So, God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it as His own, that is set it apart as holy from other days!
The Sabbath is a day set aside for rest and worship. According to the Book of Exodus, the Sabbath is a day of rest on the seventh day, commanded by God to be kept as a holy day of rest, as God also rested from creation. For some people, this day is on calendar day Sunday, for others, it is Friday while for others it is Saturday. This book will not debate on which day the Sabbath is because it is not the day that is most important but the obedience to the commands of God.
Jesus says in the Scriptures that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Most Jews who observe the Sabbath regard it as having been instituted as a perpetual covenant for the Israelites (Exodus 31:13– 17), as a sign respecting two events: the day during which God rested after having completed creation in six days (Exodus 20:8–11), and the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12).
Early Christians continued to pray and rest on the seventh day. By the 2nd century AD some Christians also observed Sunday, the day of the week on which Jesus had risen from the dead and on which the Holy Spirit had come to the apostles.
Whatever day we choose to abide by, the understanding of the Sabbath rest is what matters the most (Colossians 2:16). God wants us to rest, to take a break from the tasks of daily lives, to refresh in Him and to build our trust in Him and in His ability to lead, guide and provide for us.
Sabbath before the fall of man
We see that God created everything in the first five days, then He created man on the sixth day and rested on the seventh day. Man was created to live on the Sabbath day, to live in rest in God. Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” So God created man in
His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” So God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you, and to all the animals on the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that moves on the ground—to everything in which there is the breath of life—I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so [because He commanded it]. God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good, and He validated it completely. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
And the Lord God planted a garden (oasis) in the east, in Eden (delight, land of happiness), and He put the man whom He had formed (created) there. And [in that Garden] the Lord God caused to grow from the ground every tree that is desirable and pleasing to the sight and good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the Garden, and the tree of the [experiential] knowledge (recognition) of [the difference between] good and evil.
So the Lord God took the man [He had made] and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely (unconditionally) eat [the fruit] from every tree of the garden; but [only] from the tree of the knowledge (recognition) of good and evil you shall not eat, otherwise, on the day that you eat from it, you shall most certainly die [because of your disobedience].”
Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17
We see that Adam and Eve started to live on the seventh day – the day of the rest. God did not desire for man to toil through life. He wanted him to enjoy all the good things God had created for man. This is why He gave man dominion and rulership over all things.
Sabbath during the law of Moses
We see the Lord making the observance of the Sabbath as a holy day to be a requirement of His people. Resting from ordinary toil was a national characteristic of Israel as a nation right from the beginning. This is how Israel was distinguished from other pagan nations because Sabbath marked the Covenant between God and His chosen people. We have seen that God valued the Sabbath day long before the Fall of man. During creation, God rested on the seventh day just after creating man on the sixth day. He blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.
When He took His people from slavery in Egypt, God commanded that during the exodus, the seventh day was for resting where no Israelite was allowed to bake or boil any food. We also see that in the wilderness, a double supply of manna was gathered on the sixth day enough to cater for the seventh day. If anyone tried to store a double portion on the other days, which God had forbidden, the manna would get worms. This meant that they would be allowed to collect for five days every day which was enough for that day, but on the sixth day, they would be allowed to collect twice as much to ensure on the seventh day they did not lack nor work (Exodus 16:22-36). It was unlawful to kindle a fire on that day, and a record is made of a man who was put to death for gathering sticks on the seventh day (Numbers 15:32-36).
God further made this commandment to celebrate the Sabbath definite by writing it with His own hand at Mt. Sinai when He gave Moses the ten commandments.
Remember the Sabbath (seventh) day to keep it holy (set apart, dedicated to God). Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock or the temporary resident (foreigner) who stays within your [city] gates. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested (ceased) on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy [that is, set it apart for His purposes].
We see that during Nehemiah’s time, he attributed the affliction of the nation to the forfeiture of God’s favour when Israel violated the Sabbath. We also see that through Ezekiel, God affirmed that Sabbath was a sign of the Covenant between Himself and the people of Israel and He rebuked those who heeded not that commandment.
The prophets that followed reinforced the observance of the Sabbath by reminding people of the blessings promised to those who kept it and the sinfulness and consequences for those who disobeyed.
Sabbath was consecrated to rest and righteous enjoyment and was to be a day of spiritual feasting before the Lord. It was not established as a day of abstinence; all might eat, but both mistress and maid were to be relieved from the work of preparing food; neither master nor man was to plough, dig or otherwise toil; even their animals were to rest and not work.
More than one Sabbath
In Ezekiel 20, we see God making reference to Sabbaths – as in plural to mean many Sabbaths.
1. The seventh day was just one of the Sabbaths.
2. In addition to the weekly Sabbath, God also gave Israel a sabbatical year; in every seventh year, the land was to rest to improve its fertility.
The Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of
Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I am giving
you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years, you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop. But in the seventh year, there shall be a Sabbath of rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow [seed in] your field nor prune your vineyard. Whatever reseeds itself (uncultivated) in your harvest you shall not reap, nor shall you gather the grapes from your uncultivated Vine, it shall be a year of sabbatical rest for the land. And all of you shall have for food whatever the [untitled] land produces during its Sabbath year; yourself, and your male and female slaves, your hired servant, and the foreigners who reside among you, even your domestic animals and the [wild] animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.”
Then after seven times, seven years had passed (that is 49 years), the fiftieth was to be celebrated throughout as a year of Jubilee, during which the people should live on the accumulated increase of the previous seasons of plenty, and rejoice in liberality by granting to one another forgiveness of debt, and general relief from burdens. This was to be done in mercy and justice.
You are also to count off seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years so that you have the time of the seven Sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the ram’s horn everywhere on the day of the seventh month (almost October); on the Day of Atonement, you shall sound the trumpet throughout your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom [for the slaves] throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee (year of remission) for you, and each of you shall return to his own [ancestral] property [that was sold to another because of poverty], and each of you shall return to his family [from whom he was separated by bondage]. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee for you; you shall not sow [seed], nor reap what reseeds itself, nor gather the grapes of the uncultivated vines. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its crops out of the field.
We can see that the Sabbaths established by the Lord, whether of days, of years, or of weeks of years, were to be times of refreshing, relief, blessing, bounty, and worship.
But long before the advent of Christ, the original purpose of the Sabbath had come to be largely ignored in Israel; and the spirit of its observance had been affected by so many additional extensions of laws imposed by the Pharisees. The rules appended to the original law were almost innumerable, and the burden thus forced upon the people had become unbearable. Among the many wholesome requirements of the Mosaic law, which the spiritual leaders of the time had made thus burdensome, that of Sabbath observance was especially prominent.
In the New Testament, we start to see the original heart of God as regards the Sabbath. God takes us back to how things were before the Fall when man lived on the seventh day from a place of rest in God.
Find all the Episodes in this Series
A journey of recovery from toiling (modern day workaholism) to working (as God intended)