12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Exodus 31:12-14 ESV
“Above all”. That is how God viewed the keeping of “his Sabbath” with the Jewish people.
What is the Sabbath? It is a day of rest every seven days, used for us to be refreshed, to set aside our own business and to focus on God through worship, prayer and service.
God took the Sabbath day very seriously. He not only told the Israelites to set aside every seventh day to focus on Him, he also instructed them to let their fields lie fallow every seventh year, using that year to provide food on its own for the family and the poor of the community. On any given year, there would be at least one field resting nearby as a Sabbath year source of food for the needy. The Lord would make up for the lost year of production by providing an abundance in other years.
The Sabbath day was also a time to recharge spiritual batteries by giving our full attention to the Lord. God’s presence can do amazing things for us that we cannot possibly achieve on our own. Anxieties, fears, insecurities, depressions, fatigue, pressing concerns and the burdens of life are lightened when we focus on and are refreshed by the presence of God. When we turn aside from things that strictly focus on self and seek to honor and bring pleasure to the Lord, we find that we are the true beneficiaries. We derive the blessings of the Sabbath when seek first the kingdom of God.
What about Christians today? As it was specifically given as a covenant between God and the Jewish people, how should we honor the Sabbath Day? Should we regard it the same way we regard kosher foods or Jewish holy days, or is there something more for the Christian to consider?
Jesus was often criticized for healing on the Sabbath day. He replied that 1) it is God’s will that good works be done on the Sabbath, and that, 2) as God, Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is a serious covenant between God and the Jewish people, one of the Ten Commandments, given as follows:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
We are told that the seventh day is a day of honor to God for making the wondrous creation that surrounds us, and to follow Him in His rest. It is a day to remember the Lord and all his works, and to focus on doing good things that honor Him and to serve others in love. As Christians, we are encouraged to honor the spirit of the Sabbath in a way that we are comfortable with. It is an honor for a Christian to please God by remembering Him on the Sabbath day.
The prophet Isaiah spelled out what the Lord looks for as one honors his Sabbath:
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth. I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14 ESV
God says that if we commit to honoring Him on his holy Sabbath day, he will make it worth our while. We will enjoy true fellowship with Him in Christ and will ride with him on the heights of the earth. That sounds like fun!
How do we honor God on his Sabbath? That is a personal choice between each believer and God. Often it involves praise, worship, quiet meditation, prayer and the study of the God’s word. It may involve loving works of service or times of visitation with those who need it. It may involve setting aside “business as usual” to devote special time and attention to our loving God on his special day.
Finally, which day is the Sabbath day, Saturday or Sunday?
The Jewish people and even some Christian denominations celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday (Spanish for Saturday is Sabado). Most Christians today celebrate it on Sunday, Resurrection Day, as this was the first day of our new hope and salvation in Jesus Christ. In rising from the dead, Jesus established once and for all a New Covenant between Him and all believers saved by His grace. The Ten Commandments and the Jewish law represent the original covenant between God and the Jewish people. We are not bound by those laws, but many of them do show us the types of devotion that are pleasing to the Lord.
I believe that God would say to pick the Sabbath day that is right in your heart and honor it as the Holy Spirit leads you. If you set your sights on God to honor Him and his Sabbaths, He will lead you on the right path regarding the ways and the times to do so. May God richly bless you!
How do you honor or intend to honor God’s Sabbath? What ways could you acknowledge and honor God on His Sabbath day?
You may wish to make a plan on how you intend to honor God’s Sabbath day. God will respond to your efforts. He has made the Sabbath day holy and given it to us, that we may all be blessed by its benefits.