The Shabbat (Sabbath)
By Richard Bailey
The word “Sabbath” (English translation of the Hebrew word Shabbat) appears in 113 verses of our Hebrew Bible. 52 of these verses appear in the Brit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant) or New Testament. Because of this frequency, I believe that the Holy One of Israel is trying to convey to us the importance of this “appointed time” (Moed). Therefore, as followers of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah and a part of Israel, we must strive to understand what the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is teaching us through “His” Shabbat. This day is not superficial as some may think. As with all of God’s appointed times (Moedim), the Shabbat is multidimensional in its meaning and teaches us not only about the past, but the coming future Messianic kingdom (Isaiah 66).
The Shabbat is often referred to as the “Jewish” Sabbath. This is a misnomer. The weekly Sabbath is listed in Leviticus 23:1 as one of the “feasts of the Lord,” not one of Israel’s or the Jewish people’s. That is why Yeshua said that HE is “Lord of the Sabbath.” Not just because He was Jewish but because He is Messiah. Yeshua said in Mark 2:27&28, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” If God created it for “man,” does man have the ability or authority to un-create it? We will learn later that this exactly what the pseudo authority of the Catholic Church’s has tried to do.
There are many facets to this special day that link us to the Holy One of Israel. Not only does He give us a weekly day off from work to restore our physical bodies, He also gives us a time to remember what He as our Creator did. This is very important to Him! On this day we learn how to be holy/set apart (Acts 15:21, Mark 1:21, Acts 13:14) as we study His guidelines and instructions (Torah). It is also a “sign” of the covenant between Him and His people, Israel (Ex. 31:17, Ezk. 20:12). As the wedding ring is an outward sign of today’s marriage covenant, the Shabbat serves the same purpose; showing that we are betrothed to Yeshua and waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
No, God has not changed (Mal. 3:6). Israel was, and still is today, to be a holy people, a priesthood, responsible for taking God’s instructions and guidelines to all the nations (Ex. 19:6). Yes, this includes the natural branches as well as those grafted in (Romans 11, I Peter 2:9). But for many of us today, we must first sit at Yeshua’s feet and learn of His ways. We are not to keep the traditions of man which lead us away from the commandments of God; nor fall for the deception the evil one has brought to lead us astray. Daniel 7:25 speaks of the anti-Messiah in these last days: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws.” These “set times” are those listed in Leviticus 23.
Genesis 2:1-3 “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished.... And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
Orthodox Rabbi Shimon Finkelman in his book, Shabbos, The Sabbath - Its Essence and Significance, states: “The word Sabbath, is related to ‘return’ which is the root of the word teshuvah, or repentance. This gives us an insight into the role of the Sabbath. It signifies return to the Ultimate Source, because the Sabbath is our constant reminder that God created heaven and earth in six days, and on the seventh day He gave us the ability to push away the demanding, un-forgiving material world and return to the eternal concept that the same God Who created the world created us, and just as the world serves Him always through His ‘constitution,’ which we call nature, so, too, it is our task to serve Him.”
David B. Loughran, Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland, writes: “In the Scriptures the seventh day of the week is called the Sabbath. The word Sabbath is synonymous with rest, repose, restoration, refreshment, calm, tranquility, freedom, peace, harmony, holiness and sanctification. It is, therefore, a fitting sign of the Creator's character and aims. The divine record of the creation is brief; but it leaves one in no doubt that the Creator rested on, blessed and sanctified the seventh day of the week at the creation of the world.”
Dr. John Fischer, Messianic Rabbi, Congregational Leader, and Hebrew scholar, states in his Siddur for Messianic Jews: “From the biblical covenant perspective, Shabbat and the other traditions are not legalism but gifts of grace from God, teachers of his truth, and expressions of our enthusiastic love and gratitude to him....Shabbat then serves as a picture of God’s life and relationship with his people, as a foretaste of his kingdom (the ‘eternal Shabbat’), and as a means of helping his people recognize or picture what he is like...Therefore, Shabbat helps us reflect the image of our King....Shabbat serves as a symbolic expectation of our Messiah’s second coming, as well as an opportunity to experience now in a small way the rest and harmony that will exist then.”
Barney Kasdan, Messianic Rabbi and Congregational Leader of Kehilat Ariel Messianic Congregation, in his book God’s Appointed Times, “Shabbat means to ‘rest’ which tells us a large part of this important observance--restoration, From the ancient Greeks to the modern corporate executive, mankind tends to become obsessed with work and ‘getting ahead’ ....Yet, without proper rest and refreshment, human strength and creativity fail...The seventh day (Shabbat) is a wonderful reminder of a coming day set aside to rest in the Messiah. The 1000 year Kingdom of Yeshua will be a beautiful time of rest and corporate worship of the King.”
CAN WE REALLY KNOW WHEN THE SEVENTH DAY IS?
Many ask, “Do we really know when the seventh day is?” Wasn’t it lost? In Exodus 16:14-30, we see God making His Sabbath known to Israel in the wilderness. For 40 years, He accomplished this by providing them a double portion of manna on the sixth day of each week and then withholding it on the seventh day (the Sabbath). He highlighted this by keeping the double portion from spoiling throughout the seventh day. I think, even in our days, this would leave an everlasting impression!
Even through the Babylonian captivity, the Shabbat was not lost. Evidence of this is seen though YESHUA and the APOSTLES observance, as well as the EARLY BELIEVERS; who kept it long after the death of the apostles.
What about the diaspora? “There is absolutely no disagreement or dispute amongst the Jews today - scattered as they still are - as to which day is the seventh day of the week. Every synagogue in every country is in perfect agreement that Saturday is the seventh day.” (David B. Loughran)
WHAT IS A BIBLICAL 24-HOUR DAY?
Genesis 1:5 “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Leviticus 23:32 "From evening unto evening shall you celebrate your Sabbaths."
Luke 23:52-54 Yeshua’s crucifixion, “Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body...It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.”[also see Joshua 8:29, Joshua 10:26-27, 1 Kings 22:35-36, 2 Chron.18:34, 2 Samuel 3:35]
GOD’S WILL IS FOR “ALL” PEOPLE TO OBSERVE HIS SABBATHS
Yeshua’s commandment to us in Matt: 28:19-20: “..teach all the nations..to observe all things..I have commanded you..” Did Yeshua teach or by His example tell His disciples to not obey Exodus 20:8 [Ten Commandments] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy....” ? NO!
Exodus 20:1-11 "...Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you....nor the alien within your gates.
Deuteronomy 5:14-15 “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God...”
Nehemiah 9:13-17 "You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses....”
Isaiah 56:6-7 “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer...”
Isaiah 66:22-23 "For as the new heaven and the new earth, which I shall 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 moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.”
Matthew 24:20 "But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day."
Hebrews 4:9-11 "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own work as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
[D B Loughran, “In this passage, written about AD 66, believers are reminded that the weekly Sabbath remains, and that all of us should rest [after] a week's work just as the Almighty did after the creation of the world.”]
See Additional Text: Ezekiel 47:21-23, Isaiah 14:1, Deuteronomy 31:11-12, Exodus 23:12, Joshua 8:32-35, Isaiah 56:1-7
A SIGN BETWEEN THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL AND HIS PEOPLE
"Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” Exodus 31:13-17
“Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.”Keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord God.” Ezekiel 20:12, 20
Ariel and D’vorah Berkowitz in their book Take Hold: “One....feature common to the ancient Near Eastern covenants is the use of covenant signs...the sign of the covenant with Noah, the rainbow...(Gen. 9:12-13)...According to Gen. 17:11, circumcision was a ...sign for the covenant...with Abraham...Exodus 31:12-13 indicates that the sign...with Moses was the Shabbat...Thus, as a sign, Shabbat indicates that in order to be properly related to God we need to rest completely in Him and what He has done for us....Hebrews 4...”
Dr. John Fischer’s Siddur for Messianic Jews, “...Shabbat, as the sign of the covenant, functions as the means by which we ‘say’ we are in covenant relationship with God and under his grace. It is the sign or seal that the covenant between God and us is operational and guaranteed.”
A. D. Wade, “A ‘sign’ is often thought of as a billboard which identifies whose establishment, institution, or office is inside. However, it can also be thought of as a badge, symbol, or token of identity. The word ‘sign’ here (in both Scriptures) is 'owth in Hebrew meaning signal, beacon, or evidence.”
Genesis 1:14 states: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”
“According to Strong's Bible Dictionary , the Hebrew word 'owth [oth] translated sign in this verse means: a signal, distinguishing mark, banner, remembrance, miraculous sign, omen, warning. And the Hebrew word 'mow`ed [mo-ade'] translated seasons in this verse means: appointed place, appointed time, appointed meeting, sacred season, set feast, tent of meeting.”
A BLESSING FOR CALLING THE SABBATH A DELIGHT
Isaiah 58:13 “..if you call the Sabbath a DELIGHT and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going you own way, and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your JOY in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Ariel and D’vorah Berkowitz in their book Take Hold, “Shabbat...reminder..key to living the true blessings of that rest...knowing that we are the finished work of Messiah....as new creations in Messiah...cease form striving to become what we already are--the righteousness of God.”
YESHUA AND THE SABBATH
Matthew 12:8 Yeshua states, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Joseph Jacobs, Jesus of Nazareth in History, Jewish Encyclopedia, states: “Yeshua taught during a time of flux and transition, of various developing and occasionally conflicting interpretations of the Torah. In taking advantage of this liberty in interpretation, he nevertheless remained fully Jewish. For example, he accepted the laws concerning the Sabbath but differed in the exegesis if those laws concerning certain conditions which justify its suspension.”
Dr. Brad Young, “The Sabbath is intended to be a joy as people observe it out of love for God. The Sabbath was created for the good of the people. While Yeshua did not abolish the Sabbath, he did take a more lenient approach which humanized the Jewish halakhic observance.” He goes on to say, “In fact, the open of the Oral Torah invited vigorous debate and even encouraged diversity of thought and imaginative creativity. But don’t forget, while some groups were more strict than others, they all recognized that the Sabbath had to be observed!”
BUT, WHAT ABOUT SUNDAY REPLACING THE SABBATH?
David B. Loughran states, “In the Scriptures, the days of the week are not named, but numbered from one to seven. The only exception is the seventh day of the week which is called the Sabbath. Consequently, the day we all know as Sunday is referred to in the Bible as the "first day of the week." And so in our search to answer the question about Sunday being the Christian Sabbath, we will need to examine every Bible verse in which the "first day of the week" is mentioned.....Sunday observance is a product of paganism. It found its way into the Christian church many years after the original Apostles died. At that time, Sunday was the rest day of the pagan Roman Empire in which the popular religion was Mithraism, a form of sun-worship. In the course of time, (during the second, third and fourth centuries) multitudes of sun-worshipers joined the church. And when the Emperor Constantine ruled (AD 306-337)....they naturally didn't want to give up their pagan ways - and days - for anything which was at variance with their cherished heathen traditions...popular traditions of paganism were brought into the church and the truths of the Most High were slowly pushed aside...Thus it was that Sunday - the venerable day of the Sun God - along with a host of other pagan practices...was adopted by the fallen church and hailed as the New Christian Sabbath - the LORD'S DAY!”
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, “The expression ‘Lord’s day which first appeared as an undisputed Christian designation for Sunday near the end part of the second century...the sayings of Christ found in the Gospels do not contain the expression “Lord’s day”....In a passage....Epiphanius (ca. A.D. 315-403) suggests that until A.D. 135 Christians everywhere observed Passover on the Jewish date, namely, on Nisan 15, irrespective of the day of the week.....no necessity has been felt to institute a Sunday memorial (whether annual or weekly) to honor his resurrection.....the role that the Church of Rome played in causing the abandonment of the Sabbath and the adoption of Sunday has been underestimated, if not totally neglected, in recent studies. If one recognizes, as admitted by O. Cullmann, that ‘in deliberate distinction from Judaism, the first Christians selected the first day of the week.’”
QUOTATIONS CONCERNING THE CHANGING OF SHABBAT TO SUNDAY
"You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify." (Cardinal Gibbons (Catholic) in his book: The faith of our Fathers, page 111)
"We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church in the Council of Laodicea (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday."" (The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine. Second edition, page 50)
"Is there any command in the New Testament to change the day of weekly rest from Saturday to Sunday? - None." (Manual of Christian Doctrine - (Protestant Episcopal) page 127)
"It is quite clear that however rigidly or devoutly we may spend Sunday, we are not keeping the Sabbath ... The Sabbath was founded on a specific, divine command. We can plead no such command for the obligation to observe Sunday. There is not a single sentence in the New Testament to suggest that we incur any penalty by violating the supposed sanctity of Sunday." (Ten Commandments, Dr. R. Dale (Congregationalist), pp. 127-129)
"The observance of the Lord's Day (Sunday) is founded, not on any command of God, but on the authority of the Church." (Augsburg Confession of Faith (Lutheran))
"Where we are told in Scripture to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day ... The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because the Bible, but the church has enjoined it." (Plain sermons on the Catechism, Rev. Isaac Williams (Church of England), Volume 1, pp. 334-336)
"There was and is a command to keep holy the Sabbath day: but the Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, with all its duties, privileges and sanctions. Earnestly desiring information on this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask: Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no Scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week." (Dr. Edward T Hiscox, author of the Baptist Manual)
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, “Ignatius, Barnabas, and Justin, whose writings constitute our major source of information for the first half of the second century, witnessed and participated in the process of separation from Judaism which led the majority of Christians to abandon the Sabbath and adopt Sunday as the new days of worship.”
INDISPUTABLE - THE SABBATH WILL BE CELEBRATED IN THE KINGDOM
“In Zechariah 14:16, God will require the nations to keep the Feast of Tabernacles during the 1,000 year Messianic Age. In Isaiah 66:22-23, God will require ALL FLESH to keep the Sabbath and new moon during the time of the NEW HEAVENS and the NEW EARTH. "For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make...saith the L-rd...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 L-rd."
“We see the Jew and Non-Jew keeping the Sabbath, new moon, and festivals for all eternity. Therefore, God HAS NOT done away with them for the non-Jew.” (Rabbi Michael Silver)
Ryan Jones (Zionist.com) states: “The bottom line is this. Shabbat is not only a Biblical commandment, but part of the "Ten Commandments" which most Christians adhere to. Shabbat is the "L‑rd’s Day", not Sunday, as Jesus declared Himself "L‑rd of the Shabbat". There is no reference in the Messianic Scriptures of the apostles, or anyone else, switching to Sunday as the "new Shabbat". And last but not least, Sunday was originally the pagan Roman day to worship the sun...”