Millions of people presume to worship the Heavenly Father on what they think is the Sabbath day, even while ignoring the part about resting from work. Relatively few, however, have come to the truth of the real Sabbath day commanded in the Scriptures. They completely miss the significance and impact of what the true seventh-day Sabbath tells us regarding True Worship.
Consider just this one fact: the word Sabbath appears 107 times in the Old Testament and a surprising 68 times in the New Testament. The “first day” of the week, however, is mentioned only eight times in the New Testament, a rather revealing indication about which day was observed then and still commanded as the proper Sabbath for today.
No other Biblical observance carries the weight and consequence of the seventh-day Sabbath. As we will see, the Sabbath identifies True Worshipers and separates them from nominal worship.
Maybe you have a desire to observe and honor the same Sabbath day Yahweh set apart and commanded for His people, yet you are unsure exactly how to go about it. What should I do on the Sabbath and what is forbidden? you wonder. Our intent here is to provide the nuts and bolts of Sabbath keeping so that you will be blessed in properly reverencing the day that Yahweh gave exclusively to His people.
The Sabbath is a day of rest, a day of worship, a day of fellowship, a day of rejoicing, and a day of meditation. As special days go, the Sabbath has more profound implications than any other. For Yahweh’s people there is no more important a day than the Sabbath because it is the link that identifies them with the Father. It’s a day on which a person can escape the cares of the world and meditate on Yahweh’s Word.
From the beginning Yahweh created and set aside the Sabbath as a unique day of honor to Him. “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 that in it he had rested from all his work which Elohim created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3). Yahweh spent six days creating and restoring the heavens and the earth and then rested on the seventh day. When we rest on Yahweh’s Sabbath we are honoring Him by what He did Himself on the seventh day.
The Sign of True Worship
The weekly Sabbath, along with the annual Sabbaths (Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and Last Great Day), is a sign between Yahweh and His people, Ezekiel 20:12.
The Sabbaths are the distinguishing mark of Yahweh’s chosen anciently and today. Here is the Sabbath instruction from Yahweh: “Speak also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am Yahweh that does sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:13-14).
It is important to recognize that no other command holds such profound significance, while evoking serious consequences for defilement. In a similar way Yahweh’s Name is also unique. While the Sabbath is the sign of His people, Yahweh’s Name is the seal that will bind them in the Great Tribulation, Revelation 7:3, 14:1, 22:4. As with the Sabbath, there is no substitute for this seal. Yahweh has but one name, not many (see Philippians 2:9).
Shabbath: A Day of Total Rest
The word Sabbath is from the Hebrew shabbath, which means “to repose or to desist from exertion.” The Sabbath is, above all, a day of complete rest both from our occupation in earning a living and from any activity that would cause physical exertion and draw us away from the purpose of this day. It is a day to be spent exclusively honoring Yahweh and His Son. Therefore, anything that detracts from this purpose should be avoided on the seventh day.
Yahweh has given several specific regulations for His Sabbath. The Ten Commandments form a summary of Yahweh’s moral law, with the fourth one detailing specifically what Yahweh expects for the Sabbath. He forbids His people from doing any work and to remember that it was He who blessed and sanctified this day for mankind. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your Elohim. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Fourth Commandment sets the Sabbath aside for the entire family to observe, including those under our authority, as in the case of an employee. Nobody in our household or within our borders is exempt from keeping the Sabbath, including the very animals that we own so that no horse or ox of ours is made to work on this day. A universal prohibition of work underscores the strict sanctity of the Sabbath.
Worshiping Together on the Seventh Day
Yahweh strongly encourages that we congregate or assemble as a body of believers on His weekly and annual Sabbaths. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of Yahweh, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of Yahweh in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:2-3).
We find in the New Testament that worship took place on the Sabbath at the synagogue. Yahshua Himself went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Luke 4:16, as did Paul, Acts 17:1-2; 18:4. In the Kingdom reign, all people will come to worship Yahweh on the Sabbath, Isaiah 66:23. Can we say, then, that the Sabbath has no relevance today?
The Bible describes the Assembly as a united Body in Messiah. Of this Body the Apostle Paul said that all parts were needed and essential to the benefit of all. Missing even the most insignificant member, the body is unable to function to its full potential. For this reason it is crucial that all the body of Messiah congregate during Yahweh’s weekly and annual Sabbaths.
The author of Hebrews reiterates this indispensable need for assembling during Yahweh’s weekly and annual Sabbaths. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The final days will see increasing tribulation and we will need to rely more and more on believers. (Download the booklet, Are You Counting on a Coming Rapture?)
Cooking, Commerce, Kindling Fires
Besides Yahweh’s command to rest and worship on the Sabbath, there are several other statutes that regulate this day. One activity prohibited on the Sabbath is cooking or preparing food. “…This is what Yahweh commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning’” (Exodus 16:23).
The process of preparing the manna was quite involved in the Old Testament. “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil” (Numbers 11:7-8).
To avoid the work-intensive process of preparing the manna, Yahweh commanded that the Israelites prepare twice the amount of manna on the sixth day. By doing so they were free to worship Yahweh on the seventh. Even though we don’t prepare manna and also enjoy modern, work-saving conveniences, we continue to observe this statute by preparing all cooked meals prior to the Sabbath. Foods can be reheated if necessary, but cooking or baking must be avoided. The prohibition on food preparation is somewhat more relaxed for the annual Sabbaths that occur at the beginning and end of Feasts, Exodus 12:16.
A second prohibition is to abstain from buying and selling on the weekly and annual Sabbaths. “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; see also 13:15-21).
When the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were released from Babylonian captivity by the Persians the Israelites continued life as if they were yet in Babylon. Under Nehemiah the Israelites were instructed not to buy or sell on the Sabbath. Nehemiah, through Yahweh’s inspiration, understood that the Sabbath was not a day of commerce but a day of worship and fellowship. This same concept applies to our day and age. The Sabbath for Yahweh’s people today continues to be a day of worship, fellowship, and escape from the world. A person cannot observe the Sabbath and still participate in the world and its activities because the world has no regard for this day and will continue to pollute it.
A third Sabbath prohibition in Yahweh’s Torah law is the kindling of a fire. “ Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to Yahweh: whosoever does work therein shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day” (Exodus 35:2-3).
The precise interpretation of this passage is debated among Bible scholars. Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry understands this passage to refer to the kindling of fire for work-related purposes. The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary notes at Exodus 35:3 “Unique here, though implied in 16:23, is the prohibition of fire on the Sabbath. It has been suggested that this may be a vestige of the religion of the Kenites, desert smiths, who were no doubt forbidden to smelt or work on the Sabbath.” This understanding fits with the context of the 35th chapter and the smelting of the metals for the building of the tabernacle.
All these requisites are inspired by Yahweh and serve to protect the purity and separateness of the Sabbath. Besides abstaining from work, the Sabbath is also a day of sober and unadulterated thought. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Yahweh, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words” (Isaiah 58:13).
The Sabbath is a time to be spent focused on Yahweh and not a time to discuss the commonplace. This is a day set apart to study and learn Yahweh’s Word. If Yahweh commands that a person refrain from commerce, pleasures, and work on the Sabbath, it follows that conversations involving these things should also be avoided. Our actions, thoughts, and talk on the Sabbath should in some fashion reflect Yahweh and honor Him.
New Testament Examples
Numerous New Testament passages illustrate that Yahshua and His Apostles honored Yahweh’s seventh-day Sabbath. The common belief that Yahshua annulled the seventh-day Sabbath to make room for the L-rds Day is one belief missing from the New Testament.
In what is considered to be one of the greatest end-time prophecies, Yahshua made a reference to not profaning the Sabbath, referring to the Great Tribulation. “…But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day” (Matthew 24:19-20). This statement by Yahshua confirms that He had no intentions to annul the Sabbath during or after his earthly ministry.
Further evidence for the seventh-day Sabbath can be found at the first recorded council of the early New Testament assembly. “For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day” (Acts 15:21, KJV). This was more than ten years after Yahshua’s death on the stake, and yet the Apostles were advocating and observing the seventh-day Sabbath as well as the Law of Moses (Called Moses’ law because he was the one through whom Yahweh transmitted the law to Israel, and also to us.)
Many consider the Apostle Paul to be the champion of churchianity. The general perception is that Paul invalidated the Old Testament laws and commandments, including the Sabbaths. However, there are several New Testament accounts providing evidence that he observed not only the Torah-prescribed holy days, but also the seventh-day Sabbath.
* “And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither” (Acts 16:13).
* “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days [three consecutive Sabbaths] reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2).
* “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).
Also, in the Book of Hebrews the author confirms that the seventh-day Sabbath continues to exist for Yahweh’s people. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of Elohim” (Hebrews 4:9). This passage could not be more clear or obvious. It is plain from these passages that the seventh-day Sabbath is still commanded for Yahweh’s New Testament assemblies.
Millennial Kingdom Examples
Without a doubt the Sabbath was commanded and observed in the Old Testament. It can also be proved with little difficulty that Yahshua and His Apostles, including the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, observed the seventh-day Sabbath. To further substantiate the Sabbath command it can be shown that the Sabbath will be observed by Yahshua and the saints in the Millennium. Two key millennial passages make this clear:
* “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says Yahweh” (Isaiah 66:23).
* “Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before Yahweh in the Sabbaths and in the new moons” (Ezekiel 46:3).
Follow Yahweh’s Own LeadThe Sabbath command is one of the most significant in Yahweh’s Word. Since He established it at creation by resting Himself this day (Genesis 2:2), Yahweh has ordained this day as a sign between Him and His people. The day is so important that Yahweh Himself observed it! He calls it a sign, and when we observe it correctly we reflect Yahweh in our lives and receive His blessings for obedience.