Keep My Sabbaths

Trying to keep Sabbath in a non-Torah culture can be challenging, especially if family and friends are not aligned. Are we violating Sabbath if we put gas in the car? go to a grocery store or a pharmacy? eat out at a restaurant? go to a movie or a concert? What if a friend needs help on Sabbath? or we need to travel for a business trip or vacation, or attend a wedding or a funeral? In the complexity of living in a broken world, if we aren’t thoughtful and careful in our application of Sabbath, it can become a stressful burden rather a blessing of rest. (He 4:4-5)

There are three questions to consider: [1] Do our individual activities violate Sabbath? [2] Are we requiring / encouraging others to work? and [3] Are we setting a bad example or causing others to stumble?

Firstly, we note God never clearly defines work in the context of keeping Sabbath; this is not an oversight on God’s part – it is inestimable brilliance. He’s inviting us to participate with Him in how we observe Sabbath, to use the guidelines He has provided to sort out what it means in any given circumstance. In other words, this isn’t about thoughtless, rote obedience to a set of rules; we must understand the heart and spirit of Sabbath in order to properly obey it. (Mk 2:27)

The primary Sabbath principle is to remember it (Ex 20:8a), remind ourselves why God blessed and sanctified it (Ge 2:3), setting it apart from the other days. (Ex 20:8b)

We set Sabbath apart (keep it holy) primarily by doing all our work (Ps 104:23), how we typically generate income or value and provide and care for ourselves (2Th 3:10), on the other six days (9): we are forbidden to work on Sabbath and to require others to work. (10) As God rested on the seventh day (Ex 20:11), so should we. (Le 19:3)

So, we’re evidently within Sabbath guidelines if we abstain from the types of activities we typically engage in the other six days, especially income-generating activities, so long as we’re not neglecting our duties to ourselves or others, continuing to live responsibly and charitably in the world. (1Co 16:4) The more of this routine activity we can do before Sabbath, to prepare for it without creating an inappropriate inefficiency or burden, the better. This can be a learning process, where we get better at keeping Sabbath the more we observe it.

So, if a friend has an emergency on Sabbath and requires our help (De 22:1-2), we shouldn’t think of this as a violation. (Mt 12:11-12) But when friends or family routinely plan chores on Sabbath and count on our help, wisdom advises them of our Sabbath observance and kindly asks them to respect it.

And if we need to go to a store to pick up something we overlooked, or want to relax at a restaurant or go out to a performance on Shabbat, does this promote our rest and recovery from our weekly labors? Is it something we can easily put off until after Sabbath? Would it increase our stress or decrease it? We should pray through each situation with the spirit of Sabbath in mind.

As to how the world views our Sabbath activity, God deals with each of us according to our hearts. (Pr 24:12) Unless we are in Israel itself, most people in our culture work voluntarily on Sabbath, ignorant and/or heedless of God’s commands; benefiting from this isn’t necessarily inconsistent with Torah since we aren’t requiring others to work, or even encouraging it.

It isn’t our responsibility to require others to obey Torah, or to rebuke, admonish correct or instruct those who aren’t seeking after God and wanting to obey Him. God evidently enforces Torah violations differently depending on one’s understanding and permits His own to benefit from the voluntary Torah violations of others so long as we ourselves are being obedient. (De 14:21a)

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8 thoughts on “Keep My Sabbaths”

  1. I am often tempted to plan To-Dos on Sabbath which will save me time during the week so I can get more done. I tend to justify it when the task isn’t something I typically do for work as it seems to be a more efficient use of time, which is my most valuable resource.

    However, I think the spirit of Sabbath should get us out of an efficiency (the “get more done”) mindset; we shouldn’t use Sabbath as a catchall for non-routine activities which are not truly restful if they can be done on a work day.

  2. I understand the need for a civil standard to impose rules for Sabbath-keeping in the nation of Israel: Sabbath violation is a matter of Israeli national security (when the nation strays from Sabbath obedience God curses them and gives them over to their enemies).

    Any civil standard will necessarily be stricter than Torah itself and thus somewhat imperfect and burdensome, but it is required to forcibly align carnal minds and unrenewed hearts with the general spirit of Torah in that which can be observed by others. Once Israel is redeemed and given new hearts, perhaps this will no longer be necessary.

    When ministering to Jews for the sake of the Gospel, it may be appropriate to submit to these additional rules for Christ’s sake and accept this burden to be a light to the Jewish nation.

  3. Tim,

    How do you look at the verse in Colossians: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

    The ARE A SHADOW of things to come; BUT the BODY is of Christ.

    Can CHRIST BE one’s Sabbath? One’s resting place?

    And a portion 🙂 of scripture here:

    For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

    One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike.

    Tim, how do you fit the above verses into your GOOD study on Sabbath which I found enjoyable. Just being a piece or iron 🙂

    Recently in the “night seasons” in my sleep I experienced being shown a depth of some of my sinful choices from 50 or so years ago. It did not quite get to the point where I said “uncle” but it was moving in that direction.

    He established an ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP with Tim, with stephen, with _____________ — something about

    According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

    Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of [his will],

    The BEFORE the foundation of the world part. An eternal relationship. That is a portion of Sabbath which I look at. Where no man, no devil, can pluck me out of His hand. Nothing can separate me from the LOVE of Christ.

    As I was shown some detail of the intents of my heart in relation to sin 50 years ago — I also remembered —

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    He was reminding me, I had NOTHING to boast about. Nothing. There being a portion of myself wanting to hold onto “the boast”. He was obliterating it. As a Loving Father should.

    Bit of a rant, might seem a bit off topic —- good to say hello, Lord Bless — and remind us that the ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP we have with Him, which HE initiated is also part of what one might call Sabbath.


    1. Good question, Brother!
      Here’s a post on the topic that may be helpful: Let No Man Judge You. When we read this text carefully, it is teaching us how to respond when others criticize our observance of Torah. It doesn’t say we need not obey Torah. It is also telling us that the sabbaths, feast days and new moons are prophetic shadows cast by the body of Christ (these are His shadows!). This doesn’t make the feasts unimportant; it makes them precious beyond measure.

      I see Rom 14 relating to extra-biblical laws due to the examples provided, such as Jewish Halakah (extra-bibilical tradition) and vegetarianism (imposed by some Gnostics in 1Ti 4:1-5). It teaches us that if someone becomes convinced God wants them to follow such extra-biblical practices, they should do so, but they shouldn’t impose these rules on others. For example, of one feels one feast day is more important than another (e.g. Yom Kippur, which Jews claim as the holiest day of the year, but this is based on tradition, not scripture) they should honor it this way as unto the Lord. Others who see every day as equally important should also do so unto God. But this doesn’t mean we are “free” to violate Sabbath – we keep it as God commands; we simply don’t consider Sabbath more important than other days.

      In short, Scripture doesn’t offer a Christ saying it’s OK to break Torah; He isn’t a shelter or a “rest” for those who wish to break God’s Law; He doesn’t provide freedom from our obligation to pursue holiness, to sanctify ourselves, and do our best to follow Him.

      We are indeed saved by grace through faith, and are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Yet this isn’t a license to sin: salvation gives us a new heart that loves Torah and inclines us to obey it more and more as we grow. Those who don’t have such a heart to love Torah, who are not being transformed by God into obedient children, who find in Christ freedom to sin willfully, don’t yet know Christ as Lord, so I fear they don’t know Him at all.

  4. Tim,

    Some like 7th Day Adventists look at Saturday as the Sabbath. Some look at Sunday as a “new” Sabbath. Some will go from Sundown on Friday till Sundown on Saturday, etc. In context of your musings here, how would you see it?


  5. I think the scripture is clear that Saturday is the seventh day, therefore it is the Sabbath. I have not seen any evidence in scripture to the contrary.

    I also see reasonably good evidence that Sabbath starts Friday evening.

    I think Christians who are observing Sunday as sabbath are doing so entirely based on tradition and what they have been taught.

    According to Catholic doctrine, the Lord’s Day is Sunday, and it is not the Sabbath. Catholics observe the Lord’s Day rather than Sabbath, they don’t think Sunday is the Sabbath.

    If you follow the first link in this post you will find more detail on this, especially in the comments.

  6. Tim,

    On let No Man Judge you which I found intriguing in terms of how you flipped in a manner of speaking.

    Simple question first. Will eating bacon, shrimp, Tuna… send a person to hell?

    7th Day Adventist quote this one:

    “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
    To go to the gardens
    After an idol in the midst,
    Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
    Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.

    I have visited prayer breakfasts there, and that was def. a

    Does Torah, or WWJD, encompass going to hell for eating bacon as you look at his?

    Have more questions, thought I’d start with this.



  7. Tuna is clean, BTW. 🙂 Bacon, shrimp, catfish: not so.

    As always, it depends on the heart. Is the offence in true ignorance? Or is it willful, careless stubbornness and presumption? Is it the Old Man saying, “Jesus, You can have my pocketbook, but not my appetite.” Or is it the New Man ignorantly saying, “Didn’t Jesus do away with dietary law?” It could be either, and this does make a difference, in my opinion.

    I came to faith eating shrimp and bacon and continued in this for nearly two decades (1984 – 2004), incredulous in finding anyone claiming to know Jesus and Scripture still taking dietary law seriously.

    I don’t recall exactly how long it took me to repent once I was really challenged about it; perhaps the better part of a decade. The light leaked through a little at a time, in the context of much confusion, trial and error, rigor and study. It did not come easy for me.

    I distinctly recall the moment I decided to try keeping Torah. It was a matter of blind faith really, trusting God was good, that there just might be a blessing in following His laws. I wasn’t convinced theologically at all, just experimenting a bit. It wasn’t until I was willing to obey on the off chance that it might be right that the theology began to fall into place for me.

    So, I understand this from both sides, and how hard it is to unlearn this way of life once we’ve been taught wrong: this is basic and life-changing, intimidating to take up in an antinomian Christian culture, especially if we have been following Christ for a while. It is especially difficult when most teaching on this subject is twisting scripture and/or taking it out of context, and quite often done without love or nuance. Those initially teaching me were in a very broken, demonically driven cult. Ignorant, well-meaning Christians WAY off the typical evangelical path. Torah terrorists abound in most every Messianic synagogue or church and will as soon bring us into bondage as scoff at us, judge us for disagreeing and write us off. It is a difficult day for the truth-seeker. But perhaps no more difficult than any other day; it’s always been a fight.

    So, no, law-keeping doesn’t earn salvation, it’s the fruit of sanctification, and this is an incomplete, on-going process in every believer. One can be an ignorant believer and be eating bacon. I expect most believers today would be described like this.

    However, loving Christ isn’t optional for a believer, and this means obeying what we believe to be true as well as we can, submitting our will to Christ as Master and Lord in every area of life. This includes finances, sexuality, diet, language, dress, entertainment, all of it.

    Those who have yet to fully commit to following Christ, deliberately holding back some deep interior room to harbor self-will, these don’t yet know Him, or trust Him as either Lord or Savior.

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