God takes ownership of creation (Sabbath Past)
When the law was given, the command to observe the Sabbath revolved around God’s place as Creator over the heaven and earth. God was taking ownership of creation itself, stating in no uncertain terms that He had created heaven, earth, and everything in them in six days then rested on the seventh day. There may have been a seven day week before the giving of the law perhaps established by Adam, but we don’t know for sure. We at least know for certain that God had established the Sabbath during the raining of manna upon the nation of Israel in Exodus 16 which preceded the giving of the law. Everybody knew the cycle of seven due to the double portion of manna on the sixth day, and no manna on the seventh day. "Hey Mom! Is it the Sabbath?" "Walk outside and check the ground yourself, Jezediah."
This literal correlation is one of the reasons why I believe in a literal six day creation. God is stating the facts, giving no room for equivocation. He created the heaven, the earth, and everything in them in six days, then rested on the seventh day. Therefore, six days are available for work to be done, but on the seventh, the command is to rest, just like God did on His seventh day. In closing the first 40 days on Mount Sinai, Exodus 31:12-18 reveals that to observe the Sabbath was to recognize God as Creator. Note also that God had already sanctified the Sabbath at the close of the creation story, Genesis 2:3 and Exodus 20:11. So the command to observe the Sabbath does not sanctify it. Rather it is an observance of something already proclaimed to be holy.
Thus far in the giving of the law, the Sabbath is a sign between God and the nation of Israel. The nation as a whole is to rest on the seventh day as an observance that their God is the God of creation itself. Children, servants, and animals were not to be forced to work in any way on the Sabbath. This was to distinguish them from the Gentile nations. This sign was commanded by God to be "forever" (Exodus 31:17) since there would be no point in time when God would cease to be the Creator. That time of refreshment on the seventh day has eternal significance.
I like the fact that the Sabbath was established during the raining of the manna previous to the giving of the law. This demonstrated the practicality that this Sabbath observance was for the benefit of the nation of Israel, not to restrict them. God showed that He would provide plenty for them during the six days of work to allow them to have one day of complete rest. There would be no need for them to labor at all on the Sabbath since God was providing their every need. Jesus would later masterfully state, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." It was (is) God’s gift to the nation of Israel, not a constriction on their livelihood.
Must Gentiles observe the Sabbath?
The poster who commented concerning the applicability of the law to foreigners is correct from one point of view. The giving of the law was to the nation of Israel. The applicability of the law to foreigners was only so far as the foreigners were living within the nation of Israel. Exodus 12:49 and Numbers 15:16 are quite specific in this aspect. Leviticus 24:22 does not use the same language within the verse, but the context is there. The story is of a son whose genealogy was part Israelite, part Egyptian. This son blasphemed the name of the LORD, so they put him in custody until they heard from the LORD. It was already revealed not to take the name of the LORD in vain, or to profane God’s name because He is holy. The question here was one of authority over someone who was not entirely Israelite. Did the nation of Israel have the authority to put to death someone who could technically be considered a foreigner? The answer: YES. Anyone living within the nation of Israel must abide by all the laws of Israel; foreigners were no exception. So they stoned the son of Shelomith. So far we read that foreigners who choose to live within the nation of Israel must observe the Sabbath.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman