As recorded by The New Jewish Encyclopedia,(NJE)1962, “Sabbath is defined as weekly day of rest observed in Judaism on the seventh day of the week in accordance with Biblical injunction, and called Shabbat in Hebrew.”
The root means "to cease, desist" (Heb., shabath; cf. Arab., sabata, "to intercept, interrupt"); the doubled b has an intensive force, implying a complete cessation or a making to cease, probably the former. The idea is not that of relaxation or refreshment, but cessation from activity.(Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Some examples of the Sabbath’s mention are as follows:
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 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:
11 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. KJV
Luke 13:10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath day.
11 And behold, a woman that had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years; and she was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands upon her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. ASV
Again the NJE records “the observance of the Sabbath is symbolically associated with both the creation of the world and the exodus from Egypt”. From a New Coveant point of view, the exodus of God’s children from the bondage of sin and death unto life is also seen in the Shabbat.
The celebrated Jewish Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato also known as RaMChaL writes in his groundbreaking volume, The Way Of God, “for the sake of the purpose of creation, most of what is found in the world is mundane and not holy. On the other hand, it was deemed necessary that creations be given some holiness, so that the world’s spiritual darkness does not overwhelm them.” Luzzato goes on to say, “On the Sabbath, man needs to become released from mundane attachment, for the Sabbath is higher than other days and man must conduct himself in a manner consistent with the day’s sublimeness.”
Shabbat is Awareness: On Shabbat we remember that the world is not ours to do with as we please, but G-d's creation. On Shabbat we also remember that G-d took us out of Egypt and decreed that never again shall we be slaves to any alien master -- our jobs, financial commitments and material involvements are the tools with which we fulfill our divine purpose, not the masters of our lives. (Chabad.org, 2009)
Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book “The Sabbath” writes “observance of the seventh day is more than a technique of fulfilling a commandment. The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man. It is possible for the soul to respond in affection, to enter into fellowship with the consecrated day. The seventh day was full of both loveliness and majesty-an object of awe, attention and love. Friday eve, when the Sabbath is about to engross the world, the mind, the entire soul, and the tongue is tied with trembling and joy”.
The observation of the seventh day of the week, enjoined upon Israel, was a sign between God and His earthly people, based upon the fact that after the six days of creative operations He rested, Exodus 31:15-17,
15 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Jehovah: whosoever doeth any work on the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days Adonai (Hashem) made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Y’shua, Messiah and Savior referred to Shabbat in this way. He said in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2, verses 27-28 “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
This statement has two important meanings. First, God provided a day of rest so that we could worship Him without the distractions of the world. Next he declares he, the Son of Man as Lord of the Sabbath. So, we are to come to him, Y’shua as our rest. This can be interpreted as coming to Y’shua as our “rest” every day of the week, not just on Shabbat. In the 17th verse of Exodus 31, we find the Scriptures using the Hebrew, “Va-ye-nah-fash” describing the rest that we are to have as God had after six days of creation. The word “Neh-fesh” often means “soul” in Hebrew and therefore identifies the Shabbat as a day of recharging or resting the soul of man. Yes, rest comes naturally on any day you take it, however, it comes supernaturally to those who choose to honor the Shabbat. It becomes sacred time as we follow the Creator in His example.
Rabbi Solomon Schechter wrote in his book, Rabbinic Theology, 1909, “nevertheless, the doctrine proclaimed in one of the Gospels that the Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath, was also current among the Rabbis. They too teach that the Sabbath is delivered into the hand of man (to break it when necessary), and not man into the power of the Sabbath.
Clearly Rabbi Schechter refers to the Gospel of Mark and its apparent agreement with the position of the Rabbis of Y’shua’s time. Our Messiah was not changing the Torah or the celebration of the Sabbath, but was confirming its validity, its importance and its relationship to man. Y’shua then confirms that He, “the Son of man also is Lord of the Sabbath”.
The commandment which says to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” focuses around the two words, that being “remember” and keep”. According to Romans 11:17, we, the Body of Y’shua are grafted in to the root and fatness of Jacob. How can we be grafted in and yet not receive one of the most sacred blessings given to Israel (Jacob)?
We are commanded as Israel was and is to keep the Sabbath, not change it. We should worship every day especially and including the Sabbath as commanded by God and written with His finger.
These are Moses’ words to Israel, Ex 35:1-3, Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, "These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day." NIV
For the first three centuries of the Christian era the first day of the week was never confounded with the "sabbath"; Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Were Y’shua, the Apostle Paul and others worshipping in the synagogues on the Sabbath day? Let us examine the Scriptures:
Mark 3:1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.4 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? But they held their peace.
Luke 4:16 And he (Y’shua) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book (scroll), and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth…….ASV
Acts 16:13 And on the sabbath day we went forth without the gate by a river side, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down, and spake unto the women that were come together. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide (there). And she constrained us.
Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But they, passing through from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia; and they went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. ASV
I mean in no way to diminish the prayer and supplication offered by the saints of God during their Sunday worship. Nay, I encourage it. However, no one, not any apostle of the New Covenant, was given or had the authority to change Sabbath to Sunday (the first day of the week). God has been true to His calendar since it began and nothing, especially His Son Y’shua was going to change it without authorization from the Throne of the Father. There is a certain harmony with the Heavens that we must seek remembering the words of the Lord’s prayer “on earth as it is in Heaven”.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss other Scriptures in the New Covenant that discuss or appear to point to a different conclusion. As our Messiah was being closely observed on the Sabbath, we read in Matthew 12:11-12, And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Just as followers of Y’shua are closely watched by non-believers, so it was for our Savior . He was being accused of healing on the Sabbath and clearly explained his position as being the intent of his Father. He used examples and illustrations from their own lives that pointed to God’s truth.
Likewise, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 5 that recounts the life of a man stricken for thirty-eight years, we read verses 8-10, Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. Clearly any shortcoming in the eyes of those who were sent to observe him would be used to try to discredit him. Further, Y’shua answers their doubting questions about the Sabbath as a time for healing.
But Jesus answered them, John 5:17-18 "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. NIV The plot thickens as Y’shua takes authority over sickness and disease and claims the Father’s power arousing deep-seated anger in the Jewish leadership. After all, they claim to be appointed of God. This challenges their authority on earth and among the people of the land.
In the Epistles the only direct mentions of, "a sabbath day," are found in Colossians 2:16-17, 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. NIV Do these words eliminate the celebration of the Sabbath and the other feasts of Israel or is it a confirmation of the fulfillment of them in Messiah Y’shua? Sabbath meaning rest eludes to our resting in Jesus and that our relationship with him brings us to “the peace that passes all understanding”. Surely, we can see him as our Sabbath. In verse 16, the phrase “don’t let anybody judge you” can be seen in a positive light; the light of Messiah. Romans 14:5 says, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Let the God of Heaven persuade us as no man can.
When reading the aforementioned statements of the Jewish rabbis describing the beauty of Shabbat, we can see our life in him as time spent in the Sabbath. I am confident that Y’shua is the Sabbath that was made for man. Yet, no day or religious festival can or should be used to condemn us. These days, especially the Sabbath day are divine gifts from the Holy God. We, in the Body of Christ have chosen days to honor days and times that cannot be found in the Bible. Yet we try to eliminate through man’s interpretation of Scripture those days declared to be set aside to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
Hebrews 4:3-13 says”
3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work."(Genesis 2:3) 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. NIV
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. NKJV The apostle Paul seems to be chiding the Galatians, a primarily ungodly society, as heard in the phrase “when you did not know God” not to observe days, months, seasons and years. These people were never Sabbath keepers, nor believers in the God of Israel. He is speaking to them about their days of sun worship, idol worship and the like. They were pagans with very little if any understanding of true worship. This is one of God’s great purposes for the Jews; to bring those in the world without divine understanding into the house of God and teach them His ways. Israel, although receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, heard it in the open as any others of their mixed multitude could. The Torah of God is for all mankind, not just for Israel.
As believers in God’s Messiah, it is the work of Jew and non-Jew who have received Jesus by faith to bring the truth into all the world thereby fulfilling Israel’s assignment from God that is called “Tikkun olam”, repairing the world. Those who have been chosen are on a path of righteousness that we cannot possibly stay on under our own power. It is through Israel that the repair of the world comes. Israel was used to bring forth God’s anointed Messiah who lives in each one of us who have received him and God’s Holy Spirit by faith. We are called upon to be “the Sabbath of rest”.