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”. This is how God viewed the keeping of “his Sabbath” when calling out the Jewish people. The same principles involved apply to all of His believers, worldwide.
What is the Sabbath? It is a day of rest every seven days, used for our refreshment, to set aside business and daily concerns to focus on God, our Provider, in meditation, worship, prayer and service.
God takes the Sabbath rest 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 for the land to provide food on its own for the family as well as for the poor of the community. On any given year, there would be at least one nearby field resting as a Sabbath year source of food for the local needy. The Lord would make up for the lost year of production by providing an abundance during the other six 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 physically achieve on our own. Anxieties, fear, insecurities, depression, fatigue, pressing problems and the routine burdens of life are lightened when we focus on Him and are refreshed by the presence of the Lord. As we turn aside from the things of self and seek to honor and bring pleasure to the Lord, we find that we become the true beneficiaries. We derive many blessings on the Sabbath when we seek to place God and His kingdom first.
What about Christians today? As the Sabbath was specifically given as a covenant between God and the Jewish people, how should we honor the day? Should we regard it in the same way we regard kosher foods or Jewish holy days, or is there something more for the Christian to consider?
When Jesus was 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 to Moses, but its roots go back even before then. As God told Moses:
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 His example in His rest. It is a day to remember the Lord and His works, and to focus on doing good things that honor Him by serving 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 a blessing 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.
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, Jesus’ Resurrection Day, as this was the first day of our new hope and salvation in Christ. In rising from the dead, Jesus established once and for all a New Covenant between Himself and all believers saved by His grace. The Mosaic law represents the original covenant between God and the Jewish people. Christians are not bound by many of those laws, but demonstrations of devotion are pleasing to the Lord.
My personal belief is that God would say to choose the Sabbath day that is right in your heart and honor it as the Holy Spirit leads you. But either way, if we set our sights on God to honor Him and his Sabbath, He will lead us on the right path regarding the ways and the time to do so. May God richly bless us on our journey.
How do you honor or intend to honor God’s Sabbath?
He has made the Sabbath day holy and given it to us as a blessing and benefit.
Lord, teach us to honor Your Sabbath in the way You would have us to do it. We long to walk with You, forgiven and righteous. May we be strengthened and encouraged by Your presence. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.