What is the purpose of the Sabbath?
Everybody needs to rest, no matter how busy we are. We take weekends off and go on vacations. We need the respite to clear our minds and restore our bodies, to re-energize before turning again to work.
God doesn’t need to rest the way we do; He is almighty and never grows tired. But God rested after creating the universe:
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (Gen 2:2)
Our loving Father knows our needs better than we do. It’s easy to be caught up in your own business, but God knows you need time to nurture your body and spirit. Out of care for His creatures, He established a weekly cycle and instituted the last day of every week as a day of rest. This day, called the Sabbath, is a day for us to put aside our daily routines and enjoy a much-needed break.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work 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 nor your manservant, nor your maidservant… that your [household] may rest as well as you. (Deut 5:13-14)
That’s why the Lord Jesus said that the “Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). God created the Sabbath for us so we can rest and turn our attention away from our work. We can restore our focus on the right way of life.
Why do I need to keep the Sabbath?
God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Gen 2:3). He set it apart from the other days of the week. And He commands us, His children, to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
We don’t keep the Sabbath out of obligation, but in response to His blessings:
i. To remember God’s creation
The spiritual effect of the sacrament is based on the Lord’s own words:
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered (Ps 111:4).
The Sabbath is a tangible link to God’s creation. When you rest on the seventh day, you remember that in five days, God created the sun and sky, trees and earth before He created humans on the sixth day. God prepared all things for His creatures. We owe our existence, well-being, and possessions to Him. When we observe the Sabbath day, we honor the Lord God as our creator and provider. In turn, we can retain our sights throughout each week on the purpose of life: to glorify God with what He has given us.
ii. To remember God’s grace
God gave us the Sabbath as a “sign,” a reminder of our relationship with Him:
I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me,that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them. (Ezek 20:12)
People easily forget God’s grace and wander away from Him. In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to observe the Sabbath to remember how He had brought them out of bondage into their own land (Deut 5:15). Today, keeping the Sabbath reminds us of how God delivered us from a life of sin and into the promise of His glorious kingdom. We can reflect on our relationship with God, keep it strong, and draw all the nearer to Him.
iii. To receive God’s blessings
Observing the Sabbath is not just an occasion to consider God’s grace; it’s a means of receiving more blessings from Him. God will fulfill His promises to you if you faithfully keep His word:
If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight… and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways… then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. (Isa 58:13-14)
God assures us with plentitude if we trust enough to devote one day of our week to Him. If we can commit our full hearts to God on His holy day, He will shower us with His blessings.
How do I know which day is the true Sabbath?
The Bible tells us clearly that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. In the western world, we call this day Saturday.
From the time of their forefathers, the Israelites have acknowledged that Saturday is the Sabbath. The Lord Jesus kept the seventh-day Sabbath. So did His disciples.
God never commanded Sunday worship. It is man-made. The Roman Emperor Constantine officially changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday. Today, it has become a widespread tradition in Christendom.
God did not change the Sabbath day. Our Lord Jesus did not do away with Sabbath observance. Therefore, we keep the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day, rather than on Sunday, the first day. Sabbath observance is one of the Ten Commandments, God’s basic requirements for all people. If we hold true to God’s commandments, the Bible promises, we will be blessed.
How should I keep the Sabbath?
i. Worship in assembly
The Sabbath is a time for you to come into God’s presence along with all of God’s people. The Lord Jesus and His disciples set the example for us (Lk 4:16; Acts 17:2). It’s not a day to spend on your own pleasure, like watching sports, shopping, running errands, or doing business. On the Sabbath, you can step away from your worldly responsibilities and spend some quality time with God:
Spending quality time with fellow believers, too, gives you the strength and encouragement to maintain your spirituality throughout the week.
ii. Share God’s goodness
Jesus and the apostles also gave us the example of doing good deeds on the Sabbath. On one Sabbath the Lord healed a sick man; on another, a crippled woman. He wanted to tell people that God can provide rest from sickness and pain. His declaration that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:12) encourages us today.
His disciples took the occasion of the Sabbath to preach the good news of Christ’s salvation. As we gather in worship, we can invite friends and neighbors to join us in receiving spiritual nourishment and rest from the Lord. We can pray to the Lord to heal those who are sick or suffering from burdens. We can visit those who are in need of care. In doing so, we share the blessings of God with others.
iii. Set your sights on God’s kingdom
The Sabbath links us to our origins in God’s creation; it also points us to our future:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from [H]is. (Heb 4:9-10, NIV)
Today, we have found rest in the Lord Jesus Christ. By His sacrifice, He has opened the way to heaven, God’s kingdom. One day, He will come again to bring us home, if we trust and obey Him. By keeping the day of rest on earth, you look forward to that day in heaven. On that clear Sabbath morn, the Lord’s true followers can retire from the troubles of this world, into His everlasting arms.