The Sabbath: Ancient and Modern
Should Believers Keep the Biblical Sabbath?
A Scripture StudyOrigins of the Sabbath: And on the seventh day Elohim ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. (Genesis 2:2) The Hebrew word translated "rested" in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is "Shabbat" (H7673). Strong's Concordance defines this word as "to repose, i.e., desist from exertion, …to cease, celebrate, …leave, put away or down, make to rest, (be) still, take away."
So, on the Sabbath all "exertion" stops, work is "put away," to "rest and be still," and to "celebrate" the countless blessings of Elohim. Daniel Wilson calls it, "an indispensable preparation for the heavenly blessedness."
It is an ancient institution. From earliest times, the keeping of Sabbath was the mark of Elohim's people. During the persecutions of the early Church, many became martyrs after Roman authorities asked them this question, "Do you keep the Lord's day?" Indeed, history records that keeping the Sabbath was all too often the privilege of faithful martyrs!
Yet as moral law from Elohim dating back to the time of His creation, it is binding upon all Christian Believers; and it is the Sabbath DAY which is to be kept holy, not merely the part of the day spent in congregational worship. It first of all memorializes Elohim's Sacred Rest on the 7th day of creation. The reformer Martin Luther expressed that "Adam had continued in innocency, yet he would have had a sacred seventh day." Has the Sabbath changed to meet our modern needs? Times change, but eternal truths do not!
Today "job security" is a major concern on the mind of working people. In ancient times, there often was none, as family existence and well-being tenuously depended upon a successful harvest. Yet, YAHUAH's Sabbath commandment expressly includes the time of plowing and reaping in which it was very, very hard for them to interrupt work. "Six days you shall work. But on the seventh day you shall rest. In earing time (plowing season) and in harvest, you shall rest." (Exodus 34:21)
Why would Yah expect people to stop working in the field when it appeared to interfere with their "well being?" The key to Elohim's purpose is within the definition: CELEBRATE and REST.
A Celebration of Elohim's Goodness The company of nations known as "Christendom" ("Christ's Kingdom") had at least one thing in common since receiving the glad tidings of the Gospel. They have set aside one day in seven as a national observance, calling it the "Sabbath" and "the Lord's Day." For centuries, European nations engaged each other in almost continuous wars, rivalry and commotion. They seldom found much, if anything, to agree upon. Yet they independently agreed upon commemorating the Sabbath. The significance of keeping this day is found in a statute containing a very early prophecy from patriarchal times.
"Therefore, you shall keep the Sabbath for it is holy unto you. Every one who defiles it shall surely be put to death. For who so ever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days work may be done. But in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to YAHUAH. Who so ever does any work in the Sabbath Day; he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever. For in six days YAHUAH made heaven and earth. On the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:14-17)
The Sign of Sabbath YAH teaches that Israel's keeping of Sabbath is a sign that they are indeed His people. Moreover, Israel is to observe and obey this covenant with Elohim, forever. It is perpetual! No other people throughout history continuously kept such a national holiday. Look today around the whole earth where you will, but not the Chinese, not in India, nor in Africa, nor among the Eskimos, will you find even a rudimentary form of a Sabbath. It is only among the modern Christian-Israel people of the world.
Was this sign annulled at Calvary? No! For not only do we find it evident in the earth today among Elohim's own people, but Scripture expressly states that "it is a sign … forever." How then do some call it abolished?
The Old Testament often combines the New Testament themes of Redemption and Sanctification with Sabbath. (Exodus 31, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel 20) For example, note how Moses reminds the Israelites about Yah's commandment. "Remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt and that YAHUAH your Elohim brought you out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm. Therefore, YAHUAH your Elohim commanded you to keep the Sabbath day." (Deuteronomy 5:15) Thus, through the Sabbath, people celebrate Elohim's redemption of His Israel people from Egypt (and many times since).
Note what YAH says through His prophet about sanctifying people via the Sabbath. "Moreover, I also gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am YAHUAH who sanctifies them." (Ezekiel 20:12) "Hallow My Sabbaths and they shall be a sign between me and you that you may know that I am YAHUAH your Elohim." (Ezekiel 20:20) This sign of a covenant relationship with Elohim resulted in material and spiritual blessings to Israel, and through these chosen servants the entire world is blessed! Truly, we offer thanks to Elohim and celebrate His goodness when we observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy (set-apart, special).
A Rest unto the People of Elohim Yet keeping the Sabbath is not just a matter of celebration. As its name indicates, it is also a day of rest. In Old Testament times, the land was to have a Sabbath, or rest every 7 years, during which time no planting or harvesting was to be done. "Six years you shall sow your land, and shall gather in the fruits thereof. But the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie still that the poor of your people may eat. What they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner you shall deal with your vineyard and with your olive yard. (Exodus 23:10-11)
Some modern-day scientists say this was done to break the life-cycle of the soil insects. Without a new food source, most will die-off and the following year crops will be nearly insect-free (without using pesticides!). Others thought land rest allows it to lay fallow and rejuvenate, preventing it from being worn out through overuse. Elohim essentially decrees the same type of Sabbath for man (a rest of one day after working six). Human bodies need time to rest, relax, reinvigorate and rebuild damaged tissues (without using pharmacy chemicals!). There's no non-stop, human dynamo (works day & night, 7 days/week) resting only for yearly vacations.
To clarify a misconception regarding Sabbath rest, it isn't just a day of idleness, sloth and inactivity. According to this wonderful, inspiring scripture, "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 of YAHUAH, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:" (Isaiah 58:13)
Then comes the promise; "Then you shall delight yourself in YAHUAH. I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of YAHUAH has spoken it." (Isaiah 58:14)
Elohim's Sabbath day is a rest from worldly cares that weigh us down. It is not sloth, but a setting aside of our own duties and obligations, and a turning unto His. YAH commands to make HIM the center of our lives, thoughts and actions on this day. Worship Him! Serve Him! Earnestly seek nothing to interfere with a proper observance of the Sabbath, for it is His day, not ours. And, if we do that, then the great blessings (material and spiritual) that Elohim gave Jacob and the Patriarchs will be ours. A prize immeasurable!
Consider the insight of Bishop Westcott, "The Sabbath is the Lord's Day, not ours. Man's true rest is not a rest from human, earthly labor, but a rest for divine, heavenly labor." And, reflect upon what Dr. Benjamin P. Warfield said, "Rest is not the true essence of the Sabbath, nor the end of its institution; it is the means to a further end, which constitutes the real Sabbath 'rest.' We are to rest from our own things that we may give ourselves to the things of God."
Yes, do we indeed keep the Sabbath rest, or do we remember Elohim only if there is time after our chores are finished? Does Elohim come last or first on the Sabbath day? This is the true rest so many lack: Bible reading, prayer, and worship are the best means available to soothe and comfort our worried, overburdened minds and hearts. Please try it – do it with vigor – and you will be blessed.
Questions on Hearts Many teach that the Sabbath is part of Moses' ceremonial laws. Many believe these laws were transitory, temporary and abolished when Messiah inaugurated an Age of Grace. Did Yahshuah come to earth to sweep the laws of Elohim right out the door? Is the thinking of "New Testament Christians" correct? Is the Sabbath removed along with everything else that belongs to the "old dispensation?"
How did Yahshuah answer this? "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say to you, until heaven and earth shall pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Who ever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)
Furthermore it is written, "For if Yahshuah had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest to the people of Elohim. For he that is entered into His rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as Elohim did from His. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest. (Hebrews 4:8-11)
Scripture has many examples of those who kept the Sabbath. This Hebrew concept, and Greek equivalent, "sabbaton" (G4521), appears over 130 times in the KJV Bible. This is a very important teaching. Yah told the Israelites (and us) to keep the Sabbath. So, Joshua kept it as did Israel's priests, judges, kings, prophets. The apostles observed Sabbath with Yahshuah and the 1st century Church kept Yah's command. We read that even in the beginning YAHUAH Elohim kept the Sabbath. Clearly, the Sabbath principle is an eternal truth for our physical and spiritual well-being.
I pray this brief study encourages you to make Sabbath a matter of prayerful consideration. Ask Elohim to reveal how He wants you to keep His and your Sabbath. Then, do what He tells you to do. Strive to ever be more obedient to Him from whom all blessings flow.
Read The Bible!
Reading the Bible chapters listed on the back page of this Shofar takes about 15 minutes per day. If you spend this time, in one year you will read every chapter and verse of scripture. We are about to read the Word of YAHUAH as given through the prophet Isaiah. "Hear O heavens! Give ear, O earth for YAHUAH has spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2)
Thoughts for Meditation
"In the Bible, Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance: 'Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God' (Exodus 20:9–10). Although Sabbath rest receives a much smaller amount of time than work, it is a necessary counter balance so that the rest of your work can be good and beneficial." -Dr. Timothy Keller
"The Sabbath was not intended to be simply a desert of prohibitions, but rather an oasis for moral restoration and seemly pleasure-one was to eat, drink, even be merry." - Israel Shenker