The Sabbath שבת Shabbat

Although I’ve left it until last, the very first of the Moedim is mentioned in verse three of Leviticus 23:

“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of YHWH in all your dwellings.”

This special moed is not just one time each year like all the others, but one day every week. It is the fourth of the ten commandments, which christianity professes to follow. Yet new and unscriptural rules, ordained by the Roman Catholic church, have apparently changed this moed to the first day of the week! It was the Roman Emperor, Constantine (a sun worshipper, and self proclaimed bishop), who enacted the first civil law regarding the change to Sunday, in AD321. The protestant church has since tried to defend this change using certain passages from the NT, but this was not how the original decision was made. In fact, even in the seventh century AD, Pope Gregory the First was issuing warnings to certain christians of Rome and Roman citizens elsewhere to give up the practice of the seventh-day Sabbath. Obviously, there were still believers observing the true day in spite of the growing persecution from the Catholic church!

Of course, the Sabbath didn’t begin at Mt Sinai – rather, it began on the seventh day.

“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.”  Genesis 2:2,3

The seventh day was “blessed” and “sanctified”. That means it was made holy, or set apart from the other six days as something special. This blessing and setting apart has never been revoked in Scripture!

The meaning of the word Shabbat (Sabbath) is “to rest, to cease”. It is the last day of the week in which we are to cease our work and rest, just as YHWH did at creation. The first actual use of the word Shabbat is found in Exodus 16, prior to Mt Sinai and the Ten Commandments, when YHWH began to provide manna for His people. There would be no manna on the Sabbath morning because it was “the rest of the holy Sabbath unto YHWH” (v23). The Ten Commandments are written four chapters later, with the fourth commandment stating:

“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 YHWH 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 YHWH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore YHWH  blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  Exodus 20:8-11

Interestingly, many Christians say that the fourth commandment isn’t repeated in the NT, thus making it a commandment that is not binding upon us now. However, Yeshua taught how the Sabbath should be observed on numerous occasions. He highlighted the difference between the rules of the religious Pharisees and YHWH’s Torah. It was His custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16), and He stated the following: “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27,28). If the Sabbath was made for us, why ignore it? If a sacred Sunday has replaced YHWH’s set-apart Sabbath, then the Messiah’s lordship over it was rather short lived!

The Sabbath also has a prophetic element to it. As we observe the Sabbath, we are reminded of the future perfect rest that the people of YHWH will have with Him (Heb 4:9). So, we can look back to creation when all was perfect and all work was completed, then look forward to a time when all will be completed after sin is finally destroyed. All will be perfect and we will live eternally in His rest!

There is much more I could say about the Sabbath and I could discuss the verses that are used to support a change to Sunday. For now, however, I’ll close with two passages that helped me realize that the Sabbath remains for me and my family.

“The children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”  (Ex 31:16,17)

“Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to YHWH, speak, saying, YHWH hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith YHWH unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve him, and to love the name of YHWH, 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: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.”  (Is 56:2-7)

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