What is a Christian Sabbath?

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With his miraculous words, God spoke the creation of the heavens, earth, and all life therein. After setting mankind in the garden, God modeled the first example as He sat back in admiration and reverence on the first Sabbath. Later, God would continuously command mankind to “Observe the Sabbath and Keep it Holy” using numerous compelling reasons. Due to the disobedience of this continuous plea, God sent Jesus to redeem the Sabbath and mankind for their sins. With this knowledge of history someone may think the importance of keeping the Sabbath Holy is obvious while others may ask for more details on what a Sabbath entails and what the benefits may be. Observing the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection is beneficial for Christians’ spiritual and mental growth.

History/Purpose-What is the Sabbath?

The Word- 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.[1] Genesis 2:1-3

The bible provided a foundation for the Sabbath as early as the second chapter. To expand more on the root of this text it is necessary to explore the Hebrew meaning of the above text. Bernstein suggests the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:3 is va yishbot which is translated into rest is closer words seven and sit.[2]

When we think of rest we often have different opinions. Many look at rest as a four-letter word, something that is frowned upon. Not often is it referenced in something that God took a whole day to create as well. Rest is biblical and divinely created.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.42.36 PM“While God’s work yields tangible gifts on the first six days (earth, water, planets, and fish), God’s rest on the seventh day yields intangible gifts: time and rest to enjoy the creation.”[3]

Another important word to explore is qadosh the word translated to holy. This is first used in the bible to describe The Sabbath in Genesis 2:3. Of all of the other things that today’s society deems as holy, when true examination is done, rest is the first holy occasion.

So if the word Sabbath includes the word seven, then how and why did Christians start celebrating Sabbath on Sunday? Jesus observed the Sabbath as he lay in his tomb until he rose from the grave that Sunday morning. Christianity it set apart by Jesus rising from the grave with all power in his hand, which may be why Christians started observing Sunday as the day to observe and pay reverence to God. Then after the persecution in Jerusalem dispersed the Christians in C.E. 321, Emperor Constantine made Sunday the official day of Observance. [4]

Ten Commandments

And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.36.22 PM 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s Exodus 20:1-17.[5]

As with everything we have free will, so as God gave commandments to help guide us in the ways to properly represent him. At times the Ten Commandments are used as a checklist for people to reassure themselves that they are “good people.” God asked us to keep the Sabbath before honoring our parents, having respect for human life, staying faithful in our marriage, respecting other’s property, or telling the truth.

“From God’s point of view, the Sabbath is so important that is occupies a hallowed place in our moral system as one of the Ten Commandments. Keeping the Sabbath is a requirement for an ethical life-just as important as not killing, stealing, or committing adultery. Violating that Sabbath, like breaking any of the commandments, leads to the unraveling of the fabric of our culture. It’s just that the violation of the Sabbath are more insidious. “ [6]

New Testament- Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”[7] (Mark 2:23-28 NIV)

The statement in verse 27 from Jesus was enough for the Pharisees to start the persecution process that turned the prophecies into history. Jesus would continue to question the Sabbath practices of the legalistic Pharisees until they arrested Him. This was God’s plan to bring people back into compliance with his will. God sent Jesus to walk as both God and human to experience all life to be an intercessor to help bring humans back in harmony with God.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.43.13 PMIn bringing about Jesus’ resurrection, God has accepted both the person of Jesus as well as the cause he has taken up-the Sabbath cause. In his death and resurrection, Jesus the man has shown himself to be Christ, the redeemer of the cosmos. The Lord of the Sabbath will take God’s creation forward from the very beginning to the very end. The Old Testament Sabbath cause is a system of mutually reinforcing institutions aimed to bring God’s creation in all its dimensions to the fullness of the Sabbath of God. The Sabbath day for man points him to a future in which he is ultimately in harmony with the works of his hands, as God was in harmony with every part of his creation after his six days of creative work. [8]

Sabbath Practices

Although, there are many different ways to celebrate Sabbath; Sabbath should be a God focused day. Sabbath generally includes being joyful, restful, a time to hold great feasts, sing hymns, pray, light candles, dress in your finest clothes and be intimate if you are married.[9]

The hustle bustle of modern society does not call for much down time; the Internet, cell phones, social media, Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.36.47 PMand emails all constantly connect us. Most people’s daily demands start when they first open their eyes in the morning and go on dominating their thoughts until they sit in front of a television to unwind. Sabbath should be the exact opposite. It should not be a day of “have to do’s.” It should be a time focused on relaxing and observing God and all His majesty while you access the portal to the spirit realm. [10] We should be more focused on God and what God wants than what we want, which is one of the reasons it is taught that no money should be used on buying or selling on the Sabbath.

Spiritual Benefits

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.36.08 PMThe Sabbath is a day specifically for strengthening our relationship with God, which leads to emotional healing. Any anxiety over self worth or ability can be extinguished by the word of God. God is waiting to meet us in our worship sessions whether personal or corporate. His love, grace and mercy are revealed to us in such compassionate ways. In our solitude we are able to open our heart to God so that He can heal the parts that we don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world. [11]

“A great part of the emotional healing of the Sabbath lies in its contribution of both solitude and community. We need silent spaces, times for reflection and meditation. On the other hand, we also need communal interaction, and the leisurely conversation, and growing friendships. Through our Sabbath keeping we can learn to rest both in our personalities and in our relationships.” [12]

Physical Benefits

A research study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston citied that people who employ religiousScreen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.50.19 PM meditation regularly have more brain activity in the areas responsible for empathy and memory. [13]

Our minds need time in and out of focus. Time in and out of focus allows us to learn and experience the satisfaction of meeting our goals. The brain is continually reorganizing itself through experience. Paying close attention keeps the connections between brain cells strong and continually growing.

“The interchange of physical activity and rest have been studied extensively by Juan-Cardos Lerman, whose research at the University of Arizona shows the biological need for rest every seventh day and the energizing value of rest. According to Lerman’s theory, failing to rest after six days of steady work will lead to insomnia or sleepiness, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, irritability, organ stress, and other increasingly serious physical and mental symptoms. Lerman suggest that this need for rest every seventh day is rooted in the fact that the human biological clock operates on a 25-hour cycle.” [14]

Dr. Rock clarifies downtime as when your mind is allowed rest and recharge, when you’re completely non-goal-oriented-staring out a window, allowing thoughts to just occur. Our brains operate at a ridiculously fast pace, bouncing from one thought to another-an activity that can be harmful to your mind and body. Too few people know how to properly care for their mental muscle. A healthy brain gives you the ability to think clearly and be creative and innovative. You’ll also be more resilient to everyday stressors and feel happier overall.[15]

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Harmony’s Sabbath

It has been approximately six months that I have been practicing a Sabbath day once a week. It has been the most amazing experience for me. I truly enjoy the time in fellowship with God. Early on, I did not allow myself to leave the house or correspond with others. I would spend most the day relaxing, reflecting and watching documentaries on Jesus and different aspects of the bible. Lately, I have learned different Sabbath practices that have made my Sabbath experience more enjoyable and more communal.

My Sabbath ritual now starts Saturday evening before bed. I light candles to represent “Observe” and “Remember” [16]. After I light the candles I pray with guided prayer from my prayer book. I share some time with my sweetheart, Bruce, in prayer over the phone as we do every night and then I have my first Sabbath rest. I wake up refreshed and ready to go to Sunday school and Worship service. I don’t accept any business calls or meetings. After worship service I come home and take a nap. I wake up and read in my various Sabbath books and have a light lunch. Then it is off to the gym to swim and relax in the Jacuzzi. I may read in the Jacuzzi depending on how the spirit moves me. After the gym I go to my Aunt’s house were my family gather for Sunday dinner. The last few weeks we have had barbeque, yum! Finally, I come back home to pray and end my Sabbath with fellowship and prayer with my sweetheart, Bruce, over the phone.

There have been weeks that I have not allowed myself the wonderful experience of participating in Sabbath and I can immediately feel the difference in the week that follows. I feel rushed and tense. I usually feel like I can’t catch up to the wiles of life. I have come to truly believe that the Sabbath was made for man.

In conclusion

Based on Genesis 2:2-3[17], we see that God rested from all of His work on the seventh day, so we then should Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 3.37.00 PMset aside one day to honor and worship Him, resting from our work as well. Even greater than this, we read in Hebrews 4:4-11[18]. There remains a rest for the people of God. The ultimate pinnacle of the Sabbath is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of Jesus Christ, we can have true and perfect rest as a result of his work on the cross and even Jesus Christ observed the Sabbath before he rose in Mark 16:1[19]. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. Mark 2:27[20] Sabbath was created for us to take time to put God in the driver’s seat of our lives which is really the only way to stay in your right mind. The Sabbath was created for made to cease from toil and creation to focus on The Creator allowing peace to settle in our mind and heart. Due to free will Sabbath is an occasion that we have to stop and make time for in order to put God in His rightful position in our lives.

References

The Bible New International Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990.

Bernstein, Ellen. “Celebrating God, Celebrating Earth: Psalms, Sabbath, and Holy Days.” Currents in Theology and Mission 37, no. 5 (2010): 377-388.

Braddy, Judi. Everyday Sabbath. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2013.

Dawn, Marva J. Keeping the Sabbath Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Fung, Christopher. “Sabbath: A Biblical Understanding of Creation Care.” Evangelical Review of Theology 36, no. 4 (2012): 316-331.

Junker, Tamara. “Benefit Briefs.” AreanEducation Agency Leadership in Learning 267, no. 1 (2012): 2.

PhD, Eitan Fishbane. The Sabbath Soul Mystical Reflections on the Tranformative Power of Holy Time. Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Loghts Publishing, 2012.

Winner, Lauren F. “Reclaiming the Sabbath Take the Day Off.” Christian Century 120, no. 22 (2003): 27-31.


[1] The Bible New International Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990), 3.

[2] Ellen Bernstein, “Celebrating God, Celebrating Earth: Psalms, Sabbath, and Holy Days,” Currents in Theology and Mission 37, no. 5 (2010): 382.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 43.

[5] The Bible New International Version, 114.

[6] Bernstein, “Celebrating God, Celebrating Earth: Psalms, Sabbath, and Holy Days,” 383.

[7] The Bible New International Version, 1543.

[8] Christopher Fung, “Sabbath: A Biblical Understanding of Creation Care,” Evangelical Review of Theology 36, no. 4 (2012): 316.

[9] Lauren F. Winner, “Reclaiming the Sabbath Take the Day Off,” Christian Century 120, no. 22 (2003): 27.

[10] Eitan Fishbane. PhD, The Sabbath Soul Mystical Reflections on the Tranformative Power of Holy Time (Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Loghts Publishing, 2012), 134.

[11] Dawn, 74.

[12] Ibid., 75.

[13] Judi Braddy, Everyday Sabbath (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2013), 38.

[14] Dawn, 69.

[15] Braddy, 38.

[16] Dawn, 11.

[17] The Bible New International Version, 3.

[18] Ibid., 1844.

[19] Ibid., 1573.

[20] Ibid., 1542.


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