Exodus 20:8-“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy”. One of the Ten Commandments, God instructs us to keep the Sabbath Holy, and we see many examples in the Bible of men and women refusing to work on the Sabbath. The disciples in Acts alone observed the Sabbath 85 times! Jesus showed how to keep the Sabbath by teaching others in the synagogue. The disciples did this many times, in Acts 17, Acts 13, Acts 16, and 82 other examples! Where did that go? These days we are working on the Sabbath, and it’s the cultural norm now. Is this what God wants us to do? Are we disobeying His commandment by working on the Sabbath? This is something I have been wondering about, so I’m going to dig a little into the Sabbath and how we got to where we are now.
First the transition from Saturday to Sunday. The Bible says that when the Disciples met on the Sabbath, it was on the Seventh day, which would be Saturday. Where did that come from? The Sabbath is an Old Testament law for the people ofWhen Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
, not for the church. In the New Testament, the Sabbath is rarely mentioned. There is a reference to the first day of the week in Acts that say that the Disciples got together, but another verse indicates that what they were doing was a daily occurrence. I think that the Sabbath never actually changed but humans adopted Sunday themselves somehow. Now the Sabbath is considered Sunday (the Jewish Sabbath is actually celebrated from Friday evening to Saturday evening). How did we make this transition? For one, the early church was in a time where the pagans worshiped on Sundays, and they wanted to be separate from the Jews, who were persecuting the Christians at that time. Roman Emperor Constantine decreed a day of rest, Sunday, so over a period of about 300 years, humans slowly transitioned to Sunday. Also, the Church Council of Laodicea, a group of about 30 men and women that met from about 363-364 A.D., ordered that work be done on Saturday and religious practices done on Sunday. Please note that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday as well, according to Mark 16:9: Israel
The beginning of the Sabbath. Believe it or not, there is not a single reference to the Sabbath in the entire book of Genesis, just the Seventh Day that God rested. The first mention is in Exodus 16 23-30, shortly after the Israelites leaveThen he said to them, "This is what the LORD meant: “Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?”See, the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.
Notice how God explains it. It looks like from the passage that the Sabbath is first introduced here. God’s purpose from this is to show that you can trust in Him, because He preserves the manna on the sixth day instead of letting it rot like the other days so that it is available to
for food on the seventh. Israel
In Exodus 20:8-11, God lays out the plan for the Sabbath, saying to do no work on that day for God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 also says to not work on the Sabbath, but this time it says that He brought them out of Egypt, so keep the Sabbath holy. Please note that throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God addresses the Israelites about the Sabbath, telling them to observe it in the Torah and making it’s observation a law.
Jesus states in Matthew that He is Lord of the Sabbath. And He constantly does things on the Sabbath such as heal and preach. His disciples were even collecting food from the fields (Matthew 12:1-3). Does this mean that Jesus was breaking God’s law? No. Jesus is the Sabbath. We rest in Him, and He takes our burdens from us. We can put anything before Him, nothing is impossible for Jesus, our Sabbath whom we take rest in.
Colossians 2 11:14-17 states that Jesus is the ultimate reality whether you celebrate the Sabbath or the New Moon, they are just mere shadows:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Galatians 4:8-11 says that the seasonal, monthly, and yearly festivals are weak. That is shocking. These festivals, including the Sabbath, are weak compared to Christ. This is what these two passages are saying. We find rest in Jesus, the Sabbath personified. This doesn’t mean condemn those who follow the true Sabbath. Romans 14:5-6 states that some keep special days sacred and some don’t, but that doesn’t mean that either should condemn the other.
So that is an unexpected truth. Paul is saying that we find our rest in Jesus, not in any festivals or Sabbaths. However, I do not believe that this means to discount the Sabbath. God designed the Sabbath so that we may rest after a week of work, so it’s for our physical health. The fewer mentions of the Sabbath in the New Testament is interesting, but I do not think that discounts it. We find daily rest in Christ, not just once a week. Jesus was raised on the first day of the week so that we may be free and rest daily in Him.
History of the Sabbath
in 1610 the first of the blue laws was passed. A blue law is a law that places certain restrictions on different things. This law said that anyone who did not follow certain laws on Sunday would be deprived of food allowance for a week, and if he did it again, then he would lose food allowance for a week and be whipped. If he offended again, he would be put to death. This was Virginia . Even George Washington got in trouble for traveling on Sunday to a worship service. Different blue laws were enacted to address different things, among them prohibition of work, recreation, travel, sweeping, making beds, even kissing! The blue laws also banned the selling of certain things, such as alcohol and housewares like pots and pans. Some of these laws still exist today. The selling of alcohol on Sundays is still prohibited in 14 states. America
The blue laws have been deteriorating. Today, the Sabbath is included as a day of work, not rest. We do go to church, and maybe rest some, but most of us still cook or work or something similar. How can we keep the Sabbath Holy today? It is hard to keep the Sabbath Holy in today’s world. An old movie, Chariots of Fire, has a runner who wishes to race, but the big race falls on Sunday, so he refrains from racing that day. What about our race today? Can we refrain from our hectic race in order to give one day out of seven to the one true God? He is the ultimate Deity, we should give Him all our days, so why is one so hard?
So the question now is, how can we give the Sabbath to God, besides going to church? We can start with doing as little as possible. Maybe instead of cooking, heat up leftovers, the same concept as when God instructed the Israelites to save extra food on the sixth day. Instead of doing dishes, why don’t we use plastic plates and utensils? Why don’t we get our extra work done on Saturday so we can devote Sunday to God?
Here it gets a bit fuzzy. Do not think that I am saying that you just play all day because that is not my point. What I am saying is that instead of simply refraining from doing those things that would violate the intent of the Sabbath, use that time to pray and read the Bible and get to know Jesus. That doesn’t mean the rigorous study for 24 hours straight. You can do whatever you do to feel close to God. Some people feel close to God riding horses. Some feel close to God hiking. The point is to spend time with God to get to know Him better, and one of the best ways is to look at His Creation. So you can go ride your bike on Sunday, if that’s how you feel closer to Him. But the point isn’t to have “distractive fun” all day like playing video games or going to a party; it is to clear your day to be with God, one day out of seven for Him, in the ways that bring you closer to know His heart for you. That is the greatest fun that can be found in this world and the next!