Keeping Sabbath

Psalm 92 is titled 'A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.' The psalmist says "It is a good thing to give thanks to Yahweh, and to sing praises to your name, O most High." And that's just the beginning of the good things Yahweh has in store for those who keep His Sabbath. Yahweh's people want to keep Sabbath for two reasons: to receive the blessings that keeping it yields and also just to please Yahweh because we love him.


What was the first holy thing in the history of the world? A lamb sacrificed by Abel? A block of stone used for an altar? No, it was a block of time to be used by us - Sabbath! The first recorded observance of Sabbath is in Genesis 2:2-3 "And on the seventh day Elohim ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all His work which Elohim created and made." We learn a lot from just these two little verses. Yahweh did several things:

  1. He worked for six days. He had a week of accomplishment which has yet to be matched. We don't know how hard that was for Him.
  2. On the seventh day He set the work completely aside.
  3. He blessed the seventh day. Nothing done by man in all of history could erase that blessing from Sabbath!
  4. He sanctified the seventh day. Sanctified means he set it apart for special purposes related to Him and His activities.
  5. The reason He set it apart is BECAUSE He rested, to be a period of time to remember the time when He rested after the creation.


The Sabbath commandments which are given in the scriptures tell us some other elements of keeping Sabbath. Here are the basic Sabbath commands together with where they may be found.


Throughout the scriptures we may find examples of how Sabbath has been kept properly, broken, or kept wrongly. Let's review several of these to learn more about how we will keep Sabbath.


Numbers 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man who gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. . . The story goes on to tell how this man had to be stoned to death because of his willful disobedience of the Sabbath commandment. The same penalty is applicable today. Yahweh does not change (Malachi 3:6). If we break the Sabbath commandment now we are also subject to the death penalty unless Yahweh forgives us for Yahshua's sake.


Several scriptures (1 Chronicles 9:32, 1 Chronicles 23:31, 2 Chronicles 2:4, 2 Chronicles 8:13, 2 Chronicles 31:3 and Ezekiel 45:17) speak about offering sacrifices on the Sabbath day. This is part of the Sabbath because Sabbath is a day set apart for worshiping Yahweh. Has this ancient tradition changed? Is it 'out of fashion' to offer sacrifices to the Creator? Does Yahweh still cherish the sacrifices of his people? Of course He does! Yahweh's people are still keeping Sabbath in worship and sacrifice to Yahweh. In the New Testament period we don't offer animal sacrifices; Hebrews 13:8 teaches us to offer the sacrifices of our lips in sincere prayers of praise and thanks to our Heavenly Father.


There are some 'Sabbath keepers' who see nothing wrong with going to a store or restaurant on a weekly Sabbath or an annual Sabbath Day to buy food. This is clearly not scriptural! If you couldn't tell from the basic command in Exodus 20:10 that no one should be working on Sabbath and no one should be working for you then you can see the specific example in Nehemiah 10:31, "And if the people of the land bring WARES OR ANY FOOD ON THE SABBATH DAY TO SELL, THAT WE WOULD NOT BUY IT OF THEM ON THE SABBATH, OR ON THE HOLY DAY: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt".

Also read Nehemiah 13:15-22:
In those days I saw some people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading asses; as also with wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day in which they sold food.

There dwelt men of Tyre there too, who brought fish, and all types of wares, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, "What EVIL THING is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers that sort of thing, and did not our Elohim bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath!"

And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath: and I set some of my servants at the gates, so that no burden should be brought in there on the Sabbath day.

Then I testified against them, and said to them, "Why do you lodge about the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you" [and not as a blessing]. From that time forth they did not come on the Sabbath any more.

And I commanded the Levites that they should CLEANSE THEMSELVES, AND THAT THEY SHOULD COME AND KEEP THE GATES, TO SANCTIFY THE SABBATH DAY. Remember me, O my Elohim, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of your mercy.


Isaiah 58:13 If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing YOUR PLEASURE on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Yahweh, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words.

Amos 8:5 Saying, 'When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?'


Jeremiah 17:21, 22, 27 Thus says Yahweh; "Take heed to yourselves, and BEAR NO BURDEN ON THE SABBATH day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. . . .

But if you will not hearken to me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates of it and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched."

If you stay close to the scriptural way of keeping the Sabbath you will receive the blessings intended for those who cherish this sign of the bond between Yahweh and His people.

In the next part we will look at some help in Sabbath keeping from the Master of the Sabbath.


Who was the best Sabbath-Keeper ever? - Yahshua the Messiah!

He knew exactly what was right and wrong to do and what was the original purpose of the Sabbath.
There is no better way to do something right than to understand it and know the reason for it.

Lets see what we can learn about the Sabbath from Yahshua and His disciples.


Mat 12:1-2, 7-8 At that time Yahshua went through a grain field on the Sabbath day and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears of grain, and eat them. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day." . . .[Yahshua said] "But if you had known what this means, 'I will have mercy, and not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Master even of the Sabbath day." We see that a little simple food preparation may be done on Sabbath for eating on Sabbath. No cooking here.

For a fuller discussion of cooking on Sabbath and Holy Days please see the article on Cooking on Sabbaths.


Matt 12:11-13 And he said to them, "What man shall there be among you, that shall have a sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it IS lawful to do well [good works] on the Sabbath days."

Then said he to the man, "Stretch forth your hand." And he stretched it forth and it was restored; whole like the other.


Luke 13:15-16 Yahshua then answered him, and said, "You hypocrite, does not each one of you, on the Sabbath, loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" It is clear that we have responsibilities to our animals which depend on us for their care. A milking cow must be milked twice every day; but at some size the herd will be too large to be cared for without breaking the Sabbath. The afternoon milking should be done just before Sabbath on the sixth day and then immediately after Sabbath as the first day begins.


Luke 14:5 And [Yahshua] answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? An ox in a pit, water in the basement, a cut in someone's hand or something spilled may each need attention immediately to prevent further damage or to relieve pain or distress. As Yahshua explained, it's just common sense to take care of these things. Be careful not to overdo this.


Mat 24:20 But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. Do we in our day consider that the Sabbath is important enough that we would hesitate to flee from danger because doing so may break the Sabbath? Isn't that the meaning of Yahshua's word?

Also in connection with travel think about the 'Sabbath day's journey.' This was a distance determined by the Jewish leaders to limit walking on a Sabbath. It was probably less than a mile. Neither Moses, the prophets, Yahshua nor the Apostles said anything about this being Yahweh's law. The principle of spending very little effort in traveling on Sabbath is still a good idea.


Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

Luke 4:31 And [Yahshua] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days.

You may see more examples of Yahshua being with Yahweh's people on Sabbath in Matthew 12:6, Mark 1:21 and 6:12, Luke 6:6 and 13:10 and John 5:9 and 9:14. It was his custom and we must follow Him in this as in everything.


Luke 23:54-56 And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women also, who came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.

Mark 16:1 And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, as it began to draw on toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the sepulchre.


After the execution of Yahshua the apostles were consistent in keeping the Sabbath. They were consistent with the ancient law, consistent with the practice of Yahshua, and consistent with each other. Consider these scriptures:

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.

Acts 13:27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews had gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles requested that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

Acts 13:44 And the next Sabbath day almost the whole city came together to hear the word of Yahweh.

Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

Acts 16:13 And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was accustomed to be made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women who resorted there.

Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

Where was Yahshua on the Sabbath? Where were his disciples? They were assembled with Yahweh's people just as His disciples are today. In fact, the Sabbaths are still a sign between Yahweh and His people. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed, Exodus 31:17. Please also read Ezekiel 20:12-24.


We can learn most of what we need to know about Sabbath from these verses but there may be some questions about certain things not covered explicitly. Moses, Ezra, Nehemiah, Yahshua the Messiah and other leaders have had to answer questions in their days and more questions continually arise. The standard of interpretation about Sabbath has been provided for us in Colossians 2:16-17. "There fore let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an Holy Day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: (which are a shadow of things to come) but the body of the Messiah.

What is this 'body of the Messiah' which is to give the judgment rather than any individual man? It is the Assembly, as Paul explains in Ephesians 4:11-12: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying (teaching) of the body of The Messiah. . . .

4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, [even] The Messiah; from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effective working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.

The Assembly is given the responsibility of deciding any questions about the Sabbath. In other words; ask an Elder. Consider the same idea expressed in Romans 12:4 and 5: For as we have many members in one body, and all members do not have the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in The Messiah, and every one, members of one another. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:27 too.

If you keep the Sabbath as our Savior and His disciples did, then you will receive the blessings as they did. You will also have another bond with them in keeping the ancient way intended as a sign of the bond between Yahweh and His people.


In the previous parts on Sabbath we reviewed many scriptural examples of Sabbath keeping and Sabbath breaking. We also learned a great deal from the Messiah. This time we shall look at just how a believer keeps Sabbath.


The difference in a Sabbath-keeper's life doesn't just start each week on the evening of the sixth day; it starts each week just after Sabbath ends, as the first day of the week begins. The first thing we must do to obey the commandment is to work for six days. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, Ecclesiastes 9:10. Those who work hard for the six days really appreciate the meaning of the Sabbath day of rest.

"The Sabbath as experienced by man cannot survive in exile, a lonely stranger among six days of profanity. All the days of work must be SPIRITUALLY CONSISTENT with the Day of Days." (Between God and Man by Abraham Heschel, Harper and Brothers, 1959, p226. Note the respect this Jewish writer has for Sabbath.)


In Exodus 16:23 we read, "And he said to them, "This is that which Yahweh has said, 'Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath to Yahweh:' BAKE THAT WHICH YOU WANT TO BAKE TODAY, AND BOIL WHAT YOU WANT TO BOIL. . ."

There are two things to learn from this. First, the concept of the day of preparation: When the fifth day of the week ends, the preparation day begins. It is a period of 24 hours devoted partially to getting ready for Sabbath. What ever you will need during Sabbath should be prepared then, on the Sixth day.

Second, there is to be no baking nor boiling on Sabbath. Any preparation which changes the form or consistency of the food such as frying an egg or cooking rice to make it soft should certainly not be done on Sabbath.

Especially in the home, Sabbath begins to have a greater effect beginning on Thursday evening, when the day of preparation starts. It may not seem like it, but even in the winter when Sabbath begins earlier, the day of preparation is still 24 hours long. Using this time properly is one key to keeping Sabbath properly and enjoyably.

All the food for Sabbath which needs to be purchased, cooked or baked must be prepared by the end of the Sixth day. The house should be put in order so that no distractions will mar the Sabbath. If you drive to services then the car should be filled with gas (you can't be fueling around on Sabbath).

One of the last things to do before Sabbath is to take a bath or shower. A person must be clean when he or she comes before Yahweh. If you don't have the free article Cleanness Before Yahweh, please write for it.

A man appreciates his good wife when the Sabbath begins smoothly with a nice meal ready, candles lit, all the children sitting happily around the table, waiting to thank Yahweh for the food and for the Sabbath.


When Sabbath begins, many families observe the occasion by reading the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 or Mark 12:28-34) and the Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17or Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Reading one or more Psalms is also very enjoyable. If anyone has something to read or to talk about, Sabbath evening would be a good time to start the discussion. If there are young children the discussion should be kept short since they may be too tired to pay proper attention.

A good topic to discuss with your family may be "What is the difference between leisure time and Sabbath?"

What  TO DO

The question is often asked by children or new Sabbath-keepers, "What is there TO DO on Sabbath?" Here's a list of some things:

What NOT To Do

There could be a detailed list of many pages of things NOT TO DO on Sabbath. To give an idea of the principles involved here are a few things which we won't do if we want to keep Yahweh's Sabbath:




Rev 3-2006