Honoring The Sabbath

“A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.  It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.”  Psalm 92:1-3

What will you do next Sabbath?

  • “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 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.”  Genesis 2:1-3

God chose to designate one day a week as a holy day.  This one day was to be for all of His children for all time in order that we would intentionally stop to reflect on God’s greatness and His love for us.  In order for us to fully focus, He commanded that we stop our normal work, that we might not be distracted by the cares of this world for this one day. On this one day, we were to focus fully on our Heavenly Father, by praying, by assembling together in worship and teaching, by studying and reflecting on God’s Word, by finding refreshment in Him, by doing good deeds for Him, by forgetting our own needs and focusing on the needs of others.

  • “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.”  Leviticus 23:3
  • “It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.”  Leviticus 16:31

Over the last 20 years, our society’s materialism has grown exponentially.  With our dependence on ‘stuff,’ most merchants are joyfully open on the Sunday Sabbath in order to increase their profits (as well as having to employ many Christians on this day).  Our society has lost its overall reverence for the Lord.  Shopping or working on the Sabbath doesn’t seem like a big deal to us anymore, why?  Because, we’ve been conditioned to feel that our own needs are greater than the commands and fear of the Lord.  We think it fine to do our shopping on Sunday after church, or finish some work we brought home from the office, because it is our only free day of the week.  Is this a right heavenly attitude? I don’t believe the Lord sympathizes with our excuses of busyness. We can look at the Bible to see how the Lord felt about the buying and selling of goods on the Sabbath by reading Nehemiah.

At first, the Israelites promised not to buy and sell on the Sabbath in order to honor the Lord:

  • ““When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day.”  Nehemiah 10:31

In just a few chapters later, the cares of this world overgrew the cares and concerns of God, and thus the Israelites did exactly the opposite of what they had promised the Lord… they became consumed with buying and selling with the traveling merchants, stirring up the wrath of God:

  • “In those days I [Nehemiah] saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”  Nehemiah 13:15-18
  • “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Luke 16:13

Since God is the same yesterday, today, and in the future, He still holds true to His original plan for the Sabbath.. it is a day to set ourselves a side and focus on the One who should be the focus of our lives… every day.  If we obey His command, we will be blessed.

  • “Blessed is the one who does this— the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.””  Isaiah 56:2
  • “For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.”  Isaiah 56:4-5
  • “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 in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  Isaiah 58:13-14

The Lord has also designated the Sabbath as a way for the world to see His people.  By honoring the Sabbath, His people would stand out from society by showing their allegiance to Him, and thus He would be honored above all.  By not keeping the Sabbath, the Lord’s people are actually profaning His name to the world.

  • “Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.””  Ezekial 20:20
  • “Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.”  Ezekiel 22:26

So, what do you do on the Sabbath besides ‘rest?’

  • “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”  Acts 13:44

Gather, teach and be taught.  Gather in church.  Gather as friends.  Gather as neighbors.  Gather as families.  Share your stories with those around you.  How has the Lord worked in your life?  What does He mean to you?

  • “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.”  Mark 1:21
  • “Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people.”  Luke 4:31
  • “As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath.”  Acts 13:42
  • “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”  Acts 16:13-14
  • “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”  Acts 18:4

The Sabbath is also a day of doing the Lord’s work.  Jesus showed us many examples of how we are to help others in need during this day of worship and rest.

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.””  Matthew 12:8

  • “He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.””  Matthew 12:11-12
  • “Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.”  Mark 3:4-5
  • “There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.” Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” Luke 14:2-5

So, is the Sabbath still for today?  Yes!  Quite clearly!  Honoring the Sabbath will bring glory to the Lord and will visually set you apart as a child of God.

  • There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”  Hebrews 4:9-11

Father God, forgive us for dishonoring you by disregarding your intentions on the Sabbath.  Help us to take this one day a week to fully focus on You and Your desires.  Keep the cares of this world from entering our mind on this day and let our personal ‘busyness’ fall away.  You are our Creator and Father.  We worship You and honor You.  Let not our hearts go astray.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.