Sabbath 101

Much of the ignorance surrounding Messiah’s view of the Sabbath (such as whether He “broke” it or not) is due to how often He was challenged about his activities on Shabbat.  The religious leadership of the day were certainly acting as Sabbath police, especially as far as Yeshua was concerned.  Man-made traditions have a tendency to grow and grow, until they become a burden—often erasing the simplicity and beauty of the original concept the traditions are often trying to enhance.  

We know that honoring Yah through keeping the seventh-day Sabbath is part of the path towards our promised healing.  Yet, at least with some of the religious control-freaks in Yeshua’s day, healing on the Sabbath was one of the man-made no-no’s.  It seems like truth eventually won out on that point, as in modern Judaism it’s considered an OBLIGATION to heal on the Sabbath.  

That doesn’t stop man-made traditions from complicating other aspects of Sabbath. The Jewish religion has, over centuries, created literally thousands of Sabbath laws, micro-managing everything from light switches to elevator buttons. Christians are no different, as they’ve created various “Sunday Laws”, about what can and cannot be done on “The Lord’s Day”, even in secular society.  Many of these laws are still enforceable by state and local authorities, even in America today.    

Messiah says, however, that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.  You would expect that easy and light spirit from a God who commands resting every seven days.  Here are actual  7 Shabbat rules as given through Moses later in Exodus, and thus restored through Messiah: 

• Exodus 31:14  Keep the Sabbath.  (Plan for and around it.) 

• Exodus 16:23  Sanctify the Sabbath. (Obedience is the highest form of worship.) 

• Exodus 20:8  Remember the Sabbath. (Prepare for it.) 

• Exodus 16:23  Rest on the Sabbath. (Cease from labor.) 

• Exodus 35:2  Cease from labor on the Sabbath. (Rest) 

• Deuteronomy 5:14  Cause no one to work on the Sabbath. (No cheating.) 

• Exodus 35:3   Do not even kindle a fire on the Sabbath. (Break your normal routines, especially if they are tempting you towards work.) 

Interestingly, “going to Church” is not on the list of 7.  Luke 4:16, it says “Yeshua was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was His custom”, therefore we know it’s not breaking the rules to gather with others on Shabbat.  However, Yeshua also fasted alone for 40 days in the wilderness —so we also know gathering is not mandatory.  

(“Synagogue” is a Greek word that means “place of assembly”.) 

By the time Acts 15 happens, there are new (non-Jewish) believers in Messiah all over Asia—itching to learn more and to get onto The Way.  After great deliberation, a ruling is made by Paul, James, and the rest of the Jerusalem leadership, that in order for new believers to learn “Moses” (i.e. to be coached on The Way) it would be wise for them to find a synagogue and a solid (non-hypocritical) Torah teacher. 

Here is how that advice for new Christians is phrased: 

For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:21

What Shabbat looks like will vary for every family. In our beginning season, we’d do long (very long) drives around the scenic countryside, listing to various teachings via audio—with our little kids strapped into their car seats.  For another season, we gathered regularly with others in a physical building.  For the past several years, we’ve met house-to-house, alternating larger weekly gatherings with simply staying home and resting.  

I encourage you to start somewhere and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  The first time you truly take a break as an act of worship you’ll certainly feel aspects of withdrawal symptoms.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Messiah Yeshua.” (Philippians 1:6

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