Author: David Wilber
“Okay, I’ve been convinced that we as Christians should keep the Sabbath. Now what? How do I keep it?”
When believers learn through the Scriptures that the Sabbath is still relevant for today, naturally what follows are many questions about what it means to follow this commandment. What does it mean to rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy? What should we do and not do on this day? The following is a list of ways that you and your family can incorporate the Sabbath into your lives. Whether you’re new to the Sabbath or not, I hope this short list will be helpful to you.
We’re told in Exodus 20:8 to remember the Sabbath day. That means don’t forget about it! The first step in keeping this commandment is making the commitment to keep it. So throughout the other six days of the week, “remember” that on the seventh day you will be resting. When you make your plans, incorporate the Sabbath into your schedule. Don’t make any plans on the seventh day that would take away from what you should be doing. Just as the Lord has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to His people (Psalm 98:3), may we be faithful to Him and remember His Sabbath.
2) Rest/Don’t Do Work
The Sabbath is to be kept every seventh day, which is from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. (Biblical days begin in the evening.) On this day no work—that is, whatever you do for income and self-provision—is to be done (Exodus 20:10). This is because the Sabbath is ultimately a picture of our salvation in Messiah Yeshua, which is a gift from God and therefore cannot be “worked for.” Just as the Sabbath is an opportunity for us to trust God for our physical provision, we must trust in Yeshua for our salvation. We cannot rely on our own efforts. God is the one who provides and we simply receive His blessings with grateful hearts.
In addition to not working ourselves, we are not to directly cause anyone else to work either. As the commandment says, “On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.” (Deuteronomy 5:14b). Thus, it’s breaking the Sabbath to enjoy rest while having people work for you. So for example, that rules out going out to eat at restaurants and thus paying cooks and servers to prepare and serve you food on the Sabbath. As believers we should desire all people to come to the knowledge of the Lord and the joy of His commandments, including the Sabbath. What kind of witnesses would we be if we teach obedience to God’s commandments while directly participating in someone’s violation of those commandments?
Some people might feel overwhelmed at the idea of beginning to keep the Sabbath. We’re all very busy, and keeping the Sabbath takes some getting used to. Just have faith in God. The Bible says “in plowing time and in harvest time” we are to rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 34:21). That is to say, God understands that we’re busy and have a million things to do, but that’s no excuse for not resting on this day. Whatever’s going on in your life, He’s got it. All you have to do is trust that He knows best and be faithful to what He has told you to do. And don’t worry, it gets easier with practice. Soon you’ll find yourself looking forward to the Sabbath every week.
3) Fellowship with other believers
We are instructed in the Torah to have a holy gathering on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3), which is why we see in Scripture that it was Yeshua's and the apostles' custom to attend synagogue and worship with others on this day (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:1-2; 18:4). Therefore, make every effort to fellowship with likeminded believers on the Sabbath. If there aren’t any Messianic or Sabbath-keeping Christian congregations near you, perhaps have a home group meeting with friends and family. You can study the Bible together, sing worship songs, and encourage one another in the Lord.
As the author of Hebrews says, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25). God intended the Sabbath to be a joyful time for believers to encourage each other and celebrate all that He has done for us.
4) Don’t buy or sell
We are prohibited from buying and selling on the Sabbath day (Nehemiah 10:31), so make sure you go grocery shopping and take care of errands during the other six days of the week. The Sabbath is a special day of rest and a time to spend with God, family, and friends. Therefore, it shouldn’t be treated like the other days of the week on which “common” things are done—that is, chores, errands, shopping, etc.
5) Reflect on the Gospel message
One of the reasons God gave us the Sabbath day is to remind us of our deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). God rescued us from harsh slavery and gave us the gift of physical rest. Since Egypt is often used to refer to sin throughout the New Testament, we can see how on a spiritual level the Sabbath is a prophetic picture of our salvation in the Messiah. Yeshua rescued us from the slavery of our sins and gave us true rest in Him. So on the Sabbath we remember that we were once enslaved to our sins, but now we are free because of Yeshua. Thus, the Sabbath is a time to reflect on the Gospel—our deliverance from our own “Egypts”—and rest in God’s love.
6) Observe traditions
The Jewish people have been keeping the Sabbath for thousands of years and thus have developed many traditions that are worth exploring and implementing into your Sabbath observance. Some of these traditions include the blessings over the bread, wine, and candles, singing songs, and closing the Sabbath with a Havdalah ceremony. Observing these traditions is a wonderful way to make the day special for you and your family.
In addition to observing Jewish tradition, you can also come up with your own traditions. Some families might have a family game night on Friday nights or go for walks in the park on Saturday afternoons. The Sabbath is a God-focused and family-focused time, so whatever you do, make sure it revolves around the theme of the day—spending time with God and family.
7) Find delight in the Sabbath
God did not intend the Sabbath to be a burden, but rather a time of joy. The Bible says that blessings come when we honor the Sabbath and call it a delight (Isaiah 58:13). Yeshua said the Sabbath was made for our benefit (Mark 2:27). So enjoy it and give thanks to God for giving us rest.
May you be blessed as you seek to observe this special day! Shalom.
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