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"Understanding the Sabbath" Series

What is the Sabbath?

The Meaning, Purpose and Proper Understanding of the Seventh-Day As Set-Apart Time

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Published: December 2008 - Updated March 2013

There's alot of talk these days in Christian circles about the Sabbath.  Though maligned and misunderstood by many Christian teachers and pastors, the seventh-day Sabbath is still a foundational teaching of the Bible.  The Sabbath day is interwoven throughout the pages and stories in the Scriptures, both "Old" and "New."  And so it is necessary to investigate its meaning and purpose.  Both the Old Testament and the New speak volumes about the meaning and significance of the seventh-day as the set-apart day to be observed by all who love the Creator of the universe.

Since most Christians are never told the truth about the Sabbath day - they are typically told horror stories about how difficult it is to keep and that is was never intended to last, that it was given to the Jews only and not to the "Church" - it is time that the truth be told about the seventh-day Sabbath as a time set-apart by our Creator for all mankind.  The Sabbath speaks to every aspect of the human need of redemption, restoration and hope, which we find fulfilled in the life and ministry of the Messiah, his death and resurrection, and his coming reign and kingdom.  Thus, it is our goal in this teaching, to recite Scriptures from the Law and the Prophets pertaining to the Sabbath and to discuss the issues and instructions about the Sabbath so that all may know the precious significance and the invaluable treasure we have in the Sabbath day. 

Outline

Genesis 2:1-3 - the Rest

Exodus 16:1-30 - the Test

Exodus 20:8-11 - the Commandment

Exodus 31:13-17 - the Sign

Leviticus 23:2-3 - the Reading

Numbers 15:32-36 - the Consequences for Breaking the Sabbath

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - YHWH's Right to Require Sabbath-Keeping

Isaiah 56:1-8 - Is the Sabbath for Gentiles, too?

Isaiah 58:12-14 - the Promise

Summary

Genesis 2:1-3 - the Rest

The very first mention of the seventh-day Sabbath is found right in the opening pages of your Bible!  In the creation account, we are told that Elohim created and ordered heaven and earth in six days.  All of the work of separating light from darkness, creating the sun, moon and stars, establishing plants, trees, flowers and all vegetation, and the forming of the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field and the fish of the sea - all of these were accomplished in these six days.  Even mankind himself was formed from the elements of the ground on the sixth day.  And Elohim had finished all the work of filling heaven and earth with all of its life forms during these six days.

The heavens and the earth were completed with everything that was in them.  By the seventh day Elohim finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing.  Elohim blessed the seventh day and made it set-apart because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

On the seventh day, Elohim ceased from all the activity of creating which he had been doing.  He stopped working.  The Hebrew word here translated ceased is tbv, (pronounced shabbat).  The Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew lexicon translates this word as cease, desist, rest.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament also renders our word as cease, desist, rest.  And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament says this word means to cease, stop, rest, celebrate (i.e. "rest" as on the Sabbath day).  It is easy to see how the term Shabbat or Sabbath came to be the name of the seventh day.

The ceasing from all his work on the seventh day is the pattern which Elohim has established for mankind right from the beginning of mankind's existence on earth.  Elohim sets the precedent in the beginning to show what the pattern is to be for the man who is made in his image - the seventh day is to be a day of ceasing, stopping and resting from the work of his hands.  Just as Elohim rested on the seventh day and ceased from all of his labor, so mankind is to rest from all his work and stop doing the labor of his hands.

In addition to ceasing from his work on the seventh day, we are told that Elohim blessed the seventh day and separated it.  The Sabbath day is unique because Elohim blessed it.  Elohim did not bless any other day of the week at any time in history.  You can read you Bible from cover to cover and not find Elohim blessing any other day, including Sunday.  And what Elohim has blessed, let no man call commmon or cursed.  Yahuwah's blessing cannot be undone.  It is permanant.  Thus, the Sabbath day is the day of blessing.

Elohim also made the Sabbath day holy.  Many English Bible translations say something like "he sanctified it" or "he made it holy."  I find that most people don't understand what this means, because "holy" "sacred" and "sanctify" are words that don't have a common usage in the modern English language.  They are abstract terms which seem to elude our understanding.

In the Hebrew, the Scripture uses the word vd,qo (pronounced kodesh).  The BDB suggests the meaning of this root word is separation, withdrawal.  HALOT defines it as holy, commanding respect, awesome, singled out, consecrated for.  The TWOT renders our word be hallowed, holy, sanctified; to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate.  Emerging from these abstract terms is the root idea of separating or setting apart of something.  This is its true and basic meaning, from which all the others words used to translate it are derived.  The noun form of this root word therefore is translated separateness, apartness.  And the adjectival form of this word should be properly rendered set-apart.

What is the Scripture telling us?  Elohim rested on the seventh day, and he separated this day from the others.  He declared the Sabbath day to be special and blessed.  What was the reason for this special declaration regarding the seventh day?  Elohim was giving special purpose and significance to this day of the week apart from the others.  One writer puts it this way:

God's blessing and sanctifying the day, meant that He separated it from a common to a religious use, to be a perpetual memorial or sign that all who thus observe it would show themselves to be the worshipers of that God who made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. (Binney's Theological Compend, pp. 169,170, quoted in Anderson, p.151)

Now the One who created the heavens and the earth and all the living inhabitants thereof was establishing a permanent memorial of his creative acts by establishing the seventh day as that time when all mankind is to stop all his activity to honor and acknowledge the Creator of all.

The Sabbath, then, is permanent declaration of Yahuwah's greatness and Lordship over all creation.  Those who observe the cessation of labor of the seventh day are submitting to the established pattern and will of Elohim for mankind.  It is the day when all people are commanded to stop their toiling and the pursuit of their own pleasures to admire the Creator and honor him with their allegiance.  The Sabbath is the first and primary indicator that we belong to Elohim and submit to his will.

Exodus 16:1-30 - the Test

Even before the Law was delivered to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, Yahuwah instituted the Sabbath day as a day of rest for his people.  Let me say that another way.  The Sabbath rest predates the giving of the Law to Israel.  The Sabbath was blessed and set-apart at Creation.  And just before the Sinai event, it was given as a test commandment to the nation of Israel.  Let's pick up the account from the time just following their spectacular rescue from the clutches of the Pharaoh, king of Egypt:

The whole community of the sons of Yisrael set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Mitzrayim.  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Mosheh and Aharon.  The sons of Yisrael said to them, "If only we had died by Yahuwah's hand in Mitzrayim! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."  Then Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." (Exodus 16:1-5)

About thirty days after Yahuwah showed his mighty arm to rescue the sons of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, the people began to grumble against the Almighty.  They complained about a lack of food in the wilderness.  So Elohim took this occassion to test the obedience of the people.  Yahuwah would give the people food in the form of a wafer tasting like honey, which he would provide every morning on the ground.

Then, He gave instructions to Mosheh to tell all the people to gather this food each day for six days.  They were to take only what they needed for each day.  If they tried to horde some of the bread to last till the next day, it would be found rotted and stinking.  But on the sixth day, they were to gather enough bread for the sixth and the seventh day.  The bread would not be rotting on the morning of the seventh day.

Moses later speaks of this event:

Remember how Yahuwah your Elohim led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Yahuwah. (Devarim 8:2-3)

The giving of the manna every day was meant to show that Yahuwah is the one who provides our daily needs.  But also, the very words proceeding from his mouth are the sustenance of our lives.  And so, obeying the instructions about the Sabbath and the gathering on the sixth day for the Sabbath indicates the state of the heart of the people.  Would they obey Yahuwah when it comes to food for their stomachs?  If a person will do that, then he is inclined to obey Yahuwah in every other matter.

In this way, Yahuwah was testing the people to see whether or not they would obey him.  Thus is established the Sabbath as a test commandment.  If people are willing to submit to the Sabbath law, then they would also be willing to obey the rest of Elohim's commandments.  The Sabbath commandment is a test of our hearts.  It indicates whether or not we love Yahuwah with all our heart, soul and strength.

Related to the Sabbath being a test commandment is the fact that the Sabbath is also a sign between Yahuwah and his people which shows that He is the one setting us apart.  As we participate in the set-apartness of the Sabbath, that is, we set apart the Sabbath day unto Yahuwah, our Elohim through this act of obedience to Him is setting us apart to be His people.  More about the Sabbath as a sign below.

Exodus 20:8-11 - the Commandment

The most well know Scripture which informs us about the Sabbath is the Fourth Word (4th commandment).  Found in Exodus 20:8-11, this instruction reads...

Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart.  For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or your resident foreigner who is in your gates.  For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore Yahuwah blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.

This instruction incites its recipients to action.  We are directed to remember to perform a particular activity.  That activity is to separate the seventh day from the other six days.  The commandment is to simply remember to set-apart the Sabbath day.  The remainder of the "4th commandment" is merely clarification of which day is the Sabbath day, what it means to separate the day, and an explanation for the reason that man should rest on that day.

It is ironic that the 4th commandment is to "remember" something.  Most of the people who claim personal relationship with the Creator, whose fame and reputation is recalled on the Sabbath day, have forgotten the day! Even though the command explicitly directs Elohim's people to remember the set-apart day, his people still have forgotten to do it.

What does it mean "to set apart the Sabbath day"?  It means, specifically, that we are to perform all our labor and work during the six working days, but then on the seventh day we are to cease (stop) doing work.  This is true for everyone living in my house - even the animals and servants who work for me and my guests are to rest with me on the seventh day.

The reason that I and my household must rest on the seventh day is explained by pointing us back to consider what happened during the creation week, "in the beginning":  Elohim worked six days, and then he ceased working on the seventh.  This is the pattern which Elohim established at Creation, when he created man to dwell on the earth, for mankind to observe and copy throughout his time on earth.  The seventh day is a time for cessation of labor.

Of course, then comes the debate over how we define work.  There are many differing opinions on this topic.  Some define "work" as follows: "work is whatever I don't want to do on Sabbath."  Very convenient, isn't it?  Certainly our Creator had something more specific in mind when he said, "on it you shall not do any work."  So let's not guess at what "work" is.  Let's be serious about finding the definition for "work" by its usage in the Tanach (the Old Testament).

In Shemot 20:9 and 10, the Hebrew word for "work" is hk'al'm. (pronounced "melacha").  So it reads, "For six days you may labor and do all your melacha, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any melacha."  Melacha is defined by he BDB as "occupation, work.The TWOT defines this word as "work, business."  And the HALOT renders it "1. trade mission, business journey, 2. business, work, 3. handiwork, craftsmanship."  The first occurrences (3 times) of our word comes in the account of the seventh day following the six days of creation:

By the seventh day Elohim finished the work (melacha) that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work (melacha) that he had been doing.  Elohim blessed the seventh day and made it set-apart because on it he ceased all the work (melacha) that he had been doing in creation (Bereshith 2:2,3).

How should we understand the meaning of melacha in Scripture?  What was the nature of the melacha which Elohim was doing here?   To find out, we must search the Scriptures to discover how the work of creation is described elsewhere.

In other places the melacha which Elohim was doing in creation is described with different terms:

The depths of the earth are in his hand, and the mountain peaks belong to him.  The sea is his, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land (Tehillim 95:4,5).

And

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place (Tehillim 8:3).

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands (Tehillim 102:25 NIV).

In each of these Scriptures, the melacha of creation is described as the "work of his fingers" or "work of his hands."

Hold that thought while you consider this use of the word melacha in the Book of Exodus:

If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house will be brought before the judges, to see whether he has laid his hand on his neighbor's goods (melacha) (Shemot 22:8)

then there will be an oath to Yahuwah between the two of them, that he has not laid his hand on his neighbor's goods (melacha), and its owner will accept this, and he will not have to make it good (Shemot 22:11).

Sometimes the Hebrew melacha is translated "goods" (in the NIV of these verses above, it is translated "property") and refers to the end result of the work of one's hands. 

We should understand, then, that the word melacha refers to activity (work) that results in an end product.  Just as the "work" of Elohim's hands produced heaven and earth (an end product), the work which we are forbidden to do on the Sabbath is that melacha which results in products which are made or produced by the skill and labor of our hands.  It is easy to see how melacha could also be translated "occupation," "business," "handiwork," or "craftsmanship."  All of these terms have to do with the work that people do to produce goods and services.

With that in mind, we can produce a kind of general "list" or rule of thumb regarding work that is forbidden on Shabbat.  Activities which produce an end product are not permitted, such as any occupational work done to produce an income (one's normal business affairs) including craftsmanship, work in a field which ultimately will produce a crop, chores done in a home (which requires the work of one's hands to accomplish), and cooking which produces an end product (a cooked or prepared meal).  [More on cooking being explicitly prohibited by Scripture in section below.]

Activities which are permitted on Sabbath include (clearly) Scripture study which makes us wise in our walk before Elohim, personal hygiene tasks, games which exploit friendship and fellowship, rest, eating (as long as it doesn't require melacha on the Sabbath to prepare said meal), and the like.  Also included in activities which are permitted are those acts of mercy and compassion to help men and animals in a situation which endangers their health and life - as Yahusha Messiah puts it, "it is always right to do good on the Sabbath."

So, we are instructed what not to do on the seventh day - we are not to do any work.  But what then are we supposed to do on the seventh day?  The answer is implied and hinted at in the explanation for resting:

the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim... For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day.

In other words, the Sabbath day is for Yahuwah.  He who made heaven and earth in six days is now to be the focus of our attention on the seventh day.  The Sabbath day is to be the time we set-apart for fellowship of Yahuwah, worship of Yahuwah and the Proclamation of the good news which Yahuwah has announced to us.  The commandment of the Sabbath day is to stop working so that we can direct our attention to the person and work of Elohim.

Exodus 31:13-17 - the Sign

The portion of Scripture which instructs us about the significance of the Sabbath commandment as the way to discern between those who belong to Yahuwah and those who don't is found in Shemot (Exodus).  This explanation follows the first recitation of the laws and right-rulings given through Mosheh to Israel.  Here, the Sabbath is identified as a sign of the covenant which Yahuwah has made with his people.

"Tell the sons of Yisrael, 'Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am Yahuwah who separates you.  So you must keep the Sabbath, for it is set-apart for you. Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death; indeed, anyone who does any work on it, then that life will be cut off from among his people.  Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, set-apart to Yahuwah; anyone who does work on the seventh day must surely be put to death.  And the sons of Yisrael must keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.  It is a sign between me and the sons of Yisrael forever; for in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed."

First, all debate over whether or not the Sabbath is a permanent institution is dismissed.  "Surely" or "certainly" or "no doubt" the Sabbaths shall be guarded.  This point needs no further debate or discussion.  It is an accepted truth of great importance.  The Sabbath is for all your generations and is a sign forever.

And the reason why it must be guarded is that the Sabbath is a sign between Yahuwah and his people that Yahuwah as Elohim to his people separates them unto himself.  Indeed, the Sabbath itself is the method by which Yahuwah separates his people from all others.  Those who guard the Sabbath by setting it apart are regarded as belonging to Elohim, while those who do not guard the seventh day by ceasing from their labor are considered as not belonging to him.

He goes on to explain that for those who regard and observe (guard) the Sabbath, that day is set-apart for them.  The seventh day has been set-apart by Elohim for those who would be in covenant relationship with Elohim.  In addition to Yahuwah separating the seventh day, His followers are to regard the seventh day as being set-apart from the other six days, too.  So then, those who are attached to Yahuwah are to agree with him.  The way one puts legs to this agreement is to separate the seventh day from the other six just as Yahuwah has separated the seventh day from the sixth.  Thus, we rest on the seventh day just as Elohim did.

Furthermore, anyone who disregards the commandment to cease from labor on the seventh day is to be cut off from the assembly of Israel.  He is to be not only disconnected from the family of Israel, but he is to be put to death as having committed a capital offense.  Guarding of the Sabbath is so central to the core of familial relationship with the Creator Elohim that to neglect it or to disregard it is to end one's relationship with Elohim and with his community.

To someone who is unfamiliar with the Sabbath, this instruction sounds most unfair and unreasonable.  But from the perspective of the Almighty, the guarding of the Sabbath is at the very heart and core of relationship with him.  The first revelation of himself as recorded by Scripture is that he ordered heaven and earth in six days, and he ceased from his labor on the seventh.  In the mind of Elohim, this is the first and truest test and indicator of who belongs to him and of who doesn't. 

Elohim blessed and separated the seventh day as a sign to indicate who are the people who truly belong to him - these will be loyal to him and rest with Elohim on the day the Creator separated for that purpose.  To transgress the Sabbath is to announce one's severance of his connection with the Creator.  By rejecting his very first blessing and commandment for mankind, the one rejecting the Sabbath is rejecting Elohim and his authority and right to rule in one's life. Transgression of the Sabbath is tantamount to turning away from Elohim.

Again, in verse 15, we are reminded of what it means to keep the Sabbath:  "Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, set-apart to Yahuwah."  The Sabbath is not merely a day of vacation from our labor and occupation.  It is a day specially given by and belonging to Yahuwah - a day whose purpose is to acknowledge that Yahuwah is Elohim and Lord over all heaven and earth, and especially Master of all who call upon him.  And the Sabbath is to be a day of "complete rest."  This means that even cooking and preparing of food is forbidden on the Sabbath day.  (More about this in the article entitled, Keeping Sabbath.)

The sons of Israel (meaning all who belong to Elohim) must keep the Sabbath throughout their generations, which means, "as long as there are sons of Israel."  And they must keep it as an everlasting covenant, which means "forever."  There was never to be an end to Sabbath observance.  It was established at creation for mankind and is to never be annulled.  Neither any prophet, preacher nor Messiah Yahusha himself ever nullified the Sabbath commandment or overturned it.  Even going forward into the Messianic Age, when Messiah rules and reigns on earth from Yerushalayim, the Sabbath will be observed as a day set-apart to Yahuwah. 

The prophet Ezekiel describes the activity on the Sabbath day during the Messianic Age:

The people of the land will bow down at the entrance of that gate before Yahuwah on the Sabbaths and on the new moons (46:3).

And Yeshayahu (Isaiah) speaking of the time of Messiah's glorious kingdom, says,

From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me," says Yahuwah (66:23).

Finally, the reason that the Sabbath is a sign forever of the covenantal relationship between Yahuwah and his people is given.  It's because "in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed."  The pattern which Yahuwah established at creation is to be the permanent way for mankind as long as he lives - even throughout the glorious age of the renewal of heaven and earth.

Leviticus 23:2-4 - the Reading

We have already explored some explicit details about what is not permissible on the Sabbath day.  And we were informed through implicit instructions about what activities the Sabbath day is to be used for.  Here, in Vayiqra 23, we are given greater insight into the positive commandment for activity that is required on the Sabbath day.  Here, we find clear explanation of how Elohim wants us to spend the seventh day.

Speak to the sons of Yisrael and tell them, 'These are Yahuwah's appointed times which you must proclaim as set-apart assemblies--my appointed times: Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a set-apart assembly. You must not do any work; it is a Sabbath to Yahuwah in all the places where you live. These are Yahuwah's appointed times, set-apart assemblies, which you must proclaim at their appointed time.'

First, we are informed that the Sabbath is an appointed time.  Appointed times, in the Bible, are firmly established dates on the Hebrew calendar which have a specific purpose and for which there are specific activities which are commanded.  These appointed times, of which the Sabbath day is the first, are dates which foreshadow specific events in the redemption in which Yahuwah performed or will perform some aspect of the work of redemption and salvation for his people.  Thus, his people are called to observe these days and participate in the activities of these days to practice and rehearse and remember the works of Elohim in redeeming them.

Furthermore, these appointed times point to specific aspects of the work of Messiah in rescuing his people from the bondage of sin and leading them into maturity such that they are ready to assume position in the Messianic Age.  The Pesach, or Passover, for example, pictured the rescue of the sons of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt, and pointed forward to Messiah's death on the tree to free his people from the bondage of sin.  Messiah, in fact, died on the very anniversary of Pesach, and exhorted his disciples to remember him and his shed blood and broken body when they observed Pesach going forward.

Similarly, the Sabbath day is an appointment which Elohim has made with his people to meet with them and to be the focus and attention of their time, their adoration and their praise.  In the beginning, the Sabbath day was the first of a perpetual weekly meeting with the man and woman he formed from the dust of the ground.  Later, the Sabbath day was the day on which Messiah Yahusha did many of his mighty miracles of restoring sick and dying people to live and fellowship with him.  The Sabbath, furthermore, foreshadows the Messianic Age, when Elohim, in the person of Messiah Yahusha, will dwell with men on the earth.

So, Leviticus 23 2-4 tells us that the Sabbath day, as a weekly appointment, is to be the set time in which Yahuwah meets with his people and communicates with his people.  It is that appointment, which if we miss, we will miss out on fellowship and relationship with the living Elohim.

Next, we are told that on the seventh day, the sons of Israel are to have "a set-apart assembly."

Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a set-apart assembly (vs 3).

The expression "set-apart assembly" is in Hebrew miqra kodeshKodesh means "set-apart."  It is "separated" unto a special purpose.  That purpose is defined by the Hebrew word miqra.  The word miqra (Hebrew ar'q.mi ) occurs in Vayiqra 23:2:

Speak to the sons of Yisrael and tell them, 'These are Yahuwah's appointed times which you must proclaim as set-apart assemblies (miqras)--my appointed times.'

In the above translation, it is rendered by the English "assemblies."  But let's first dig down to the root meaning of miqra.

The Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines our word as follows: explanation, reading; basic meaning: calling; 1. a) summons:  b) assembly  2. reading, recitation.  "Miqra" comes from the root qara' which means to "call, call upon, proclaim, read."  Thus, miqra' means "reading" or "proclamation."  So, these days which are named in Vayiqra 23, including first of all the Sabbath day, are to be times when the message of Scripture is "proclaimed" by the "reading" and explanation of the Scriptures.

Again, these miqras are said to be qodesh: "holy" or "set-apart."  The reading/proclamation which is to occur on these days is not just any reading or proclamation.  It is to be a set-apart time when the set-apart Scriptures are to be read and proclaimed.  This is the activity which should fill the Sabbath day.  Elohim is to be met with, the Scriptures read and proclaimed.  And Elohim is to be praised through thanksgiving and song, and petitioned through our prayers as we humbly bow down before him.

The positive, explicit commandment of the Scripture for the Sabbath day is to regard this day as an appointment with Elohim and to gather together in assembly for this meeting time with Elohim.  If we are resting on the Sabbath but not meeting with others before Elohim, then we are breaking the commandment.  The "rest" of the Sabbath is not total downtime, but rest from our regular labors, so that we may instead meet together with the Living Elohim.

Numbers 15:32-36 - the Consequences for Breaking the Sabbath

We have already seen in a passage of Scripture cited and explained above, that Yahuwah commanded that the Sabbath day be guarded to set it apart - that no work at all is to be done on the Sabbath.  And we have been warned of the consequences of transgressing the commandment.  In Exodus 31:14-15 we are informed that

Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death; indeed, anyone who does any work on it, then that life will be cut off from among his people.  Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, set-apart to Yahuwah; anyone who does work on the seventh day must surely be put to death.

After that instruction was given, a man was caught transgressing the Sabbath when he went outside and gathered wood on the Sabbath. 

When the sons of Yisrael were in the wilderness they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Mosheh and Aharon and to all the community. They put him in custody, because there was no clear instruction about what should be done to him. Then Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation must stone him with stones outside the camp." So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as Yahuwah commanded Mosheh.

Though the commandment was clear which Mosheh instructed Israel, there was still some doubt as to whether they actually should put the man to death.  After all, he was only gathering sticks - not exactly what some considered a "capital offense."  But the response of Yahuwah was clear.  The man must be put to death - and he was.

Why is the penalty for breaking the Sabbath so severe?  Does Yahuwah really require the death of those who break the Sabbath?  Shouldn't we just regard this episode of the man gathering sticks as an aberration?   The answer comes with an understanding of what is indicated about a person who transgresses the Sabbath.

As was briefly described earlier in this study, the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant relationship between the Almighty and his people.  It has been this way since the beginning, when Elohim created the heavens and the earth.  Yahuwah declared the seventh day to be the blessed day and a day separated from the six working days.  The Sabbath is Yahuwah's day to be honored and acknowledged as Creator and Master of the universe.  Those who guard the Sabbath are agreeing with Yahuwah about who he is.  Those who transgress the Sabbath are expressing resistance and rebellion against Yahuwah.  Thus, all who are in rebellion against Yahuwah are incurring upon themselves a judgment of death.

When Yahuwah gave the sons of Israel manna in the desert, he gave them explicit instructions about how to gather it.  They were to gather only enough for each day, and on the sixth day they were to gather enough for the sixth and seventh days.  Any leftover manna would turn to worms and nastiness if kept beyond the time stated.  On that first Sabbath after manna became available in the desert, some Israelis went out to gather on the seventh day, but there was none to be found.  This angered the Almighty.

So Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "How long do you refuse to obey my commandments and my Instructions? See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day (Shemot 16:28-30).

Yahuwah regards Sabbath breaking as refusal to "obey my commandments and Instructions."  This is equivalent to rejection of the authority and lordship of Yahuwah.

Probably more than any other single commandment, the fourth matter (Fourth Commandment) is indicative of one's attitude and posture toward the Maker.  Resting on the Sabbath sends the clear and unmistakable message that such people are giving Elohim his proper place of Master over the created person.  And resistance to the Sabbath indicates a clear and present rebellion against having Yahuwah as your Elohim.  Such will find themselves in a fiery situation following the judgment of all men.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 - YHWH's Right to Require Sabbath-Keeping

In the book of Devarim (also called Deuteronomy) we have recorded how Mosheh was retelling of the giving of the Torah at the end of the time of the wandering in the wilderness.  The sons of Israel were near to the time of entering the land of promise, and Mosheh wanted to review with them the great acts of Yahuwah in the redemption from Egypt and retell them the laws and right-rulings which Yahuwah had instructed Mosheh to tell all of Israel.

So Mosheh recounts the experience on Sinai when Yahuwah spoke to him and to all of Israel face to face out of the midst of the fire.  And Yahuwah spoke the ten matters (or "ten commandments") to Israel.  When he came to the fourth matter, he wrote,

Guard the day of the Sabbath to set it apart just as Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you.  You are to serve and do all your work in six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahuwah your Elohim. On that day you must not do any work, you, your son, your daughter, your male slave, your female slave, your ox, your donkey, any other animal, or the foreigner who lives with you, so that your male and female slaves, like yourself, may have rest.  Recall that you were a slave in the land of Mitzrayim and that Yahuwah your Elohim brought you out of there by strength and power; therefore, Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

As Mosheh recounts this event to Israel at this time, he exhorts them to "guard the day of Sabbath to set it apart, just as Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you."  The difference between this retelling and the original event is a subtle one.  In the original delivery of the ten matters, Yahuwah commands Israel to "remember" to separate the Sabbath day, while here Mosheh exhorts Israel to "guard" the Sabbath to separate it.  The act of "guarding" the Sabbath encompasses the "remembering" of the Sabbath.  To guard it implies a careful, focused exercise of observing the Sabbath in all its details and requirements.

Next, he reviews what it means to set apart the Sabbath:  you are to serve and do all your work on the six days, but on the seventh day you are to do no work at all.  This day belongs to Yahuwah your Elohim.  Furthermore, neither you shall work nor any of your family members who live in your home, nor your slaves or servants (hired, resident workers).  Neither are any of your working animals to work on the Sabbath.  And finally, even your resident visitor must rest on the Sabbath day.  The reason for this is that everyone is to have rest and meeting time with Elohim.

Now to this point, the account of this "fourth matter" is essentially the same as told in Exodus 20.  But here, the reason for the Sabbath stoppage (i.e. rest) diverges from the original giving of the Torah.  At Mt. Sinai, the reason for the command to cease your work on the seventh day is that Yahuwah ceased on the seventh day from his labor which he performed for the six days.  Since Yahuwah rested on the seventh day, he has commanded all men to rest on the seventh day.

Here, the reason Yahuwah commands you to guard the Sabbath day is that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and by his mighty hand, Yahuwah rescued you from your bondage.  The point being made is not that Yahuwah has changed his mind about why you should keep the Sabbath.  It is clear that the reason he set apart the seventh day is that He himself rested on that day and declared that day to be blessed and to be separated from the other days.  Now, he is giving an additional incentive (reason) why he has the authority to command you to guard the Sabbath day:  He and he alone rescued your life from your oppressor and is bringing you into a land of blessing and freedom.  He has provided another reason why, out of love and appreciation for him, you must guard the Sabbath.  He has the authority to require that you guard the Sabbath because he is your Master and your Savior and is your Elohim who watches over you and protects you.

We are no longer our own person.  We have been bought at a price and have been rescued from the enemy.  Therefore we are obligated, certainly out of a grateful heart of love, to obey our Master and our Elohim in all matters.  And this includes this matter of guarding the Sabbath day to set it apart!

Isaiah 56:1-8 - Is the Sabbath for Gentiles, too?

The disinformation machine of popular Christianity has successfully duped many into believing the lie that the Sabbath was given only to the Jews.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But it would be easy to come to that conclusion by simply observing what people do.  Christians venerate Sunday as "the Lord's day."  Jews observe the seventh day Sabbath as a time of rest.  It's pretty much a no brainer, right?

For anyone who wants to know the truth of the matter, and who regards the Scriptures as authoritative, the truth is there to see.  First, the record of Scripture indicates that the Sabbath was set-apart at creation, some 3,000 years before there were Jews (Yehudim, the family of Judah) on the earth.  There is nothing that has been written by an authoritative source that overturns what Elohim had established at creation.  The Sabbath was valid at creation, was valid for Israel, and will be a reality during the reign of Messiah on the earth.  As such, it bears to reason that it is Elohim's will for his people right now.

Second, the Torah teaches with no uncertainty that Gentiles who want to enjoy the benefits of relationship with Elohim are brought into fellowship through the same Covenantal standards that Israel conforms to.

There will be one regulation for you, whether a foreigner or a native citizen, for I am Yahuwah your Elohim (Vayiqra 24:22).

When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Mitzrayim. I am Yahuwah your Elohim (Vayiqra 19:33-34).

If a resident foreigner lives among you and wants to keep the Pesach to Yahuwah, he must do so according to the rule of the Pesach, and according to its custom. You must have the same rule for the resident foreigner and for the one who was born in the land (Bemidbar 9:14).

Elohim has not given two sets of laws - one for Jews and one for Gentiles - as some Christian and Jewish groups teach.  That is utterly absurd and foreign to the teachings of the Scriptures.  The Bible teaches a single way to friendship with Elohim and a single standard of conduct for anyone in covenantal relationship with Elohim.  Even the apostle Paul says the same thing:

I, therefore, the prisoner for Yahuwah, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Elohim and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:1-6).

One body, one hope, one faith.  The one body is that of Israel.  There is no such thing as "the Church."  Biblically speaking, the only entity made up of people belonging to Messiah is Israel.  Those Gentiles who attach themselves to Elohim through Messiah Yahusha are grafted into Israel.

Again, Paul teaches this point quite succinctly:

17Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and participated in the richness of the olive root,18 do not boast over the branches. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.19 Then you will say, "The branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in."20 Granted! They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear!21 For if Elohim did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.22 Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of Elohim--harshness toward those who have fallen, but Elohim's kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.23 And even they--if they do not continue in their unbelief--will be grafted in, for Elohim is able to graft them in again.24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?25 For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Yisrael until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.26 And so all Yisrael will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Ya'acov (Romans 11).

Here Paul is comparing the people of Elohim (Israel and the Jews) to an olive tree.  He notes that Elohim cuts off some of the branches (Israel going into exile, or Jews rejecting Messiah).  Then some Gentiles (a wild olive branch, those who believe Messiah) are grafted into the natural branch (his faithful people called "Israel").  Later, some of those broken off branches (Messiah rejecting Jews) are grafted back in (when they receive the Messiah).  And thus, "all Israel will be saved" (vs 26).  Israel is the branch in this metaphor - the one body of believers Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2, cited above.

So Paul's teaching agrees with the Torah.  Any Gentiles who wish to have relationship with Elohim do so the same way.  Gentiles are required to submit to the same Laws and standards as all of Israel, because there is no distinction in the body of Elohim.  There is no such thing as "Jew" and "Gentile."   All who join themselves to Elohim through Messiah's death on the tree are one body - they are all "Israel."

So, when we come to the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah), he teaches the same thing. 

This is what Yahuwah says, "Promote justice! Do what is right! For I am ready to deliver you; I am ready to vindicate you in public. The people who do this will be happy, the people who commit themselves to obedience, who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.  No foreigner who becomes a follower of Yahuwah should say, 'Yahuwah will certainly exclude me from his people.' The eunuch should not say, 'Look, I am like a dried-up tree.'"  For this is what Yahuwah says: "For the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths and choose what pleases me and are faithful to my covenant,  I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters. I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain.  As for foreigners who become followers of Yahuwah and serve him, who love the name of Yahuwah and want to be his servants-- all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant-- I will bring them to my set-apart mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray."  Adonai Yahuwah says this, the one who gathers the dispersed of Yisrael: "I will still gather them up." (Isaiah 56:1-8)

The foreigner or Gentile is to be treated the same way as a native born.  And the same laws and right-rulings apply to the foreigner who is living among Israel (grafted in).  Even the Sabbath commandment requires your "resident foreigner who is in your gates" to rest on the Sabbath.  So all residents of Israel - native born and Gentiles who "live among them" - are required to rest on the seventh day and are promised the same blessing when they keep Sabbath.

the people who commit themselves to obedience, who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.  No foreigner who becomes a follower of Yahuwah should say, 'Yahuwah will certainly exclude me from his people.'

The Gentile who observes Sabbath and who is committed to obedience to the Torah will certainly NOT be excluded from his people.

On the contrary, the Gentiles who keep the Sabbath are included among those known as belonging to Elohim:

As for foreigners who become followers of Yahuwah and serve him, who love the name of Yahuwah and want to be his servants-- all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant-- I will bring them to my set-apart mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray."

Here it is explicitly revealed that Gentiles who become attached to Yahuwah and love Yahuwah and have become servants of Elohim's Messiah, will guard the Sabbath and be faithful to his Covenant.  They are the "faithful ones."  These will be rewarded and accepted by Elohim and their prayers will be heard.  And they will be received into the Messianic Age.

Isaiah 58:12-14 - the Promise

Your perpetual ruins will be rebuilt; you will reestablish the ancient foundations. You will be called, 'The one who repairs broken walls, the one who makes the streets livable again.'  If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my set-apart day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Yahuwah's set-apart 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 Yahuwah, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of Yahuwah has spoken.

The promise in Isaiah 56 (which we examined above) is repeated and emphasized in Yeshayahu 58.  All who approach Elohim to have a personal relationship with him and who seek his favor "must observe the Sabbath" (see verse 13).  Essentially, this prophetic utterance is answering the question, "Who is going to inherit the kingdom of heaven?"  The "inheritance of your father Jacob" is the promise of land occupancy which was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their descendants.  This is the promise that will be fulfilled when Messiah - the "seed" of Abraham - and his followers receive their part in the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Who is going to inherit the kingdom of heaven?  The answer is given in many forms throughout the Bible, but in this text, the answer is: "those who honor Yahuwah by keeping the Sabbath day set-apart."   It makes sense that those who love Yahuwah with all their mind, all the heart and all their might are going to guard the Sabbath day by setting it apart.  And these are going to inherit the kingdom of heaven because their demonstrate their love of the Almighty through their actions - they happily guard the commandments of Yahuwah, including the command He gave at Creation - they consider the Sabbath day to be a blessed day and they set it apart by not doing their own thing and working for their own pleasure.  These put the interests of the Creator first in their lives and honor him in their obedience of his Will as revealed in His Law.

Yeshayahu confirms all that has been said before him regarding the Sabbath day.  The person who has it in their mind and heart, and who carries it out in their daily walk - to guard their own feet from transgressing the Sabbath, to regard the Sabbath day rest as a delight (and not think of it as a burden, like those who hate Yahuwah), and who honor the Sabbath commandment - these are pleasing to the Creator Yahuwah and will find joy in serving Yahuwah in this manner.

The promise of Yahuwah to those who love him and love his Shabbat is that they will "ride on the heights of the land."  This means that they will enjoy the very best that the promised land has to offer.  And this implies great reward in Messiah's kingdom on earth.  Furthermore, the ones obedient to the Sabbath rest will "feast on the inheritance."  This means they will partake and prosper greatly in the Messianic reign in the land of Israel.  This is what all the men and women of faith throughout all time have been seeking after.  How about you?

Summary

The seventh day as a set-apart time for Yahuwah was established by the Creator in the beginning.  Setting apart the Sabbath day is commanded by Yahuwah throughout the Bible times.  Ceasing from doing your occupational work on the seventh day is a demonstration and a sign that you belong to Yahuwah, that you love Yahuwah, and that you expect to inherit the kingdom of Yahuwah with Messiah Yahusha on the earth.

The Sabbath day is for all who want to enter into personal (Covenantal) relationship with Elohim the Creator of heaven and earth.  Guarding the Sabbath is a demonstration of one's attachment to Yahuwah and one's allegiance to his Kingship and Lordship as Elohim in your life.  The seventh day is to be set apart for activities which include fellowshipping with Yahuwah, worshipping, praising and thanking Yahuwah, retelling the great works of Yahuwah and proclaiming the good news of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.  Scriptures are to be read and explained, prayers are to be offered, and Yahuwah is to have priority in our time and in our thoughts.

Transgression and disregard of the set-apart seventh day amounts to rejection of Elohim, rejection of the redemption which Messiah obtained by his death on the tree, and forfeiting of the promise of eternal life.  Ignoring the seventh day Sabbath is to ignore and belittle Elohim's good will and pleasure for your life.  Those who willfully turn up their noses to the Sabbath deserve death and some of them were put to death for this brazen rebellion against the Almighty.  In the future judgment, those who continue in their rebellion against Elohim's set-apart day will be told, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity.  I never knew you" (cf. Matt 7:23).

The Sabbath day is a delight to those who wholeheartedly love the Maker of heaven and earth and who love his Messiah, Yahusha.  But popular Christianity teaches its followers that Sunday is the Lord's Day and they willfully and intentionally transgress the Sabbath and teach others to transgress it and belittle it, too.  But those who choose to express their genuine love for Elohim by obeying him and honoring him and guarding his set apart day will truly be blessed to inherit the kingdom.

What will you choose to do?

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