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The Biblical Sabbath

"On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done." (Genesis 2:2).

When Yahweh, the Creator of the universe, had finished creating the heavens and the earth, the moon, the sun and the stars, the living creatures of the sea, the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and man, He rested. It wasn't a religious thing; He merely rested and rejoiced in all that He had done: "And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good." (Genesis 1:31) He did not have a problem in celebrating the Sabbath. So why then do some people claim that Yahweh did away with the Sabbath observation altogether, or moved it from Saturday ("the seventh day") to Sunday? When was this done? Where in Scripture does it say He changed it? And why would He change the Torah (instructions) He gave to His people at Mount Sinai, which He declared they were to be obey eternally?

In order to understand what the truth is, we need to look at Scripture and find out what it says. It's the sole basis for our belief, for by what other authority are we able to discern the truth?

[Note: When I speak of "Scripture", I am referring to what Christians call "the old testament", or, in Hebrew, the Tanakh. The writings of Paul, John, Mark, and others (aka "the new testament") were not viewed as "Scripture" by the early church, since it did not yet exist. These writings were in the process of being written at the time. Even Paul writes, in the mid 60s ad, in his second letter to Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3.16). Since the "new testament" was not yet written, it's clear that he and others saw only the Tanakh as "Scripture".]

Sabbath and the Scriptures

At Mount Sinai, approximately 3,500 years ago, God gave the nation Israel a set of instructions known as the "Torah". The Hebrew word torah means "instruction, direction". This Torah — or set of instructions — was given to Israel to enable them to know how to relate to God and to each other.

Within the Torah is the "ten commandments" (Exodus 20.1-22). Interestingly, these were the commandments given directly to the people. The fourth commandment specifically relates to the Sabbath and Yahweh's instructions for its observance:

"Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of Yahweh your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11)

It was not to be a thing of bondage but of something holy, or set aside, unto Yahweh. The fact that this day links Him to His work of creation is important to Him. It cannot be easily set aside by stating that this was only for Israel. This is the one commandment that links Yahweh to the creation of the heavens and the earth. He blessed it and sanctified it more than 2,000 years before Abraham.

Later, Yahweh further states:

"On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion. You shall do no work; it shall be a sabbath of Yahweh throughout your settlements. These are the set times of Yahweh, the sacred occasions, which you shall celebrate each at its appointed time" (Leviticus 23:3-4)

Notice that He specifically states that these are the appointed times of Yahweh. He does not say they are Jewish appointed times; rather they are His appointed times.

The purpose of the Sabbath then is two-fold:

  1. we need to rest from our labors on the seventh day of the week, just as our Creator did, and
  2. the most important reason, to honor the Creator of the universe.

Objections to Sabbath Observance

"It's the Jewish Sabbath."
Yahweh calls it "a sabbath day of Yahweh your God" (Exodus 20.10; see also Leviticus 23.2-4).

"God is not particular concerning which day we keep."
Nowhere in all of Scripture does Yahweh, His prophets, His kings, or anybody else say anything like this. He made it very clear that He sanctified the seventh day and no other. It's the sign that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Exodus 20.8-11). [For other signs that Yahweh used, see Genesis 9.13 and 17.11.]

When Yahweh states that something should be done in a particular way, He means it to be done in that precise manner. We don't have the authority to change it or amend it. An excellent example of this is Yahweh's judgment against Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron (Leviticus 10). Yahweh previously told Moses to command Aaron and his sons to keep a fire continually burning on the altar (Leviticus 6.9,12,13). However, Nadab and Abihu offered alien fire (that which was not part of the original fire). Scripture records Yahweh's reaction to the changing of His commandment: "And fire came forth from Yahweh and consumed them; thus they died at the instance of Yahweh." (Leviticus 10.2). We can see by Yahweh's action here that He is serious! For other examples read Genesis 3.24; 2 Samuel 6.6-7; and Numbers 4.15,20.

A Special Blessing for Gentiles Who Observe the Sabbath

Many Gentiles feel they don't have to observe the Sabbath celebration for one reason or another, such as they are "no longer under the law". Yet, most of them will attest to obeying the "ten commandments". But what they seem to fail to realize is that the fourth commandment explicitly requires them to rest on the seventh (shabbat) day:

"Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of Yahweh your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20.8-11)

It can't be much clearer. Or is it just a matter of picking and choosing which of the ten commandments to follow? What exactly is it that is so hard about resting for 24 hours, as Yahweh commands; in fact, He Himself even obeys the commandment: "and He rested on the seventh day".

Yahweh promised, through the prophet Isaiah, to give a special blessing for Gentiles who honor His sabbath. And many Gentiles even speak of eventually receiving this blessing yet do not even know what is required to receive it.

"As for the foreigners who attach themselves to Yahweh, to minister to Him, qnd to love the name of Yahweh, to be His servants — all who keep the sabbath and do not profane it, and who hold fast to My covenant — I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

Many who do observe the Sabbath think it is a day for shopping or for personal affairs. However, Yahweh clearly states:

"If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your affairs on My holy day; if you call the sabbath 'delight', Yahweh's holy day 'honored'; and if you honor it and go not your ways nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains — then you can seek the favor of Yahweh. I will set you astride the heights of the earth, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob — For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken. "

Conclusion

Let's go back now to our original question. Did Yahweh change His torah, specifically the fouth commandent deal with sabbath observance ? According to what we have seen the answer is "no". Infact, He also specifically included a special blessing for the Gentiles. So then the choice is simple. You can either follow the command of Yahweh — the same one He follows — and observe His Shabbat on the last day of the week or you can follow the traditions of man and observe it on the first day of the week as the pagans do in their worship of the sun. The choice is up to you.

» Written by Lee Underwood


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