The Value of Sabbath
While historically the Sabbath has taken place from Friday night to Saturday night, most Christians have come to observe the entire day of Sunday as the Sabbath.
If you are not familiar with the Sabbath, it is a day in the week when believers take a break from their weekly obligations to focus on God and worship Him together with other Christians.
It has a history that extends back to the creation of the world. In Genesis 2:2–3, God Himself rested after creating the world.
He wants His people to follow His example by working six days and resting on the seventh. This day is holy because it is a day that is set apart for God and is to be used for His glory.
One book later in Exodus, we read that God commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to keep the Sabbath day holy. Scriptures say that God rested on that day after creating the heavens and the earth, specifically in Exodus 31:17. The word “refreshed” is used in the Bible to describe how God felt after His rest. When we rest from work and spend time with God instead, we can experience the same type of refreshment. He considers rest for us so important that He even included it in the ten commandments (Exodus 20).
When the Lord delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery, the Sabbath day became a sign of the covenant between God and His people, per Exodus 31:13. This day was set apart by God as a day of rest and sanctification for His people. Some national holidays, such as the yearly Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:30-31, occurred on a Sabbath, meaning that rest and forgiveness went hand in hand!
God considered rest crucial for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. He did not want His people to become so busy that they did not connect with Him and listen to His voice. He also, being the perfect leader that He is, set an example by resting on the seventh day of creation. Our God is a God Who not only gives us instruction for holy living but lives according to these standards Himself.
In the Old Testament, sin needed to be paid for with the death of a perfect animal. Working on the Sabbath was no exception, with the penalty of disobedience having serious consequences.
However, the explanation does not end there. It continues and ends with the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the New Testament. Once He died and rose again, the law was fulfilled. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:16–17:
“’…let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
His point? We don’t have to observe these laws as the Jews did. However, we must still give ourselves a day of rest since God commanded it. Hence, today, while the majority prefer the Sabbath on a Sunday, it is now any day of the week you choose, so long as you honor God’s command to rest.
While in the Old Testament God gave His people laws for how they must live, sacrificing an animal was a way to be forgiven for disobeying these laws. In the New Testament, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice. Because He is Immanuel (God with us), His death was a perfect atonement once and for all sins. Keeping the Sabbath is still a commandment, but Jesus fulfilled the law and we now live under grace.
Grace means God has given us more freedom to determine how we live out His laws. For example, one Old Testament law demanded that God’s people not eat pork. Today, we are free to eat pork but are still supposed to be careful that the pork is fresh, clean, and will not make us sick. Today, in our freedom, we should still be careful to look after our bodies by not allowing harmful microorganisms into our systems.
Likewise with the Sabbath. We no longer need to all agree on which day to rest and dedicate extra time to worship. However, we are still required to worship and take time to rest.
Life can very easily become so busy that our relationship with God is pushed to the side. While we are free today to take any day as the Sabbath, we are expected to actively pursue rest in God and corporate worship with others, for the spiritual well-being of ourselves and others we meet.
Too often, we see rest as an afterthought. We often may even feel guilty that we are being lazy by not filling each day with activities to do. However, it is very clear throughout the history of people’s relationship with God that He rests, requires us to rest, and uses rest as a way to keep our spiritual lives holy and reach out to others so that they, too, can discover His life-changing hope.
The Sabbath is valuable! Why don’t you give it a try and start observing a Sabbath day?
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