The Sabbath Day

God has set aside the seventh day of each week for us to rest; He calls it the Sabbath, tells us to remember it and not do any work on it. (Ex 20:8-10) To walk with God here we must get the day right: He was very specific about the seventh day. So, which day is that?

The Jews, to whom God originally gave the commandments, have been keeping Sabbath on Saturday since before the time of Christ. Christ and the Apostles, who were also Jewish, kept Sabbath the same way; they’ve never been confused about it. If they had it wrong, Christ wouldn’t have agreed with them on it; but He did. (Jn 7:23)

And if we accept Sunday as the first day of the week, the day Christ rose from the dead, then the day before Sunday, Saturday, must be the seventh day. If Saturday isn’t Sabbath, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead on Sunday.

Since scripture never mentions God changing the Sabbath, why do so many think it’s Sunday? A quick study reveals long-winded arguments based on two irrelevant facts. On Sunday: [1] Christ rose from the dead (Mk 16:9), and [2] the early Christians often met together. (Ac 20:7) It doesn’t take a Ph.D in theology to see this doesn’t imply any change in the Sabbath.

People believe in a Sunday Sabbath because that’s what they’re taught; it’s what the Church has claimed for as long as anyone can remember. It’s in her catechisms and liturgies, woven into the fabric of Christianity for nearly two millennia. We might presume the early Church fathers had a good reason for teaching this. Not so.

It started way back in the 1st century with the Fiscus Judaicus: anyone acting like a Jew had to pay a hefty annual Roman tax. It wasn’t long before the early Church began distancing herself from anything and everything that looked Jewish: the Sabbath and biblical feasts, eating clean, circumcision, it all had to go … or pay the tax. Eventually, she rejected her foundation in Torah and invented an entirely new religion.

Persecution: that’s how the Church lost Sabbath. Now, I can’t say I’d have done any better back then, but from the safety of religious liberty, it’s clear we took a wrong turn. The good news is that now, after all this time, we get to re-discover Sabbath, and what a treasure it is!

God made Sabbath for us (Mk 2:27), and it’s a blessing to be able to keep it. God Himself rested on the first one (Ge 2:2), reminding us of His creative power (Ex 20:11), and I’ve no reason to think He isn’t still keeping it, rhythmically inviting us to rest with Him and in Him every Shabbat, reminding us of the gospel, that He’s our eternal rest. (He 4:10)

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2 thoughts on “The Sabbath Day”

  1. A common struggle we have with Sabbath is what God means by work. He doesn’t rigorously define it, but in His wisdom He gives us some examples.

    The first formal example we have in this context is a man gathering sticks in the wilderness (Nu 15:32), one of the few tasks required of Israelites during this period since manna was provided daily for them; all they needed to do was gather it. Prior to this, in Nu 11, they were explicitly told not to gather manna on Sabbath. In this context, work is being defined by example as the routine tasks which must be done in caring for yourself and others which cannot be reasonably omitted to enable a day of rest (e.g. breathing, eating and drinking, talking, moving about, getting dressed and making yourself presentable, etc.)

    As a balance, Yeshua points out that loosing beasts of burden from their stalls and leading them to water (Lk 13:15), or rescuing an animal from a pit (Lk 14:5), which could be physically strenuous, should not be considered work. In providing these kinds of examples, He rebuked Israel for creating burdensome, impractical definitions of work. (Mk 2:23-28)

    So, from what I can see, the spirit of Sabbath is ceasing from our regular pattern of work during the week, whatever that happens to look like for each person. Make the day special, separate, as pleasant and unhurried and unburdened as possible. Refresh, recharge, relax, recover … give yourself a break mentally, spiritually and physically. Don’t burden yourself with unnecessary constraints which make the day stressful, burdensome, laborious, etc.

    Sabbath is listed as both a feast and a “holy convocation,” (Le 23:2-3) so spend some time with the saints, put on a spread, and enjoy their company in fellowship and a meal.

  2. That the Sabbath starts on Friday night can be derived from three facts.

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Ge 1:1-2)

    [1] Ge 1:1-2 states that God created heaven and earth prior to creating light (thus, in darkness); this includes the globe of the earth, with all of the rocks and dirt and sand, the waters of the seas and oceans, and the expanse surrounding all of them.

    And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Ge 1:5)

    [2] Ge 1:5 states that God calls the light Day and the darkness Night, and the transitions between them morning and evening. God also defines Day as the combination of two events: morning and evening, naming the recurring 24-hour cycle by the lighted portion of it.

    For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Ex 20:11)

    [3] Ex 20:11 states that heaven and earth were created within the six 24-hour days of Creation; so God created them both on Day 1, within the first 24-hour day, during a period of darkness which began Day 1.

    Together, these three facts imply:
    [1] Night occurs prior to Day within the daily cycle.
    [2] Evening, being part of Day N, defines the transition between days N and N+1.

    From what I’ve seen, all claims that the (24-hour) day starts at some other time either ignore these basic foundational facts, or plainly deny and contradict them; no other theory rationally explains them.

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