Chapter 31:12-18 (ESV) - And the LORD said to Moses, “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. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 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.’”
And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
Question to consider: Why were the two tablets of the law written on stone?
Today’s passage marks the end of God’s discourse with Moses regarding the tabernacle. Back in chapter 20 when I wrote about the ten words of God for Israel, I mentioned that in the words was the implication that God would provide the means for their fulfillment. Ultimately this fulfillment would be in Christ, but until Christ came, the covering over sin would be done through the priests of Aaron in the tabernacle and eventually the temple when Israel inherited the land. The ten words were written by the finger of God in stone to mark their permanence just like the temple was the stone version of the tabernacle which symbolized the permanence of the LORD dwelling with His people.
We don’t know exactly what was written on the two tablets. It could have been the two tables of the law with one tablet containing the words pertaining to our love of God and the other containing those regarding our love of neighbor. The tablets would be kept in the Ark of the Covenant.
It is only fitting that the seventh of the LORD’s discourses with Moses regarding worship in the tabernacle involved the Sabbath. In the same manner as the LORD created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh so Israel was to keep the Sabbath even while the tabernacle was being built. This command was serious enough to carry the death penalty.
In reading that the commands were written in stone and that the LORD decreed that the Sabbath was to be observed throughout the generations as an everlasting covenant, it brings up the question about why the church instead gathers for worship on the first day of the week rather than the seventh. The key to understanding this is found in Matthew 5:17-19 where Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus fulfilled the Law for us, and now we rest in His works instead of our own. The writer of Hebrews makes the argument that in entering into covenant with Christ, we have entered into His sabbath rest from works of the Law. (see my study on Hebrews 4:1-10) The church in Acts recognized this and therefore gathered on the day of His resurrection to receive Him through His word and sacraments.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for giving us rest in Christ. Please give us a desire to learn from You and grow in our faith as we gather together to receive from Christ Your grace and mercy. Amen.