What’s the Big Deal about the Sabbath?

God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation.”  Genesis 2:3 (HCSB)

“Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.  It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days Yehovah (the LORD) made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Exodus 31:16-17 (ESV)

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to Yehovah (the LORD) in all your dwelling places.” Leviticus 23:3 (ESV)

Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as Yehovah (the LORD) your God has commanded you.” Deuteronomy 5:12 (HCSB)

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Yehovah (the LORD), to minister to him, to love the name of Yehovah (the LORD), and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—” Isaiah 56:6 (ESV)

And throughout the “new” testament we see Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles observing the Sabbath in one way or the other.  It’s obviously important.

The Sabbath started as the ‘seventh day’, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.  There isn’t much contention there.  But Christianity (most of it) now says that it is on Sunday.  Why?  Well, here is a bit of history.

The Roman Emperor Constantine decreed Sunday to be the day of rest (though only in cities) around 321 A.D.  He did so for various reasons, none of which had to do with him loving Yehovah (the LORD).  This is easily verified in the history books.  Granted some Christians had already been observing Sunday as the Sabbath to avoid being called Jewish, but this was not universal.  And it wasn’t until long after Constantine’s decree that Christianity gave the reason for the change as having to do with Yeshua’s (Jesus’) resurrection.

So much for the history lesson.  Now back to the Sabbath.

I didn’t begin to appreciate just how important the Sabbath was until I started observing it.  Now I see it as a wonderful time where I don’t work, and where I can take as much time as I want to be with our Father.  In Deuteronomy 5:15 God tells us, as a reason for celebrating the Sabbath, to remember that we were slaves and are now free.

In observing the Sabbath, I proclaim that I am no longer a slave to the world and its ways, and I can rest!  (What other creature on this planet can do that!)

Begin to honor Him and observe the Sabbath on the day He gave us.  You won’t regret it.

As a last note I will say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with worshiping God on Sunday.  Just don’t make that into the Sabbath!

– Yosef

God’s Calendar: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)

Well, the Feast of Trumpets (or Feast of Shouting) is over according the Jewish calendar and the next appointed time is quickly approaching.  It is yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  According to the Jewish calendar, the day of Atonement is from this coming Tuesday, Sept. 18th, after sundown, to Wednesday, Sept. 19th, after sundown.

The day of atonement is a very solemn day in the yearly cycle of God’s appointed times.  It is the day where we reflect on the past year and repent of sins that have crept in, both in our personal lives and our corporate lives (our family, our church or synagogue, and our country).  Yes, I said our ‘corporate’ lives.  Much of what God has to say to us is directed at the whole body of believers, not just individuals.  That concept can be seen throughout the scriptures.

God gives us a couple commands for this day.  And actually, those commands are rather forceful in their presentation compared to the commands for the other feasts.  Two of the commands stand out.  One is that the day is to be treated as a very strict sabbath – no work whatsoever.  Second is that we are to ‘afflict ourselves.’  So no work of any kind – a strict sabbath of rest, and ‘afflict’ ourselves.  The only definition for ‘afflict’ in this context is that which has been understood by the Jews for millennia.  And that is to fast.  All those that can should fast.

I’m looking forward to the day.  It is a chance to really look at oneself, and one’s country, honestly.  I like reading through the traditional Jewish prayer (the ‘al Chet’ prayer) for the day as it lists all manner of sin – both physical and thought related – and really gets me to think.  There exists such ‘lists’ also in Christianity (the catechism of Westminster – the 10 commandments section – comes to mind).  If you can, find such a prayer / list / sermon and read through it thoughtfully and prayerfully.

I think that the practice of deeply reflecting once a year is quite important and of great benefit, especially as God set it up for us to follow.  He made us and knows what we need.

So, take a day (or as much as you can – not as much as you are comfortable with, but as much as you can, up to the full 24 hours) and reflect.  And repent.  And pray.  And think about any changes that you need to make in your life, or how you can affect our culture for good.  And remember what Yeshua (Jesus) has done for us!

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

My Joy in the Sabbath! 10 Commandments Series – 4: “Remember the Sabbath Day”

Yes, I enjoy the Sabbath.  I look forward to it each week.  I rest from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.  As the Sabbath is a huge topic, there will be a couple posts about it.

We are told that we are made in God’s image, but what does it mean, “in His image?”  To me, the Sabbath encapsulates two aspects of what it means.

One reason God gives for us to observe the Sabbath is that He created all in 6 days and rested on the seventh.  (See Exodus 20:11.)

I, in celebration of being ‘in His image,’ can also rest from my work on the seventh day.  What better way to honor and worship Him then to copy Him?  I take a break, for a whole day, from my usual daily routines of work, stress, and worries.

Another reason that God gives for us to observe the Sabbath is that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the bonds of slavery.  (See Deuteronomy 5:15.)

I don’t have to be a slave to my daily routine or my continuous striving to earn a living.  I can choose to rest one day a week, proclaiming, “I am free!”  Once a week I can recall that Yeshua (Jesus) told us to be anxious for nothing as the Father supplies all.  Once a week I can do something no other creature on the earth can do: I can choose to obey my God and rest for a whole day!  I get to celebrate that I am not a slave, neither to my work nor to the business and activity of daily life.

“Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD (Yehovah), sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13 (ESV)

In observing the Sabbath every week, I am learning obedience, and learning how to choose what is right.

We are given two different commands regarding the Sabbath in the two places the 10 statements (10 commandments) are given.  We are to guard and we are to observe.  Guarding is a week long process; learning to order your week so that the Sabbath will be free.  Observing is then choosing to keep the day free; a day of rest.  I call this training in righteousness that has almost immediate rewards!

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 (ESV)

God made it for us to enjoy.  I’m still learning, but I won’t give up observing the Sabbath for anything!  I feel sorry for those followers of Yeshua who don’t observe the Sabbath – they are missing out on a real blessing; missing a chance to worship God through simple obedience; missing a chance to learn to choose what is right; missing a chance to be a light to the world by simply following Yeshua; …

And missing out on some simple joy and peace in this hectic world!

Shalom,

  • Yosef

<- Previous     [10 Commandment Series]      Next ->

Days, Months, Seasons and Years – Paul in the Book of Galatians

This is the first entry in the ‘Apostle Paul’ series that deals with what Paul wrote.  The earlier entries are some background information.

The apostle Paul wrote,

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  You observe days and months and seasons and years!  I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”  Galatians 4:8-11 (ESV)

The above verse is often used to support a doctrine that basically states that Paul taught against keeping any of God’s “appointed times” (Sabbath, Passover, day of Atonement, Tabernacles, and other feast days or times.)  But is that really what he is saying?

Galatians is a great book – but keep it in the context with which Paul wrote it. He wrote it ‘to the churches of Galatia.’ Galatians 1:2 (ESV). In other words, gentiles. When he speaks of ‘days and months and seasons and years,’ why assume he is talking about God’s times when he is talking to gentiles who knew nothing of any times God had given?

The world in the time of Paul was full of all sorts of gods and goddesses, and they all had their special days and months and seasons and years.  It is these things that Paul is calling the ‘worthless elemental principles of the world.’  There is even a clue in the verses above where Paul says, ‘how can you turn back again.’

The gentiles never knew God or Yeshua (Jesus) prior to hearing the gospel message. They weren’t ‘turning back’ to God’s times, but to the pagan days, months, seasons and years.  The beginning of the verses above states from what the Gentiles are coming from.

Throughout Paul’s writings he has nothing but good to say about God’s law. He does, however, try to caution all the gentile believers from thinking that following the law leads to salvation. It was never meant for that purpose and Paul is trying to make that point over and over.

So, if you think that Paul is, in Galatians, telling us that God’s days, months, seasons, and years aren’t important, please do an overview of Paul’s life, teachings, and his relationship to God’s law. You will see him over and over upholding the law in his actions and words, yet also pointing to Messiah Yeshua as the one through whom salvation is given.

If, in light of the context of all his letters, he is (here in Galatians) stating that God’s times, sabbath included, are not important, then we have a schizophrenic Paul, being one thing in one letter and another thing in another. Such a person wouldn’t be worth listening to.

But he isn’t schizophrenic. 

And he is worth ‘listening’ to. 

But keep all his sayings both in the context of all his letters, and in the context of the cultures he is writing to!

Shalom

  • Yosef

<- Previous     [The Apostle Paul Series]      Next ->

10 Commandments Series – Intro

This is the first entry in a series looking at the 10 “commandments”.  I’ll go through all the “commandments” and discuss their meaning and their application to us today, and look at their context in the Bible.  I’ll try to keep each posting short, so there may be more then one posting for each “commandment.”

The 10 “commandments” are perhaps the greatest things ever written.  They are the only words directly written by God Himself, and that in stone.  This alone makes them special and unique and worth looking closely at.

The phrase “the 10 commandments” does not actually appear anywhere in the Tanakh (“Old” Testament).

Rather, they are called the 10 statements.  The Hebrew word used for “statements” means words or things.  (The fact that in Hebrew, the word for “words” and “things” is the same word is a hint at how the Hebrews looked at life – but that isn’t for now).

The 10 statements appear in two places in the Bible.  In Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  Both lists are nearly the same, but the differences that do exist are quite interesting to look at.  For example, in the Exodus version, we are told to “remember” and in Deuteronomy we are told to “observe” the Sabbath.  The two different words imply different action and give rise to some fun understandings and traditions.  (More when we get to that commandment.)

Interestingly, Christianity lists as the first commandment something different then Judaism.  I’ll go with Judaism’s numbering as it frames all 10.

The first statement starts with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Without this statement being first, there is no foundation for the following statements (commandments).  Leaving this statement out allows the idea that that there are no absolutes, as, without a foundation, things can change.  One must start with God stating who He is and what He has done, otherwise its just a list of rules that anyone can (and has) change.

In the next posting, we’ll start looking at the text closer and see what gems we can get out of it.  And we’ll start with “I am the LORD.”

I’ll close with this question for each of you reading this.  Do you have the 10 statements (commandments) posted somewhere in your house or memorized?  If not, I’d encourage you to do so.  Remember, these are the only words God ever wrote, and He wrote them in stone, implying permanence.

  • Shalom from Yosef

P.S.: I know that many people believe that the 10 commandments, or some subset thereof, have been ‘fulfilled’ and no longer need to be followed (the Sabbath command is typical of those called ‘fulfilled’).  If anyone wants to discuss that, leave a comment and I’ll start a new blog thread.

Next ->