“And you don’t eat pork.”
“And…you don’t keep Christmas or Easter.”
“So, you’re Jewish, right?”
How many of us have had this conversation, or one very close to it? Or, how about this one: “So the party is Friday night…you’re gonna be there, right?”
“No, I can’t.”
“Why not?!? Everybody is going to be there!”
“I keep the Sabbath.”
“Well, yeah, but that’s just one day right? I can take you back in time to get to church on Saturday. Come on—this party is going to be EPIC!!!!!”
“I don’t just go to church on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. I don’t do regular stuff on the Sabbath.”
“No, it’s not; that’s how you’re supposed to keep it…”
Our theme this year of Back to Basics is designed to help us get back to our roots, to not only reaffirm our beliefs in God’s salvational plan for mankind and the significance of the Sabbath and Holy Days in that plan, but also to help us learn how to carry that message to others. This article is designed to take a closer look at the seventh-day Sabbath, why it is significant for us as believers, how we can communicate our belief in the Sabbath when the world tells us that it is no longer required, and how we can observe and redeem the time in a way that will help us grow spiritually.
So, why is the Sabbath day significant? The answer to that question can be found in Scripture.
Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV) states: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 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.”
The word “holy” is defined as “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.” According to Strong’s, it derives from haggios in the Greek and means the same thing.
So let’s examine this verse more closely. “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.” So we see here the day is set apart BY GOD for rest. And it is His sanctification or setting apart of the day that gives it its significance.
In addition, the Sabbath is a covenant sign between God and Israel, and that includes us who would be considered spiritual Israelites or part of the remnant of God’s chosen people.
Ezekiel 20:12-24 (ESV) states: “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands, because they rejected my rules and did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols….”
So the Sabbath was given as a sign that we belong to, and are set apart by God…but, as you can see in this verse, disobeying that agreement comes with a price. Note also that the “profaning of the Sabbath” is associated in this verse with idolatry. We’ll go back to this later. So the Sabbath day is a day set apart for rest and, as a sign of our obedience to, and therefore making us a belonging—a possession—of our Creator.
It’s also important to note another purpose of the Sabbath listed here. Notice: “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.” Here we see that Israel’s purpose as God’s chosen people was as an EXAMPLE to the other nations of God’s sovereignty. Israel’s role is to be a light to the world, a nation set apart, and that is why as spiritual Israel we must do the same.
So let’s go back to our earlier conversation: “So, you’re Jewish, right?”
This assertion is incredibly common as a way people can distance themselves from the keeping of God’s seventh-day Sabbath. Let’s look at some of the arguments people will give against the Sabbath, and see how we can effectively communicate the case for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is a gift to Man from God. But is it “just for the Jews”? Let’s find out.
Isaiah 56:2-7 (ESV) states: “Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people’; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant.’”
So we see a couple of things here: First, the Sabbath is a gift to anyone who keeps it the way it was intended, regardless of social standing or ethnic background. Second, look at what God promises: “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” Incredibly, in this passage, The Creator of the universe is promising a place in His family!
Some will tell you that the Sabbath has been “nailed to the cross,” along with the “Jewish” law. Again this is a VERY common phrase people will use to justify or explain why they don’t keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, makes it very clear that the only part of the law “nailed to the cross” is the penalty paid for the violation of that law.
In Matthew 5:17-19 (ESV), Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
I do want to make a distinction here for just a second about the Law. While we are saved through faith in Christ and not by our observance of the law, observing the Sabbath and the Holy Days shows God that we accept his Word as instruction.
In Romans 3:31, we read, “Do we then make void [Greek: katargeo, meaning “destroy” or “abolish”] the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish [Greek: histemi, meaning “erect” or “make to stand”] the law.”
So, in essence, what Paul is saying here is faith does not abolish the law; it establishes and upholds it. Again, this is a New Testament reference which supports the Law including the provision of the seventh-day Sabbath. So let’s look at some more arguments against the Sabbath.
One common argument—and I know you’ve heard this—goes like this: “That’s Old Testament stuff.” The distinction between the New and Old Testaments in no way diminishes the need for or the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath. Look at Hebrews 4:9 (ESV), “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Last time I checked, Hebrews was in the New Testament. So the Sabbath, then, is scripturally supported no matter what justification or arguments you may try to use to invalidate it. From our firsthand experience, we know what a blessing that rest provides.
So if it is obvious to us that the seventh-day Sabbath is the prescribed day of worship for all mankind and not just the Jews, why does everybody keep it on Sunday? The Roman Emperor Constantine is to blame. Constantine I, or “Saint Constantine,” also known as Constantine the Great, was emperor from 306 CE to 337 CE and according to history was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. However, prior to his conversion it is well documented that this man was a sun worshiper and only converted upon his death bed. He required Sunday observance by civil command. Those that violated who were not Jews (Jews had an exemption) were executed! The full history of how seventh-day Sabbath observance came to be infiltrated by Sunday worship is amazingly detailed in the book From Sabbath to Sunday by Dr. Samuel Bacchiocchi. I would highly recommend the book for anyone looking to explore this history!
So how can we redeem the time of the Sabbath in a way that is pleasing to our Creator? There are many ways! Spending time in Scripture, attending services and Bible studies, listening to uplifting music, and spending time in prayer are all great ways we can redeem this holy time.
So, in conclusion, let’s remember that when we redeem the time of the Sabbath in a way that pleases God we reap the benefits in a meaningful way, both in this life and the age to come!