Should Christians obey/observe the Sabbath?
In Genesis 2, when God finished creating the heavens and the earth, verse 3 says, “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.” It is important to note, however, that God was not tired and needed rest. The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means “to rest or stop or cease from work.” God’s 7th day of rest in Genesis 2 simply meant he stopped what he was doing. He ceased from his labors. Creation was finished. Leviticus 23:3 says “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.” Remembering the Sabbath is also the 4th of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
So are we as Christians to hold to the Sabbath?
The Sabbath was a day of rest, for man to stop, think about God, honor Him and worship Him—to take in God’s creation and blessings. It was for the nation of Israel to rest from their labors and begin again after a one-day rest. However, what happened was the Jewish leaders and people turned the Sabbath into a religious rule system of do’s and don’ts. These rules eventually became 39 categories of Sabbath “work” prohibited by Law (according to the Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Old Testament). In addition, there were “Notes” attached to many (if not all) of the 39 categories—making the list abundantly longer.
David breaks The Law
Jesus speaks that the Sabbath was not made to be a religious system of “gotcha’s.” It was made for man to rest, think about, worship, and enjoy God.
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:23-28
Jesus used the example of David in 1 Samuel 21:1-6 to point out how ridiculous the Pharisees’ accusations were. On one occasion, when fleeing from Saul, David and his men had eaten consecrated bread. Each week, 12 consecrated loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes of Israel would be placed on a table of pure gold in the tabernacle or temple (Leviticus 24:5-9) for the priests to eat as “their perpetual share of the food offerings presented to the Lord.” However, David and his men’s needs had been more important than ceremonial regulations. Jesus was appealing to the same principle: human need is more important than human regulations and rules. By comparing himself and his disciples with David and his men, Jesus was saying, “if you condemn me, you must also condemn David.” God created the Sabbath for our benefit; we are restored both physically and spiritually when we take time to rest and focus on God. For the Pharisees, Sabbath rules had become more important than Sabbath rest. The intent of God’s Sabbath law is to promote love for God and others.
The Sabbath was also a foreshadowing of Jesus, the coming Messiah. The elements of the Sabbath are fulfilled by Jesus, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. The Old Testament Jews were constantly “laboring” to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to keep the ceremonial, civil, and moral laws. Since they couldn’t possibly keep all 613 of these laws, they had to provide offerings and sacrifices to restore fellowship between themselves and God. But these were only temporary. Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, they had to continue to repeat their sin offerings/sacrifices day after day for breaking God’s law. However, these sacrifices were only a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” – Hebrews 10:1-4
Jesus is the only ultimate Sabbath.
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” – Colossians 2:16-17
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” – Hebrews 10:11-12
He sat down and rested, ceased from His labor of atonement, because there was nothing more to be done, ever. Period. Because of His sacrifice, we no longer have to “labor” in trying to keep the law in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God through Jesus’ sacrifice.
Elder – NEO Church