“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable,…then you will find your joy in the Lord…” (Isaiah 58:13, 14, NIV).
Is the Sabbath relevant? Is it really practical to keep the
Sabbath in today’s world? How should it be observed today?
To answer these questions, let’s consider what the Bible,
God’s inspired Word, reveals.
Jesus Christ said that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” and that “the Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28). He did not limit the
Sabbath by teaching that it was made for any particular group of people at any
specific time in history. Instead, it was made for all mankind for all time. It
was enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the heart and core of God’s divine law
Right Relationship With
The Sabbath was made for mankind, but for what purpose?
The book of Isaiah, chapters 58 and 59, describes mankind’s
separation from God because of our sins.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His
ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from
your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not
hear” (Isaiah 59:1, 2). These verses point out the hypocrisy of those
who claim to seek God, yet are still filled with sin and evil intentions
(Isaiah 58:1-4; 59:4-15).
But God shows that we can be reconciled to Him: “‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to
those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah
59:20). Jesus Christ is that prophesied Redeemer, the One who will redeem, or
buy back, mankind for God through the sacrifice of His life (John 3:16; 1 Peter
1:18, 19; 1 John 2:2; 4:9, 10).
God also describes how to build a proper relationship with
Him. Doing so involves humility and fasting that we might come to understand
God and His ways. “Then you shall
call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I
am’…Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as
the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in
drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:9-11).
Right Understanding Of
There is another critical element in building that right
relationship with God, this section of Scripture says, and that is right
understanding and observance of the Sabbath.
“‘If you keep your
feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if
you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you
honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle
words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on
the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance [physical blessings] of
your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13, 14,
Here we see God’s true intent for the Sabbath: It is part of a
proper, loving relationship with Him. It is a matter of honoring God. It is a
matter of surrendering one of our most precious possessions, our time, to build
a right relationship with our Creator.
Proper observance of the Sabbath, according to God’s
instruction here, means turning away from “going your own way,”
“doing as you please” and “speaking idle words.” These
actions trample His holy time underfoot, says God.
But the Sabbath is not to be a time for doing nothing. It is
to be a time for building a relationship with God. It is to be a delight, a
time to “find your joy in the Lord,” He tells us.
Rather than spending this time on our own interests and
pursuits, it is a time set aside to concentrate on the things that are pleasing
to God and nourish our relationship with Him.
How do we build this right relationship with God? We build it
through contact and communication with Him. We talk to God through prayer. He
talks to us through His inspired Word, the Bible. These are vital keys to a
right relationship with God.
in prayer,” we are told (Colossians 4:2). “Rejoice always, pray
without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in
Christ Jesus for you,” Paul instructed
5:16-18). “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails
much,” wrote James (James 5:16).
Jesus Christ expected His followers to pray, telling them, “When you pray…” (Matthew
6:5-7; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:2). He gave them specific instruction about prayer
and encouraged them that they “always
ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
God’s Sabbath is an ideal time for additional prayer and
contact with God. By refraining from our usual work and other activities on
that day, we have additional time to spend with God to build our relationship
The Sabbath is also an ideal time for God to speak with us. He
instructs us through His Word, the Bible. “All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God
may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” Paul told
Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Not only does Sabbath observance help us understand God’s
ways; it helps us better understand our own thoughts and motivations, showing
us where we can change to become more like God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that
“the word of God is living and
powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division
of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart.”
We should earnestly desire to study God’s Word and learn more
about it. “As newborn babes, desire
the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” we are told (1
David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), understood
that God’s Word shows us the right way to live: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your
word…Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against
You” (Psalm 119:9, 11).
David used His time to think about God’s ways and how he could
live a life more pleasing to God. “I
will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways…I love Your law! It
is my meditation all the day,” he wrote (Psalm 119:15, 97).
Worship Services On The
God’s Sabbath is a time for fellowship with others of like
mind, a time for mutually encouraging one another. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good
works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of
some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day
approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
Believers are expected to come together to worship (1
Corinthians 11:18; 14:23). As mentioned above, we should not forsake “the
assembling of ourselves together.” In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was
“a holy convocation,” also translated “a sacred assembly”
(Leviticus 23:3, NIV). God commanded His people to gather to worship on that
God’s ministers are expected to teach God’s people about His
way of life. Paul instructed the younger minister Timothy to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and
out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage, with great patience, and careful
instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV).
As we read earlier, the regular practice of Jesus Christ and
the apostle Paul was to attend a gathering in the synagogue on the Sabbath to
teach and fellowship with those who wanted to learn God’s ways. Jesus Christ
constantly showed by His actions, by explaining God’s Word and way of life and
by performing works of mercy, the proper way to observe the day.
Today God’s Sabbath is the appropriate day to rest from our
normal work and employment, a day to set aside time to meet with other
believers to worship God, be instructed in His way of life and likewise perform
good works that exemplify God’s way of life.
Build Relationship With
God tells us, “The
seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no
work…” (Exodus 20:10). He made it clear that our ordinary, routine
work was unacceptable on that day, and that the Sabbath was to be different.
Under the national administration of God’s laws in ancient Israel, the Sabbath
was so important to God that He specified that those who violated this command
were to be put to death (Exodus 31:14-16; 35:2).
When Israel came out of Egypt, God reinforced this Commandment
by providing a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the Sabbath
every week for 40 years (Exodus 16:26, 35; Joshua 5:12), a total of more than
2,000 miracles! The Sabbath command is clearly important to God, and He expects
it to be obeyed. Observing it is vital to maintaining a proper relationship
The Life Application Bible, commenting on Exodus 20:8-11,
explains why we as humans need the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was a day set
aside for rest and worship. God commanded a Sabbath because human beings need
to spend unhurried time in worship and rest each week. A God who is concerned
enough to provide a day each week for us to rest is indeed wonderful. To
observe a regular time of rest and worship in our fast-paced world demonstrates
how important God is to us, and it gives us the extra benefit of refreshing our
spirits. Don’t neglect God’s provision.”
Jesus Christ showed by His example the proper way to observe
the Sabbath. It was never intended to be a rigid, joyless day constrained by
endless restrictions detailing what could and could not be done. He used it as
a time to delight in sharing with others the joy of God’s Word and way of life,
showing it to be a time for strengthening our relationship with God. He used it
as a time for healing, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It was a time
for encouraging and helping those who were less fortunate.
Jesus Christ made it clear there was nothing wrong with doing
good on the Sabbath, pointing out that God’s Sabbath command had never
forbidden it. He emphasized what the day is for, rather than listing all the
things we can’t do. His actions on the Sabbath pointed to the coming age He
referred to as “the Kingdom of God,”
in which all humanity will share in God’s promised healing, joy and freedom
(Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:16-19; 9:11; 10:9).
Christ’s example showed the Sabbath is to be a day of physical
rest and spiritual rejuvenation. It is meant to be a welcome, refreshing rest
from our weekly labors, a time during which we must no longer be absorbed in
our ordinary daily cares and concerns.
Purpose Of God’s
God’s Word tells us that His commandments are never burdensome
(1 John 5:3). They are not meaningless or arbitrary. They were given to
humanity in love from a God of infinite wisdom and knowledge (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
They were given to be a benefit to mankind, bringing blessings when obeyed
(Deuteronomy 4:40; 5:29, 33). These commandments include God’s Sabbath. It is a
day of rest and refreshing, given to man by the One who designed and created
mankind. It is a time for physical, emotional and spiritual renewal.
God knew that we would need this time to nurture and
strengthen a right relationship with Him. Part of the Sabbath command reads, “Six days you shall labor and do all
your work…” God tells us to take care of our ordinary work and
concerns on the other six days, leaving our time and our minds free to properly
worship and obey Him by observing the Sabbath. When we are free to focus our
minds and thoughts on God’s way and purpose, the Sabbath truly becomes the
blessing and delight God intends it to be (Isaiah 58:13, 14).
On this seventh day of each week, we should cease from our own
work and allow God to work in us, building and nourishing our relationship with