Ezekiel 20:12

The circumstances employed by the Most High to make Israel a nation were of the most marvellous and romantic kinds. Psalmists and prophets, nay, even Christian apostles and deacons, looking back upon the events of early Israelitish history, felt the fascination of the ancient story, of the emancipation from Egypt, and of the lengthened discipline of the wilderness, by which the tribes were welded into a nation and fitted for the possession of the land of promise.

I. THE GIFT OF THE LAW. Men, especially in their corporate capacity, need something more than exhortation, dissuasion, sentiment. They need law. And this necessity was met, when Israel was led into the wilderness, by the giving of the Law at Sinai. in this gift must be included the ten commandments, the precepts for family and personal life, the institution of the ceremonial, sacerdotal, and sacrificial dispensation, the confirmation and sanctification of the sabbath, by their observance of which the Jews were so well known by their neighbours. This last-named institution was, however, regarded by the God of Israel in a higher light - as "a sign between himself and them." The people were by these means placed under authority. Sanctions were attached to the Law, and life was assured to the obedient.


1. The season and scene of this rebellion should be noticed; it took place, as the prophet reminds the elders, and as the record itself informs us, in the wilderness, i.e. immediately after the great deliverance and the promulgation of the Law, and whilst the people were still dependent in an especial manner upon the bounty and the protection of the Most High.

2. The offensive form of this rebellion is noted: "They walked not according to my statutes, and despised my judgments" - a course which showed their failure to appreciate the privileges bestowed upon them, and the dishonour which they dared to offer to their Deliverer and King.

3. Their inexcusable neglect of the provision made in the weekly sabbath for their true well being.

4. Their treachery. "Their heart went after idols."


1. The immediate punishment inflicted upon the rebellious generation was the refusal to permit them to enter upon the land of promise.

2. The forbearance and mercy of God were displayed in that he did not make an end in the wilderness of those who had rebelled against him and defied him. - T.

I gave them My Sabbaths.
Let two remarks be premised. We enforce not the duties of the Jewish but of the Christian Sabbath. Everything in the Christian Sabbath is tender and considerate on the one hand, everything is spiritual and elevated on the other; and is, in both views, adapted to the real state and exigencies of our nature, under the last and most perfect dispensation of religion. But then the determination of what is really spiritual, of what is really for the welfare of man, of what ale the real duties and employments of the day, must be taken from the Scriptures themselves, and not from the opinions, much less from the inclinations and fashions, of a corrupt world.

I. Keep ever in view THE GREAT END OF THE INSTITUTION — which is to be a visible sign of the covenant between God and us, and a principal means of that sanctification which it is one object of that covenant to produce. What an exalted end and design of the institution! Sanctification is the work of God's Holy Spirit by His secret but effectual influences upon the heart, separating man from the love and service of sin, and turning him to God and holiness. And how important is the thought, that the design of the Almighty in sanctifying and hallowing a day of Sabbath was that man, His moral and accountable creature, might be sanctified and dedicated by means of it — that the external consecration of the season ends in the internal consecration of the heart of man to his Creator and Redeemer! We awake to the true importance of the institution when we feel our fallen and sinful state, when we receive the covenant of grace as proposed in the Gospel, when we seek to be sanctified, body, soul, and spirit, to be the Lord's. A Divine life infused into the soul of man — a perception of the nature and excellency of spiritual things — a view of the glory and majesty of the great Redeemer — a reliance upon His death and resurrection — a dependence upon the influence of His Holy Spirit — these bring the Sabbath and the human heart together.


1. The public exercise; of God's worship, and the fellowship of Christians with each other in common acts of prayer and praise, are the leading business of this holy season.

2. The care of our families must not, however, be neglected, whilst we first discharge our public duties.

3. The private and personal duties must prepare for and succeed the public and domestic.

4. The duties of the Christian Sabbath extend to our dependents — to "the stranger within our gates" — to all over whom we have any natural influence — and even to the irrational creatures who subserve our comfort, and whose repose is commanded both for their own sakes and to render more completely practical the duty of religious rest enjoined upon man, their lord.

III. In order to keep holy the Lord's day, we must carry THE TRUE SPIRIT OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION INTO THESE DUTIES. We must not celebrate a Jewish but a Christian festival. We must imbibe that spirit of rest and delight in God, that sense of refreshment and repose, in His more immediate service, which the liberty of the Gospel breathes, and without some degree of which we can never discharge these duties aright. Can any picture be more inviting than that of a family, a neighbourhood, a parish, honouring the day of God with cheerful and grateful hearts — meditating on that sanctification which is the great design of the day of rest — filling up its hours with the various and important exercises of public and private devotion — and imbuing every act of duty with the Christian temper, with the filial spirit — the spirit not "of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father"?


(D. Wilson, M. A.)

I. ITS BEARING ON THE HEALTH AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE COMMUNITY. Man was not made, even in Paradise, to be idle; and if even there wholesome toil contributed to keep his happiness from stagnating and corrupting, how much more is toil a merciful provision for man in his fallen lot! There is perhaps as much mercy in the institution that "six days we shall labour and do all that we have to do," as in the institution that on the seventh day we shall "do no manner of work." But whilst labour in moderation is thus beneficial for man, incessant toil would infallibly tend at once to break the spirit, to degrade the mind, to ruin the health, and to curtail the life. It would at the same time have a fearful and melancholy influence on social enjoyment, on the domestic circle, on the mutual endearments and reciprocal kindly sentiments that constitute so much of the stream of earthly happiness. How gracious, therefore, and how merciful, in its bearing merely on the physical strength and health, and upon the general individual and social and domestic enjoyment of the mass of the people, is that provision of a gracious Father, who, in giving us all our time for our daily labour, yet reserved a seventh to be kept holy to Himself, in which we should rest from every toil, and the master and the servant, and the sovereign and the subject, and the brute beast of the field that serves man, should all together, unyoked and disburdened from labour and from care, exult and rejoice in the freedom and the liberty with which God hath blessed them!

II. ITS BEARING UPON THE KINDLY FEELINGS AND THE MUTUAL CHARITIES OF THE NATION IN WHICH IT IS OBSERVED. How much depends upon the internal magnetic attraction and influence of kindliness and benevolence and mutual good will! If you could take out from the community all that tends to soften mutual asperity and knit heart to heart, all that tends to make the poor man feel a sense of honest independence accompanied with unfeigned humility, and the rich man to feel that his external condition is as nothing in comparison with the moral distinction that differences one intelligent being from another — who can tell what would be the frightful result? But how beautifully does the Sabbath day prove the medium of the circulation of kindly and tender feelings! Much as the day is broken, and often as it is spent in savage and in sensual scenes, yet nevertheless it does wonderfully tend, with its balmy hebdomadal influence, to calm ruffled spirits, to allay feverish anxieties, and to soften petulant and foolish tempers.

III. ITS BEARING UPON THE MORALITY AND THE RELIGION OF THE PEOPLE. Take away that one purchase, on which rests all the spiritual and moral machinery in the land — let that be gone, and the whole moral and religious machinery in the land falls rapidly to pieces, because it has no fixed ground, no standing point on which to be placed. It cannot go on; it must suffer disturbance, disorganisation, and rapid destruction. Let there be no national Sabbath; where were our Sabbath ceremonies? Let there be no national Sabbath; in vain almost would our houses of prayer be thrown open, and the bell that used to sweetly tell the day of rest was come send out its notes, drowned amid the din and the uproar of the never-checked deluge of worldly anxiety, tumult, conflict and struggle, gathering fresh force and fury because the only barrier that at all checked their onward progress was withdrawn, and rushing headlong on without an obstacle to impede their current.

IV. ITS BEARING ON THE FAVOUR OF GOD TOWARDS A PEOPLE. I look upon the Sabbath, in its national observance, as the most direct and plain and palpable index of a nation's relationship towards God. It is (if we may so speak) the standard of heaven waving from the battlements of our national Zion, and telling that this great people recognise God, and in testimony and tribute of their loyalty they pay Him that which is His own, and give Him the seventh of their time, secured to Him by whom their sovereign reigns and on whom all their blessings depend. And as the observance of the Sabbath by the nation is an outward and visible sign of their fealty and fidelity to God, so is it an outward and visible sign of God's gracious faithfulness and love towards them. While that broad seal, therefore, remains intact and unbroken, how confidently may the people rest upon God!


1. We find in the spread of infidel sentiment and spirit in the land, a fearful source of difficulty to the maintenance of the due observance of the Sabbath day.

2. The latitudinarian and unhallowed speculation indulged in by many who bear the name of Christian, and sanctioned and smiled at by others, who ought to raise the voice of holy and wholesome reprobation.

3. The increasing excitements and the increasing facilities for the violation of the holy day.

4. The lamentable spiritual destitution of masses of our people, and the consequent spiritual ignorance, utter demoralisation, and absolute barbarism which exist throughout wildernesses of human beings in this baptized and nominally Christian country.


(H. Stowell, M. A.)


II. IT HAS ITS OWN PECULIAR EMPLOYMENTS: "Hallow My Sabbaths." They are to be days of rest from labour, and refreshment for the soul. Let them be sacred days; devote them to the praise and cause and glory of God.

III. THERE WAS A MOST BLESSED DESIGN IN ITS INSTITUTION: "Hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign," etc.

1. They were to be a sign between God and His people — a sign more frequently brought before them than the bow in the clouds. That told they should not be destroyed; but this tells of eternal life — is a type and symbol of the Sabbath of rest in His everlasting kingdom.

2. Another design mentioned is the edification and instruction of His people, "that ye may know that I am the Lord."

(G. Phillips, M. A.)



III. WHAT IS MEANT BY "HALLOWING THE SABBATH," or in what manner we are to observe it, so as to answer the end of its institution, so as to reap the advantages which were proposed by it.

1. To hallow the Sabbath is to set it apart to God's honour and service; and, of course, implies that we should abstain from all the ordinary employments of life, from all such things as would be apt to debase our minds, and hinder them from fixing upon heavenly objects.

2. We should, this day above all, make Him the constant subject of our thoughts and our desires, of our prayers and of our praises. We should meditate upon His nature and His attributes, His Word and His works; and particularly upon those two grand instances of the Divine power and goodness which the institution itself, more especially, directs us to commemorate — the creation of the world, and the redemption of mankind.

IV. TO NEGLECT PAYING GOD SO EASY A TRIBUTE AS ONE DAY OUT OF SEVEN MUST AT LEAST IMPLY A FORGETFULNESS OF OUR OBLIGATIONS; as that must, necessarily, imply ingratitude. Shall we grudge the seventh day to His use, when He hath, so freely, allowed us the other six for our own? Shall we refuse so small a part of our time to Him, who had so just a right to the whole?

(D. Lloyd.)

Those who have served a battery upon the battlefield tell us that, at intervals, they are forced to pause, that the guns may cool, and that the smoke may lift to furnish accurate aim; yes, and because ammunition is exhausted. No Christian can fight the battle of the week without the quiet Sabbath to cool off his guns. He needs repose of soul. He wants heavenly breezes to lift the earth-lowering shadows. He must replenish his store from the secret place of prayer and meditation.

(E. J. Haynes.)

Ezekiel, Israelites, Jacob, Teman
Babylon, Bamah, Egypt, Negeb
Clear, Further, Hallow, Holy, Moreover, Sabbaths, Sanctifier, Sanctifies, Sanctifieth, Sanctify, Sign
1. God refuses to be consulted by the elders of Israel
4. He shows the story of their rebellions in Egypt
19. in the desert
27. and in the land
33. He promises to gather them by the Gospel
45. Under the name of a forest he shows the destruction of Jerusalem

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Ezekiel 20:12

     1235   God, the LORD
     1450   signs, kinds of

Ezekiel 20:1-44

     7348   defilement

Ezekiel 20:11-12

     5029   knowledge, of God

Ten Reasons Demonstrating the Commandment of the Sabbath to be Moral.
1. Because all the reasons of this commandment are moral and perpetual; and God has bound us to the obedience of this commandment with more forcible reasons than to any of the rest--First, because he foresaw that irreligious men would either more carelessly neglect, or more boldly break this commandment than any other; secondly, because that in the practice of this commandment the keeping of all the other consists; which makes God so often complain that all his worship is neglected or overthrown,
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Manner of Covenanting.
Previous to an examination of the manner of engaging in the exercise of Covenanting, the consideration of God's procedure towards his people while performing the service seems to claim regard. Of the manner in which the great Supreme as God acts, as well as of Himself, our knowledge is limited. Yet though even of the effects on creatures of His doings we know little, we have reason to rejoice that, in His word He has informed us, and in His providence illustrated by that word, he has given us to
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting

There are few subjects on which the Lord's own people are more astray than on the subject of giving. They profess to take the Bible as their own rule of faith and practice, and yet in the matter of Christian finance, the vast majority have utterly ignored its plain teachings and have tried every substitute the carnal mind could devise; therefore it is no wonder that the majority of Christian enterprises in the world today are handicapped and crippled through the lack of funds. Is our giving to be
Arthur W. Pink—Tithing

Questions About the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath.
AND PROOF, THAT THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IS THE TRUE CHRISTIAN SABBATH. BY JOHN BUNYAN. 'The Son of man is lord also of the Sabbath day.' London: Printed for Nath, Ponder, at the Peacock in the Poultry, 1685. EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT. All our inquiries into divine commands are required to be made personally, solemnly, prayerful. To 'prove all things,' and 'hold fast' and obey 'that which is good,' is a precept, equally binding upon the clown, as it is upon the philosopher. Satisfied from our observations
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

Covenanting Sanctioned by the Divine Example.
God's procedure when imitable forms a peculiar argument for duty. That is made known for many reasons; among which must stand this,--that it may be observed and followed as an example. That, being perfect, is a safe and necessary pattern to follow. The law of God proclaims what he wills men as well as angels to do. The purposes of God show what he has resolved to have accomplished. The constitutions of his moral subjects intimate that he has provided that his will shall be voluntarily accomplished
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting

The Old Testament Canon from Its Beginning to Its Close.
The first important part of the Old Testament put together as a whole was the Pentateuch, or rather, the five books of Moses and Joshua. This was preceded by smaller documents, which one or more redactors embodied in it. The earliest things committed to writing were probably the ten words proceeding from Moses himself, afterwards enlarged into the ten commandments which exist at present in two recensions (Exod. xx., Deut. v.) It is true that we have the oldest form of the decalogue from the Jehovist
Samuel Davidson—The Canon of the Bible

A Sermon on Isaiah xxvi. By John Knox.
[In the Prospectus of our Publication it was stated, that one discourse, at least, would be given in each number. A strict adherence to this arrangement, however, it is found, would exclude from our pages some of the most talented discourses of our early Divines; and it is therefore deemed expedient to depart from it as occasion may require. The following Sermon will occupy two numbers, and we hope, that from its intrinsic value, its historical interest, and the illustrious name of its author, it
John Knox—The Pulpit Of The Reformation, Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

The Covenant of Works
Q-12: I proceed to the next question, WHAT SPECIAL ACT OF PROVIDENCE DID GOD EXERCISE TOWARDS MAN IN THE ESTATE WHEREIN HE WAS CREATED? A: When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge upon pain of death. For this, consult with Gen 2:16, 17: And the Lord commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

To a modern taste, Ezekiel does not appeal anything like so powerfully as Isaiah or Jeremiah. He has neither the majesty of the one nor the tenderness and passion of the other. There is much in him that is fantastic, and much that is ritualistic. His imaginations border sometimes on the grotesque and sometimes on the mechanical. Yet he is a historical figure of the first importance; it was very largely from him that Judaism received the ecclesiastical impulse by which for centuries it was powerfully
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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