Cycles and Seasons, Part 2: The Sabbath
Today I am going to be continuing on with: “Cycles and Seasons” and talking about The Sabbath Day. I want to explore the original meaning and intentions of it. Where did it come from? And why? In cooking when you make gravy or sauces it is common to “reduce” it and boil away the excess. That is what I want to do today, to get back to the core of the matter.
The word Sabbath occurs 172 times in the New King James Bible. 112 times in the Old Testament and 60 more times in the New Testament. This is an important subject. The Hebrew word is “sab-bat” and means: “To cease, to rest.” It began in Genesis:
Genesis 1:31–2:3 (NASB) God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
So we read that God worked 6 days, and then He rested on the 7th. He did no work on the 7th day. That is how God Himself celebrated the Sabbath day. Later in Exodus, when God began to provide manna from heaven, He only provided it for 6 days a week, with a double portion on the 6th day. The manna would spoil overnight, so they had to gather it each day, but on the Sabbath it would last for two days.
Exodus 16:26–30 (NASB) — “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.
God provided them manna from heaven 6 days a week, and they were to gather a double portion on the 6th day and to eat that on the Sabbath, and rest. Some people went out to gather manna anyway, but found that there was none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” What is it about a day of rest that you don’t understand? Be still. Stop working. Let your body recover. Work 6 days, rest on the 7th.
Being that the people tended to forget the Sabbath day, God included it in the ten commandments:
Exodus 20:8–11 (NASB) — “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 of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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.”
Again we see that the point of the Sabbath day is a day of rest, to abstain from labor for 24 hours. Our body needs it, and God commands it. Many believe that it is old testament and that the new testament swept it away, but that is not the case, it is a perpetual, never unending or changing commandment. God specifically pointed this out to avoid such confusion:
Exodus 31:16–17 (NKJV) — Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.
Forever means forever and the Sabbath day of rest is still valid. It is interesting to note that God Himself was “refreshed” by resting. Out of all God’s instructions, this one was spoken by his audible voice (Exodus 19:25; 20:1), written by his finger (Exodus 31:18), and placed in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:16).
Now over the centuries, religion crept in and keeping the Sabbath day grew more and more complicated and complex. It became a ritual. The Jews invented complex rules to govern the Sabbath day and it became laborious in itself.
For example: The pharisees condemned Jesus and the disciples for picking a few heads of grain to eat on a Sabbath day. They considered that work:
Luke 6:1–2 (NKJV) — Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
If you can picture this, the religious elite were trying to correct God Himself. Jesus tried to explain to them that “The Sabbath day was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, God created man and then told them to rest on the Sabbath day. He did not create the Sabbath day, and then mankind to worship it.
In John 5:8 Jesus healed a man that had been crippled for 38 years and told him to “take up his bed and walk.” The Jews then told the man: “It is the Sabbath day and not lawful for you to carry your bed!” They sought to kill Jesus because He had healed a man on the Sabbath. That was considered work.
In Luke 13:10 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath and there was a woman there that had been bent over for 18 years. Jesus healed her, and the leader of the synagogue told the crowd: “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then Jesus called him a hypocrite for he cared for his own farm animals, but not the people of God.
God’s day of rest had become a reason of condemnation. What should have been refreshing and restful, was now disgusting. They had lost the meaning of the Sabbath day and even Jesus did not live up to their standards. This legalism perverted God’s commandment. Paul touched on this in his letter to the Colossians.
Colossians 2:16 (AMP) — Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath.
Paul is talking about legalism and people judging you on what you eat or drink, or how you observe feast days, the new moon, and the Sabbath day. We are not forced to keep rules that people created. The Sabbath commandment was not meant to be a legalistic, judgmental, look down on everyone else type of holiday. It was intended to be a day of rest.
Growing up in the South, one of the worst things that you could do was go fishing on a Sunday. That was considered breaking the Sabbath and you were sure to go to hell. Our pastor used to tell a story of a man that went fishing and got bit by a snake as an example, but mostly it was because our pastor didn’t care for fishing. For someone working all week, fishing could be a great way to relax. The traditions of men have tainted our view of the original scripture. The Sabbath is a day of rest from your work week.
Also the day of the week brings much debate, but personally and from the fruit in our lives, I do not think that the actual day matters that much. God worked 6 days, and then He rested on the 7th day. This means that if He had started to work on what we call Wednesday, then He would have rested on the following Tuesday. Many people have to work the weekends including us, and taking a day off during the week to rest I believe is perfectly fine. The Jews celebrate the Sabbath from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon, and I think that if you could do that, you would certainly be blessed, but the point of it is 24 hours of rest. Many churches call Sunday their Sabbath, but I will be honest with you, that pastor behind the pulpit is not resting. So hopefully he is observing it on another day.
Now I want to share how God brought this to our attention from experience. For a long time, I worked seven days a week: “For the Lord.” He had just put us into ministry and there were a lot of good, necessary things that we were doing. He let it go for several months. Then for a few weeks, when I flipped my Bible open, it would land on something about the Sabbath and resting. I ignored it. I was doing the Lord’s work.
Then one day after coming home from church, I went straight to work on our new mail server that sends out the daily devotional. It seemed important and I felt that I needed to get it done. I turned on my audio Bible to listen to while working, and I kept hearing about not working on the sabbath day. You would think I could take a hint, but I had managed to brush it off week after week. After all, this was God’s work and He does not want me to be lazy.
That final day though, the work was like swimming in mud. What should have been a simple job, turned into a horrible ordeal. The machine seemed possessed and the RAID system corrupted itself. At the end of the day, I would have been way ahead if I would have just stayed in bed. For a long time we would work on Sunday, but then take off Monday or another day. This seemed fine. When I started working during the week, then I ended up working 7 days a week and He eventually cracked the whip.
I repented, said I was sorry, and the next day I fixed the server in thirty minutes. Since then, I don’t work seven days a week anymore and God has really blessed the other six.
Now the Jews observe the Sabbath day from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown. In our lives, we take off 24 hours beginning on Sunday evening until Monday evening because we work Saturday. During this span of time, we try to not work, but to rest and maybe read. I can say with all honesty: It is refreshing.
When God first began putting this on our heart, I really struggled with it because we have quite a workload. Then He revealed to me that saying that you can’t afford to take a day off, is the same as saying that you can’t afford to tithe. You just don’t trust Him enough to provide for you. I gave in, started taking a 24 hour span of time to rest, and He began to provide fresh inspiration like never before. Sometimes I will put together a sermon, write a new song to go with it, and record it one day.
Things that you beat your head against the wall trying to accomplish, He can expedite and make it fun, simple, and easy. I have also found that our general attitude, patience, and demeanor has improved. It is refreshing. Trust God with your tithe, and He will make the rest of your income go further. Trust God with your time, and He will make the rest of your week go further.