This blog begins chapter ten of the book in process Conversations About God. It originated as a series of lectures by Graham Maxwell in 1984. After each lecture Maxwell took written questions from the audience mediated through the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church at the time, Lou Venden. This marvelous series has never been put into book form, so I am attempting to do so and sharing the results in progress here with permission from the Maxwell family. The words that follow are Maxwell’s oral presentation, edited by me.
This is the tenth chapter in a series of conversations about God; looking at our Heavenly Father in the larger setting of the great controversy over His character and government. The subject for our conversation this time is “The Reminder of The Evidence.” The title was chosen to suggest the important meaning and purpose of yet another of God’s provisions to help us during this crisis of distrust.
Unfortunately, the Sabbath has been widely misunderstood in a way that supports Satan’s charges that God is arbitrary, exacting, and severe. Even among devout observers of the seventh day, the Sabbath has often been misrepresented, as was the case on that very sad Friday 1900 years ago. But if we put the Sabbath in the setting of all sixty-six Bible books and in the larger setting of the great controversy over the character and government of God, I believe that all arbitrariness evaporates.
The best known biblical statement about the Sabbath is in Exodus 20, right in the middle of the Ten Commandments. The commandment runs from verse 8 to verse 11, but we will emphasize two portions of the passage:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exod 20:8, 11, RSV).
It is significant to note that in the New Testament, James called the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) the “royal law of liberty” (Jam 1:25; 2:12). Not the “royal law of subjugation, surrender, and bondage,” but the “royal law of freedom.” Yet a first reading of this particular commandment could seem somewhat arbitrary, couldn’t it? Is God laying upon His children an arbitrary requirement, just to show His authority and test their willingness to obey? But the message of all sixty-six books, and certainly of these conversations about God, is that there is no arbitrariness in our God. Rather He paid a high price to deny any trace of arbitrariness! We’ll come back to this larger theme in the later chapters entitled “God’s Law Is no Threat to Our Freedom” (Chapter Twelve) and “God’s Emergency Measures” (Chapter Eleven).
God’s laws were not given to be a burden or to restrict us. They were given to help us, to protect us in the days of our ignorance and immaturity, and to lead us back to trust and freedom. God values nothing higher than our freedom. When you go through all the sixty-six books and you come to the last one, the book of Revelation, you note that God is still asking us to remember Him as our Creator. The first angel of Revelation 14 says: “Honor God and give him glory, for his time has come to sit in judgment. Worship the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator of the sea and the springs” (Rev 14:7, NAB). Note how this excellent Catholic translation renders the opening phrase “honor God” instead of “fear God.”