HOW TO KEEP THE SABBATH
After realizing the truth about the Sabbath, many people ask, A How do I keep the Sabbath holy? This is a very good question. The Bible gives us a few specific pieces of guidance, which we will look at here. But it doesn’t go into great detail about specific activities to do or not to do. The reason for this is simple. God gives us principles in His word, and then asks us to seek His guidance individually on how to apply those principles in our own lives. When we look at the specific guidance in the Bible of how to keep the Sabbath, we need to keep the fundamental principles in mind and not get bogged down in the details like the Pharisees did.
What is the primary purpose of the Sabbath?
Gen 2:2-32 And 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 . 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The primary purpose of the Sabbath is for us to rest from our worldly labors and to seek God. God obviously was not tired from all His creation work and just needed a rest. Rather, God wanted to set that time aside as special time for His people and for the world He created. He blessed the Sabbath day. There is a blessing in the Sabbath day for us if we seek God on that day. He also sanctified the Sabbath day, or set it aside for a holy purpose. We are to set that time aside for a holy purpose.
The Sabbath was ordained by God at creation and set aside as a special time for us to cease our worldly activities and to spend time with God. Everything we do on the Sabbath day should draw our attentions toward God. If we keep that principle in mind, we will never have to struggle over knowing what activities are appropriate or not on the Sabbath.
What is the fundamental principle we use when determining what activities are appropriate for the Sabbath? Mark 2:23-28 23 And it came about that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to Him, “See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and became hungry, he and his companions: 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it also to those who were with him?” 27 And He was saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 “Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath .” Isa 58:13-14 13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The Sabbath was intended to be a delight, not a burden. The focus of the Sabbath should never be what I cannot do, but rather what I can do. However, to get the blessing out of the Sabbath that God intended, we have to put our own worldly pleasures aside and spend that time seeking God instead.
Was the Sabbath ever just for the Jews? How could Gentiles also get a blessing out of the Sabbath day? Isa 56:1-7 1 Thus says the LORD, “Preserve justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed. 2 “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from His people.” Neither let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases me, and hold fast My covenant, 5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. 6 “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. ”
Anyone, Jew or Gentile, could always have received the blessing of the Sabbath, simply by seeking God on His holy day.
When does the Sabbath day begin and end? Lev 23:32 32 “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.”
We know that the Sabbath is the seventh day, or Saturday. In the Jewish reckoning of time, the days ran from sundown to sundown, not midnight to midnight like we count days. So the Sabbath day goes from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday. We also note that the Sabbath involves setting the whole day aside for God, not just one hour during church.
What guidance does God give us about how to keep the Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment instruction? Exod 20:8-11 8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 “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.
God tells us here that we should refrain from secular work on the Sabbath day. Not only that, but we are not to ask others to work on our behalf. Notice that God also reiterates the role of the Sabbath as a memorial of creation and a day for us to seek Him.
Other than work, what other activities should we refrain from on the Sabbath? Neh 13:15-22 15 In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. 16 Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath , even in Jerusalem. 17 Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, ” What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day ? 18 “Did not your fathers do the same so that our God brought on us, and on this city, all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.” 19 And it came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates that no load should enter on the sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 Then I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will use force against you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness.
We should not engage in commerce, buying or selling, on the Sabbath day. This would include shopping or eating in restaurants.
Isa 58:13-1413 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
We should refrain from secular forms of entertainment and recreation on the Sabbath. This would include things like playing or watching sports, watching secular TV programs or movies, or engaging in secular oriented hobbies.
What is one thing that we should do on the Sabbath day?
Lev 23:33 ‘For six days work may be done; but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. Luke 4:16 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. Heb 10:23-25 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.
A holy convocation is a gathering together of God’s people for the sake of worship and prayer. We are instructed to attend church services and to fellowship with other believers on the Sabbath. Note that we are cautioned about trying to be Lone Ranger Christians B trying to go it alone. Christians must unite together for worship, fellowship, and prayer.
When should we begin keeping the Sabbath day holy?
Heb 4:1-111 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God . 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.
Please do not rob yourself of the blessing that God has placed in His holy Sabbath day. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Whatever you have to leave behind in order to follow God is worth leaving behind. Once you do, you will never look back.