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God's Sabbath in Today's World

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This is where an understanding of the purpose of the Sabbath law becomes important. Scripture shows that this command is a crucial key to our relationship with God.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, … then you will find your joy in the Lord …” (Isaiah 58:13-14 Isaiah 58:13-14 13 If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: 14 Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Is the Sabbath relevant? Is it really practical to keep the Sabbath in today’s world? How should it be observed today? To answer these questions, let’s consider what the Bible, God’s inspired Word, reveals.

Jesus Christ said that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” and that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28 Mark 2:27-28 27 And he said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
American King James Version×
). He did not limit the Sabbath by teaching that it was made for any particular group of people at any specific time in history. Instead, it was made for all mankind for all time. It was enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the heart and core of God’s divine law for mankind.

Part of a right relationship with God

The Sabbath was made for mankind, but for what purpose?

The book of Isaiah, chapters 58 and 59, describes mankind’s separation from God because of our sins. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×
). These verses point out the hypocrisy of those who claim to seek God, yet are still filled with sin and evil intentions (Isaiah 58:1-4 Isaiah 58:1-4 1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. 3 Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors. 4 Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
American King James Version×
; Isaiah 59:4-15 Isaiah 59:4-15 4 None calls for justice, nor any pleads for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. 5 They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eats of their eggs dies, and that which is crushed breaks out into a viper. 6 Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8 The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whoever goes therein shall not know peace. 9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither does justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
American King James Version×
).

But God shows that we can be reconciled to Him: “ ‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 59:20 Isaiah 59:20And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and to them that turn from transgression in Jacob, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
). Jesus Christ is that prophesied Redeemer, the One God sent to redeem, or buy back, mankind through the sacrifice of His life (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×
; 1 Peter 1:18-19 1 Peter 1:18-19 18 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
American King James Version×
; 1 John 2:2 1 John 2:2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
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; 1 John 4:9-10 1 John 4:9-10 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
American King James Version×
).

God also describes how to begin building a proper relationship with Him. Doing so involves humility and fasting, that we might come to understand God and His ways. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’ … Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:9-11 Isaiah 58:9-11 9 Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; 10 And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day: 11 And the LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones: and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
American King James Version×
).

God reveals a proper understanding of the Sabbath

This section of Scripture reveals another critical element to help us build that right relationship with God—a proper understanding and observance of the Sabbath.

“ ‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance [physical blessings] of your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14 Isaiah 58:13-14 13 If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: 14 Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Here we see God’s true intent for the Sabbath: It is part of a proper, loving relationship with Him. It is a matter of honoring God. It is a matter of surrendering one of our most precious possessions— our time —to build a right relationship with our Creator.

Properly observing the Sabbath, according to God’s instruction here, means turning away from “going your own way,” “doing as you please” and “speaking idle words.” These actions trample His holy time underfoot, says God.

But the Sabbath is not to be a time for doing nothing. It is to be a time for building a relationship with God. It is to be a delight, a time to “find your joy in the Lord,” He tells us. Rather than spending this time on our own interests and pursuits, it is a time set aside to concentrate on the things that are pleasing to God and to nourish our relationship with Him.

Keys to a proper relationship with God

How do we build this right relationship with God? We build it through contact and communication with Him. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His inspired Word, the Bible. These are vital keys to a right relationship with God.

“Continue earnestly in prayer,” wrote Paul (Colossians 4:2 Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
American King James Version×
). “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” he added (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice ever more. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
American King James Version×
). “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” wrote James (James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus Christ expected His followers to pray, telling them, “When you pray …” (Matthew 6:5-7 Matthew 6:5-7 5 And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly. 7 But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
American King James Version×
; Mark 11:24 Mark 11:24Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.
American King James Version×
; Luke 11:2 Luke 11:2And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
American King James Version×
). He gave them specific instruction about prayer and encouraged them that they “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 Luke 18:1And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
American King James Version×
).

God’s Sabbath day is an ideal time for additional prayer, study of God’s Word and contact with Him. By refraining from our usual work and other activities on that day, we have additional time to spend with God to build and strengthen our relationship with Him.

The Sabbath is also an ideal time for God to speak with us. He instructs us through His Word, the Bible. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
).

Not only does Sabbath observance help us understand God’s ways; it helps us better understand our own thoughts and motivations, showing us where we can change to become more like Him. Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×
tells us that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

We should earnestly desire to study God’s Word and learn more about it. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” we are told (1 Peter 2:2 1 Peter 2:2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby:
American King James Version×
).

God commanded worship services on the Sabbath

God’s Sabbath is a time for fellowship with others of like mind, a time for mutually encouraging one another. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 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.
American King James Version×
).

Believers are expected to come together to worship (1 Corinthians 11:18 1 Corinthians 11:18For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
American King James Version×
; 1 Corinthians 14:23 1 Corinthians 14:23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad?
American King James Version×
). As mentioned above, we should not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.” And the Sabbath is “a holy convocation,” also translated “a sacred assembly” (Leviticus 23:3 Leviticus 23:3Six 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 the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×
, NIV). God commands His people to gather to worship on that day.

God’s ministers are expected to teach God’s people about His way of life. Paul instructed the younger minister Timothy to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 2 Timothy 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

As we read earlier, the regular practice of Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul was to attend a gathering in the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach and fellowship with those who wanted to learn God’s ways. Jesus Christ constantly showed by His actions—by explaining God’s Word and way of life and by performing works of mercy—the proper way to observe the day. Today God’s Sabbath is the appropriate day to rest from our normal work and employment, a day to set aside time to meet with other believers to worship God, to be instructed in His way of life and to likewise perform good works that exemplify that way.

The Sabbath is to help us build a relationship with God

God tells us, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work … ” (Exodus 20:10 Exodus 20:10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:
American King James Version×
). He made it clear that our ordinary, routine work was unacceptable on that day. The Sabbath was to be different. Under the national administration of God’s laws in ancient Israel, the Sabbath was so important to God that He specified that those who violated this command were to be put to death (Exodus 31:14-16 Exodus 31:14-16 14 You shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy to you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death: for whoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whoever does any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Why the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 35:2 Exodus 35:2Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whoever does work therein shall be put to death.
American King James Version×
).

When Israel came out of Egypt, God reinforced this commandment by providing a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the Sabbath every week for 40 years (Exodus 16:26 Exodus 16:26Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
American King James Version×
, Exodus 16:35 Exodus 16:35And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.
American King James Version×
; Joshua 5:12 Joshua 5:12And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
American King James Version×
)—a total of more than 2,000 miracles! The Sabbath command is clearly important to God, and He expects us to obey it. Observing the Sabbath is vital to maintaining a proper relationship with God.

The Life Application Bible, commenting on Exodus 20:8-11 Exodus 20:8-11 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×
, explains why we as human beings need the Sabbath:

“The Sabbath was a day set aside for rest and worship. God commanded a Sabbath because human beings need to spend unhurried time in worship and rest each week. A God who is concerned enough to provide a day each week for us to rest is indeed wonderful. To observe a regular time of rest and worship in our fast-paced world demonstrates how important God is to us, and it gives us the extra benefit of refreshing our spirits. Don’t neglect God’s provision.”

Jesus Christ showed by His example the proper way to observe the Sabbath. It was never intended to be a rigid, joyless day constrained by endless restrictions detailing what could and could not be done. He used it as a time to delight in sharing with others the joy of God’s Word and way of life, showing it to be a time for strengthening our relationship with God. He used it as a time for healing—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It was meant to be a time for encouraging and helping those who are less fortunate.

Jesus Christ made it clear there was nothing wrong with doing good on the Sabbath, pointing out that God’s Sabbath command had never forbidden it. He emphasized what the day is for, rather than listing all the things we can’t do. His actions on the Sabbath pointed to the coming age He referred to as that of “the Kingdom of God,” in which all humanity will share in God’s promised healing, joy and freedom (Matthew 4:23 Matthew 4:23And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 9:35 Matthew 9:35And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
American King James Version×
; Luke 4:16-19 Luke 4:16-19 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
American King James Version×
; Luke 9:11 Luke 9:11And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
American King James Version×
; Luke 10:9 Luke 10:9And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come near to you.
American King James Version×
).

Christ’s example showed that the Sabbath is to be a day of physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation. It is meant to be a welcome, refreshing break from our weekly labors, a time during which we must no longer be absorbed in our ordinary daily cares and concerns.

The purpose of God’s commands—to bless and benefit us!

God’s Word tells us that His commandments are never burdensome (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×
). They are not meaningless or arbitrary. They were given to humanity in love from a God of infinite wisdom and knowledge (Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
American King James Version×
). They were given to be a benefit to mankind, bringing blessings when obeyed (Deuteronomy 4:40 Deuteronomy 4:40You shall keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days on the earth, which the LORD your God gives you, for ever.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 5:29-33 Deuteronomy 5:29-33 29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! 30 Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. 31 But as for you, stand you here by me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it. 32 You shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.
American King James Version×
). These commandments include God’s Sabbath. It is a day of rest and refreshing, a gift to mankind by the One who designed and created us. It is a time for physical, emotional and spiritual renewal.

God knew that we would need this time to nurture and strengthen a right relationship with Him. Part of the Sabbath command reads, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work …” God tells us to take care of our ordinary work and concerns on the other six days, leaving our time and our minds free to properly worship and obey Him by observing the Sabbath. When we are free to focus our minds and thoughts on God’s way and purpose, the Sabbath truly becomes the blessing and delight God intends it to be (Isaiah 58:13-14 Isaiah 58:13-14 13 If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: 14 Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version×
).

On this seventh day of each week, we should cease from our own work and allow God to work in us, building and nourishing our relationship with our Creator. We will then discover and experience the blessings of God’s Sabbath rest!

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