Is the Sabbath for today? Has it “changed” since the time of Messiah? There are many who assume many things about the Sabbath but have never actually studied the issue in depth. Until people take an honest look at the facts, they are simply repeating rumors, relying on hearsay, and basing their views on traditions they have inherited without ever questioning their validity. This post is a quick reference and provocative study guide to help those seeking to search for real answers.
In this exercise you will use Scripture to define the 4th Commandment, look up key words, and consider the history of interpretation concerning this Commandment and the implications for today.
- What is the 4th Commandment? How specifically is it defined in Scripture? When and where was this day first established? For whom did this day apply?
- Look up the key highlighted words from Gen 2:1-3 (next page). Look at the semantic range of these terms. Look at how they relate to each other and the greater context. How does this help your understanding of this commandment? What two key words in verse 3 distinguish the 7th day from all other days? What was the first thing God is said to have “sanctified” and what does this tell us about God’s view of time? Other implications?
- Look up other verses related to this verse (list on next couple pages). How do these verses help your understanding of the concept? What is the Sabbath a “sign” of (see Ex. 31:13-17) and was that sign temporary or eternal? What was God’s response when God’s people ignored the 4th Commandment? What do the prophets say regarding the Sabbath after the return of Messiah? Who do the prophets say will observe the Lord’s Sabbath?
- How has this commandment been interpreted throughout history? What changes were made by men, when did this occur and why? Do you think those changes were consistent with Scripture? Why or why not? What has been the impact of those changes in modern times?
- In Exodus 16:22-30 the Lord restored the Sabbath to His people immediately after the Exodus and before reaching Mt. Sinai. What was the reason God gave for doing so? What are the implications of this test for us today?
- What are the moral implications revealed in Nehemiah 13:15-22 and Isaiah 56:2-8 in regard to profaning the Lord’s Sabbath? God equates profaning the Sabbath with what kind of immoral act? What are the promises given to all those who guard and honor the Lord’s Sabbath? Who is specifically included in these blessings?
- Did Jesus (Yeshua) and the early Disciples observe the 4th Commandment? What clarifications did Jesus (Yeshua) bring regarding God’s understanding of how the commandment was to be observed? Why do you think God places so much emphasis on His people observing His Sabbaths?
- What action did Ezra & Nehemiah take against those who tried to cause God’s people to violate the Sabbath? Is this action similar to America’s “blue laws?” What were the “blue laws” and why were they set-up by Christians in America? What changed in the church after the industrial revolution that caused the “blue laws” to be abrogated? What was the impact on our culture and the Christian “church”?
- What do you think is the intent behind the Sabbath commandment? Why do you think work is forbidden? What does the absence of work allow for, or the presence of work prevent?
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.
2By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
1 וַיְכֻלּ֛וּ הַשָּׁמַ֥יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ וְכָל־צְבָאָֽם׃
2 וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃
3 וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃
Quick List: Exodus 16:22-30; 20:8-11; 31:13-17; 35:2-3; Leviticus 23:3; 25:4-6; Numbers 15:32f; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; 30:8-20; Nehemiah 9:14; 10:31; 13:15-22; Isaiah 56:2-8; 58:13-14; 66:23; Jeremiah 17:21-27; Ezekiel 46:1; Amos 8:5; Psalm 92:1; Matthew 12:1-14; 24:20; Mark 1:21; 2:23-3:4; 6:2; Luke 4:16; 4:31; 6:1-9; 13:10-16; 14:1-5; 23:56; John 5:9-18; 7:22-23; 9:14-16; Acts 1:12; 13:14; 13:42-44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; Colossians 2:16
Exodus 16:22-30 – Sabbath observed immediately after the Exodus
Exodus 20:8-11 – Ten Commandments (Decalogue)
Exodus 31:13-17 – A Sign Between God & His People
Exodus 35:2-3 – Sabbath Emphasized Again taking precedent over building the Tabernacle
Leviticus 23:3 – Revelation of the Special Appointed Sabbaths of the Lord
Leviticus 25:4-6 – Sabbatical Year and Jubilee
Numbers 15:32-41 – Punishment for high handed disobedience & resulting fringes (tzitziyot) “reminder” commandment that follows.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 – Reiteration of Ten Commandments (Decalogue) with slight variations of emphasis.
Deuteronomy 30:8-20 – Choice of life or death (temporal application in the present age)
Nehemiah 9:14 – Rediscovery of the Torah and Repentance of God’s people in days of Ezra and Nehemiah
Nehemiah 10:31 – Commitment by God’s people to sanctify the Sabbath by not purchasing from non-believers selling on that day and by resting the land in the seventh year and exacting of every debt.
Nehemiah 13:15-22 – Nehemiah admonishes the people and leadership of Israel for doing “evil” by working and buying and selling on the Lord’s Sabbath.
Isaiah 56:2-8 – Blessings for all those who guard themselves from doing evil by profaning the Sabbath day.
Isaiah 58:13-14 – Blessings for all those who delight in obeying God by guarding His Sabbath day and additional outline of expectation in terms of seeking God verse one’s own pleasure on this day.
Isaiah 66:23 – Post return of Messiah observance of Sabbath & New Moons by all mankind.
Jeremiah 17:21-27 – Warning against and blessings for not carrying a load (for sale) on Sabbath, i.e. buying and selling on Sabbath.
Ezekiel 46:1 – Inner Court open on Sabbaths and New Moons, but closed on six days of labor.
Amos 8:4-5ff – Implications of evil heart behind those who have no regard for the Sabbath.
Psalm 92:1 – A Song for the Sabbath Day
Matthew 12:1-14 – Grain Field Incident: Yeshua teaches on the Law of Chesed (Lovingkindess) at the heart of the Sabbath, which requires that mercy take priority over sacrifice. Also, taught is how to handle conflicts between positive and negative commandments. See also Mark 2:23ff.
Matthew 24:20 – Messiah warns those who will experience the end of days great tribulation to pray that their flight not be in winter or on the Sabbath day.
Mark 1:21 – Yeshua (Jesus) goes to the synagogue and teaches on the Sabbath in Capernaum
Mark 2:23-3:4 – Grain Field Incident (second account) See Matt 12:1-14 also.
Mark 6:2 – Yeshua teaching in the synagogue on Sabbath
Luke 4:16 – Yeshua’s “custom” was to enter the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Here He is in Nazareth and reads from the prophet Isaiah saying “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Note connection between God’s “completed” work and resting on the Sabbath day and the completion of this Scripture by Messiah that day.
Luke 4:31 – Yeshua teaching in Capernaum on Sabbath day.
Luke 6:1-9 – Grain Field Incident (third account) See also Matt 12:1-14 & Mark 2:23ff.
Luke 13:10-16 – Messiah teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day. A lack of lovingkindness/mercy in the hearts of many leaders was revealed when Messiah heals woman with 18 year illness on Sabbath.
Luke 14:1-5 – “Donkey in the Ditch” Incident: Evil hearts revealed again on Sabbath when Yeshua heals man during a meal at one of the leaders of the Pharisees’ house.
Luke 23:54-56 – The women observe Pesach/Unleavened Bread after seeing where they laid Messiah body, they return Friday to prepare spices, they rest on the Sabbath day, according to the commandment, and then they return early Sunday morning to Yeshua’s gravesite to find Him already gone.
John 5:9-18 – Healing at Bethesda, man ill 38 years is healed on Sabbath day revealing hard hearts of leadership who do not understand the guiding principle of chesed (lovingkindness) behind every commandment.
John 7:22-23 – Yeshua explains the legal reasoning why healing on the Sabbath is according to the law of chesed (lovingkindness/mercy) that God desires, thus revealing the hard heartedness and evil intent of His accusers.
John 9:14-16 – Man blind from birth healed and given sight on the Sabbath day kicking off the season of Hannukah, the Festival of Light, also revealing the darkness or lack of light in Messiah’s accusers.
Acts 1:12 – Reference to a “Sabbath’s Day Journey” as a familiar term of approximate distance based on the traditional concept of limited travel distances (walking) on the Sabbath day.
Acts 13:14 – Paul and his companions upon arriving at Pisidian Antioch went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. They were asked to share a word of exhortation and were able to share the Good News with the community there starting with the Exodus leading to the ultimate redemption accomplished in Messiah.
Acts 13:42-44 – Continuation from previous. When that meeting broke up many followed Paul and Barnabas and urged them to return the following Sabbath. That next Sabbath nearly the entire city assembled to hear the Word of the Lord from Paul and Barnabas.
Acts 15:21 – The assumption made at the conclusion of the Acts Council was that non-Jews coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel would hear the Torah read each week in the synagogue and naturally grow in their faith and knowledge of God without having to “become Jewish” through the proselyte ritual common in that day.
Acts 16:13 – Paul and companions in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and on Sabbath day they went outside the gate to a riverside where they could find a place a prayer frequented by the population there. They began speaking to the women who had gathered there.
Acts 17:2 – Paul in Thessalonica goes to the synagogue and reasons with them there for three Sabbaths
Acts 18:4 – Paul in Corinth working with Aquila and Priscilla, goes to synagogue every Sabbath trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks of the Good News of Messiah.
Colossians 2:16 – Because Sabbath, new moons, etc. are shadows of good things to come, no un-authorized non-believing authority has the right to judge us in regard to these things because only Messiah is our rightful judge, because He is the goal of all of these things of which these disarmed rulers have missed completely.