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Biblical Sabbath

Exodus 20:8-10
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.

There are two things we must take into consideration about the Sabbath:

  • The Rest
  • The Day

The Rest

Built into every one of us is the need for rest. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It is the day that the Lord has made for us to worship Him, to rest in Him and be refreshed.

Sabbath means to rest and cease from labor. The seventh day of the week is called the Sabbath rest or a Sabbath of complete rest. This rest of man includes his servants and animals. They too need to rest and be refreshed.

Mark 2:27
And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."

Leviticus 23:3
Six days shall work be done,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.
You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

Exodus 23:12
Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest,
that your ox and your donkey may rest,
and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

Even God Himself rested on the seventh day and was refreshed.

Exodus 31:17
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.

Genesis 2:1-3
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done,
and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,
because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

God rested on the seventh day after He completed His work of creation. He sat back, relaxed and took a look at the works of His hands. Everything was complete and perfectly in order. He smiled. Blessed by what He saw, He took a Sabbatical rest. God rested and was refreshed! God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. The Sabbath then became holy! This was clearly shown in the fourth commandment!

Exodus 20:8-11
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.
In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter,
nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle,
nor your stranger who is within your gates.
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. 

However we have replaced this blessed rest with programs and activities. If the people of earth would take heed to this commandment of the Lord, we would have a better and more wonderful world. People will not be burnouts or misfits. There will be lesser wars, strife, hatred, jealousy and envy. There will be more peace, patience, love, grace and mercy.

Imagine a world that rests on the Sabbath. People resting in the Lord, enjoying Him and His creation, which includes the peoples of the world. People begin to consider the interests of others and esteem others better than themselves. Showing grace to others, being gracious and merciful even to their enemies.

Imagine a day wherein there is no rush to buy or to do this and that. The shopping malls, cinemas, TV and Internet are closed for the day. The churches will be alive with the sound of praise and worship. People will enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with one another without any distractions or other attractions. The simple meals are taken in the homes, prepared ahead of time. The waiters and waitresses in the restaurants and eating houses can have their day of rest so that they too can be refreshed to face a new week. People will exercise forethoughts and foresights, planning ahead for themselves and others. There will not be any last minute twists and turns, upsetting anyone. Every Sabbath is like a New Year Day when all businesses are closed for the day. People will share and testify of the Lord. The Word becomes alive. Praying for one another, for the sick and for the nations. Enjoying and worshipping the Lord. Enjoying people and loving one another.

The creation of God will also suffer lesser pollution and contamination. Lesser trees, plants, animals and nature are being destroyed as man begins to appreciate and admire the creation of God the way God does.

However, there are some exceptions to consider - the works of necessity and mercy.

Matthew 12:1-13
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.
10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.
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.”
13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.

Utilities such as gas, electricity and water are essential needs. Imagine a home without electricity or a kitchen without gas to cook and water to wash. Imagine a hospital closing on the Sabbath. Works of mercy in hospitals and elderly homes are permissible to operate on Sabbaths. Some surgeries can be rescheduled to other days. Some life-saving emergencies are allowed on Sabbaths. Again, the rule is: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for Sabbath. On such cases, there should be rotations of duties for Sabbaths.

The Sabbath is God's model of work and rest. He cares that we do not fall into slavery becoming workaholics or machines. Sabbath is the celebration of God's deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Deut 5:15
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.

The Sabbath is not a yoke or bondage. It is a day of delight, joy and rest - feasting, fellowshipping, reading and enjoying the Scriptures etc. Keeping the Sabbath honors God our Creator. It unifies our families and sets the right priorities for us. Our souls are refreshed as our minds are renewed. A day away from work, stress, pressure, monetary and worldly pursuits. A day we can come and worship God in the beauty of His Holiness. A day we can rest in Him!

By resting in the Lord, man is actually declaring his trust in God. God rested on the seventh day after He ended His work which He had done. He also shared with man the fruit of His labor. He allowed man to have the authority to rule over the earth, which He had created. Man should follow this divine example. Giving thanks to the Lord as we enjoy and share the fruit of our labor. The rich will be blessed and the poor will have no lack!

But the sad truth is that we have done otherwise and forgone this blessing of the Sabbath. In our rushing through life, we lose life itself. We fill our timetables, leaving no time or room for God and others. We please ourselves, indulging in our own interests and doing our own things without any considerations for God and others. We do not seek Him and His righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,
boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers,
without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors,
headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

What is the blessing in keeping the Sabbath? Just take a look at the Jews. They kept their Sabbaths. In the midst of many wars, they experience the Shalom peace of God. Despite the various attempts of man to eradicate them from the face of the earth throughout the ages, they remain blessed and prospering while their enemies had long been consumed and forgotten.

We must enter into the perfect rest of the Lord that He so desires us to. Unless we come into His rest, we will always be struggling and striving. And Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

The Day

Just as we have turned the rest into unrest, we have also changed the day into another day. The Sabbath will always be the seventh day of the week. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His Word is eternal and forevermore the same through all generations.

The Sabbath was instituted at creation, two thousand years before there were any Jews. It was meant for all men and not just the Jews. God blessed the seventh day, sanctified it and called it a day of rest (Genesis 2:3). The Sabbath is the celebration of God's complete and perfect creation. The observance of the day is in itself an acknowledgment of His omnipotence.

The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-17 (KJV) contain 297 words. 94 of these words are about the Sabbath. This fourth commandment takes up more than thirty percent of all the contents of the Ten Commandments. This shows its significance and importance.

The Sabbath was held in high esteem by both the Jews and the early Christians. All the twelve disciples of Jesus were Messianic Jews. They observed the Sabbath on the seventh day. To ask any Jew to disobey this law of Sabbath or to change the day is like asking them to tear out their hearts.

The Lord's Day is not to be confused with the Sabbath. The Lord's Day is the first day of the week that begins on Saturday evening and ends on Sunday evening. This was the day on which Jesus was raised from the dead. The Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening, the seventh or last day of the week. This commemorates the day on which God rested after the creation of the world. We have illegally replaced the Sabbath with the Day of the Lord.

Jesus Himself observed and kept the Sabbath. In Luke 4:14-21, He announced and began His ministry on a Sabbath. In the same chapter, verses 31 to 35, Jesus taught and cast out demons on the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul observed the Sabbath. In Acts 13:14-15, Paul taught on Sabbath Day in the synagogue in Antioch. The Jews and Gentiles begged Paul and Barnabas to come back the next Sabbath and teach them more about the gospel (Acts 13:42-43).

After the first Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire in AD 70, it was dangerous to be identified with the Jews. The Jews were hated. And the Gentile believers began to disassociate themselves from anything Jewish or Hebraic.

Beginning with the Second Jewish Revolt in about AD 135, the Gentile church leaders began to openly break away from their Hebraic Roots. The Church began to gather on Sundays instead of Saturdays to escape intense persecutions. The Catholic Encyclopedia stated that it was the Catholics who changed the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday in the third century AD. This was unauthorized, transferring the solemnity of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

Jesus did not resurrect on Sunday morning. He rose on Saturday evening after the Sabbath was over! Jesus was resurrected at the dawning of the first day of the week. That was the beginning of the first day of the week, not the morning dawn.

Matthew 28:1
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.

Mary Magdalene waited till the Sabbath was over, and she went to the tomb immediately after Saturday 6 pm. She was the first to see the Risen LORD.

Mark 16:9-11
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

The body of Jesus was reported to be stolen or missing in the night and not in the morning.

Matthew 28:11-15
Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

There are three passages often misinterpreted by Christians that the Sabbath was divinely changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week:

  • Acts 20:6-12

It was not a church service that Paul was having on the first day of the week. It was on a Saturday evening when they gathered together to break bread for the fellowship meal (Good News Bible) - a meal taken at the end of the Sabbath and known as Havdalah. After this meal, Paul preached until midnight. A young man was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third storey. He was found dead but later resurrected to life.

  • 1 Cor 16:1-4

Paul exhorted the Christians to put aside part of their first day's pay (a type of first fruits) as a love offering to help their fellow believers in Judea. They were to save it up until Paul sent men whom they had approved to take their monetary gift to Jerusalem. No collection was taken on the first day of the week as there was no church service on that day.

  • Rev. 1:10

John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. The Lord's Day refers to the first day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead in the evening after the Sabbath was over.

God is restoring the Biblical Sabbath back to the Church, both the rest and the day. He is re-establishing the ancient foundations, building the old waste places, repairing the Breach and restoring the streets to dwell in. Sabbath is from Genesis, the foundations of the earth.

Isaiah 58:11-14
The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought,
and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you shall build the old waste places;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
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, 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.

  • For the Jews:

Exodus 31:16-17
Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath,
to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.

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.

  • For the Gentiles:

Isaiah 56:1-7
Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for My salvation is about to come,
and My righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who lays hold on it;
who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil."
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak, saying,
"The LORD has utterly separated me from His people"; nor let the eunuch say,
"Here I am, a dry tree."
For thus says the LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant,
even to them I will give in My house and within My walls
a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD,
to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants--
everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant--
even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
and make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar;
for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."

One final consideration of the Sabbath is the prophetic calendar of the Lord in the endtimes. By foregoing the Biblical Sabbath, we will be foregoing its significant meaning. The Sabbath of Sabbaths will be at the end of the age. Just as rest comes after six days of work, Messiah will reign over the earth for a thousand years after 6000 years of history. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3:8). We are approximately six thousand years from creation. The thousand-year Sabbath reign of Jesus is therefore at hand. If the Sabbath is changed to the first day, we will have to wait another 1000 years before Jesus returns!

I believe that God is leading us back to the ancient paths where the good way is. When we walk in it, we will find rest for our souls (Jeremiah 6:16).