The Sabbath was instituted by God Himself after the first six days of creation.
1 Thus, the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.Genesis 2:1-3
2 By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
3 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.
Saturday is the seventh day and, therefore, the Sabbath. Of that, there is no question! Ask the Jews, and they will tell you that they have been keeping it for millennia since they became a nation after they left Egypt.
God fed the people of Israel manna for 40 years in the desert. During those forty years, the manna never fell on the Sabbath, and they were instructed to gather a double portion on the day before Sabbath. The Lord’s directive to gather a double portion on the day before the Sabbath was issued so that the Jews did not “work” on the Sabbath day.
In Exodus 20, we see how God wants us to treat the Sabbath. These are the words that God Himself wrote on the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments: 8 Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Around fifteen hundred years later, Jesus walked the earth and kept the same Sabbath, on the same day of the week. During all that time, the Jews had not lost track of the correct day, even when taken captive to Babylon for seventy years.
So why do most practicing Christians go to church on Sunday and not on Saturday? The Council of Laodicea around 364AD ruled that Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath. Instead, Christians were ordered to observe “The Lord’s Day.” Couple this with the fact that the Papal Church has Roman origins. The Romans worshiped the sun on the first day of the week. The name Sunday was adopted because this day was anciently dedicated to the sun or to its worship.
Shabbat is a day of being, not doing. In religiously observant homes, Friday is usually a hectic time of preparation for the Sabbath. There is food to prepare, emails to answer, and business to wrap up. It can be a little overwhelming. It is considered a praiseworthy mitzvah (good deed) to prepare your home for Shabbat. Besides cleaning, this means using your best dishes, using your best linens, and wearing your best clothes. Traditionally, meals held in celebration of Shabbat should be fit for a queen. So, Friday, we hustle and bustle, but when the candles are lit, a change takes place. Shabbat is here.
Observant Jews use no electricity on Shabbat. Homes are quieter on Saturday than the rest of the week. No music, no TV, no computers, no phones. There are 39 categories of forbidden work. A few examples: One should not handle money, light a fire, rearrange books on a shelf, cut or tear anything. One day a week is set aside for being with ourselves, a day of peace. Shabbat is also a time of joy, good food, and wine. It is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to make love with your spouse on the Sabbath.
The concept of joy in the Sabbath is so crucial that any sadness is banished. Fast days are postponed a day if they should fall on Shabbat. Active mourning is expressly forbidden on the Sabbath. Funerals are put off until Sunday.
On Friday, the day of preparation, we turn on the lights that will be needed on Shabbat. Automatic timers may be used for lights and some appliances as long as they have been set before Shabbat. The refrigerator may be used, but we must disconnect the fridge light before the Sabbath begins.
I’ve talked about what we cannot do on Sabbath. Let’s look at what we should be doing to observe the Lord’s Shabbat. Practicing Sabbath is an exercise in humility. It requires us to admit the world would likely keep turning without my toil. Sabbath provides perspective: the world carries on without our efforts. We are not the most important thing in the world. That’s a bit freeing to admit.
Shabbat is not an arbitrary command. It’s a practical expression of love. Sabbath as a command removes the guilt of just being and not doing. We are intentionally present and aware. We were created to worship God. He gives us time to do that on Shabbat. Going to synagogue, studying the Torah, singing Jewish songs are all considered loving God and praising all he has done for his People.
We need Sabbath in our lives. We need moments of rest and refueling. We need an invitation to stop, reflect, and receive.