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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

In this passage, the conditions are stated upon which faithful Israelites might inherit the blessing typified by the rest of the seventh day.

They were joyfully to devote themselves to the way of the Lord.

They were not simply to abstain from work, yawning and grumbling over the tediousness of the day, and wishing it were gone, that they might return to their ordinary course of life; but they were to esteem it as a delightful, holy, and honourable day.

Their pleasure was to consist in doing what the Lord required, and in talking of "the exceeding great and precious promises" He had made.

To do this was "not speaking their own words," but the Lord's words.

Such an observance as this, however, of the sabbath day, implies a faithful mind and a gracious disposition as the result of knowing the truth.

Neither antediluvian nor postdiluvian could "call the sabbath a delight" who was either ignorant or faithless of the import of the promise, "thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord, and ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed with the heritage of Jacob".

A man who simply looked at the seventh day as a sabbath in which he was interdicted from pleasures, and conversation agreeable to him, and from the money-making pursuits in which he delighted, would regard the day more as a weekly punishment, than as joyous and honourable.

Though he might mechanically abstain from work, he did not keep it so as to be entitled to the blessing which belonged to the observance of the day of the Lord.

It was irksome to him, because, being faithless, he perceived no reward in keeping it; and "without faith it is impossible to please God".

The reward to antediluvian and postdiluvian patriarchs and Israelites, for a faithful observance, or commemoration of Jehovah's rest from His creation-work, was "delight in the Lord, riding upon the high places of the earth, and feeding with the heritage of Jacob".

This was neither more nor less than a promise of inheriting the Kingdom of God, which is a summary of "the things hoped for and the things unseen," or the subject matter of the faith that pleases God.

When that kingdom is established, all who are accounted worthy of it will "delight or joy in the Lord"; and occupy "the high places of the earth," ruling over the nations as His associate kings and priests; and share in the "new heavens and earth," in which dwells righteousness, when Jerusalem shall be made a rejoicing, and her people Israel a joy.

The knowledge and belief of these things was the powerful and transforming motive which caused Abel, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc. to "call the sabbath a delight, holy of the Lord, and honourable"; and to observe it as the sons of Belial cannot possibly do.

But while this was the motive, even faith, which actuated the sons of God in their keeping holy the seventh day, Jehovah did not permit the faithless to transgress or desecrate it with impunity.

We know not what penalty, if any, was attached to its violation before the flood; but its desecration under the Mosaic constitution was attended with signal and summary vengeance, as will appear from the following testimonies: -- "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore: for it is holy unto you.

Every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Six days may work be done, but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord; whosoever doeth any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.

Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed".

"Remember (O Israel), that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day".

"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day mere shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.