What Is the Sabbath, and What Does It Mean for Us Today?
Have you ever longed for rest but felt pulled by the clutches of society to be busy around the clock? You aren’t alone. People today are weary!
Taking a day just to rest and focus on the things most important to you might seem difficult to fit into your life. But the Sabbath can be a welcome respite that renews you for each new week (making you more productive) while also allowing you to grow closer to God.
So let’s look at where Sabbath came from and what’s behind its significance—both at the time of its inception and today, in our own lives.
In this post you’re going to learn:
- The origin of the Sabbath
- Sabbath as a Gift from God
- Sabbath Connect You with God
- Sabbath Connects You to the People You Love
- Sabbath Throughout the Bible, and at the End Times
- Sabbath Throughout History
- Celebrating Sabbath Today
- Difference between how Jews and Adventists Worship on the Sabbath
The Origin of the Sabbath
To answer this question, we need to go back to the very beginning of time. Before there was any religion. Before there was a written law. Even before sin entered the world and our work became a burden!
It was designed by God for rest, and He was even the first one to celebrate it!
The Bible tells us it took God six days to create the earth and everything in it. On the seventh day of creation He rested from His work of creating. He also blessed the seventh day and set it apart as holy.
“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” (Genesis 2:2,3). ESV
When something is holy it implies God’s presence because only He is holy. The Sabbath is a holy day and was given to us for a day for rest.
The Sabbath Connects You With God
The Gift of Time Set Aside
Have you ever said something like, “I wish I had more time!” Or, “There’s just not enough hours in the day!”
We live in a culture of constant busyness. It seems as though everyone is busy. We all have long to-do lists—they often feel never-ending!
But what if your to-do list did have an end? Or at least a pause button? What if you could set that list aside and take time to rest and relax?
We all get the same 24 hours in a day, but it’s not uncommon for us to try to pack in 48 hours-worth of tasks into those 24! While a valiant effort to be super-productive, this is an impossible feat. Our time and mental energy are precious commodities, and it matters how we spend them.
God’s gift of the Sabbath allows us the benefit of setting aside a set 24-hour period each week to rest and worship. He’s given us permission to stop our busy work and spend focused time with Him.
The Sabbath is a Gift
How often do you feel worn out? Exhausted? Or like you need a vacation? God knew exactly how you would feel. He knew before you even existed you would need time to rest. And He wanted you to have the very best!
That’s why God created the Sabbath on the seventh day of creation. God gave us the gift of the Sabbath and designed the day with you in mind.
The Sabbath or Shabbat was designed as a day of rest where you could spend one-on-one time with God each week. Observing the Sabbath allows you to revive your soul and grow closer to God.
Contemporary medical and sociological studies affirm the idea of rest. People who spend all their time working are actually less productive than people who do take time to rest.
Productivity increases when we take a measured break. Our mental health also improves. This is true for human beings: physically, mentally and relationally. We need rest!
But…stopping the to-do list for an entire 24 hours? That’s easier said than done. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform and produce that sometimes it can almost feel wrong to stop, even just for a day.
It just takes practice! You may soon find you look forward to this time each week to spend with God.
The Sabbath allows us to spend focused time each week in a mental break, focused on our Creator. God’s gift of the Sabbath is about dedicating a day with your Savior and best Friend.
The Sabbath is an Anniversary
Not only is the Sabbath a precious gift given to us by God, it is also a commemoration of the first creation week.
The seven day weekly cycle is the only part of our calendar that isn’t based on the rotation of the earth or moon. Let’s look at a calendar:
- The day is based on the rotation of the earth on its axis
- The month is based on the lunar cycle or moon phases
- The year is based on the earth’s rotation around the sun
But the seven-day week is special in that it was established at the time of creation!
You probably understand how important it is to celebrate the birthday of a loved one. It’s also important to remember the anniversary of your marriage.
The Sabbath is a weekly celebration of creation and our Creator.
The Sabbath Gives Us a Right Perspective
God created the world and all that is in it. He thought of every detail!
On the sixth day of Creation, God created man and woman in His own image.
Everything comes from God. The world around us was made by Him. All that we have comes from Him:
- Your life
- Your health
- Your intelligence
- Your talents
- Your personality
- And more!
Your ability to relate and connect to others was given to you by Him. Every blessing you have is a gift from the Creator.
Knowing the Sabbath was given to us as a gift creates a right perspective. We remember we have a Father who cares enough to give us rest.
God is not only your Creator – He is your re-creator.
On the Sabbath, we remember there is a Creator God who made us and wants to guide us. He wants to provide for all our needs, both physically and spiritually.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
On the Sabbath we remember what was made for us and why. The Bible tells us our Father in heaven gives good gifts.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11
Those good gifts include the gift of the Sabbath! It’s God’s desire to have a relationship with you. In fact, He loves you so much He set apart an entire day just to spend with you!
Sabbath Connects You to the People You Love
The first Sabbath was the pinnacle of the creation week. God rested from His work of creating and took the time to delight in it.
Imagine how you feel when you’ve accomplished something great. Like a proud parent, God must have looked over His perfect creation and smiled a big smile. It was a happy day!
No doubt He spent the day talking with Adam and Eve. What kinds of conversations do you think they had? What questions did they ask? What part of creation did they most wonder about? Did they laugh and delight in the world around them?
The very first humans got to spend the first Sabbath getting to know their Creator! God included this specific purpose in the setting aside of the Sabbath Day – for relationships. Adam and Eve began their relationship with God that very day.
Do you want a stronger relationship with God? The Sabbath offers unrestricted time to focus on your relationship with God. You can grow closer to God through worship, study, prayer and more.
The Sabbath is about relationships. That means it’s the perfect time to spend connecting with your family.
Unfortunately, families are under so much pressure today because life is incredibly busy. Busyness often creates a feeling of stress and fatigue. Taking a Sabbath day’s rest gives you time to focus on your family.
Relationships thrive when we don’t feel rushed. Having the space in time to relax and enjoy meaningful interactions with each other is a gift. You can ask God to help you discover ways to make the Sabbath a special day for your family.
Nature and the Sabbath
One way you can enjoy the Sabbath as a family is by enjoying God’s creation together. Appreciating the beauty God created teaches us about the care He took in providing for us. We can draw closer to Him when we learn about the world around us.
The fourth commandment (part of the ten commandments) is about the Sabbath. Let’s take a look:
“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
The rest offered in these verses is not only for humans, but for working animals too. The Sabbath gives us the opportunity to appreciate nature each week.
Spiritual and Social Elements of Sabbath
The Synagogue was something like a town hall in biblical times. People would gather there to discuss matters of public importance. On Sabbath religious leaders would read from the Torah and teach the people. Discussions would take place around the topics presented.
It was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue on Sabbath. It is even recorded that He stood up to read and teach at times.
“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 he stood up to read.” Luke 4:16
You see, Jesus followed the Jewish laws and customs.
Early Christians also regularly met together to celebrate the Sabbath in worship. Just like today, these meetings helped build up people’s knowledge and faith. Through the sharing of their spiritual gifts their faith was made stronger.
Today, Sabbath keeping Christians attend church on Saturday morning just like Jesus did.
Church is one way in which the “family of God” is a visible reality. Attending church for Sabbath worship offers you the ability to:
- encourage one another
- build friendships with other believers
- develop a community that cares for one another
- find a community that reaches out to others who need care
The Sabbath Throughout the Bible and at the End Times
The Sabbath: Then, Now and Forever
The Sabbath was given as a gift to humans at the time of creation. The Sabbath never ceased to exist. It was and always has been part of God’s plan as a memorial of creation.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9, 10
Part of the Covenant
When God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, He gave them the Ten Commandments. The 4th commandment was about Sabbath observance and said:
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy….” Exodus 20:8
God made the Sabbath a covenant between Him and His people. A covenant is a sign or agreement between two people.
“And the LORD said to Moses, You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13
After God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, God provided food from Heaven for them to eat called manna. Manna was like little white flakes of bread. It tasted like honey and was about the size of a coriander seed.
God gave the people of Israel specific instructions about how to gather the manna each day. He told them they were to gather the manna each morning. He said to only gather what they could eat that day.
If they gathered more than a day’s worth of manna it would rot and be filled with maggots the next day. Yuck!
But on the sixth day, God told His people to gather twice as much so they would have food to eat on the Sabbath. It was a miracle because the manna wouldn’t rot overnight on the Sabbath! He told them to rest on the Sabbath day.
“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 16:29-30And so, the Hebrew people began observance of the Sabbath. The 4th commandment became a regular practice for the people of God.
The Sabbath in the Bible Times
“Synagogue” is a Greek word meaning a gathering of people. It can also refer to the place or building where people assemble. On Sabbath, the children of Israel would gather at the Synagogue. Religious leaders would read from the Torah and teach the people.
It was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue on Sabbath. Jesus was raised in a Jewish family. He would have attended Sabbath services at the local Synagogue throughout his childhood.
As an adult He continued that practice and often went to the Synagogue and stood up to read. Jesus teachings in the Synagogues are recorded in the Gospel accounts.
Early Christians Kept the Sabbath
After Jesus ascended back to Heaven, early Christians began meeting together in homes. The early church grew very quickly. Their excitement to spread the good news of the gospel was contagious. The number of believers rapidly expanded.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
Even today, Christians follow the tradition of attending church services to worship God. Church is a wonderful place to encourage one another. It’s also a great way to build friendships with other believers.
The Sabbath and the End Times
The prophet Daniel foretold there would be an attempt to change the “times and laws.” These verses were written long before anyone thought to change the day of worship.
“He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law...” Daniel 7:25
The change of the Sabbath as the day of worship to Sunday came about in 321 AD. That’s when the Roman Emperor Constantine issued a decree declaring Sunday as a day of rest.
Most Christian churches have observed Sunday worship for centuries. Yet there have always been people who faithfully kept the seventh-day Sabbath.
A group of Christians in America began observing the seventh-day Sabbath in the 1800’s. This group of people eventually became known as the Seventh-day Adventists.
The book of Revelation shows us the Sabbath will become an important issue in the end times. The Bible tells us people will have to choose between the worship of God or the worship of the Beast. The 4th commandment is the only commandment about worship!
You see, the Sabbath is about more than just a day of rest. It’s about worshiping the one true God. It’s about remembering our Creator and worshiping only Him.
Will you choose to honor the Sabbath commandment before the second coming of Christ?
The Sabbath Throughout History
Timeline of Sabbath History
We’ve already talked about how the Sabbath was created on the seventh day of Creation. Since the time of Creation there have always been people who honored the Sabbath day.
Let’s look at a brief overview of the Sabbath throughout history before continuing:
According to Ussher’s Chronology – Note: Ussher’s Chronology takes the data from the Genesis genealogies at face value without considering possible gaps as indicated in the NT parallel genealogy of Luke.
|Creation Week (Genesis 1-2)|
|1950 > 1775 BC||Abraham kept God’s commandments, statutes, and laws (Genesis 26)|
|1450 BC||The Exodus and Ten Commandments Given on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20)|
|27 AD||Jesus’ earthly ministry and teachings on the Sabbath (Mark 2)|
|31 AD||Early Christians observe Sabbath and meet in homes (The Book of Acts)|
|321 AD||Constantine issues decree declaring Sunday as a day of worship 2|
|343 >381 AD||The Council of Laodicea condemned the Sabbath 3|
|400s AD||Early Celtic Church and St. Patrick of Ireland kept the Sabbath (Moffat, The Church in Scotland, p. 1404)|
|12th Century AD||Waldensians kept the Sabbath in France and Italy (The Great Controversy, Ellen White, Chapter 4)|
|1845||Joseph Bates rediscovered the Sabbath in his studies|
|1863||The Seventh-day Adventist Church was formally established|
The Jewish People and Sabbath
The Jewish people were oppressed for many years in the land of Egypt. The Bible tells us they were afflicted with much suffering under the rule of Pharaoh. God rescued His people and led them into the wilderness.
When the children of Israel fled into the wilderness, God offered them the gift of rest. Despite their grumbling and complaining, God was faithful. Moses went up to Mount Sinai where God gave him the Ten Commandments.
God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with His own finger. These commandments given to Moses were God’s eternal moral law.
The fourth commandment said to remember the Sabbath. The Jewish people began to observe the Sabbath and it became a regular practice in their lives.
Jesus and the Sabbath
Keeping the Sabbath was an important weekly ritual for the Jews. And Jesus was raised in a Jewish family! The Bible tells us it was Jesus’ custom to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
“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 he stood up to read.” Luke 4:16
Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath are clear. He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
You see, God’s moral law is eternal. The Ten Commandments are a testimony of God’s character. The commandments were given to us for our own good. Jesus said:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:17
Early Christians and the Sabbath
Early Christians kept the seventh day Sabbath during the first few centuries. Their excitement for the good news took the gospel message to the whole world!
House churches sprang up everywhere. The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to not neglect meeting together.
“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” Hebrews 10:25
The Sabbath Challenged
The Roman Emperor Constantine issued a decree in 321 AD declaring Sunday as the day of worship. This act was prophesied hundreds of years before in the book of Daniel.
“He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law…” Daniel 7:25
Daniel was saying there would be a kingdom unlike others which would try to change God’s law. But which law was Daniel talking about? The Ten Commandments!
How do we know what law is God’s eternal law? There are many laws in the Old Testament. But only the Ten Commandments were God’s eternal moral law.
The decalogue (the ten commandments) was distinct from the Mosaic Laws in several ways:
|The Ten Commandments||The Mosaic Law|
|God’s eternal law (Psalm 19:9)||A shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10)|
|Written by God’s own finger (Exodus 31:18)||Written down by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:9)|
|Kept inside the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:16)||Kept outside the Ark of the Covenant(Deuteronomy 31:26)|
|Commanded by God (2 Kings 21:8)||Commanded by Moses (2 Kings 21:8)|
If we look at the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment is the only one that has been changed. The biblical Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.
- It’s the same day God set apart on the seventh day of creation.
- It’s the same day the Jews kept as their day of worship.
- It’s the same day of worship Jesus kept when He lived here on earth.
- And it’s the same day early Christians worshiped on.
So, what happened? Why do mainstream Christian churches worship on Sunday today?
Rejecting the “Jewish Sabbath”
The Bible never commands us to observe Sunday as a day of worship. But Christians began to keep Sunday instead of Saturday as the Sabbath. In 160 AD Justin Martyr wrote about the cessation of Hebrew Sabbath worship. He rejected the need to keep the seventh-day Sabbath.
Ignatius of Antioch was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. He wrote:
Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness …. let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival.Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians5
Christians began to call Sunday the Lord’s Day. Eventually, their reasoning became that Sunday was a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. However, there was no Scripture to support the change of worship from the seventh day Sabbath to the first day of the week.
The 2nd and 3rd centuries found more and more Christians keeping Sunday as a day of worship. Christians distanced themselves from “Judaizing” which means to follow Jewish customs or practices. Sadly, the Christian practice of keeping Sabbath continued to decline.
On March 7, 321 Constantine issued a civil decree stating:
“All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun.”
Changing the Sabbath
You’ll note in the above statement Constantine called Sunday the “venerable day of the sun.” That’s because Pagan people worshiped the sun.
The story of Constantine’s conversion is rather dramatic! He was preparing for battle and worried he would lose. And then he had a vision that convinced him he needed to follow God.6
He said that about noon he saw a flaming cross of light in the heavens and the words: By this symbol you will conquer.
However, Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity was nominal. He continued to worship the sun.7 And he wasn’t baptized until years later on his deathbed.
But not all Christians gave up the original Sabbath observance. In the early centuries8 Christians continued to keep the seventh day Sabbath. Some of these regions where people observed the Sabbath were:
The Church and the Sabbath
The Council of Laodicea was a meeting of about 30 members of Middle Eastern churches in 364 AD. The council produced 60 rulings or “canons” covering several different topics. Some of these topics included:
- Foods you could not eat during Lent
- Whether to minister to heretics
- Condemning astrology
The 29th canon condemned the seventh day Sabbath. It required Christians to worship on Sunday. Sabbath keeping was outlawed and people were encouraged to rest on the first day of the week.
St. Patrick of Ireland was a faithful servant of God who kept the seventh day Sabbath. Born around 387 AD, Patrick’s real name was Maewyn Succat. At the age of 16 he was captured from his home in Scotland and taken to Ireland as a slave.
After he escaped and returned to his homeland, he felt called to go back to Ireland and preach the gospel. Like other members of the early Celtic churches, Patrick observed the Sabbath.”It seems to have been customary in the Celtic churches of early times, in Ireland as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest from labor. They obeyed the fourth commandment literally upon the seventh day of the week.” James C. Moffatt, D.D. The Church in Scotland p.140
In 538 AD the Third Council of Orleans took place. It was a much stricter religious law that established Sunday as the Day of the Lord.
Pope Gregory I strongly encouraged Christians to atone for their sins at the end of the sixth century. They were to ask forgiveness “on the day of our Lord’s resurrection” for the sins they had committed the six days before.
The Saturday Sabbath was further suppressed during the Great Schism. The Great Schism was between the Eastern Church (Constantinople) and the Western Church (Rome) in 1054. It lasted until 1965.9 Rome was against the Saturday observances.
Sabbath keepers were persecuted during the Counter Reformation. Groups like the Waldensians followed the biblical seventh-day Sabbath.
Sunday, therefore, persisted as the officially recognized day of rest.
The Sabbath Re-emerges
The Great Awakening in the 1800s was a religious revival among protestant people. The movement was led by a group of Baptist and Methodist preachers. Their message spread quickly through their congregations.
William Miller was a Baptist preacher in the 1840s. He’s credited with starting a movement called Millerism. The Millerites expected Jesus to return in 1844. In their study of the sanctuary they believed Jesus was coming back on the Day of Atonement in 1844.
The annual Day of Atonement was a day of judgement. The Israelites confessed their sins all year long. Their sins accumulated throughout the year in the Sanctuary.
On the Day of Atonement their sins were transferred to the scapegoat and sent out of the temple. And therefore, the sanctuary was cleansed.
The Millerites believed Daniel 8 meant Jesus would come back in October 1844 to cleanse the sanctuary. They misunderstood the earth to be the “sanctuary” in this prophecy. Their prediction didn’t come true and thousands of people were disappointed.
These faithful people returned to the study of Scripture. One of the biblical truths they rediscovered was the seventh day Sabbath.
The Seventh Day Adventists and Sabbath
Joseph Bates was a retired sea captain who followed the Millerite movement. He was disappointed when Jesus didn’t return as expected.
Bates went back to the Bible to study for himself and discovered the Sabbath was on the seventh day. He wrote a Bible tract about the Sabbath in 1846.
Ellen and James White read the tract written by Bates that same year. The young couple were convinced about the Sabbath truth. Together, they began observing the Sabbath.
Ellen and James White led the Adventist movement. In 1863 the Seventh-day Adventist church was officially established. The church has more than 21 million members today.
How the meaning/practice of Sabbath Differs Between Jews and Adventists
Is the Sabbath for Everyone?
In most parts of the world, Christians traditionally worship on Sunday. It may come as a surprise to learn there is no Scriptural basis for Sunday worship.
In fact, you may be wondering if observance of the Sabbath applies to everyone or just the Jews. The Bible says the Sabbath commandment is for all God’s people for all time.
Remember what Jesus said?
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
Notice how Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man. He didn’t say the Sabbath was made for Jews.
You see, this is because God created the Sabbath on the seventh day of Creation. Adam and Eve were not Jews. But God created the Sabbath with them in mind.
“For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:8
Jesus also said He was Lord of the Sabbath. This is because He is the Creator of the Sabbath. He made all things! The Bible tells us Jesus was the Creator of the world we know.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…” John 1:1-3
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:14
If Jesus said He is the Lord of the Sabbath it would make sense that the Lord’s Day is the seventh day! What do you think?
The Meaning of the Sabbath
The meaning of the Sabbath for both Seventh-day Adventists and Jews doesn’t differ that much. They both believe the Sabbath is a memorial of creation. They’re reminded each week God is the Creator.
He alone is worthy of our worship!
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Psalm 95:6
The Jews remember how God freed them from their bondage of slavery and offered them rest. They recall the Exodus and God’s faithful provision every Sabbath.10
“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
Seventh-day Adventists recognize God’s faithful provision when they celebrate the Sabbath too! As Christians who worship God on a different day, we trust God to provide for our needs when we observe the Sabbath.
We also understand God’s plan of salvation offers us not just physical rest but rest in Jesus as well.
You see, God provided the Lamb for our salvation. He is our Provider!
“Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together.” Genesis 22:8
“And he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!'” John 1:36
And in Jesus we can find true rest. Jesus offers us freedom from the bondage of slavery to sin. The Bible tells us there remains a Sabbath rest for His people. The Sabbath is just as important today!
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10
Jesus also offers us the gift of eternal life. As the redeemed people of God, we desire to be obedient out of love for Him. Jesus said:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
The Sabbath reminds the Jewish people of the Exodus and what God did for them in the wilderness. God provided bread from Heaven. He is faithful!
The Exodus was an example of God’s personal involvement with His people. It is in the Exodus that the Jewish people personally experienced God. They witnessed His mighty works in such a way that there was no doubt He was their God.
And because of the weekly Sabbath ritual, the Jews are thus reminded of these words:
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna… that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3
As Christians we also believe those same words which were repeated by Jesus:
“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
The Sabbath reminds us God is more than just an impersonal divine being. We are reminded how God is personally involved in each one of our lives. He longs to have a relationship with you.
God came down and dwelled with men because of His love for us.
Jews and Adventists understand the Sabbath represents personal connection with a mighty God. Because the Sabbath is not just about rest, it’s about relationship.
Our faith in God requires obedience to His will. The Jewish people practice keeping the Sabbath out of obedience to God. And Adventists desire to be obedient to God as well.
Faith cannot be separate from action. In fact, our love for God is demonstrated through our actions. The Bible says:
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26
It’s from a place of love for God we keep the fourth commandment as well as the other nine. Remember, there is nothing we can do to earn our own salvation. We are saved through grace by faith – not by works!
The Sabbath is a Special Day
In Jewish and Adventist households the Sabbath is a special day of celebration. The day is anticipated with a quiet excitement. Everyone looks forward to receiving a Sabbath’s day blessing.
The Bible says that when we call the Sabbath a delight God will:
“cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…” Isaiah 53:14
The fourth commandment is the only commandment involving time. We all have the same number of hours in a day. We cannot stop time. We have no control over time. It passes whether we like it or not.
When we take part in observing the Sabbath, we are acknowledging time belongs only to God.
Faith in God is about more than a standard of conduct or set of doctrines. It is a way of life. Faith gives meaning and purpose to life. Nothing exists without Him.
The practice of a weekly Sabbath ritual becomes the center by which every other day revolves. You are always anticipating the Sabbath. You understand when Friday comes it is time to prepare.
You look forward to the moment the sun slips below the horizon. You enter into the Sabbath with a sense of relief and gladness. The Sabbath is a special day!
You can make the Sabbath feel more special by preparing ahead.
Preparing for the Sabbath is important. You will fail to fully experience the Sabbath if you don’t prepare.
For some families preparing for the Sabbath may begin days in advance. But by the time Friday arrives, it’s definitely time to prepare!
Both Jews and Adventists prepare for the Sabbath by doing a few things in advance of the Sabbath:
- Grocery shopping as needed
- Cooking meals for the Sabbath hours ahead
- Household chores and laundry
Making sure you have enough gas in your car ensures you don’t have to buy any during the Sabbath. The goal for Sabbath preparation is to avoid the need to work on the Sabbath. You also don’t want to buy or sell on the Sabbath.
Spiritual preparation for the Sabbath should also be a focus. Preparing one’s heart to receive the Sabbath is just as important!
Welcoming the Sabbath
Candles are lit and blessings spoken as the sun sets on Friday evening in Jewish households. The woman of the household lights the Sabbath candles just before the sun sets. Next, she covers her eyes and speaks a blessing.11
After lighting the candles any children present will be blessed. Then the wine. And then a blessing of thanks is said for the food. The head of the household will uncover the loaves of challah bread.
In Adventist homes, the Sabbath is welcomed with glad anticipation as well. As the sunsets, whatever hasn’t been prepared ahead of time is stopped. Some Adventist families welcome the Sabbath with a special meal.
Friday night vespers or family worship is often a part of the Sabbath celebration. The worship usually involves singing songs of praise. A devotion may be read. Or the family may choose to read from the Bible. The worship time usually ends with prayer.
The Sabbath Greeting
Jewish people like to greet each other with a Sabbath greeting. They will often say, “Gut Shabbos,” which is Yiddish for “Have a good Sabbath.”
Adventist’s like to greet each other on Sabbath as well. You will likely hear them say, “Happy Sabbath!” The greeting imparts the gladness they feel for another Sabbath day to celebrate.
Celebrating Sabbath Today
When you first begin keeping the Sabbath, you might feel confused about how to keep the Sabbath. The good news is with a little practice, observing Sabbath will become a special part of your week.
You’ll be looking forward to the Sabbath before you know it!
As we just learned, Friday is the preparation day. To fully enjoy the benefits of keeping a weekly Sabbath you will want to do a few things to prepare ahead of time.12
Some of the things you might like to prepare are:
- Making your home neat so you can relax
- Washing any laundry that needs to be done
- Preparing simple food ahead of time
- Filling the gas tank on your car
- Tying up loose ends at work
- Doing any shopping that needs to be done
You will want to complete these chores before the sun goes down on Friday. Observance of the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday evening and ends at sundown on Saturday night.
Welcoming the Sabbath on Friday evening with family worship, singing, or a special meal can make the celebration of Sabbath much more meaningful. Spending time in Bible study and prayer is a great way to spend your time on Sabbath too.
On Saturday morning you can attend Sabbath services at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in your area.
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Psalm 122:1
Most churches begin with a Bible study session or “Sabbath School” followed by a song service. Then they usually listen to a sermon presented by the church’s pastor or other speaker.
Often, the members will serve a potluck lunch and fellowship together after church. Guests are always welcome!
Many Adventists enjoy exploring nature or participating in community outreach on Sabbath afternoon. Others may opt to go home and rest or take a nap.
One thing you will realize when the Sabbath is a habit in your life is being able to rest without guilt is such a refreshing experience!
At sunset on Saturday night, Sabbath keepers close the Sabbath with a short time spent in worship. You can thank God for another Sabbath and ask Him to bless the coming week. As the new week begins, remember to spend time with God every day.
Worship on the Sabbath
God created the Sabbath for us, not the other way around. Jesus says:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
And in the very next verse, we read:
“So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:28
The seventh day is so important our Creator asserted His own authority over it. Jesus, along with His Father in Heaven, gave us the sweet gift of rest.
Doesn’t a nap feel wonderful when you have no energy left? Don’t you feel refreshed after taking a few days off from work for vacation?
Rest is sweet! And God knew we would need time each week to rest our weary bodies.
Unfortunately, history shows us the Sabbath gift became distorted. Religion had made it a day of restrictions. The day became a burden to the people of God.
There’s a story in the Bible where we find Jesus and his disciples walking through a field picking some corn. Religious leaders noticed the men and criticized them for working on the Sabbath.
“One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.” Mark 2:23
Harvesting grain on the Sabbath was considered work. The religious leaders accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Sabbath.
“And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” Mark 2:24
Jesus reminded them what and who was important when it came to the Sabbath. God never intended for the day to become a burden.
The Pharisees had more than 1500 regulations regarding Sabbath observance! Can you imagine? How would you remember them all?
The day was never meant to be a burden! God desires the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, relationship, and refreshment.
He wants you to delight in the Sabbath!
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight … I will make you ride on the heights of the earth.” (Isaiah 58:13, 14)
If our Father in Heaven gives us good gifts, it stands to reason the Sabbath is also a good gift. It is for our own good that we pause from our weekly work and secular activities to keep the Sabbath holy.
On the Sabbath we get to put away all those things in our life that feel stressful like:
- Yard work
- Work at our place of employment
- That long to do list
And in their place, we get to spend time worshiping our Creator! It really is a matter of worship.
God tells us in the verse above He wants us to call the Sabbath a delight and honor the Sabbath day. He asks us to keep it holy.
And look what else He says! God promises to bless us when we keep the Sabbath holy.
Sabbath is a day to turn toward God and regain a right perspective of who we are in relation to Him. We can meditate on why we are here and how we can better fulfill His purpose for our lives.
Challenges Sabbath-Keepers Face
When you begin keeping the Sabbath you will likely realize there a few challenges.
Unfortunately, most people don’t honor the Sabbath. You may find yourself explaining why you can’t take part in secular activities or work.
Society has evolved around worshiping on the first day of the week. And keeping the seventh day Sabbath may be a new concept to your friends and family.
If you are new to Sabbath keeping you may need to have a discussion with your employer about your new beliefs. This really requires faith in God to provide. Just remember God is faithful when you trust Him!
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
In many places the local Adventist church can try to help you any challenges you face at your place of employment. They can help you:
- look for jobs not requiring Saturday work
- advocate for workers and student’s religious rights
- contact church members who run businesses
- connect you to Adventist lawyers
Benefits of Keeping Sabbath
No matter what challenges you face when it comes to keeping the Sabbath, you’ll find the benefits are greater!
You are probably very aware of how stressful this life can be. No one is exempt from the stress and demands of this world.
Remember though, the Sabbath goes beyond simply resting from our work. It is a day to focus our thoughts and worship on God. It’s a day to set aside the cares of this world and refresh our body and spirit.
Some of the benefits you may discover by keeping the Sabbath are:
- you grow closer to God
- your health improves
- your mental health improves
- your relationships improve
- you feel more peace
- you trust God more
- you feel less stress
- you get more rest
There are many studies demonstrating these benefits. But personal experience is the greatest witness! As Jesus said:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
You will never regret serving God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. And you will never regret trusting Him with your time.
Are you ready to claim God’s promises and accept His blessing of the Sabbath? Choose this day whom you will follow!
- Constantine and the Sabbath Change by Professor Walter J. Veith, PhD
- Constantine and the Sabbath Change by Professor Walter J. Veith, PhD
- Council of Laodicea, Canon 29
- ST. PATRICK AND THE SABBATH by Curtis Rittenour
- Sabbath in Christianity by Wikipedia
- #107: Constantine’s vision
- Was the Emperor Constantine a True Christian or Was He a Secret Pagan? by Natalia Klimczak
- Sabbath Through the Centuries
- East-West Schism by Britannnica
- Why the Sabbath by OU Staff
- Blessings and Customs for Shabbat by Jane Herman
- Sabbath Observance