How to Keep the Sabbath Holy

The Garden of Eden

This post is not intended to be a full manifesto on this big topic of how to keep the Sabbath* holy. I’d just like to stress a few points, because too often I see Sabbath-keeping Christians refraining themselves from working on the Sabbath and yet making others work on the Sabbath; or in other cases indulging in worldliness during the Sabbath. (*The Sabbath starts on Friday at sunset and ends on Saturday at sunset because God the Bible says in Genesis 1:5 “And the evening and the morning were the first day”).

The Sabbath Commandment

Let’s go to the Book of Exodus Chapter 20 to remind ourselves of the Sabbath commandment:  “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 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: 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” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Lord is saying several things in this passage:

  1. Keep that day holy
  2. Do not labor on that day, nor cause anyone else to labor
  3. Keep the Sabbath in commemoration of creation
  4. The Sabbath has a special blessing and the Lord made it holy

Keep the Sabbath holy

1. The Lord is asking us to keep that day holy. Holy means consecrated, set apart for a godly purpose. Holy is the opposite of profane. Godly is the opposite of worldly. On the Sabbath day we should seek the Lord and only be about the Father’s business and doing good to others to represent Him well. It’s a wonderful time to pray and have intimate communion with the Lord. The Sabbath quiet is made for the study and sharing of God’s Word. We are not to partake in any form of worldliness on that day, including worldly conversation. Our entire focus should be only on the things of God.

The Lord takes holiness extremely seriously. In the Book of Leviticus Chapter 10 the Bible describes how Aaron’s sons brought “strange fire” before the Lord, meaning fire from an unholy source. Let’s read: “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the LordThen Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:1-3).

Furthermore we read repeatedly in the Book of Ezekiel how Israel would be punished for profaning and polluting God’s Sabbath. “Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my sabbaths” (Ezekiel 22:8). “Her (Jerusalem’s) priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26). For the Lord it’s very important that we make a difference between the holy and the profane and between the clean and the unclean.

When we choose to sanctify a day other than the Sabbath – a day that the Lord didn’t sanctify – we blur the distinction between holy and profane. Sunday is a profane day. Sunday is not the day that the Lord set aside to have communion with us. When we don’t worship on the day that He ordained – the seventh day – and we go about our own occupations, we profane and may even pollute His holy day.

Rest on the Sabbath

2. The Sabbath is a day of rest, and oh how we need that! As the world spins out of control and we live frantic lives in stressful environments, the Lord invites us to enter into His rest. The Sabbath rest is the most restorative of the entire week. Try a Sabbath nap – you’ll sleep as deeply as in the deep hours of the night (even in the afternoon sunlight) and will wake up feeling completely rested and relaxed. During the week we are spiritually drained and our spirit needs the refreshing and restoration of being fully immersed in the things of the spirit. Nothing is more restorative than worshipping God in unity with other believers!

Honor the Creator on the Sabbath

3. The Sabbath is a commemoration of Creation. We rest from our labor on the Sabbath because God rested on the Sabbath after His labor. In the Bible, Friday is called “Preparation Day” because on that day we prepare for the Sabbath. We should cook on Friday in order to have enough food to eat during the Sabbath hours. We stock up the dishes in the dishwasher and do them after the close of the Sabbath. Needless to say we should engage in no other housework, office work, garden work or the like. We can feed domestic animals and walk our dogs if they need to be walked but making an animal work is forbidden by the commandment.

One thing we should definitely not do is make others to work. We cause others to work if we go to a restaurant for example. The argument goes that “well the restaurant is open anyway even if I don’t go there”. This is true. However, it’s also true that when you become a client of the restaurant you participate in the breaking of the commandment, you become an accomplice to sin. It’s also best to avoid any transactions other than the paying of tithes and offerings to our God.

Don’t be deceived into believing that keeping the Sabbath is an Old Testament ordinance. In the Book of Revelation Chapter 14 the first angel’s message says: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6-7). We worship the Creator on the Sabbath, not on any other day especially not on the day of the sun.

The Sabbath has a special blessing

4. The Lord placed a special blessing on the Sabbath and made it holy. No other day of the week has that anointing. No other day has that special blessing or that absolute requirement. Therefore we MUST worship Him on the seventh day of the week in obedience to the commandment. This is why Jesus said “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9) referring to human inventions that did not proceed from the mouth of God. The Lord made the Sabbath holy so that on that day man could have communion with His God. Sabbath prayers are more powerful because we have audience with the King of the Universe Himself. He delights in His people coming together in worship, singing psalms and praises for His glory. What an amazing way to spend a day – a foretaste of what eternity shall be.

Who should keep the Sabbath?

ALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE, i.e. ALL CHRISTIANS are ordered to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath was established at Creation, long before there was a Jewish people. Therefore the Sabbath is not a Jewish institution, although the Jews are known for keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the true Lord’s Day, as when Jesus said “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). The Bible doesn’t say “The Sabbath was made for the Jews”, it says “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

Personally the Sabbath has become my absolute favorite day of the week. I love to spend time in prayer and the Word and in fellowship with other believers, breaking bread and singing hymns. There’s a beautiful promise in Isaiah 58 that I hope will encourage you to discover the godly pleasures of the Sabbath day:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isaiash 58:13 – 14).



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