What is Sabbath?


If you are a pastor or work in a church, you have probably heard about the Sabbath.

If you do not attend church (or synagogue) you may have never heard the word before.

Sabbath has been a hot topic – in a oddly mellow kind of sense, for several years, within the small minority group of those who lead, or think they lead the Church. Unlike many words that have morphed over the years (i.e. Christmas -> Mass of Christ, Christ’s Mass), the word Sabbath has not been overly anglicized, Romanized, or greatly altered in any way. It has simply fallen out of use. The one exception to this that I am aware of has been the term “sabbatical”, used primarilly in academic circles as an extended time off from normal work – sometimes used to write books or work on large projects that time teaching classes during the regular semester does not allow.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says that Sabbath is:

Derivation of a Hebrew word which means “cease” or “desist.” The sabbath was a day (from Friday evening until Saturday evening in Jesus’ time) when all ordinary work stopped. The Scriptures relate that God gave his people the sabbath as an opportunity to serve him, and as a reminder of two great truths in the Bible—creation and redemption.

Based upon Genesis 2, when God rested on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath was instituted in the Ten Commandments (#4). The commandment itself says to “remember” the Sabbath and “keep it holy (or sacred)”, but does not specify why. It was one of the most important commandments in the Old Testament though, and the failure to keep Sabbath days were often cited as a reason for Israel’s lack of faithfulness to God. Why was it so important to God that His people take a day off work?

I think we can find the answer in the commandment itself. God wants us to remember Him and His work in creating us. He wants us to remember that the world was created with a purpose for good. He wants us to remember we were created according to that same good purpose. That regular reminder is not just a mundane ritual we are to play out like eating or sleeping. It is supposed to be something we hold sacred and carry out with the same kind of reverence we have when we bury loved ones or thank God for the birth of a new child. Life and death happen every day, and once a week, we are called to remember and celebrate the gifts that God has given us.

How will you keep and celebrate the Sabbath?

For more of my thoughts on Sabbath, click here

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