“Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘You are to observe my Shabbats; for this is a sign between me and you through all your generations; so that you will know that I am Adonai, who sets you apart for me. Therefore you are to keep my Shabbat, because it is set apart for you. Everyone who treats it as ordinary must be put to death; for whoever does any work on it is to be cut off from his people.-Exodus 31:13
There is something especially significant about the Sabbath that can only be gleaned by looking at the original Hebrew.
Take a look at the end of verse 13 where it says “so that you will know that I am Adonai, who sets you apart for me“.
In other translations, the phrase “sets you apart” may be rendered “sanctifies you”, “consecrated”, “makes you holy” or some other similar wording.
However, the original Hebrew from which all these phrases are coming from is KADASH.
And it indeed means to SET APART or TO MAKE HOLY.
Let’s take a closer look at what the Lord is really getting at here.
What is He saying the PURPOSE for Israel keeping the Sabbath is?
The purpose is TO MAKE ISRAEL HOLY!
Folks, don’t let the tremendous significance of this just fly over your heads.
This point has awesome implications.
In verse 14, we encounter another interesting Hebrew word that works hand in hand with KADASH.
That word is KODESH.
Now what do you think KODESH means?
If you said “holy”, I’m sorry but that’s incorrect.
To say that KODESH means “holy” is just lame scholarship.
KODESH actually means “holi-NESS“.
So a LITERAL translation should be rendered “Keep the Sabbath because it is HOLINESS for you”.
While you may think I’m splitting unnecessary hairs here, this distinction between “holy” and “holiness” has tremendous implications.
See, when most of us read verse 14, we assume the Lord is just saying “I want you to keep the Sabbath because I made it holy and therefore you too are to consider it holy”.
In other words, we just think the Lord is commanding us to observe the Sabbath because it’s a holy day.
But that’s NOT the real meaning.
What it really means is “Keep the Sabbath, not only because I have declared this day holy, but also because when you keep it the Sabbath clothes you in state of holiness!”
Are you catching the difference here?
I hope so because this is huge.
The usual interpretation is I want you to keep the Sabbath because I have made this day holy.
However, the CORRECT interpretation is observe the Sabbath because when you do, you yourself become holy.
The holiness of the Sabbath is transmitted to you or imputed to you (to use seminary jargon).
In other words, you yourself take on the holiness of the Sabbath when you observe it.
This idea shouldn’t strike as strange or new.
We are told we must be righteous in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, it is impossible of our own efforts to attain this righteousness.
So through our faith in Yeshua, we are CLOTHED in His righteousness.
Or as is commonly preached in gentile churches, His righteousness is imputed to us.
How this principle got its start right here in Exodus.
By the Lord’s Grace, He will transmit His Holiness to Israel when they keep His Sabbath commandment.
Now I think this explanation goes a long way in explaining two things.
First, it helps us to understand what Yeshua really meant when He said “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”
The usual INCORRECT interpretation is that since the Sabbath was made for man, man can decide for himself whether he wants to observe it or not or whether he wants to make it another day besides the 7th day.
NO! NO! A million times NO!
What Yeshua is saying here is that the Sabbath was made for man so that man can be clothed in the Lord’s holiness and thus have intimate fellowship with God when he obeys this command.
He is saying the Sabbath was created in order that holiness might be brought to man.
Second, this also explains why the most serious consequences result if one profanes the Sabbath, for one is tampering with the very holiness of God.
Verse 14 makes it clear that whoever breaks the Sabbath is to be cut off or separated from God.
Later on, we will encounter some frightening examples of the death sentence being applied to those who did NOT properly keep the Sabbath.
Finally, notice in verse 16, the Lord says that the Sabbath is to be FOREVER and a sign between Him and Israel.
The Hebrew word for “sign” is OWTH.
This word has the sense of a MARK OF DISTINCTION that sets the relationship between God and Israel apart from any other people group.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
Then he said to them,
“The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath.”
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN EXODUS CHAPTER 32