Sabbath’s Day Rest

Originally pub­lished 12÷2÷1995

The Sabbath was estab­lished by God to empha­size sev­er­al truths. Truth doesn’t change but the way we express those truths might. The prob­lem is when we begin to can­n­on­ize the prac­tice instead of the truth. What truths are expressed in the Sabbath and is this the one com­mand­ment of the Ten Commandments we can ignore?

Lets start with the scrip­ture.


(All scrip­ture is tak­en from the NIV)

Gen. 2:2–3 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
By the sev­enth day God had fin­ished the work he had been doing; so on the sev­enth day he rest­ed from all his work. And God blessed the sev­enth day and made it holy, because on it he rest­ed from all the work of cre­at­ing that he had done.

Deut. 5:12–15 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
Observe the Sabbath day by keep­ing it holy, as the LORD your God has com­mand­ed you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the sev­enth day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, nei­ther you, nor your son or daugh­ter, nor your manser­vant or maid­ser­vant, nor your ox, your don­key or any of your ani­mals, nor the alien with­in your gates, so that your manser­vant and maid­ser­vant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an out­stretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has com­mand­ed you to observe the Sabbath day.

Col. 2:16–17 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
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.

Hebr. 4:9–11 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the peo­ple of God; for any­one who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, there­fore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by fol­low­ing their exam­ple of dis­obe­di­ence.

We need physical rest

God estab­lished the Sabbath day in part to show that we need phys­i­cal rest. Although the Sabbath day is pri­mar­i­ly a spir­i­tu­al les­son, I believe God also has prac­ti­cal rea­sons for his laws, i.e., God uses prac­ti­cal meth­ods to teach us impor­tant spir­i­tu­al lessons. For exam­ple, God’s laws regard­ing not eat­ing pork taught impor­tant lessons regard­ing holi­ness but it also pro­tect­ed His peo­ple from improp­er­ly cooked pork which could cause ill­ness.

In the same way, the Sabbath is a spir­i­tu­al les­son with a prac­ti­cal pur­pose. I find it inter­est­ing that the Sabbath was applied to every­one and every liv­ing thing. Rest is nec­es­sary for all liv­ing things. When we ignore this sim­ple fact, we find our phys­i­cal being worn out.

It is also inter­est­ing that not only is there a Sabbath day but also a Sabbath year (see Leviticus 25 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
), where every­thing in the coun­try for an entire year is at rest. God com­mand­ed that every sev­enth year was to be a Sabbath year dur­ing which no agri­cul­tur­al activ­i­ties were to be prac­ticed, rather, the peo­ple were to live off what­ev­er the land pro­duced on its own. Again, as we have been redis­cov­er­ing recent­ly, allow­ing a field to rest a year with­out being plowed is high­ly ben­e­fi­cial for the field to recov­er.

We need spiritual rest

Both Paul in Colossians and the writer to the Hebrews shows us that the Sabbath day rest was a spir­i­tu­al les­son. Deuteronomy speaks of the fact that the Sabbath was in part, to remind the Israelites of their slav­ery in Egypt and their res­cue by God.

We are held in slav­ery by sin. That slav­ery exhausts us spir­i­tu­al­ly. We are promised spir­i­tu­al rest when we put our­selves in the hands of God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and bur­dened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gen­tle and hum­ble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my bur­den is light.”

The writer to the Hebrews men­tions that it is impor­tant for us to not only enter into His rest but also to remain in that rest. Just as one could go out and break the Sabbath, so one who enjoys the spir­i­tu­al rest of God’s Sabbath can break that rest through will­ful dis­obe­di­ence. Although it is debat­ed, it seems clear that Hebrews 6 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
shows us that we can in fact fall away from this rest.

Trust in God

A third les­son that the Sabbath teach­es us is trust in God. By not doing any work–even sim­ple things like cooking–we demon­strate our trust in God, that He will take care of us with­out our inter­ven­tion. This is pos­si­bly the hard­est les­son for us to learn. We want to be self-suf­fi­cient and do every­thing our­selves. To take time off from rely­ing on our­selves is a big step of trust.

This is demon­strat­ed with the Sabbath Year and even more so with the Year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years. The Year of Jubilee was a spe­cial Sabbath year and always fol­lowed a stan­dard Sabbath year so that every 50 years there were two years of Sabbath rest for the land. For two years the peo­ple of God were to trust in God for all their needs, that the land would pro­duce enough food for them to live but that they were not to go out and do any farm­ing etc. They had to live on what they already had. It was also a time when all slaves and bonds­man were freed, giv­ing once again a pic­ture of our spir­i­tu­al slav­ery to sin and the free­dom in Christ we receive when we trust in Him.

A pic­ture of this trust can be seen in the sto­ry of the Israelites wan­der­ing in the wilder­ness. For six days they were to gath­er man­na but on the sev­enth God did not sup­ply any man­na for them to gath­er. If some­one would gath­er man­na on one day and then let it sit until the next, it would spoil EXCEPT for man­na gath­ered on the sixth day. Manna gath­ered on the sixth day would not spoil so it could be eat­en on the sev­enth with­out hav­ing to gath­er it (work). This is a clear exer­cise in trust, since on every oth­er day the man­na gath­ered would not last 24 hours.

Dedication to God

Finally, the Sabbath teach­es us about ded­i­ca­tion. By set­ting aside a day for God, we are giv­ing our day whol­ly and total­ly to God. It is also sym­bol­ic for the ded­i­ca­tion we make to God spir­i­tu­al­ly, giv­ing our­selves to God whol­ly and total­ly to God. It also has an ele­ment of ded­i­ca­tion to one anoth­er. By meet­ing reg­u­lar­ly with one anoth­er, we demon­strate our ded­i­ca­tion to one anoth­er. We are the Body of Christ and need each oth­er.


As hard as it is for some of us, we need to take a break from our work. Physically, it is impor­tant. It allows us to be able to work more effi­cient­ly and with strength. Our wit­ness then is not imped­ed by a lack of ener­gy.

By tak­ing a break from our work, we also demon­strate and exer­cise our faith in God and our devo­tion to Him. He will con­tin­ue to take care of us. For some of us, this faith is exer­cised by not work­ing on Sunday. Instead, we give our­selves total­ly to God. We can often look at Sunday (and every oth­er day of the week) as “Another Day, Another Dollar” but God would call us to change that to “Another Day, God Will Take Care of Me.” By tak­ing one day a week to phys­i­cal­ly express that, we take one small step in our Christian lives clos­er to liv­ing every day trust­ing the Lord, devot­ing our­selves to Him and not to the dol­lar.

We can­not be legal­is­tic about mak­ing Sunday (or any oth­er day) as more impor­tant or more holy than anoth­er. Every day should be giv­en to God. Every day we should trust God. Every day we should devote our­selves to God. Our true rest is in God and that rest is for eter­ni­ty. But it doesn’t change the truths expressed by God and we should lis­ten to what God would say to us. Rest in Him and He will take care of us.

I some­times won­der if God looks down on us in exas­per­a­tion on Sunday morn­ing as we scram­ble to get ready for Sunday wor­ship. Many of us are exhaust­ed before we even get to Church. I some­times won­der what would hap­pen if we had a Sunday morn­ing wor­ship ser­vice where no one was per­mit­ted to wear their “Sunday best,” put on make­up, or do oth­er ridicu­lous exer­cis­es in impress­ing one anoth­er with our out­ward appear­ance. I can’t help but think we might be able to focus more clear­ly on Him who made and keeps us and the inward need for clean­li­ness. [ed. in 2008 — I so love Flatland Church for this — there is no pres­sure to dress up phys­i­cal­ly, rather, we need to dress up spir­i­tu­al­ly]


Why do Christians wor­ship on Sunday (the first day of the week) instead of on the Sabbath (the sev­enth day)?

The Church con­sist­ed of a major­i­ty of Jews for many years. They would have gone to the Synagoge on the Sabbath, fol­low­ing the Jewish tra­di­tion. To wor­ship in a Christian set­ting they would meet again on the first day of the week (see Acts 20:7 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
and 1Cor. 16:2 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
as two exam­ples). As Gentiles were added to the Church, many Gentiles would have only met dur­ing the wor­ship ser­vices on Sunday.

When the Church became pre­dom­i­nant­ly Gentile and unfor­tu­nate­ly anti-semit­ic to one degree or anoth­er, the tra­di­tion of meet­ing on Sunday con­tin­ued. Since Paul had already stat­ed that all days were the Lord’s and of equal val­ue, there was no felt need to switch the day. Bondage to a par­tic­u­lar day as being “the day” is as wrong if not more so than tak­ing a Sabbath’s day rest.

Actually, the Church met almost every day for cen­turies but the Sunday ser­vice was the pri­ma­ry one since Jesus rose again on the first day of the week. The Church cel­e­brat­ed Easter every Sunday! The Eucharist, also known as com­mu­nion, the Mass, the Lord’s Table, the break­ing of bread among many names, was also cel­e­brat­ed (Eucharist means cel­e­bra­tion) every Sunday, again, as part of the thank­ful­ness for our sal­va­tion and the expec­ta­tion of the soon com­ing return of Christ, some­thing that has often been lost in church­es that do not cel­e­brate at the Lord’s Table every Lord’s Day (but that is for a dif­fer­ent study ).

Written by William Reveal 12÷2÷95

Leave a Reply