Categorized | Sabbath, Sabbath Observance

Sabbath Meaning And Role

We have a rather unusual title for this post, it is “Sabbath meaning and role in this dispensation” or to put it in proper English, “what does the word Sabbath mean?”. The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat which means rest.

Shabbat is the word used as a verb when read in the book of Genesis 2.2 “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work”. So on the seventh day “he (God) rested (shabbat) from all his work. So contrary to what some people say the word Sabbath  (shabbat) does exist in the creation account only that it is used as a verb.

When Does The Sabbath Start and End?

According to the book of Genesis a day starts from sunset to sunset and therefore the Sabbath starts from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. The modern day of reckoning a day from past midnight to midnight came from the Romans and other people and not from the Jews. To the Jews and the bible the day is from sunset to sunset.

This is clear even from the story of the crucifixion. Everyone knows that Christ died on Friday and arose from the dead on Sunday morning. This is an incontrovertible fact that is accepted by almost all Christians and scholars.

The bible plainly says that Christ spent the day following the Crucifixion i.e Saturday in the grave and it says the women who wanted to take care of his body did not go there on that day because it was the Sabbath day and rested according to the commandment. For more details please read this post on the Sabbath by Mark Finley.

Sabbath meaning To Us.

what does the Sabbath mean to you? Is it some long lost ordinance that means nothing to you? I think that is the impression I get from some Christians who look at the Sabbath as some legalistic institution that has no place this side of the cross.

I however beg to differ and would like to propose that the Christian world is missing a lot by neglecting this Sabbath institution. As Christ said the Sabbath was made for man. It was instituted to be a blessing to man and not a burden. It is for our own good.

If we go back to the book of Genesis we see God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day. He was definitely not tired as He is God and not man and therefore tiredness is out of question. He did it as an example to man.

In this day and age when people are so stressed from work we need to be reminded that God created the Sabbath so that we could rest from all our works and focus our attention on the Creator of heaven and earth. If we all did this we would be see a very big reduction in cases of stress in our medical institution.

We may debate until we are blue in the face but the fact is the Sabbath was indeed made for our own good and science attest to that. It was not just a question of rest but also a call to focus on our loving creator. We are not our own we belong to God. We are his creation.

Is Keeping the Sabbath Legalistic?

Some people say that it is legalistic to keep the Sabbath. They reckon that those who keep the Sabbath are trying to earn their salvation by works.

This neglects the word of Jesus who said if you love me you will keep my commandments. Therefore keeping the Sabbath is an expression of our love for God. Loving God is never legalistic.

It is all a question of motives here for me. If I am keeping the Sabbath as a way to earn my salvation then it is legalistic but If i am doing it out of the love i have for him then it cannot be. There is no way you can say i love God and neglect his express commands.

Infact keeping the Sabbath is an expression of trust and rest in the accomplishments of Christ on the Cross of calvary.We are resting from our efforts to please him and we are making the center of our worship by acknowledging him as creator. Just as he rested we are resting with him.

According to the book of Nehemiah the Sabbath is actually a celebration.Nehemiah 8:9 (NIV) says, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep…. Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

If we keep the Sabbath as a celebration and not in terms of law it also has a way of shaping our expectation of the coming of Christ not just as day of judgment but of celebration. If we understand the Sabbath as a celebration then we can look forward to the “marriage supper of the lamb (Rev 19:7-9).

There is therefore more to the Sabbath than just a legal requirement.It is a day to enjoy in fellowship with our loving Lord. No legalism here.

What If Christians Had Continued To Keep The Sabbath?

One lady who loved the Lord so much suggested that if we had continued to keep the seventh day Sabbath as the Lord commanded atheism would not have reached the levels that it has reached nowadays. People would have been reminded every Sabbath that God is the one who created them.

As already pointed out below even health issues associated with the stresses of modern life would have been largely conquered as people would have had enough rest every week. Failure to observe this simple command has led to a lot of heartaches. It is sweet to trust and obey the Lord.

The late Siegfried Horn, an anti-Nazi German who was also a great archaeologist and also dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in the US used to say that if German Christians had been worshiping God on the same day as the German Jews, we might not have the Holocaust. Now we don’t know if that would indeed have been the case, but it is definitely worth contemplating. If German Christians had been going to their churches at the same time German Jews had been going to their synagogues, wouldn’t they have been more able to think of themselves as brothers and sisters?

I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Sabbath meaning. I hope its meaning has now become clearer to you. May God bless you and please share your opinions below, whether for or against what I have said.


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