Friday is preparation day, and Saturday is the Sabbath. A day of rest, where we honor YHWH and reflect on His holiness. We are not to do our own work on this day:
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Ex. 20:8-11
We are also commanded not to cook or gather food (Ex. 16: 22-23), not to gather sticks (Num. 15:32-36) or kindle a fire (Ex. 35:3), not to “pluck the ears of grain” (Matt. 12: 1-8), not to buy or sell (Neh. 13:15-17), not to do our own ways, seek our own pleasure, or speak our own words (Isa. 58:13-14), and to bear no burden (Jer. 17:21-22).
Perhaps this all sounds impossible and burdensome, but the Bible says His law is freedom (James 1:25) and that his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3), so it seems we have somewhat of a contradiction. Especially when we read that Yahshua (Jesus) healed on the Sabbath and said it was okay to do so after being rebuked by the Pharisees. Did he break the law? Did he forsake his Father’s commandments? Surely not, or He would not be the Messiah.
Let’s explore what Scripture says about the Sabbath and see if we can’t clear up some common misconceptions regarding this highly neglected command.
Misconception #1: Keeping the Sabbath is no longer necessary. Jesus died so that we don’t have to keep God’s commandments.
Let’s look at what it says in Exodus 31:
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”
(Note that the italicized words were not contained in the original text.)
“Throughout your generations”, “perpetual covenant,” and “for ever” … sounds pretty permanent to me.
If Jesus made the Sabbath null and void, then Mal. 3:6 (“I, the Lord, do not change…) would have to be a lie.
Furthermore, if Jesus died so that we no longer have to keep God’s commandments, then why did he stress the importance of doing so on multiple occasions? Here’s one:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Also, there is evidence that the apostles still kept the Sabbath and observed all of God’s feasts throughout the first century, well after Yahshua’s death.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'” Acts 17:2-3
Most of us strive to adhere to the laws of this land, which include some of the commandments given in the Bible, such as do not steal and do not murder. If we are citizens in the Kingdom of God, then we should be even more willing to heed His instructions, no?
Misconception #2: That commandment was given to the Jews. It doesn’t apply to me.
Are you a believer in the Messiah? If so, then according to the Bible you are grafted into the house of Israel:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3:26-29
Misconception #3: Colossians 2 is confirmation that the Sabbath and Biblical feast days are unnecessary.
It’s important to understand Paul’s audience here. He was actually confronting a local heresy within the congregation at Colossae, which had been infiltrated by false teachers. Paul warns them not to be deceived by those who put the traditions of men above the commandments of God. In verse 8, he says:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
These false teachers were trying to persuade them to neglect their own bodies and to direct their worship toward angels (Col. 2:18 & 2:23), neither of which are Scriptural. The assembly was being influenced by an extreme form of Judaism and the beginnings of Gnosticism, as is evidenced in verses 20-23:
“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”
Paul tells the Colossians in verse 16:
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Many people take this verse out of context to claim these days are no longer relevant, but he wasn’t saying that. Rather, he was warning believers not to allow those outside the faith to sway them from their worship of YHWH, as rooted in His instructions, including the keeping of His appointed Feasts—which our Messiah and his first-century followers kept as well.
Misconception #4: If these days are but a shadow of things to come, then we don’t need to observe them now.
There is a reason why he gave us these days to observe. They are prophetically significant, as they anticipate the fulfillment of YHWH’s grand design. If we are going to understand prophecy, then observing and understanding the purpose of his Holy days is very important.
Of course there is no temple, so we cannot keep certain feasts (i.e. Passover) as prescribed in the Old Testament. However, our observance of them today allows us to reflect on who Yahshua was and what he came to do. In turn, it also teaches us more about who God is and how He wants us to walk. They are a rehearsal—a foreshadowing of the things we can look forward to in the coming Kingdom, when they will be reinstated:
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” Isa. 66:22-23
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord‘s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isa. 2:2-3
“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” Zech. 14:16
Misconception #5: Jesus is our Sabbath rest.
First, Hebrews 4 doesn’t actually say that. Second, check out these 2 videos:
Misconception #6: Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He broke the law to illustrate that we no longer have to keep this commandment.
If Jesus broke the law, then he could not be the Messiah. He lived a perfect, sinless life and kept all of his Father’s commandments, including the Sabbath and the observance of all feast days. And 1 John 2:6 tells us that we also ought to walk “even as he walked.” The claim that Jesus broke the law is absolute heresy.
In his response to the Pharisees who rebuked him for allowing his disciples to pluck ears of grain and eat when they were hungry (Matthew 12:1-8), he illustrates that human need takes precedence over the letter of the law. In Mark 3:1-6, we have a similar scenario when Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand.
“And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” Mark 3:4
This doesn’t mean that we disregard the Sabbath. Rather, it illustrates that doing the work of YHWH is right and good, regardless of what day of the week it is. When He instructed us to not to work on the Sabbath, he was referring to our own work—doing things to satisfy our own fleshly desires outside of basic human needs and the preservation of life. This includes work that results in being paid wages or money.
Misconception #7: Based on the “rules” listed above, keeping the Sabbath is impossible. Aren’t we supposed to rest? How can I rest if I’m burdened with having to adhere to all these regulations?
I totally understand this argument and empathize with anyone who makes it. In fact, I had the same thought when Jereme and I first started trying to observe this day, and the Father corrected us really quickly. (Read this post for the full story.)
I’m not saying that you can’t flip on a light switch, turn on your stove, or start your car, because doing so would be considered “lighting a fire.” Nor am I claiming that if you so much as lift something heavy or do anything besides lying in bed and breathing shallow that you are breaking this command and should be “put to death”. Those would be traditions of men, or examples of how the Pharisees and those in extreme sects of Judaism added to the law of God—which He also instructed His people not to do:
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deut. 4:2
According to this verse, He said not to add to His law so that we would be able to keep it!
The commandment to keep the Sabbath, as well as the rest of God’s commands, were never meant to harm or encumber us. It was the additions to His original instructions, made by men who sought to do what was right in their own eyes, that became a burden.
As a workaholic, I used to see the Sabbath as an inconvenience, but now, it’s a day that I look forward to, and it has actually become my favorite day of the week. I want to keep it like a young child wants to please her daddy. It’s a gift! I get to rest on the 7th day from all my work, reflect on His goodness, spend time with my family, study His word, and reap the blessings He has for me. There’s absolutely nothing burdensome about that! Yes, I’m sure I will stumble and do so on a daily basis, but I’m thankful for the gift of grace and for salvation through Yahshua our Messiah. His love compels me to follow him and to do what he said.
Rest is found in him:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
And the Sabbath is a weekly reminder of that. A day that I am blessed to be able to observe. I get to meet with him, and learn of him like he instructed in the verse above. There are many who cannot take a day of rest, because their employer won’t allow it. But I’ve also heard countless stories of people who put their faith in Messiah, quit their jobs, trusted in Him to provide, and found themselves blessed beyond measure. Something to consider if you are currently in that predicament … do you trust him?
Misconception #8: The Sabbath is Sunday, so why do you observe it on Saturday?
Answering this question will take me writing a whole new blog series altogether. There is too much history to get into to explain how and why the Sabbath got changed to Sunday, so I’ll just drop this video right here for anyone who is interested in learning more:
Regardless of what day you believe it is, it’s interesting to note that the Sabbath is the fourth commandment. It comes after the instructions to have no other gods before YHWH, to not make idols, and to refrain from taking His name in vain. And it comes before the instructions not to murder, commit adultery or steal!
The first four commandments pretty much summarize how we are to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” (Luke 10:27). The last six tell us how to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
So, the commandments concerning YHWH, including the Sabbath, come before the commandments concerning our neighbor. It’s like He knew that loving our neighbor was impossible without loving Him first. Which means …
Seeking His ways instead of our own desires:
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2)
And speaking His words instead of our own:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth;” (Joshua 1:8)
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart;” (Matt. 15:18)
This is what He always intended for us, and why the instruction to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy is so important.
“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isa. 58:13-14