What & When is the Sabbath?

God sanctifies places and things to communicate to His people. He set apart the ark of the covenant and tabernacle. He set apart His holy book—the Bible. He set apart His Holy Son—Jesus, and He set apart a holy day—the Sabbath. God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it… (Gen. 2:3).

Sabbath is a day of rest, called Shabbat in Hebrew, begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening.

Do not do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline. But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it. (Jer 17:22-24).

A Celebration!

The Sabbath is the celebration of God’s complete and perfect creation. As Judah Halevi explains, “The observance of the Sabbath is in itself an acknowledgment of His omnipotence, and at the same time an acknowledgment of the creation in His divine word.”

Judaism 101 explains:

The Sabbath (or Shabbat, as it is called in Hebrew) is one of the best known and least understood of all Jewish observances. People who do not observe Shabbat think of it as a day filled with stifling restrictions, or as a day of prayer like the Christian Sabbath. But to those who observe Shabbat, it is a precious gift from G-d, a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when we can set aside all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits.

In Jewish literature, poetry and music, Shabbat is described as a bride or queen, as in the popular Shabbat hymn Lecha Dodi Likrat Kallah (come, my beloved, to meet the [Sabbath] bride).

It is said “more than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.”

The Fourth Commandment

The fourth commandment instructing us to keep the Sabbath day holy is thirty percent of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments contain 322 words. 98 of those words are are about the Sabbath.

When Did Sabbath Begin?

The Sabbath was held in high esteem in both in Jewish circles and in early Christianity. The Sabbath was made at creation, two thousand years before there were any Jews.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he rested after all his work of creating (Gen 2:1-3).

He [Moses] said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left [of the manna] and keep it until morning.'” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out [to gather manna].” So the people rested on the seventh day. The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey (Ex 16:23-31).

Is the Sabbath Only for Jews?

After Abraham’s time the Sabbath applied to all people, aliens, and animals within the gates of the Israelites. (An alien is someone who is not a native of the land. This is the Hebrew “ger,” a righteous non-Hebrew who has been grafted into Israel. See Romans 11:13-21.)

God intends that the Sabbath be regarded as something honorable, something significant, not for its own sake, but because of what it represents. Keeping the Sabbath is the only one of the holy days to be ordained in the Ten Commandments.

It is tied to two specific and highly significant acts in history:

  1. God’s “resting” after six days of creation (Gen. 2:2)
  2. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Deut. 5:15).

God’s model of work and rest demonstrates how much of our lives is to be spent in labor and how much is to be spent in worship. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Sabbath calls to mind God’s sovereign rule and His merciful redemption.

A Day of Joy!

The Sabbath is not a yoke of bondage. It’s a day of joy, rest, eating, and enjoying Scriptures, fellowship, etc. The Sabbath was never intended to be a restraining time of punishment.

What would your reaction be if your boss came to you and said, “I want you to take tomorrow off to rest. Enjoy yourself, eat, rest, read, just don’t even think about work.” Would you feel burdened?

The Sabbath is a holy time of resting from our weekly work in order to come into a joyous worship of God. It is a time of release from the stress and pressure of making a living. It is a time to rest from our normal pursuit of physical gain and to remember our Creator.

Honoring God

Keeping the Sabbath honors God, our Creator, who also rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3). It also unifies our families and sets priorities for them. This day of rest refreshes us spiritually and physically—providing time when we can gather together and when we can reflect on God without the stress of our everyday activities.

When Did Sabbath Change from Saturday to Sunday?

The Bible is totally silent with regard to any change of the Sabbath day or any sacredness for Sunday.

The adoption of Sunday observance in place of the Sabbath did not occur in the early Church of Jerusalem by virtue of the authority of Christ or of the Apostles, but rather took place several decades later.

In 132 A.D. Bar-Kokhba led a revolt against the Romans. When he was done, 50 percent of the population of Judea was dead and tens of thousands of men and women who remained alive were sold into slavery. Jews were forbidden to set foot in Jerusalem, and the province was renamed Palestine. It was a dangerous time to be identified with the Jews. During this period, the predominate day of worship among Christians gradually began to change from the Sabbath to Sunday. The day changed, in part, because of the need to disassociate the Christian movement from the Jewish nation.

Years later, the Church of Rome: Canon 29, Council of Laodicea, 364 C.E., worried about Judaizing and gave the following statement: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, the Sabbath, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day (Sunday) they shall honor, and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that it was the Catholics who changed the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday and claims this as a mark of its authority. Converts Catechism of Catholic Doctrine said, “Sunday observance is from when the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.”

The Sabbath should be enjoyed as a day of rest, family worship and strengthening relationships and focusing on Christ. Let it bring unity and focus to your home.

How Do You Do It?

I battle making the Sabbath holy every week.  Is it easy for you or is it something you struggle with?

Free Magazine (37 page PDF) Focusing on Sabbath

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Comments (2)

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  1. Elisheva says:

    What a fabulous website. I enjoyed your post regarding The Sabbath. I do struggle with making The Sabbath Day Holy at times. I am working full time and I struggle with no going out to buy food on this day. I have sometimes gone to our local market I hate to say (which is only held on Saturdays in our local town) but I am going to try and order an organic veg/salad box every week so that I can avoid this.

    I have no other contact with anyone who observes the Sabbath as the nearest torah observant congregations are in London which is accessible by train. I would not be able to stay with anyone as I dont know them and secondly, I would not be able to travel up on Friday night or return on the Sabbath as this would be making others work – so I am stuck.

    I also don’t celebrate the Sabbath properly and though I have a prayer book with all the different prayers for candle lighting and torah readings, I feel as I need more insight and info as to how to properly observe this special day. I am fairly new to keeping the Torah and observing The Sabbath etc.

    Any advice and insight would be great 🙂

    Also your free magazine “focusing on The Sabbath” no longer seems to be available – is there any way this can be made available again please or could you send me a copy via my email address which is elishevapagehartley@ntlworld.com – as I would love to have a copy of this magazine.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Blessings and shalom
    .-= Elisheva´s last blog ..Esther =-.

  2. Jane Owens says:

    I am asking your permission to quote from this article “Biblical Holidays”. I am in the process of writing a meditative commentary on the book of Exodus. Tentatively titled: Exodus – Simply Speaking.

    I have been keeping the Sabbath for 14 years after coming into the understanding of the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.

    Thank you for your prompt response.

    Jane Owens, Author

    Blog: https://psalm1031112.wordpress.com

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