The Gift of Sabbath Rest: The Sabbath was Made for Us

Silhouette of man praying with heavenly cloudscape sunset concept for religion, worship, love and spirituality

What if life didn’t have to be so rushed? Do you find yourself longing for a break or even wishing you could find a place to hide?

For the average family, days are made up of long to do lists, even longer work hours, and so many activities it can be difficult to find time to breathe, much less rest.

And yet, it’s rest we so very much need.

Society would have us believe the more we produce and the more we consume the happier our lives will be.

You feel it, don’t you? That need to strive for more, whatever more may be?

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 ESV

What if there was a better way to live? What if the answer to your soul’s weariness was to simply stop?

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV

Did you know God gave us the Sabbath as a gift?  He wants you to find rest!

Let’s look at how the Sabbath was given to us by God with our wellbeing in mind. You might be surprised by what you learn!

View from Mount Sinai. Egypt.

The Sabbath as a Gift

Where did the Sabbath come from?

That’s a great question! The short answer is the seventh day of the creation week was blessed and made holy by God.

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of time when God first created this world and find out more. 

In the book of Genesis, in chapter one, we are told that in six days God made the heavens and the earth.

  • Day One: God made light.
  • Day Two: God made the firmament and the atmosphere.
  • Day Three: God made the dry ground and plants.
  • Day Four: God made the sun, moon, and stars.
  • Day Five: God made the birds and sea animals.
  • Day Six: God made the land animals and humans.

God spent six days making this world. He lovingly thought of every detail. He took care to provide us with everything we would need. He didn’t overlook a single detail.

Woman stands in front of lake at sunset with her arms outstretched

And then look what happened on the seventh day:

Genesis 2:2,3 ESV says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

You see, God blessed the seventh day that very first week of creation. The gift of the Sabbath was given to man in the very beginning.

God rested on the seventh day as an example for us. The Sabbath was not created for God’s benefit. In fact, God doesn’t grow weary from working the way we do.Let’s look at the original Hebrew word for in Genesis 2:2 for rest: “Shabbat” or Sabbath. “Shabbat” means to cease or stop. God stopped His work of creation and rested.

Sunset over a lake

God gave us the Sabbath as a gift because He loves us so much!

He wanted us to have a special day to rest and spend time with Him.

He wanted you and I to have a time each week when we could step away from the busyness of this world and rest without guilt.

Rest.

Rest for weary hearts. 

Rest for overwhelmed minds.

Rest for tired bodies.

God set aside one day a week, the seventh day, so that we could remember His love for us.

Israelite gathering manna in the desert.

The Sabbath and Israel

People have always struggled to remember God’s love for us. In fact, throughout history we see how humanity so easily forgets how He has loved us. Sometimes we need a reminder.

That’s how it was for the Jews. In the book of Exodus we read the story of Moses and how, with God’s help, he led the Jewish people, out of Egypt.

The children of Israel had spent generations in slavery. They were oppressed and afflicted with much suffering. The Bible tells us:

“Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses… they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” Exodus 1:11-14 ESV

In the end, God was faithful to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and freed them from the bondage of slavery.

“All the people of Israel did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.” Exodus 12:50-51 ESV

But, it wasn’t long before the Jewish people were once again doubting God’s love and care for them. They didn’t just doubt God’s provision and care, but they wanted to go back to Egypt!

“They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” Exodus 16:1-3 ESV

Middle aged woman sitting under a tree reading a book in the park

The Sabbath and Manna from Heaven

And that’s when God performed yet another miracle for the people of Israel. He gave them Manna to eat. The Manna rained down from heaven each night and in the morning the ground would be covered with the delicate flakes and it would disappear as the day waned on.

God instructed the Israelites to gather manna each morning. They were to gather as much manna as they could eat in one day. Any leftover manna would rot with maggots before the next day. Five days a week they were to gather only what they could eat for that day.

But on the sixth day of the week they were to gather twice as much – enough for the sixth day and enough for the Sabbath. Every sixth day God would perform another miracle and the manna would remain fresh on the seventh day Sabbath.

Only on the sixth day could they gather extra manna and it would not rot! The manna would remain fresh on the seventh day. Those who did not gather extra on the sixth day would find no flakes of manna on the seventh day because it was the Sabbath.

“On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:27-30 ESV

Gathering their food each day was quite a bit of labor and God wanted His people to rest on the seventh day. He asked them to prepare ahead and gather their food for the Sabbath on the sixth day. 

Not having to worry about their meals meant they were able to rest and worship on the Sabbath.

Senior man sitting a table, praying with a Bible

The Sabbath as the 4th Commandment

Notice here, how the people were commanded to keep the Sabbath and rest. Later, on Mount Sinai, Moses was given the Ten Commandments of God for the people of Israel to keep. The Sabbath was part of God’s eternal law written in stone by God’s own finger.

The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.” Exodus 20:8-11 ESV

When God wrote out the ten commandments, he reminded his people the Sabbath was given at the time of creation when he blessed the seventh day and made it holy.

God’s people throughout history have kept His commandments. Even Jesus asked us to keep His commandments!

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Clearly, Jesus intended for us to keep His commandments. But which commandments are we to keep? The Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are God’s eternal moral law. They are distinct and separate from other laws found in the Bible. Unlike the Mosaic Laws, the Ten Commandments were:

  • Written by God’s own finger (Exodus 32:16)
  • Kept inside of the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 10:5)
  • confirmed in the New Testament

God’s eternal law gives us guidelines for living a holy life. They were given for our wellbeing. They are eternal, never changing. And the 4th commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath. It reminds us that the gift of the Sabbath was given to us in the very beginning.

Senior woman reading the Bible

Remember what Jesus said?

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV

God loved his people so much that not only did he save them from a life of slavery in Egypt, but he gave them the gift of rest. He was basically saying to them, you no longer have to work yourself to the bone, take a day off and spend time with me!

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath.” Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV

What a gracious gift! How good does a long nap feel when you’re exhausted? Or how sweet is a good night’s rest after a long, difficult day? God loves you so much he wants to give you rest.

The Sabbath was a “covenant” or a sign between God and His people. God gave us the Sabbath as a reminder to stop, rest, and remember our Creator.

“Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” Ezekiel 20:12 ESV

Unfortunately, in time, the Sabbath became a burden instead of a blessing. In fact, the Pharisees had more than 1500 regulations regarding the Sabbath alone!

“They became very meticulous about keeping the Sabbath. They could only walk a ‘Sabbath day’s journey.’ They could not carry a needle and thread both at the same time on the Sabbath; or they could only carry so much weight on them equal to only so many grains of barley.” Richard T. Ritenbaugh 1

But Jesus came to show us a better way. He came to set us free from the burden of sin and show us what it meant to truly keep the Sabbath day.

children praying with their parent at home, family pray, Having faith and hope.

Did Jesus keep the Sabbath?

Yes! In fact, the Bible tells us it was His custom to go to the synagogue. Let’s look at what Luke 4:16 says:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”

You see, Jesus was a Jew. He was raised attending the synagogue each Sabbath because that’s what the Jewish people did on the seventh day each week. It’s like when we go to church each week. His family did the same thing.

Not only did Jesus observe the Sabbath commandment each week while growing up, he also observed the seventh day Sabbath during his ministry on earth. The Scriptures tell us:

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.” Mark 1:21 ESV

“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” Mark 6:2 ESV

“And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath.” Luke 4:31 ESV

“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.” Luke 13:10 ESV

Remember how Mark 2:27 says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”?

Well, if we look at the very next verse, we’re told:

“So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:28 ESV

The Sabbath is so important that Jesus said he is Lord even over the Sabbath day! Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath, along with His Father in Heaven, our Heavenly Father, gave us a wonderful gift of rest.

Woman standing look out over the ocean

What spiritual benefits does Sabbath provide for us?

The Hebrew people, freed from the bondage of slavery, were given the Sabbath as a gift. The Sabbath day was a weekly reminder of all that God had done for them.

Likewise, the Sabbath is a weekly reminder that God has also delivered us from sin and that we are now free to worship him.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 ESV

Jesus offers us freedom from the slavery of sin and the gift of eternal life. He offers us redemption! And as the redeemed people of God we are also commanded to observe the Sabbath.

When we are slaves to sin, we are not free. It’s only in Christ that we can find freedom from spiritual slavery. He is the One who makes us free.

Jesus loves you so much he wants you to experience the freedom that only he can provide. All you need to do is love him with all your heart, mind, and soul.

And when you love him with all your heart, mind, and soul you will naturally desire to obey his commands.

In John 14:15 ESV Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Just like the Hebrew people who were weary from their labors and needed to be set free, you can find freedom today.

Beautiful woman standing in a forest with her head raised and praying

A Sabbath Blessing

The Sabbath offers a special blessing to all who honor it. In fact, the Bible tells us that we should call the Sabbath a delight!

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord Honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13,14 ESV

Do you see the promise? Do you see how God wants to bless you? When you honor the Sabbath, God will make you ride on the heights of the earth. He wants to bless you!

The Sabbath not only offers us a time for rest from our work, but it gives us spiritual reprieve and a time when we cannot only reconnect with God but also reconnect with our loved ones.

Happy diverse people together in the park

What if you had 24 hours to simply focus on what matters most?  

Ask a man at the end of his life what he wishes he had done differently, he’s not likely to say he wished he had more money, success, or fame.

Instead, he’ll likely tell you that he wished he had spent more time with those he loved the most.

Time is man’s greatest challenge. We all take part in a procession through its realm which never comes to an end but are unable to gain a foothold in it. Its reality is apart and away from us. Space is exposed to our will; we may shape and change the things in space as we please. Time, however, is beyond our reach… It belongs exclusively to God.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 99

When we partake in the Sabbath day, we are given the gift of time. By refraining from work and secular activities we allow ourselves the opportunity once a week to fully focus on relationships.

The seventh day Sabbath is ideal for spending quality time with your family. Because on the Sabbath your attention is not divided, you’ll find it easier to nurture your family relationships.

Families can find joy and connection through worship, through the beauty of God’s creation, and even through acts of service.

Sabbath Worship

The Bible tells us that the Sabbath day was a day for holy convocation or assembly – a holy gathering of people. Basically, that means it’s a great idea to attend church on the Sabbath.

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.” Leviticus 23:3 ESV

“I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1 ESV

Worshiping with your family as well as other believers not only helps you grow in your faith but can offer encouragement in times of trial. Attending church with like-minded believers keeps us accountable and of good courage.

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 ESV

Studying the Bible, praying, and encouraging each other are all ways we can lift one another up and grow closer to Jesus.

Diverse group of people praying

Worship brings us closer to God.

God wants to have a relationship with you. You are special to Him! He loves you so much that He set aside a day each week to spend time with you.

It’s not hard to spend time with someone you love. In fact, when you love someone you look forward to spending time with them!

All relationships need to be nurtured and if we don’t spend time with people we love, those relationships grow cold and stale. Spending time with Jesus each week means you’ll get to know him better and He’ll have more influence in your life.

Observing the Sabbath each week is beneficial to our relationship with God because for 24 hours our thoughts and actions are directed toward him. We can celebrate the Sabbath and rejoice knowing He has our best interest in mind.

The Sabbath is like a weekly pause when we don’t have to worry about what’s on television or the latest game. We don’t have to worry about work or bosses or school. We don’t have to worry about things that have no eternal value. 

Instead we get to focus on our relationships.

Group Of Mature Friends Walking Along Path Through Yurt Campsite

Enjoying Nature on the Sabbath

We live in a society where people are distracted and families are disconnected. The 24-hour Sabbath is the perfect time to disconnect from our devices and distractions and really connect with each other.

What better way to disconnect from the cares of this world than to get outside and enjoy the wonders of God’s creation?

Families can enjoy exploring a park, hiking a trail, or even a going on a picnic. There are so many ways to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty we often miss. When we study the book of nature, we will discover God’s character and infinite love. 2

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, and the fish of the seas will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10 ESV

Wife Visiting And Talking With Patient Husband In Hospital Bed

Doing Good on the Sabbath

Unlike the Pharisees who made the Sabbath a burden for the people of God, Jesus taught the Sabbath was to be a blessing for everyone who honored it.

Besides going to church and fellowshipping with other believers or spending time with family in nature, the Sabbath is a wonderful time to serve others.

Matthew 12:11, 12 tells us that Jesus said, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Have you ever noticed when you do something good for someone else, it makes you feel good inside too? There are so many ways to bless others with a gift of our time and the Sabbath is the perfect time to give back to your friends, family, and neighbors.

The ten commandments

10 Ideas to Help You Get Started Keeping the Sabbath

  • Set aside the day to rest and read God’s Word.
  • Take a much needed nap.
  • Listen to a sermon.
  • Visit a park with your family and enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
  • Visit an elderly neighbor and sit together. You can laugh, talk, and listen.
  • Invite a church visitor or new member over for dinner.
  • Give a Bible study to a new believer.
  • Invite friends over for evening worship.
  • Pray together with someone who is hurting.
  • Visit friends or church members who are sick or in the hospital.

How can a weekly Sabbath improve our wellbeing?

We all want to live happier, healthier lives. When we feel sad, discouraged, or sick life feels a lot harder. We all need a regular “time out” from the stress of this world. Keeping the Sabbath is one way we can improve our quality of life.

In fact, studies have shown people who keep the seventh day Sabbath are happier and live longer! A day of rest can involve not only taking a nap but also taking time to relax and rejuvenate your spirit.

Rest has been proven to be a vital part of living a healthy, happy life. Here are some the benefits of rest:

  • boosts productivity 3
  • reduces stress and strengthens the immune system 4
  • lowers the risk of heart disease 5
  • gives you the chance to move more
  • get more sleep 6
  • restores mental energy 7
  • improves short term memory
  • you’ll enjoy life more
  • live longer 8

In Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones, a group of Sabbath keepers in Loma Linda, California are among one of the five blue zones in the world. Blue zones are places around the world where people live much longer than average and often 100 years or longer.

Keeping the 24-hour seventh day Sabbath reduces stress and chronic inflammation which can help you live longer. 9

Sabbath keeping offers people a chance to unwind and have a great sense of wellbeing. Isn’t it wonderful how God was saying this all along?

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8 ESV

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV

God loves us so much that here He’s saying, “Don’t forget! I know you guys are forgetful! So, remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. I made it for you!”

For Adventists, the Saturday Sabbath means many things. One is that the Sabbath can be a powerful stress reliever. From sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, Adventists create a “sanctuary in time” during which they focus on God, their families, and nature. They don’t work. Kids don’t play organized sports or do homework. Instead, families do things together, such as hiking, that bring them together and make them feel closer to God.

The Blue Zones, p. 284

Observance of the Sabbath improves our mental and physical wellbeing in so many ways. It’s no wonder God gave us the Sabbath for our benefit! God in His infinite wisdom knew His people would need that time of refreshment.

The weekly rhythm of Sabbath keeping is such a blessing to God’s people. Remember Isaiah 58: 13,14 above? God said he’d make us ride on the heights of the earth if we honored the Sabbath and with all of the scientific benefits, it’s no surprise God gave us the gift of the Sabbath!

Silhouette of man praying in church in sunset light, toned

When does Sabbath begin?

The Sabbath was given to us at the time of creation when God sanctified the seventh day and called it holy. Because of this, keeping the Sabbath is part of the weekly rhythm and happens once a week for a full 24 hours.

The Sabbath according to the Bible is on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath begins at sunset Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

Closeup of King James version Bible page open to the gospel of Mark, chapter 15 with beautiful thorny, budding branches laid over the page.

Is keeping the Sabbath “legalistic”?

Keeping the Sabbath is not legalistic. It’s important to always remember there is nothing we can do on our own to earn salvation. We are saved by grace through faith – not by works.

“Legalism” is when you depend on moral law rather than on your own personal faith. But the Bible tells us that salvation is a gift we receive when we place our faith in Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

In the article, Gospel and the Sabbath, John M. Fowler, Ed.D. says,

“A legalist keeps the law or follows a particular lifestyle as a way of salvation. But no amount of keeping Sabbath or any other commandment can save a person. Salvation is possible only through the gospel of Jesus Christ, for “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 1:16).

Accepting the gift of Sabbath is grace; it is the offer to come and rest. When we trust God with our time, we get to practice our faith. No one would argue that lying or stealing was okay, and yet those actions are part of the ten commandments too.

The Sabbath is not about rules. It’s about relationships. We all want better relationships. Relationships are what make life worth living. Without friends and family, people are lonely. We were created to be relational.

God wants to connect with us. He wants a relationship with you. And because he wants a relationship with you, He set aside a 24-hour period just for that reason!

What if you’ve never kept the Sabbath before? How do you observe the Sabbath and keep it holy?

REST – What Does the Sabbath Mean to Adventists?

The Bible give us a few guidelines about how we can observe the Sabbath and honor God with our time. One of the best ways to make sure the Sabbath is meaningful is to simply take time to prepare for the day.

Here are a few ways we can keep the Sabbath joyfully:

  • Use the hours before sunset on Friday night wisely by preparing ahead. Fill up the gas tank in your car. Cook meals ahead of time. And think about ways you can make the Sabbath special.
  • Refrain from working at home or at your place of employment and find meaningful rest through worship, relaxation, wholesome recreation, and fellowship with other believers.
  • Don’t ask others to work for you. This might mean you don’t go out to eat or hire someone to do yard work on the Sabbath day.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time preparing meals. Think about how you can prepare ahead of time or serve simple food.
  • Go ahead and tidy your home before sundown on Friday night and just enjoy a 24-hour period of rest from housework! Whatever you don’t get done can wait.
  • Enjoy worship, singing hymns, wholesome conversation, and time nurturing your relationships.
  • Take time to read God’s Word and pray. Bible study is the best way to get to know God better! And prayer gives us a way to communicate with God. Prayer is our way of talking to God.

If you’ve never kept the Sabbath before, pray and ask God to help you discover ways you can make the Sabbath meaningful for you and your family. God is always there, ready to help us!

The Sabbath is a gift from our heavenly Father. God gave us the Sabbath because He knew how much we would need time to rest and nurture our relationships. He wants to spend time with you this coming Sabbath. Don’t forget! The Sabbath was made for man.

Are you ready to claim His promise and call the Sabbath a delight?

  1. The Pharisees (Part 1) by Richard T. Ritenbaugh[]
  2. Ellen White, The Adventist Home, p. 144[]
  3. To Stay on Schedule, Take a Break[]
  4. Rest From Stress[]
  5. How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?[]
  6. Costly Effects of Sleep Deprivation[]
  7. Bringing Your Thoughts Into Focus[]
  8. Loma Linda, California[]
  9. Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, p. 284[]