Sermon 4

Sabbath at Sinai

Segundo Teófilo Correia is the head of the Theology Department at the Peruvian Union University

Regarding the giving of God’s law at Sinai, we are told, “The law was not spoken at this time exclusively for the benefit of the Hebrews. God honored them by making them the guardians and keepers of His law, but it was to be held as a sacred trust for the whole world. The precepts of the Decalogue are adapted to all mankind, and they were given for the instruction and government of all. Ten precepts, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, cover the duty of man to God and to his fellow man; and all based upon the great fundamental principle of love.”1


“See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day” (Exod. 16:29).

“Sabbath was not instituted, as many claim, when the law was given at Sinai. Before the Israelites came to Sinai they understood the Sabbath to be obligatory upon them.”2

The institution of Sabbath is proclaimed basically in Genesis 2 with the episode of divine rest. On their way to the desert, some Israelites resisted keeping the Sabbath properly. The Lord exhorted them, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” (Exod. 16:28).

Exodus 16:30, where we read that “the people rested on the seventh day,” is probably an allusion to Genesis 2:2, where we find the account of God resting on the seventh day.

The fact that God provided a special day of rest illustrates His concern for the well-being of His people and how, in a special way, He provides an opportunity for their spiritual growth.


One of the great teachings of Exodus 16 is that both the gift of manna and the Sabbath day are seen as manifestations of God’s providence in supplying the needs of His people.

In their pilgrimage through the desert, the Israelites witnessed a triple miracle that served to impress upon their minds the holiness of Sabbath. Each Friday a double portion of manna was sent; on the seventh day, however, nothing was sent, and the portion reserved for Sabbath remained healthy and wholesome.

Believers should follow the divine counsel regarding the observance of Sabbath. Exodus 16:30 tells us that the Israelites rested on the seventh day. We should recognize that we also have a Sabbath appointment with God. We should set aside all common affairs of life and have full communion with Him. This is explicitly declared in Exodus 20:10: “In it you shall do no work.”

We should be aware of the holiness of the Sabbath day and observe it with devotion. We should carefully observe the Sabbath’s limits. Remember that each minute of the day is sacred time.

Ellen G. White reminds us, “In no case should our own business be allowed to encroach upon holy time. . . . Many carelessly put off till the beginning of the Sabbath little things that might have been done on the day of preparation.”3


The delivery of the Ten Commandments is preceded by the presentation of the giver of the law: “I am the Lord your God” (Exod. 20:2). Thus, God approaches His children once more.

God reminds the Israelites that He is the one who gave them new life: “I . . . who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (verse 2). Obedience to God’s law, including the observance of Sabbath, proclaims our dependency on God and our freedom from other powers.

In Exodus 20:8, the words “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” clarify that this is not the establishment of a new institution. With the words “remember” and “keep it holy,” it becomes evident that the Sabbath is a memorial for God’s people, a reminder of that which God has been doing to keep a holy community.

The commandment underscores the need for Sabbath rest—for human beings and for animals. On Sabbath, hierarchical relations also cease, and everyone shares equally the freedom offered by God.

“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (verse 10, emphasis supplied). That means God not only designates Sabbath as a day of rest for humanity but also places His seal of authority on it and sanctions it as His day, making it one of the characteristics of His people. 

When God says “In it you shall do no work” (verse 10), He does not imply that Sabbath is a day of inactivity but that it is different from the rest of the week. It is a day of service to God, a time to be with Him, and a day to worship Him and remember His redeeming acts. Thus, His believers should be recognized as His people.

In Exodus 20 and in the parallel text of Deuteronomy 5, Sabbath combines two aspects of worship to God: He is both Creator and Redeemer.

The Sabbath motivation in Exodus 20:11 is Christ-centered: God is presented as Creator and Keeper of the world. Because Sabbath is anchored in the creative work of the God of heaven and earth, the commandment to keep the Sabbath takes on a universal character. In turn, the emphasis in Deuteronomy 5:15 relates to the salvation of human beings. Sabbath bears the seal of God as the Deliverer. 


The Sabbath was established by God to be observed by humanity. At Sinai, He provided a means for the people to learn in a practical way the meaning of the Sabbath as they crossed the desert.

The Sabbath was established as a memorial of God’s creative work. As we keep the seventh day of the week holy, we recognize God as our Creator and Keeper. The observance of the Sabbath also reminds us of His redeeming work.

Observing the Sabbath doesn’t just mean receiving the distinctive sign of those who belong to God’s people on Earth; it also demonstrates that He will keep the promise He made to the faithful: “I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob” (Isa. 58:14). May the Lord bless each of us with the blessing He longs to give on His holy day

1 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 305.
2 Ibid., 296.
3 Ibid.

Segundo Teófilo Correia is the head of the Theology Department at the Peruvian Union University