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Sabbath School Lessons on The Promise - God's Everlasting Covenant
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 9: The Covenant Sign *
Introduction: Last week we saw how Jesus summarized the Ten
Commandments into two groups. The first four dealt with our love for
God and the last six with our love for our fellow humans. (See
Matthew 22:36-40) Some of you may have said, "Wait a minute, Bruce,
I'm not sure the fourth commandment neatly fits into one of those two
groups. It has as much to do with God's love for us and with our love
for Him." I agree it is a special commandment that deserves more
attention. Let's dive into God's Word and see what we can learn about
the fourth commandment!
- Sabbath Benefit
- Read Exodus 20:8-11. The third commandment tells us not to
misuse God's name. That command is clearly in the "love
God" category. The sixth commandment tells us not to
murder. That commandment is clearly in the "love humans"
category. For whose benefit is the fourth commandment that
tells us to keep the Sabbath holy? Into which category
should it go?
- In the United States, "President's Day" is a federal
holiday that just took place. If you had that day off
from work, for whose benefit was the holiday created?
(It honors the presidents and it gives us a break
- What does the Sabbath honor? ( Exodus 20:11 tells us that
in six days God created the world and He rested on the
seventh day. The Sabbath celebrates Creation. Since
Creation is the "birthday" for humans, the Sabbath honors
God and it honors us.)
- Why is God's Creation important to remember? (Our
allegiance to God in the beginning, His claim to
authority over us, was that He created us.)
- Is God's claim as the Creator at issue now? (The
theory of evolution is a frontal attack on the
authority of God as our Creator.)
- Read Genesis 2:2-3. Do you think God needed to rest? (No.
He generally spoke His creation into existence.)
- If God did not need to rest, why did He designate the
seventh day for rest? (He seems to have done it for
two reasons. First, God designated the Sabbath as
holy to give us a weekly reminder that He is our
Creator. Second, the Sabbath gives us a day of rest -
and, unlike God, we need to rest!)
- Sabbath Sign
- Read Exodus 31:16-17. This text tells us that the Sabbath
is a "covenant" and a "sign." In what way is the Sabbath a
"covenant" (promise or contract)?
- Have we studied anything like this earlier in this
series of lessons? (Read Genesis 9:11-13. God told
Noah that the rainbow was the sign of the covenant
that God would never again destroy the earth with
water. That is not the only sign of agreement given
by God to humans. Remember that circumcision was a
sign of God's covenant with Abraham? ( Genesis 17:9-10))
- When you think of the rainbow as a sign of God's
promise not to drown us all, what was Noah promising
in exchange? (I think the promise was based on Noah's
past performance. He promised nothing for the future
that I can see.)
- What is "our side" of the Sabbath covenant? What do
we promise? (Our side of the Sabbath is resting and
- Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15. To what event is Sabbath-keeping
linked in this recitation of the Ten Commandments? (God
rescuing His people from slavery.)
- Read Hebrews 4:1-4. To what is Sabbath-keeping linked in
these verses in Hebrews? (You may need to read Hebrews
chapters 3 and 4 to get the complete picture. The "rest"
spoken of in these verses is our "rest" in Jesus' work on
our behalf as our High Priest in heaven. This is a
picture of righteousness by faith.)
- Read Exodus 31:12-13. To what event is Sabbath-keeping
linked here? (God making us holy.)
- Put all four of these "Sabbath link" pictures together:
Sabbath/Creation; Sabbath/Rescue from slavery; and, (two)
Sabbath/Rescues from sin. What is the "big picture" you
see from these four smaller "pictures?" What kind of
"sign" is the Sabbath? (The big picture is that God
created us and then saved us (or recreated us) from sin.
The Sabbath is a sign of what God has done and continues
to do for us!)
- Given this picture, how important do you think it is
for us to keep the Sabbath holy? (It is central. What
more important "sign," what more important "flag,"
could we waive than what God has done and is doing
- Our lesson (Tuesday) has a brilliant question: "What is it
about the Sabbath that would make it so appropriate a
symbol of the saving relationship with God?" (The answer
is that we "rest" on the Sabbath. Many Christians claim
that those who still concern themselves about the Ten
Commandments are legalists. But in fact, at the heart of
the Ten Commandments is our rest in what God has done to
create us, save us from sin and make us holy. The Sabbath
of rest and remembrance is a beautiful sign of the most
important covenant that God has made with us. Resting on
the Sabbath is a wonderful symbol that when it comes to
salvation, our job is simply to accept (rest in) what
Jesus has done for us.)
- Sabbath Application
- What we have studied so far suggests that the Sabbath
applies to all humans. Some argue that it only applied to
the Jews. Do we have any evidence that the Sabbath
command existed before the giving of the Ten Commandments
at Sinai? (Read Exodus 16:22-26. This text refers to
"manna," the food that God miraculously supplied each
morning to His people during the Exodus. The manna was
supplied in this way prior to the giving of the Ten
Commandments, thus tending to show the Sabbath rest
requirement did not begin at Sinai. Instead, the Creation
account shows that the Sabbath observance began at
- One argument against the continuing validity of the
Sabbath is that it is not mentioned in the time frame
between Creation and the Exodus. What explanation do
you have for that? (The Bible is not a very large
book - and this particular (and long) time frame is
covered very briefly in the Bible. If the Sabbath was
not a matter of dispute, I would not expect it to be
- Read Isaiah 66:22-23. To what does the phrase "the new
heavens and the new earth" refer? (This is talking about
time after the Second Coming of Jesus.)
- What does this tell us about the Sabbath? (That it is
celebrated even in heaven and the earth made new!)
- What does that say about the argument that
Sabbath observance is for Jews only? (The
Sabbath began at Creation and continues through
eternity. It transcends a specific race. This
gets us back to our familiar text, Galatians
3:29, which says that if we are in Christ, then
we are of "Abraham's seed and heirs according to
the promise." The Sabbath is for all of
- Some today argue that keeping the Sabbath is not
necessary. If they are right, what reason can you present
for keeping it anyway? (If it is our choice, why not
choose to do what God told us to do? If we could pick any
day to worship God, why not choose the day He commanded?
This gets back to the old question: Do you worship God or
do you worship yourself? If I worship God, then I go with
His choices, even if I think it might not be terribly
important. Of course, because the Sabbath is a sign of
Creation and our recreation, I consider it to be of utmost
- Friend, God has a special time for us to rest and remember
His work of creation and salvation. It is a sign of our
acknowledgment of God as Creator and Redeemer. If you
have chosen Christ, will you observe the sign of His
authority and graciousness to you?
- Next week: The New Covenant.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.