Observing the Sabbath

SABBATH -- the practice of observing one day in seven as a time for rest and worship. This practice apparently originated in creation, because God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 1-2:3). By this act, God ordained a pattern for living-- that man should work six days each week and should rest one day a week. This is the understanding of the creation set forth by Moses in Exodus 20:8-11, when he wrote the Ten Commandments at God's direction. God hallowed the Sabbath for a sign between He and man that God truly ruled Israel (Exodus 31:13). To break His Sabbath law was to rebel against Him, an action meriting death (Ex. 31:14,15).

How do we observe the Sabbath in our day and time?

To understand how to observe the Sabbath today, we must first understand it from the time of its inception through the time of Jesus' ministry. The Sabbath began at the time of the creation of the world in which God worked six days and then rested on the seventh day. In Exodus 31:17, it says God rested and was refreshed. These two words are the keys to understanding our duty in observance of the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for 'rested' is 'shabath' which means to cease. God ceased from His works of creation after the sixth day. He did not do any further work. He was done with creation and stopped to enjoy and observe all the creation. This rest day also had another purpose. God hallowed the seventh day and made it a holy day unto Him (Ex. 20:11).   To hallow [qadash (kaw-dash')] is to consecrate or observe something or someone as sacred or holy. Thus, God made the seventh day a day to observe Him as sacred and holy. This was originally done by the hosts of heaven, then later also by man.

As rested did not mean to relax, God being refreshed does not mean He was overcome with His work and needed time to recuperate. We know this is not so because God does not get tired. This would show weakness in Him. Instead, 'refreshed' pertains to what God received when He proclaimed the Sabbath and hallowed (Exodus 20:11) or sanctified (Gen. 2:3) this day unto Him. God looked upon His creation, saw that it was good, and was pleased with it. Then, by hallowing the Sabbath and making it holy unto Him, He was honored and credited as the wonderful supreme ruler by the hosts of Heaven. This was a renewing and establishment of God as the supreme being, the creator, and the ruler of the newly created world. Later, all creation, and man in particular, would honor God in this way. The hallowing or honoring and the rememberance of God is the refreshing He receives. It is glorification of God for all things or anything from the creation to the present. Thus, the primary purpose of observing the Sabbath is to honor, praise, and glorify God. We must cease from our works to be able to do this. Otherwise, we will not have a chance for quality observance and glorification of God.

There were certain stipulations to be obesrved on the Sabbaths. In Isaiah 58:13, we see that the people were not to seek their own pleasure without any thought or submission to God. All activities should be in line with God's moral law. In Deut. 5:14-15, all the people in Israel were to rest and think about what God had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Sabbath rest then was a time for God's people to rest, enjoy, and to think about what God had accomplished for them.  In Exodus 34:21, we see that the people were to do no work on the Sabbath during plowing time or harvest time. This caused the people to trust in God for all their needs. In Nehemiah, we find that no trading, buying, or selling could take place on the Sabbath. Society was not to seek advancement in gain or wealth on this day. The Sabbath was not to be just any other day. It was to have other priorities. Anyone who sought gain or profit on the Sabbath was not hallowing the day to God. His god would be the money and gain he could make that day. Moving forward to the time of Jesus, we see that He healed many of the sick and afflicted on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-34) and taught us in John 7:23, Matthew 12:5,11-12, and Mark 3:4  that it is okay to do necessary work and good deeds on the Sabbath. If you need to prepare something to eat then do it. If someone is sick, nurse them. If your animals need water, give it to them. In Acts 13:42, we see that the teachings of the word of God took place every Sabbath. This was a time to worship God through the reading of His word. It is very important to be reminded regularly of God and His principles so we can live pleasing to Him. We should have regularly scheduled times of worship and Bible study. To summarize the principles in these verses, we can see that all works for gain or wealth are forbidden on the Sabbath while rest, keeping God's ways in all you do, and all acts of mercy, necessity, and worship are allowed.

To understand how the Sabbath works in our day we can look at two key scripture verses. In Mark 2:27-28, Jesus tells us that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. This tells us that the Sabbath was for our benefit and we can choose how and what to do this day. During the time of Jesus the Pharisees and scribes had progressively turned the Sabbath into a day of legalistic duties and restrictions. Jesus showed them that the Sabbath was meant to give rest or a cessation of work for man while still keeping God in heart and mind. We are permitted to do anything that God allows as long as we do not neglect God through worship, praise, or glorification and, we keep our activities holy and in the will of God. We are not to become occupied with any work that is done for gain or wealth. A second key verse is Colossians 2:16. Paul tells us not to let our service and worship to God be judged by what holy days or Sabbaths we keep. These former traditions were only a shadow of what was to come.  Now, we are of Christ and worship God through Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. As long as we are in Christ living as He lived, in righteousness and in the will of the Father, we fulfill all the law and the commandments including the celebrations, holy days, and the Sabbaths. The law is fulfilled every day in our hearts, our minds, and our actions. Does this mean we do not keep the Sabbath any longer? No, the Sabbath must be kept. However, by this teaching we are able to honor the Sabbath spiritually any day of the week. We are not restricted by laws that dictate when to observe the Sabbath. This means we can make any day a Sabbath day.

To hold the Sabbath on another day other than the traditional Sunday works well in our day and time. Many people who wish to worship God may and do work on Sunday. Some who work on Sundays are in jobs in which it is necessary to the community, environment, and the world that someone must be there.  Jobs in hospitals, police departments, emergency fields, and utilities are good examples of necessary jobs.  They require someone everyday of the week and even around the clock. Without them we could not function as we do now.  The people who work these jobs may feel guilty that they do not have time to worship regularly. Worse though is the fact they may not remain close to the Lord or grow in the Spirit. With the understanding of Colossians 2:16, these fears and risks can be put away. Opportunity exists for all believers to observe a Sabbath.  Those in the jobs that require them to work irregular schedules can and should honor the Sabbath.  They are permitted by Paul's teaching to use another day. Likely, it will be on their scheduled day off which may fall during the week. All believers should be able to find one day in seven to honor the Sabbath, even if they must worship by themselves. This is fine. One can get filled with the Spirit by themselves as well, if not sometimes better, as in a group with other believers. The church is not a building.  The true church and body of Christ is made up of individual heart driven followers of Christ - wherever they may be. God will bless your time with Him no matter where you worship. If you want to share your time with others, God can and may provide someone to worship with you. He will fulfill your needs. There is no end to the growth and quality of time you may experience. You are required only to be faithful and sincere.

God made the Sabbath a perpetual covenant (Exodus 31:16). This means it is forever or ongoing. The Sabbath is something we must keep until the Christ returns for us. By applying the understanding of Col. 2:16 and Mk. 2:27-28, there can be no excuses for not worshiping God and hallowing Him on the Sabbath. Therefore, we must observe the Sabbath and if necessary make another day our Sabbath. We must cease from pursuing gain or wealth on that day and make time to hallow God and worship Him. We are allowed to do things  that are relaxing, fun, or even necessary. Yet, we must keep God and His ways on our mind in all the activities we may involve ourselves.  Furthermore, we should call to mind and express ourselves thankfully to God for all His creation and for what He has given us and allowed us personally. Of course we are not limited in our thankfulness. Whatever blessings we have or glorifying of God we wish to express can be done. The important thing to do is to prioritize a Sabbath to hallow and glorify God. By this He will be refreshed. 

Reference Verses:

Exod 31:13
13 "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: 'Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

Exod 31:14-15
14 'You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
15 'Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Exod 31:17
17 'It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'"

Exod 20:11
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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 34:21
21 "Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Deut 5:14-15
14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.
15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Isa 58:13-14
13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Neh 10:31; 13:15-21
31 if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day;
15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.
16 Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?
18 "Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath."
19 So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day.
20 Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice.
1 So I warned them, and said to them, "Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!" From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath.

Jn 7:23
23 "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?

Matt 12:5;11-12
5 "Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
11 Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?
12 "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Mk 3:4
4 Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent.

Acts 13:42
42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

Mk 2:27-28
27 And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
28 "Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

Col 2:16-17
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths,
17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

The Enlightener