The Sabbath: Ten Lessons Regarding the Fourth Commandment

Introduction. Unlike the other Nine Commandments, the wording of the Commandment regarding the Sabbath differs slightly between the time that Moses first gave it in Exodus and the time he repeated it in Deuteronomy. The first reading commands the Jews to remember the God of creation.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11; accord, 31:13-17).

In his second reading, Moses commanded the Jews to remember the God who delivered them from bondage.

Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-16).

Move at God’s pace and He will lead you to a better place. Beyond agreeing to what the text says, believers can agree on little else when it comes to this Commandment. They do not even agree on what number this commandment is. For Jews and for most Christian denominations, this is the Fourth Commandment. Yet, for Roman Catholics and Lutherans, it is the Third Commandment. When Jesus came to fulfill the Law, did He fulfill any obligation to observe the Sabbath? If we observe it, do we observe it on Saturday or Sunday? Can we engage in manual labor or personal errands if we are not paid? Can we spend the day at the beach or watching movies? If we give an hour or two to God at church, is that enough? To answer these questions, we examine how God’s commandments regarding the Sabbath changed throughout the Bible. If God articulated a principle in the Old Testament, did Christ fulfill the purpose behind that principle in such a way that we no longer need to observe it? What can we learn from how Christ lived His life regarding how, if at all, we should observe the Sabbath? When Paul addressed a division between Jewish and Gentile believers about when to observe a Sabbath, was he also addressing whether to observe a Sabbath at all? Will there be a Sabbath when Christ returns? To answer these questions, we turn to Scripture.

(1) For Believers in Christ, Give Thanks that Christ Paid the Penalty for Breaking the Sabbath.

In the Old Testament, the question of whether to follow the Sabbath was not taken lightly. God commanded that those who intentionally violated the Sabbath be put to death: “Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.” (Ex. 31:14). The penalty of death was further carried out by stoning, the most painful kind possible: “Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. . . Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”’ (Nu. 15:33-36). “My Sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them.” (Ez. 20:13). God even sent the Jews into 70 years of exile in Babylon for failing to observe the Sabbath years to allow the land to rest (2 Chr. 26:20-21). Orthodox Jews therefore still observe the Sabbath by doing no work. Yet, Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). For believers in Christ, your legal obligations were “nailed to the cross.” (Col. 2:14). Thus, Paul says “[l]et no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of . . . the Sabbath days.” (Col. 2:16). These things are the “shadow” of Christ (Col. 2:17; see also Gal. 4:10-11). Thus, the failure to observe any Ten Commandments is no longer a test of salvation (Jo. 3:16; Ro. 10:9-10). How then should a believer respond? First, you should give thanks. If you know that your acts during the Sabbath were worthy of death under His Law, you should give thanks for the penalty that He saved you from. Yet, if Jesus spared you from the penalty, how should you use your freedom? If you spend time engaged in selfish pursuits, are you really thankful for what He did? If you are free to ignore the Sabbath, can you ignore the other Nine Commandments? To answer these questions, we turn to Jesus.

(2) For Believers in Christ, Observing the Sabbath Should be an Act of Love, not Obligation.

There is a difference between what one is legally obligated to do and what one may do as an act of devotion. Jesus warns: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10). “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Whether you keep the Commandments out of love (and not obligation) is also the test regarding whether you “know” Jesus: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3). The “commandments” that Jesus referred to were the Ten Commandments. Before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb, He revealed His name to be the great “I AM” (Ex. 3:13-15). Jesus later revealed that He was the great “I AM.” (Jo. 8:57-58). Thus, Jesus gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb. As a devote Jew, Jesus further would not have casually used the word “commandments” for anything other than the Ten Commandments. The Jews carefully divided God’s Law between the Ten Commandments, the interpretive statutes in the rest of the Torah and the interpretive ordinances found in the Talmud. Thus, Jesus was not referring to either His sermons or other expressions when He said that if you love Him you will keep His Commandments. Moreover, in response to a question regarding “which is the great commandment in the Law?,” Jesus did not drop the Sabbath Commandment. Instead, He included it with the other Nine Commandments as an act of devotion that comes from our love for God, “‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:35-40; Lu. 10:27; Dt. 6:5). Thus, Jesus never excluded that Fourth Commandment from His statement that if you loved Him you would keep “My Father’s Commandments.” (Jo. 15:10). On the other hand, merely going through the motions in keeping His Ten Commandments means nothing to Him. At the end of time, some will come to Him boasting of their works or compliance with the Ten Commandments. Yet, if their works or their compliance with the Ten Commandments are not motivated by a thankful love for Him, He will respond “I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:23). He does not want your worship if you are burdened by it. The same is true with tithing. Thus, He would not want you to observe a Sabbath if it stressed you out or caused you to feel burden, loss, or sorrow. Only if you can voluntarily observe a Sabbath while feeling joy and devotion toward Him, will you fulfill “the great and foremost commandment.” (Matt. 22:8). Observing the Ten Commandments should be like observing a birthday for your children or an anniversary with your spouse. You are not legally obligated to observe a birthday or an anniversary. Yet, it is something that most gladly do out of love and devotion.

(3) Your Freedom to Observe the Sabbath Any Day Is Not the Freedom to Never Observe it.

The Apostle Paul observed: “one person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must also be fully convinced in his mind.” (Ro. 14:5-6). When asked about the Sabbath, many Christians will cite to this verse for the proposition that that Commandment no longer applies. Many feel emboldened to not attend church at all and spend the day pursuing personal matters. As long as the person is “fully convinced in his mind” (Ro. 14:6), some might feel tempted to say who are we to say otherwise? And most churches avoid the subject. Thus, most believers have few memorized words on the subject that the Holy Spirit can use for instruction (Jo. 14:26). What then did Paul mean? Paul was addressing a division that arose between Messianic Christians and the Gentile Christians about whether to observe the Kosher laws and whether to observe the Sabbath on its actual day of Saturday or on Sunday, “the first day of the week” when Christ rose from the dead (Mk. 16:9). Paul never addressed whether someone should not observe any kind of Sabbath. For the person who observed it on Saturday or Sunday, what mattered was that the person observed the day for the Lord and not for personal pursuits. In the very next verse, Paul observes: “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” (Ro. 14:6). For those who might feel tempted to never go to church or serve God in some weekend ministry, Paul then warns: “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Ro. 14:7-8). Paul then warns that: “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Ro. 4:10, 12). If God didn’t care how you spend your Sabbaths, He would not have said that “not one of us lives for himself?” Likewise, if it doesn’t matter what you do with your Sabbaths, God would not warn that each will stand before Jesus’ judgment seat to give “an account” of what each did with his or her time. Moreover, if you could completely ignore the Sabbath, Jesus would not have repeatedly said that if you loved Him you will keep His Commandments. Finally, if the Sabbath ended with Christ’s death, God would not have stated that the Sabbath is covenant that would be observed “forever”: “So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever;” (Ex. 31:17). During the Millennial Reign when God’s perfect rule is restored, the Bible says that people will treat the Sabbath as holy: “‘from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the Lord.” (Is. 66:22-23; Ez. 20:12-26). If the Sabbath disappeared at Christ’s death, it would not it be observed when He returns. When all Scripture is read in its proper context, the meaning of the Sabbath should be self-evident. If you devote your time to yourself, you have made yourself or the things that you pursue on your Sabbath an idol. Thus, a Sabbath devoted to yourself violates the Second Commandment. Paul’s point in Romans 14:5-6 is that if your job requires that your Sabbath on Saturday, Sunday, or some other day, you should never feel condemned about the day you observe it. Yet, your love for God should still motivate you to spend at least one day giving thanks for being delivered from bondage. If you are ready to observe a Sabbath out of love for Him, how should you observe the day? The Bible gives you several answers.

(4) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows God to “Refresh” Your Body.

In Moses’ first reading of the Fourth Commandment, he reveals that God created for six His days. God then “rested on the seventh day.” As a result, “the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:11; Gen. 2:3). God does not sleep or rest like you do: “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:4). He merely stopped creating. The day is also special because, unlike the first six days, His seventh day does not list an end to it. The reason for this is that mankind is still living in His seventh day. Throughout the Bible, God refers to His present “rest” as ongoing. Those who are not saved will never enter into it: “Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Ps. 95:11). Yet, “we who have believed enter that rest, . . . So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:3, 9). Jesus also referred to God the Father’s Sabbath as ongoing. His rest was a temporary break in creating. He continues to be involved in your life as a personal God who cares for you. After being challenged for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus responded: ‘“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working. For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”’ (Jo. 5:17-18). On His eighth day, He will create again a new Earth and a New Jerusalem (Rev. 21). He will also give believers new bodies in heaven that will not undergo death or decay (Rev. 21:4; Ro. 8:21-23). The Sabbath therefore also foreshadows a day when, thanks to Jesus, you will no longer need to tire from the daily struggles of life (Heb. 4:9-10). Thus, when you believe in Christ, God has an even better creation that awaits you in heaven. Yet, until that day comes, your body needs rest. Because of our original sin, all creation is condemned to struggle here on Earth (Gen. 3:17; 9:2; Rom. 8:19-22). Like God did, you are expected to work hard six days a week as a believer (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:10). Also like God, you too are commanded to rest from work one day a week: “[F]or in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:17). The Sabbath in turn allowed believers to “refresh themselves.” (Ex. 23:12). Jesus revealed that He is Lord of the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5). He meant to give your body and our mind the rest you need: “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. ‘So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Mk. 2:27-28). Some people, however, believe that God is holding back the best in life with restrictions. Yet, countless studies have shown the importance of rest in preventing high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, anxiety, and other disorders. As Christians have chosen to ignore the Sabbath, is it any wonder that rates of hearts disease, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress have risen? If you want God to “refresh” you (Ex. 23:12, 31:17), keep a voluntary Sabbath. Because He created you, He can do a better job restoring you than you can.

Mankind’s biological programming for a seven-day week. Because God has programmed mankind in His image, mankind has adopted a seven-day week across all cultures. Each time mankind has tried to move to a different cycle, the result has been disastrous. From October 1793 until April 1802, French revolutionaries tried to abandon the seven-day week along with other connections to the Bible. They adopted a 10-day week, called the décade. In the Bible, the number ten is a number associated with the Ten Commandments and judgment. Their experiment was a failure and soon abandoned. Communists in Russian also tried to break with the seven-day week because of its connections to the Bible. From 1929 through 1931, they imposed upon the USSR a five-day week. Their experiment also failed. In 1931, the communists tried a six-day week. Yet, this experiment also failed. In 1940, the USSR returned to the seven-day week used by the rest of the world. Despite the wide variety of cultures across the world, all use a seven-day week, and all have at least one day of rest. This is evidence of God’s fingerprints upon mankind. We are all made in His image.1

(5) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows Time to Worship and Study God.

In Moses’ second reading of the Ten Commandments, he provides a second rationale for observing the Sabbath. In addition to giving your body and mind rest, you are to use the time meditating upon the freedom from bondage that God had given you. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Dt. 5:16). It is a day for believers to study and learn God’s Word. It was also a day to teach the Word to your children. As an example to you, Jesus taught in the Capernaum synagogue on the Sabbath (Lk. 4:31-43). Like the Jews, you have also been delivered from bondage. Like the Jews, you need to learn God’s Word. Like the Jews, your children also need to learn God’s word. Yet, Jesus freed you from the obligation to do this because He only wants your freely felt devotion: “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.” (Lev. 22:29) (NKJV). If you find it a burden to read the Bible or to sing, don’t do it. That kind of worship is meaningless to God. Yet, if you are motivated by love and not by obligation, spending at least one day studying the Word and praying will be a “sweet aroma to God.” (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3).

(6) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Gives You the Protection and Accountability from God’s Flock.

You are warned not to “forsak[e] the assembling together, as is the habit of some. . . .” (Heb. 10:24-25). The reasons for this include encouraging and exhorting one another, stirring up love, and promoting good works. (Id.) Paul, for example, envisioned that believers would without question use the Sabbath to attend church so that they could, among other things, collect and set aside money for God’s work (1 Cor. 7:1). The Bible reveals that believers are like sheep, dumb and defenseless animals (Is. 53:6). Outside of the flock, you are most vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. A Sabbath that includes regular church or small study group attendance helps to protect you and keep you accountable. Have you placed yourself at risk for spiritual attack by separating from the flock? If you are part of a large church, have you found a small group or a prayer partner to stay accountable in your walk? Keeping the Sabbath with regular church attendance is also important to keeping oneself separated from the world. You are to be a salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). You are also called upon to be “unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). If your boss insists that you work seven consecutive days in a row or if your friends ask you to spend the Sabbath drinking, being part of a church can give you the courage to say no, and makes you stand out like salt in a wound of sin for God. Does your use of your Sabbath make you a light to others?

(7) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Gives You the Opportunity to Volunteer and Help Others.

One of Jesus’ most interesting lessons stem from His many miracles and healings that took place on the Sabbath. While it is important that you: (1) rest, (2) study the Word, and (3) worship corporately, you are also commanded to use your time to help others. Consider the times the Pharisees attempted to charge Jesus with breaking the Sabbath. First, the Pharisees accused Him of breaking the Sabbath when He allowed His followers to eat grain in the field when they were hungry (Matt. 12:1-14; Mk. 2:23-28; Lk. 6:1-5). Jesus was merely repeating what David did for his men when they were hungry (1 Sam. 21). The poor were allowed to glean the fields so that they would not go hungry (Ex. 23:10-13; Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19-21). Jesus’ point was that “work” that involves helping the poor or the needy is not just an acceptable use of the Sabbath, it was one of its intended purposes. Second, the Pharisees also sought to charge Jesus when He healed on the Sabbath. These included the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-21, Mk. 3:1-6; Lk. 6:6-11), the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (Jo. 5:1-18), a woman who suffered from a disease for 18 years (Lk. 13:10-17), and a man swollen with fluids (Lk. 14:1). Jesus compared these acts to freeing a trapped animal on the Sabbath. He again wanted people to understand the work that involves helping others is expected on the Sabbath. The Jews had taken all the joy out of the Sabbath by their oppressive rules and regulations: “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14; Ho. 2:11). His point was certainly not to ignore the Sabbath altogether. Instead, “[t]he righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). God repeatedly tells us to practice “justice” for those in need (Prov. 28:5; Jer. 22:3; Eze. 18:21; Zeck. 7:9; Matt. 23:23). Jesus commands that you serve the poor, the sick, and the hungry (Matt. 25:31-46). When you devote your Sabbath to helping the persons in need, you are serving Christ: “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). Part of “true religion” also involves helping those in need (Jam. 1:27). If you do nothing to help those around us, your faith is “dead” (Jam. 2:17-20). As many can attest, hard work on a day off from work to serve others is more fulfilling than a day spent serving oneself. Without a day off, your busy life would not give you the chance to help others. Do you use your day off to solely benefit yourself?

(8) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Does Not Include Fulfilling Selfish Desires.

For generations, both Jews and Christians have observed a Sabbath, even though the day may have differed. In Lamentations, Israel’s enemies (i.e., the devil and his demons) gloated when the Sabbath was not observed (Lam. 1:7). All 12 of the original colonies included the observation of a Sabbath in their founding charters. On May 2, 1778, then Commander George Washington ordered to the troops at Valley Forge “that divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock in those brigades to which to which there are chaplain; . . . It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example for their men.” When drafting the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers excluded Sundays for the President’s 10-day deadline to sign a bill because they assumed that the President would observed a Sabbath (Art. I, Sec. 7, ¶ 2). In the 1700s and the 1800s, most states passed laws prohibiting certain kinds of legal actions from taking place on Sundays, many of which remain in place today. In 1845, Congress nationalized the first Tuesday of November as election day. It sought to prevent some states from holding election day on a Monday because that would have required rural voters to travel on Sunday, the Sabbath for most believers. Most states also passed “blue light laws” that ordered business to be closed on Sundays and that alcohol not be sold on that day. Between 1859 and 1900, the Supreme Court heard eight cases involving these laws. For example, in 1885, the Court upheld a law that barred physical labor on Sunday (Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U.S. 703, 5 S. Ct. 730 (1885)). In 1961, almost a hundred years later, the Supreme Court rejected challenges under the Establishment Clause and the 14th Amendment to these laws. It upheld a law that ordered that businesses in Maryland be closed on Sundays (McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S. Ct. 1101 (1961)). Yet, in the 1960s, legislatures around the country began to repeal these laws. Prior to this time, Sunday was not a day for shopping because many stores were closed. It also was not a day for little league games because families went to church and observed the Sabbath. Today, the only vestige of the blue laws that remains is the prohibition on alcohol sales on Sundays in a few Southern states. And even that is rapidly disappearing. The modern Church has largely stayed silent as the Sabbath has all but disappeared. Yet, God intended the Church be a salt and light to protect the Sabbath. For example, through Isaiah, God rebuked the Jews who had turned the Sabbath into a day of hedonistic pleasure. He warned that only if you spend your time devoted to God will you find true pleasure through God: “If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from speaking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord. . . ” (Is. 58:13-14(a)). At other times, Isaiah also warned against corrupted Sabbath traditions (Is. 1:13). The Jews took these warnings so seriously that it is customary not to even talk about money or business matters on the Sabbath. God gave this warning before people had the distractions available to people today. The Jews could not spend endless hours shopping, or watching television, sporting events, and shows. Their hedonistic use of their Sabbaths would have seemed rather boring today. God’s warning in Isaiah’s day should convict us today. God created the day for the purpose of rest, devotion, learning fellowship, and service. Hedonism is not a proper use of this time.

(9) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Does Not Include Personal Errands and Professional Work.

During the Sabbath, the Jews were prevented from engaging in commerce (Jer. 17:21-27; Am. 8:5), field work (Ex. 34:21), chopping wood for heating and cooking (Ex. 35:2-3), and causing servants to work (Dt. 5:12-15). God repeatedly warned that He did not create the Sabbath as an extra day of commerce or for personal errands and work. Through Moses, God warned them not to spend time gathering or preparing food that required extensive cooking: ‘“Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ . . . ‘Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.’ It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” (Ex. 16:23-28). The Jews were also to stay in their houses instead of searching for food or traveling: “He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” (Ex. 16:29). Today, some Orthodox Jews will not drive or travel anywhere because of these warnings. In Jeremiah’s day, God also warned against those who used the Sabbath as a time to run personal errands, which He referred to as “carrying a load”: “But if you do not listen to Me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.” (Jer. 17:27). These warnings should give us pause about what we do with our Sabbaths. Yet, Jesus came to rebuke those who imposed burdensome rules and regulations for the Sabbath. If you need to run an unexpected errand, we should not feel condemned. He has freed us from judgment (Col. 2:16). Yet, we certainly should not make a practice of saving our personal errands or “loads” for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day for you to fulfill your obligation to “[s]et your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:2-3). When you feel we must work on the Sabbath and run errands, you imply that you do not trust God to provide for you if you observe the Sabbath.

(10) Keeping a “Holy” Sabbath Allows You to Receive a Double Blessing from God.

Through your study of God’s Law your sins become known to you (Ro. 3:20). If the Holy Spirit calls you to do that, obey and correct your life accordingly. If you observe the Sabbath as an act of devotion, not obligation, God will reward you. How do we know this? We begin by turning to the book of Numbers. There, the Jews were told to make daily sacrifices or devotionals, our prayers today (Nu. 28:3-8). Yet, on a Sabbath, the daily devotional offerings were doubled, i.e., four lambs instead of two (Nu. 28:9-10). In other words, the Sabbath involved double the normal daily worship. The double worship on the Sabbath was to allow God to provide a double blessing of rest and delight. Among other things, God will “refresh” you (Ex. 32:12). Jesus promises those who are “weary and heavy-laden” rest when they come to Him (Matt. 11:28). He also promises that those who spend the Sabbath seeking after Him instead of their own pleasures will find great delight: “Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” (Is. 58:13-14). He also promises to “bless” you if you voluntarily observe the Sabbath: “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil . . . To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Is. 56:2, 5-7). The Apostle John, for example, was blessed during his devotion during the Sabbath. He received his end time revelation while “in the Spirit on the day of the Lord.” (Rev. 1:10). If you don’t spend a Sabbath reading the Word, how can God reveal His truths to you? Are you weary, heavy-laden, and in need of rest from your struggles? Are you missing out on this double blessing?


  1. Hugh Ross, “Navigating Genesis” (rtb press 2014) p. 85-86.↩︎