What’s the deal with the Sabbath?
Does God want me to keep a day holy?
The word Sabbath simply means rest. The idea of Sabbath or rest is an important concept in the Bible. In Genesis 1, God created the world in “six days” and then on the “seventh day” he rested and enjoyed all he had created. The account in Genesis of creation shows the goal of creation is the Sabbath, God’s rest on the seventh day.
In the Old Testament…
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to set apart a particular day to remind them of the importance of their relationship with God. The Sabbath was the day to stop work and remember all that God has done and enjoy it (Exodus 20:8-11). Unfortunately, in their zeal to keep the law, the Israelites added law upon law to make sure no one did any work, and so the Sabbath became more about law-keeping than it was about rejoicing and enjoying God and his creation.
But when God speaks of the Sabbath, he is talking about people living in a right relationship with him and enjoying all that he has created. As the Bible story unfolds, it speaks of God’s people entering his rest. So, God’s people will share in the Sabbath with God, rejoicing and enjoying all that God has made.
In the New Testament…
In the New Testament, Jesus says he comes not to destroy the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5). One of those laws was the Sabbath law. Jesus fulfills the Sabbath law by opening the way for us (through his death and resurrection) to enter God’s Sabbath (rest) by enabling us to have a restored relationship with God. Those who are Christian (who have put their trust in Jesus) are in God’s Sabbath now and always, so there is now no need for one special day each week. In fact, in a sense, every day is now a Sabbath day to be kept holy. The important thing to know is that we no longer need to keep the Sabbath as in the Old Testament nor are we required to do anything special on any particular day. Rather every day we are to live for God.
Focus on God
Though we aren’t required to, the idea of putting aside a day each week to focus on all that God has done is a really good idea. In many traditions, that day is Sunday when Christians go to church. It’s a day when Christians gather together to especially rejoice in their new relationship with God and their new relationships with each other. It’s a day when we remind ourselves of all that God has done for us and encourage each other to stand firm in Jesus and look forward to the day when he will come back and we will fully enter God’s Sabbath.
So let me encourage you not to think on any day as being particularly holy but think of every day as an opportunity to rejoice in God and all he has done. This means that when you shop or when you date or when you go out for entertainment, you do so in such a way that brings glory to God and enables you to rejoice in all he has done. And also make sure you meet with other Christians on the Sabbath day and rejoice with them also.