Before God could teach the children of Israel to keep the Sabbath Day holy, He had to acclimatize them to a seven-day week. They had previously been slaves, with no control over their schedules. And in ancient Egypt, weeks were ten days long, not seven. (See Janice Kamrin, “Telling Time in Ancient Egypt,” February 2017, on metmuseum.org.)
So God introduced the Sabbath in stages, first as a practical pattern structured by the delivery of manna, and later as a general commandment.
When manna began to appear each morning, Moses instructed the people to gather only the amount they would need that day. But there was an exception to that rule. “Six days ye shall gather it,” he said, “but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none” (Exodus 16:26). On the sixth day of each week, they were to gather twice as much, and on the seventh day, they were to rest.
Only after the children of Israel had some experience with one day of rest per seven-day week did God give the more general commandment:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.Exodus 20:8-10
Many years later, on the American continent, the prophet Abinadi reminded King Noah and his priests of this commandment (Mosiah 13:16-18), so it’s not surprising that Alma, one of those priests, emphasized it when he organized a church at the waters of Mormon. Notice how he encouraged his people to dedicate the Sabbath to God and to remember Him throughout the week:
He commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God….
And there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also, as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together.Mosiah 18:24-25, italics added
We should always remember God and turn our thoughts to Him many times throughout the week. Additionally, one day a week, we have the privilege of setting aside many of our ordinary activities in order to dedicate time and attention fully to God.
Today, I will remember and observe the Sabbath Day. I will be grateful for the opportunity, one day out of every seven, to focus on my relationship with God.