians. They were constantly on Jesus about the Sabbath.

  • When he healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees persecuted him (John 5:16; 7:21-24).
  • When he healed the man blind from birth on the Sabbath, they declared that he was a sinner and could not be from God (John 9:16, 24).
  • When Jesus healed on the Sabbath a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit, the synagogue leader was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:10-18).
  • When the disciples of Jesus picked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples (Matthew 12:1-8).
  • When Jesus healed the man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:9-14).

The Sadducees and the Pharisees put all the emphasis on the Sabbath. They could judge whether a man was a sinner or a saint by the Sabbath. If someone went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, they judged that he was right with God. But…

  • If a man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If a man picked grain on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If Jesus did some good work on the Sabbath, they judged that he was sinner.

The Pharisees looked on the outside, but their hearts were full of judgment, full of condemnation, and full of sin.

2.2. The Institution of the Sabbath

For the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the main thing was the seventh day, the Sabbath. We saw that for the first 2,500 years, from Adam to Moses, there was no Sabbath. Not one person was ever mentioned keeping the Sabbath before Exodus 16. In fact, the Sabbath is not mentioned one time in the 50 chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It is not mentioned until Exodus 16. That was 2,500 years after God created the heavens and the earth. There was no Sabbath for Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or Joseph. There was no Sabbath for the Israelites during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Day after day after day, the Israelites made bricks for Pharaoh, with no Sabbath.

When God brought them out of Egypt, for the first time God said to them in Exodus 16,

Exodus 16:29-30 ESV See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

It is here in Exodus 16:23 that the Sabbath is mentioned for the very first time in the Bible. It would be not be a work day; it would be a day of rest.

2.3. The Sign of the Sabbath

So there was no Sabbath before God delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Only after the Exodus from Egypt did God give the Israelites the Sabbath. Again and again, God tells the Israelites that on the Sabbath, they are to do no work. This fourth of the Ten Commandments says,

Exodus 20:8-10 ESV ¶ “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work

No work. That was the outward sign. No work. But what was the meaning of the Sabbath? What did it mean to do no work? What was the significance… the signification of the Sabbath? What was the message of the Sabbath?

God is clear about the meaning of the Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13, the LORD tells Moses,

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

No work! The message is that sanctification is not our work but the Lord’s work! The message is that we cannot make ourselves holy by work. It is the Lord who makes us holy:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “…this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

If you think that you can make yourself holy and acceptable to God by going to church on the Sabbath, you have missed the point, the message of the Sabbath. If you think that the Sabbath is a work that you do to get right with God, you have perverted the meaning of the Sabbath. God says that doing no work was a sign that it is the LORD who sanctifies us.

This passage also clearly shows that the covenant of the Law was with the people of Israel, not with us Gentiles:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

Exodus 31:17 ESV It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

Let us note, in passing, that there is no place in the Bible where the Lord said, “On the Sabbath day, you are to go to the tabernacle or to the temple and worship me.” The Sabbath requirement was a requirement of rest, not worship. The Sabbath was not a call to worship. It was a call to rest. Not work. God does the work of making us holy.

This same message is given nearly a thousand years later by the prophet Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 20:12 ESV Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

The message of the Sabbath is the same as we find in Ephesians 2,

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Our hope is in Christ alone:

MUSIC: 02 Kristyn Getty, In Christ Alone. 4:39 • 22 sec lead-in • Fade after 4:15

3. The Old and the New

Next we looked at the old and the new covenants. God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, but the Bible tells us that the covenant of the Law was a parenthesis in the plan of God. The Law was a covenant that had a beginning and an end. It began with Moses and it ended with the cross. The Law was neither the beginning nor the end of God’s plan. Four hundred thirty years before the Law, God had made a promise that would not be broken. God had promised Abraham that his many times great grandson would be the source of blessing for all the peoples everywhere. The Apostle Paul explains that promise in Galatians 3. This is how the New Living Translation renders Galatians 3:15-19,

Galatians 3:15-20 NLT ¶ Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”– and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. 19 ¶ Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.

In other words, the promise to Abraham was given directly from God to Abraham and has precedence over the Law which was mediated through angels. Paul continues in verse 23,

Galatians 3:23-25 NLT Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

This is the same message that we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews. We saw in Hebrew 8:8-12 that Jeremiah the prophet, though he was a prophet of the old covenant of the Law… Jeremiah prophesied 600 years before the coming of Christ that God would establish a New Covenant. The New Covenant would not be like the old covenant of the Law (v. 9). It would not be a matter of external rules written on stone tablets. In the New Covenant God would write his laws on our hearts. Ezekiel tells us that God would cleanse us from everything that is unclean and He would put His Spirit in us. The temple is no longer a building in Jerusalem; in the New Covenant, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jeremiah, “In speaking of the new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete…” It is finished. The end.

In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has made Jews and Gentiles one new people, breaking down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility:

Ephesians 2:15 NLT He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

That is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18. He said that the Law and the Prophets would not pass away until all was fulfilled. And he said that he had come to fulfill it. So on the cross, he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He died. He was buried. And on the third day, the first day of the week, Christ was raised from the dead. After appearing to several that morning of the resurrection, Christ joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:27 NLT Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus showed them that the Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ. The purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ. Once Christ has come, the purpose of the Law was achieved.

That evening Christ appeared in the upper room to the disciples

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Law was not the real deal. The Law was temporary. The Law’s purpose was to point to Christ. The resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples the night of the resurrection and told them that the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms all pointed to him. He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Matthew 11:13 ESV For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Luke 16:16 ESV ¶ “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…

A listener to this radio ministry asked, “How can we say that the Law is finished?” The Law is not simply finished; it is fulfilled. Christ fulfilled it. In every detail Christ fulfilled what the Law had prophesied. The Law was only a copy and a shadow of heavenly realities; Christ is that reality. Not the Law, but Christ is the real deal.

We can only say that the Law is fulfilled because God himself said it. Christ said that the Law prophesied until John the Baptist. The new message was not the Law, but the kingdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The good news of the gospel is that we are not under the Law.

John 1:17 ESV For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 8:14 ESV For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Galatians 5:18 ESV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

3.1. So what about Christian freedom?

If we are no longer under the Law, does that mean that we are free to do anything that we want to do?

Christian freedom is a reality, and so is righteousness. There is a strong accent on freedom in the New Testament, and it is a freedom from the reign and rule of sin. In fact, the freedom from the rule of sin is tied to our freedom from the Law.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Here in this verse we see that sin will not dominate our lives not because we are under the law, but because we are not under the law. How does that work? Why should freedom from the law enable us to be free from the domination of sin?

Freedom from the law is only part of the equation, but it is an important part. The law actually provokes the sinful nature that we inherited from Adam. The law says, “You shall not…” and we respond, “Oh yes I shall!” This is how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 7:

Romans 7:7-11 NLT ¶ Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. 9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me.

That is why the Apostle Paul says in

Romans 3:20 NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The Law provokes sin in us. And when we think that we are successfully living by the Law, it provokes sinful pride and condemnation of others. We become like the Pharisees, full of sinful self-righteousness and scorn for others.

Galatians 3:2-5 NLT Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

The Law is useful to show us how sinful we are, but it is powerless to save. The Law may change some of your outward behavior, but it cannot change your heart. For a heart change, you need the New Covenant. You need the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the New Covenant.

Romans 8:1-4 NLT ¶ So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

So we are free from the Law. We are not under the Law. If we are in Christ, we are led by the Spirit of Christ.

Galatians 5:1 NLT ¶ So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:4 NLT For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

Galatians 5:9-10 NLT This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! 10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

3.2. What about the Commandments?

The Bible is very clear. We are not under the Law. We are not under the old covenant. Yet we are not to use our freedom as an excuse to sin. Notice the next verse in Galatians:

Galatians 5:13 NLT ¶ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

Paul goes on to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is something that is produced by mature fruit trees. You can recognize a tree by its fruit. If the Spirit of God lives in you, He will produce His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control.

This is what the gospel produces in your life. That is something that the Law could never do.

Romans 8:3-4 NLT The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

There are commandments for the children of God, but that will have to wait for another broadcast.

Scripture Union of Vanuatu has a wonderful booklet in Bislama called “Sarede o Sande? — Sabat Dei o Dei blong Masta?” It is only 20vt at the Scripture Union near Caillard et Kaddour Real Estate offices. Please stop by their offices and pick up a copy. It will help you.

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“: