THE PRINCIPLE OF REST The Sabbath Day is a memorial to Messiah as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It testifies to His unique activity as the Creator of all things and that the Sabbath was a celebration of the finished work of creation. He did not need rest after six days of creating (Isaiah 40:28), and Adam should not have needed to rest immediately following his creation at the end of the sixth day, but his first day of existence was the seventh day of rest, the Sabbath. Y'shua said it was created for man.
The Hebrew word Shabbat (Sabbath) is related to the word shevet - to dwell. On the Sabbath, God made the world His dwelling-place, with the man that He had created.
Adam's first experience in life was in union and fellowship with Yahweh God! Adam entered into His rest in the Sabbath and enjoyed the fruit of His Creator's labour in creation. The Sabbath Day is vitally connected to knowing and understanding God as the Creator and experiencing His Presence.
The main Sabbath commandment is rest - not doing - i.e. a cessation from activity! He ceased His activity of creating on the seventh day and rested. In so doing He ceased exercising His power and authority over the universe on that day and in like manner, so we are to cease asserting our dominance over it through our abilities and skills to conform it to our will. We are to be at peace with the world on that day and leave it at rest, as it is.
"There are six days when you may work but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to Yahweh." Leviticus 23:3
The Sabbath was the first festival observed by God Himself in the book of Genesis, as well as being the first to be observed by man, even before the revelation at Mount Sinai when the other festivals were commanded. It was also the first festival to be outlined by Yahweh to Moses in the book of Leviticus. The setting apart of Shabbat acknowledges the physical need of humanity for a Sabbath of rest. The functioning of our bodies is so constituted that they need a rest one day in seven.
Moses said to the congregation "These are the things that Yahweh has commanded you to do: Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy Shabbat of solemn rest to Yahweh; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the Sabbath day". Exodus 35:1-3)
This command to not do any work on Shabbat (Exodus 20:10) is repeated in other passages about the Sabbath in Exodus -31:14-15, in Leviticus 23:3 and in Deuteronomy 5:14. This key word - "work", which is not only the principal theme on Shabbat but also on the other Holy Days of the calendar (see Exodus 12, Leviticus 23) means something akin to "activity" and is first used in the description of God's creation of the world in Genesis 2: 2-3. How do we distinguish activities which are acceptable on Shabbat from those which are not?
- The meaning of the word 'work' is in Hebrew M'lakhah (Strongs 4399; TWB 1068b).
- Strongs says that it comes from a root 'to despatch as a deputy' "prop. 'to deputyship' i.e. ministry; gen. employment or work (never servile)" In that category business, industry, occupation, workmanship, thing made.
- The Theological Wordbook says that "m'lakah could refer either to the activity of working, the requisite skills of work, or to the result of work. .. this term emphasises work as involving skill and benefits" not that which comes from toilsome, laborious work.
This therefore has to include all creative activity, all skilled occupations and all engagements involved in one's purpose and interests in this life and is not just servile work. This also includes maintenance of our possessions and livelihood.
So it is a time of disengagement with the pursuits of this life to withdraw back into the eternal purposes for our existence.
The concept of 'work', or ceasing from work, is related to our reverence of His Presence among us. Shabbat is a day of worship and fellowship, set aside even from non-secular activities connected to our worship of Him. So even those things involved with the dwelling-place of Yahweh on earth for the purpose of worship, must cease on Shabbat. "You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am Yahweh." Leviticus 19:30, 26:2
Any activity which was an integral part of the construction of the Tabernacle or it's maintenance, was defined as work (M'lakhah) and was therefore, prohibited on Shabbat. Only the duties involved in worship itself, such as the sacrifices were continued. With the introduction of the Tabernacle in their midst, His Presence became manifest among His people, therefore their reverence for His Presence took precedence over the activities centered around the maintenance of the means whereby they engaged in worship of Him. So reverencing His presence has priority above serving Him on the Sabbath.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP God commands us, "Sanctify (make separate) My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God" (Ezekiel 20:20, 44:24).
Yahweh is saying that the Sabbath would be a sign through which they would know that He had set them apart to Himself. The identifying mark of their being His people in the world, was their observance of the Sabbath. It was also their identifying mark (sign) to Him that they were His people. Exodus 31:13, 17 We signify both to the world and to our Creator/Redeemer that we identify ourselves as His people by keeping Shabbat.
For that reason, the traditional Jewish rabbis, interpret the Biblical statement that "God blessed the sabbath day and hallowed/ sanctified it" (Genesis 2: 3), as meaning that He wedded/betrothed the Sabbath to His people. That is, He bonded them together in a spiritual covenantal union by which they became one. In that sense the Sabbath and His people are wedded to one another as part of the covenant bond through a spiritual union on that day.
In setting aside the seventh day as the day in which He would bless those who would come into spiritual union with Him, He set that particular day aside for spiritual communion with His people. It is the day He has chosen from creation to fellowship with the man He has created, as He did with Adam. He has placed a special blessing on that particular day.
The Hebrew word for “sign” indicates a pledge or a token of what is promised. So in keeping the Sabbath we are displaying a visible token of our faith in the pledge which He has made in the covenant with us, to fulfill what He has promised. Shabbat is an eternal focal point and sign of our ongoing encounter with Him and a sign of His constant Presence with us when His shekinah comes to rest upon His tabernacle. (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Since Shabbat is the sign of a special relationship between Yahweh and His people in a "shared experience", this special "place in time" must be guarded carefully. It is now more than just resting and avoiding 'work' - it is a precious segment of time to be guarded and kept set apart for Him, to be with Him. Only His covenant people can enter into the experience of Shabbat. Shabbat is regarded as an encounter between Yahweh and His people where they commune with each other as the lover and beloved, of the Song of Songs. It is a designated set-apart time of Yahweh coming to dwell with His betrothed. Hence the custom of reading this beautiful love song in the Song of Songs every Friday evening at the onset of Shabbat.
The day is kept "holy" by not treating it as ordinary time. Isaiah speaks of calling the Sabbath a delight, a day to be honored. To “pursue one’s own affairs” is considered “trampling” on the day (Isaiah 58:13, see Nehemiah 13:15-18).
The keynote of the Sabbath day is joy and rest. It is a wonderful “sanctuary in time,” carved out of the mundane activities and surroundings of our everyday lives to spend time in spiritual refreshment personally, and with family and other believers in fellowship and worship. It is a vital part of the “restoration of all things”. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us to seek the “ancient paths where the good way is, and walk therein, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
In Leviticus 23:2-4, the Bible tells us that Shabbat is not only a mo'ed but that it is also a holy convocation.
- The Hebrew word mo'ed is the Strong's word 4150 in the Hebrew dictionary and means "an appointment, a fixed time or season, a cycle, an assembly, an appointed time, a set time or an exact time."
- The Hebrew word for holy is the Strong's word 6944 in the dictionary and is the word kodesh. The Hebrew word kodesh means "to consecrate, dedicate, hallow, set apart."
- The Hebrew word for convocation is the Strong's word 4744 in the dictionary and is the word miqra. The Hebrew word miqra means, "a public meeting, an assembly, a rehearsal."
Therefore, God is telling us in His Word that Shabbat is a mo'ed (an appointed time, a set time) during the week (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) which is a kodesh (holy, consecrated, dedicated and set apart) miqra (a public meeting, an assembly of people, a rehearsal).
Shabbat is a commandment which Yahweh wants His people to keep as a rehearsal (a miqra) because it is an appointed time or set apart time (mo'ed), a holy convocation -- i.e. a celebration.
If the Sabbath is a celebration rehearsal, what is it that we are to rehearse?
Shabbat is a rehearsal of all the things that will be enacted in the Messianic Age. It is a foretaste of life in the Kingdom, in the spiritual realm of eternal realities, and it gives us a foretaste of the future redemption of Messiah in the life to come.
We separate ourselves from the natural in order that we may enter into the spiritual and refresh ourselves in His Presence. We make it our delight to embrace this day and prepare for it in anticipation of a special encounter with the honoured Guest of the day whom we invite to come and take up His abode with us in kingdom power.
PRIORITIES FOR THE SABBATH The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. It's observance is for man's spiritual and physical benefit and not for man to become legalistic in the manner of keeping it.Therefore in situations where the maintenance of life or a person's redemption is a priority, the principle to follow is that the preservation or restoration of a man's health or life takes precedence over abstaining from engaging in an activity that would save his health or life, on the Sabbath.
This is the standard which Y'shua set in all He did on the Sabbath day. This principle of doing life-giving redemptive activities on Shabbat is what Y'shua was following in healing on the Sabbath. He acted against the prevailing misconceptions that originated from the laws which the Rabbis had instituted, in order to restore the Sabbath to its true meaning and function.
Not everything was forbidden on the Sabbath. The priests still carried on with their Tabernacle/Temple duties in order to perform the required sacrifices. Circumcision was performed on the Sabbath if it was the eighth day after the child's birth, in order to extend to the newborn child the salvation of the covenant. Exodus 16:23 Y'shua defended the legality of the “working” that He and His Father performed on the Sabbath. In John, He appealed to the example of circumcision to silence the echo of the controversy over the healing of the paralytic (John 7:22-24).
He argued that if it was legitimate on the Sabbath for the priests to care for one small part of a person’s body by administering circumcision to effect redemption (according to rabbinic reckoning, circumcision involved one of man’s members), there is no reason to be “angry” with Him for restoring on that day the “whole body of man”.
It was understood that on the Sabbath they were to be compassionate toward the less fortunate, and in the priesthood especially, they legitimately performed on the Sabbath works forbidden to other Israelites, because such works had a redemptive function.
In spite of the accusations which the Rabbis made against Y'shua, they understood these precepts from the teaching on Shabbat. The various rulings which they had made for the people to observe were according to the letter of the law and not according to the purpose for which the Sabbath was given. It's purpose was to be life-giving to His people, so therefore that which pertains to the necessity of life is permissible on Shabbat.
In John 5:17 where Y'shua healed on the Sabbath), Y'shua said, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working". What Y'shua is saying, is that though God rested on the Sabbath at the completion of creation, because of sin He has been “working until now” to bring the promised Sabbath rest to fruition. For that same purpose Y'shua was also working the works of God to fulfill the Father's redemptive work, the completion of which will be the final and perfect Sabbath of which the initial creation Sabbath was the prototype.
So although the commands that Y'shua gave to each of the men He healed in order to have them act upon their healing, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk” (John 5:8); “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:7)) broke the laws which the Rabbis had made for the Sabbath, they were not contrary to the Father's commandment, and He repudiated the Pharisees charge against Him each time concerning it (John 5 :10, 16; 9:14-16). In both instances He argued that His works of salvation were not contrary, but rather were contemplated by the Sabbath commandment. (John 5:17; 7:23; 9:4)
The redemptive nature of the works of God are evident in the healing of the blind man since the act is explicitly described as the manifestation of “the works of God” (John 9:3). The redemptive purpose is also evident in that He looked for the healed men on the same day and, having found them, He ministered to their spiritual needs. (John 5:14; 9:35-38)
Y'shua appeals to the “working” of His Father not to nullify, but to clarify the function of the Sabbath. To understand His defense, one must remember that the Sabbath is linked both to creation (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:11) and redemption (Deut 5:15). While in Exodus 20:11 the reason given for observing the Sabbath is the completion of creation in six days, in Deuteronomy 5:15 the reason is deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, i.e. - redemption. The physical and spiritual aspects of life.
For this reason, His disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath was also exempted, in that there was a physical need for the sustenance of their life (Matthew 12: 1-8). Y'shua likens them to priests whose service to God renders them blameless.
Therefore we as His people do not engage in activities which originate out of the desire of our own heart on Shabbat, nor do we initiate or get involved in activities which seek to promote the extension of His kingdom on Shabbat, but we are called to act redemptively in situations where the responsibility for another person's physical or spiritual life and well-being rests upon us to be compassionate and extend assistance to them in their need.