AN APOSTLES DOCTRINE AND INSIGHTS OF THE JEWISH SABBATH
by Apostle Daniel Blanton
There is an increasing and noticeable hunger rising in this hour among Christians for knowledge, insight, and wisdom concerning the Jewish Sabbath. I offer this review of the first of four questions I am often asked. They are herewith posted for your review, study, mediation, comments and hopefully, your participation.
1. Hebrews teaches that we are to labor to enter the rest of Hebrews 4:11. How?
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the Greek definition of labor is: to make an effort, be prompt or earnest, do (give) diligence, study. In conjunction with this assignment, this labor is not that of the physical sort, rather it is a decision to make an effort, to be prompt, to diligently study on the requirement and calling of the Lord for man to cease from his physical toils and draw near to God. Let’s establish that the book of Hebrews is written to those people, the Hebrews, who were first called by God to be a special people unto Him so as to demonstrate to the world the facts and truth of the Kingdom of God in heaven and on earth. Hebrews is written to the Hebrews therefore, its content must be hermeneutically interpreted from the goals it sets for those people. A Gentile, or for that matter, anyone who casually reads the Scriptures cannot and must not simply “believe” without the benefit of acute mediation and study of what the Scripture says. Without having an appreciation for the times, places, ethics and needs of God for His people this casual approach to truth produces a carnal reasoning to eternity’s path. This generally allows the Gentile to “fit” God into his personal schedule rather that meditating upon the leadings of the Holy Spirit and falling in line with God’s directions.
Hebrews 12:9 states, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” Adding to the thought that YAHweh is the Father of spirits, John writes in 4:23-24, (23) But the hour cometh, and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (24) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The ideal of worship here transcends the normal carnal thought that worship is singing a song on Sunday morning before the preacher ministers the word.
In the Hebrew mind and culture, worship is a life style which is or was to demonstrate to the world at hand there is a better life available. This better life is a daily recognition of the Eternal Creator of the universe and the world upon which we live. This recognition is administered and applauded each day as the Hebrew would go about completing their daily tasks in the SPIRIT (my words are spirit and they are life, John 6:63) of what the Lord outlined in the first five books of the Bible known as the Law, or Torah in the Hebrew. The spirit of the commandment to rest on the seventh day was to give opportunity for man to draw close to God.
In their book, The Sabbath, Entering God’s Rest, Barry and Steffi Rubin outline the following on page three, “The word Sabbath, or Sabbath primarily means “to cease or desist.” In relation to God, it pertains to the Creation. ‘On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day…God blessed the seven day and separated it as holy (Genesis 1:2-3a.)’ After six days of work, God had ceased creating and “rested.” Was God tired? Of course not. He has unlimited strength. Pertaining to the memorializing of this day, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin wrote in - To Be a Jew - ‘…what does the Torah (Pentateuch) teach us when it says that “God rested?: Is He human that He tires and needs physical rest? It is to teach us that just as God stopped creating physical things on the seventh day, so is man to stop creating on this day. Man is to stop making things, to stop manipulating nature…By desisting from all such labors, we not only acknowledge the existence of a Creator, but also emulate the Divine example (p. 65).’ God made this day holy, or “set apart.” It’s truly a day on which we can spend twenty-four uninterrupted hours focusing on the Lord. It is a time when we can cease our busy-ness and examine the eternal aspects of life. If we are to follow him, we should treat this day in a special way. It was created for us.”
Chuck Pierce reviews the aspects of time in his recent book, Interpreting The Times, “Wisdom that God has stored for a time such as this is available to us. We can get to a place of gaining wisdom that no enemy from hell has access to. From a Hebraic mind-set, events that occurred through life created smaller styles of review of a bigger picture of life. When one summed up all of these smaller temporal cycles, the finite age was determined. However, that did not limit one to just the events of this age. The sum of all the temporal events in one age produced a finite cycle of life. The sum of the events in the age to come was infinite. This was defined as everlasting. In the Hebrew culture, life was defined by events related through relationship. In our culture, we like to feel time. We are constantly worried about having enough time. To the Hebrew, time was not an object or a thing. Hebrews could not lose time, but they could lose relationship and therefore, not fully sum up the events that should have been equated with their finite life. If you think relationship, you regain the life concept that says that I am important and I am placed here on Earth to accomplish a full purpose. Our attitude should be to stay in relationship and define our life events around relationship until we have fully accomplished all that is being required of us in a relationship. If we don’t understand this concept of relationship, then we quit choosing whom we will serve each day. Our days are filled with how and what we will serve. This is what happened in the scenario with Martha and Mary (Luke 10). Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and developed a relationship with Him, while Martha was visibly distracted by all that needed to be done. Mary entered into the moment, whereas, Martha occupied her day with activity. So, we must be careful how we live, ‘redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’” (Ephesians 5:16). (pgs. 22-23.)
This excerpt, as it outlines the Hebrew concept of time, also speaks volumes about the Sabbath, a day of rest, which is uniquely portrayed in the relationship of Mary and Martha with Jesus as He “rested” in their home. In Mark 2:27, Jesus teaches about the Sabbath, (27) “And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath:” The seventh day, as created and organized by the Father is that day when man is to cease from all his activities and such, as Mary did in the above cited scriptures, and draw close at His feet to accumulate, facilitate, and assimilate one’s professed relationship with Him. Although Mary’s demonstrated relationship may not have occurred on the actual Sabbath, it does give clear view of how one should submit their personal efforts or labors, and earnestly and diligently study on their relationship with Jesus on His special day.
The Sabbath is that day created by God for man to draw close to Him. Yes, man can draw close to God any day of the week, but it is this seventh day that is made for man to totally involve himself with God by ceasing from his own labors - though the labors may be God called - and be refreshed in his relationship with his creator. God releases man to his own six days of labor, but bids that the seventh day should be spent in rest with Him. The Sabbath is made for man to do so. If man chooses another day, such as Sunday, then he has determined for himself that which is holy and thus violates the Holy Word and Holy Day created by God. Man does not define what is holy! Only the Holy God of Israel can do this.
In conclusion, God does not have one day of rest for the Hebrews and then another day of rest for believing Gentiles. In Isaiah 56:6-7a it is recorded, (“6) And also the sons of the strangers, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; (7) Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer:…” Jesus now brings Hebrews and Gentiles together in Himself as the “one new man” of Ephesians 2:15 to demonstrate before the wicked world that the one God of Israel continues to live in truth and relationships demonstrated by believers who at one time were poles apart.
In this coming together we cease from the labors of ourselves and enjoy the fruits of God’s relationship with men on the earth. Exodus 31:13-17 outlines, You are to observe my Shabbats; for this is a sign between me and you through all your generations; so that you will know that I am Adonai, who sets you apart for me. Therefore your are to keep my Shabbat, because it is set apart for you.
How do we rest? We enter into and maintain a lifelong relationship with God , His Christ and His believers. Together we adhere to His covenants, statues, commandments and laws so as to live in the true spirit of life six days of the week. Then on the seventh, we congregate with other believers to refresh ourselves in one another and in God by ceasing from our “Martha activities” and worship Him in spirit and truth.
The Old and New Testament, the requirements of keeping the Sabbath holy, Commandment Number Four, it is not mentioned in the New Testament.
Whereas, it may not be explicitly laid out in the New as it is in the Old Testament, the keeping of the Sabbath is certainly applied. First by the Messiah, who attended Synagogue which only met on the Sabbath. In His book, They Loved The Torah, David Friedman, Ph.D., writes on page 9, “Central to showing Yeshua’s Torah-observant life is an understanding of his observance of the Sabbath (see Exodus 20:8; 23:12; Leviticus 23:3). Sabbath observance was considered a prime duty and crucial mitzvah in the Second Temple era. Whatever particular wing of Judaism a person may have adhered to in this period, all Jewry looked upon the keeping of the Sabbath as extremely important. The evidence from the New Covenant clearly indicates that Yeshua kept Sabbath (see Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 4:16-22, 31). Therefore, the question to be considered is not whether Yeshua kept the Sabbath, but rather, “In what manner did he keep?” …Yeshua lived an undeniably Torah-observant lifestyle.” It is apparent by studying the Sabbath and its requirements throughout the Gospels that evidence proves the Hebrew apostles and their converts, be they Hebrew or Gentile did observe the formal requirements of the Sabbath. This statement is reinforced in the comments of the following paragraph.
Some people point out, “When the early church fathers met to consider the question of Gentile Christians keeping the law (Acts 15: 1-19), it is interesting that such an important point as Sabbath-keeping was ignored!” I point out here that during this initial apostle’s convention the Sabbath and it’s eternal requirements were not ignored. In fact the Sabbath was mentioned as the foundation for all future learning necessary for Gentile Christians.
Listen! In Acts 15: 16-21 (New Century Version). (16) “ ‘After these things I will return. The kingdom of David is like a fallen tent. But I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up. (17) Then those people who are left alive may ask the Lord for help, and the other nations that belong to me, says the Lord, who will make it happen, (18) And these things have been known for a long time.’ (19) So I think we should not bother the other people who are turning to God. (20) Instead, we should write a letter to them telling them these things: Stay away from food that has been offered to idols (which makes it unclean), and any kind of sexual sin, eating animals that have been strangled, and blood. (21) They should do those things, because for a long time IN EVERY CITY THE LAW OF MOSES HAS BEEN TAUGHT. AND IT IS STILL READ IN THE SYNAGOGUE EVERY SABBATH DAY.” (emphasis mine) As the first convention of apostles draws to a close, Apostle James gives a decree based on two facts. One, the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12 that in the rebuilding of the temple of David, God has other people and other nations that are to enter into his worship. The conversion of Gentiles is seen as the beginning of that move of God bringing others besides the Hebrews into His Kingdom. Two, four commandments are outlined (which mirror the seven Noachide Laws of Genesis Nine) with the understanding that new converts are not expected to understand lifestyle in the Hebrew Law upon their initial steps in their Christian walk. This is because THE LAW OF MOSES HAS BEEN TAUGHT AND CONTINUES TO BE TAUGHT IN THE SYNAGOGUE EVERY SABBATH, in every city, whereat new believers may be taught and thereby learn the Spirit of Life outlined in Torah. As Gentile Christians attend Synagogue with Hebrew Christians, Torah is read therein. Therefore, the Gentiles will slowly and methodically learn of the Spirit of Life outlined in the first five books of the Bible.
It was not even a question then, and must not be one now as to what Gentile Christians should do. Sabbath was observed under the Old Covenant and continued to be celebrated in the New Covenant. Yes, there are those argue that when Jesus made the statement of fulfilling the Law and the prophets, (Matthew 5:17), He was obviously setting aside the Old Testament, the Hebrews, the Prophets and anything else someone who does not appreciate the Hebraic Roots of Christianity desires to deny. In the New Century Version Bible, Matthew 5:17 reads thusly, “Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to destroy them but to bring about what they said.” In order to bring about what the Law and the Prophets outline, Jesus had to become the sacrificial lamb required by God for man’s atonement. In their book, The Sabbath, Entering Into God’s Rest, Barry and Steffi Rubin write on page 2, “Previously, my theological view, like that of many believers, didn’t allow much room for a high position of the Sabbath. I intuited that it was probably a good idea to have a day of rest, one in seven. But it didn’t really matter much to me. I was confused as to what the Messiah’s statement, “I have come to fulfill the Law,” meant as it related to Shabbat. Back then, I believe that his “fulfilling the Law” meant I was free from the need to follow the law. Discovering that the expression “fulfill” was a Hebrew idiom meaning “to interpret correctly” helped me to understand what Yeshua meant. “I have come to interpret the Torah correctly, not incorrectly (i.e., ’to abolish the Law’)” (emphasis mine.)
Acts 15 does not ignore the Sabbath and neither should any true believer. In that first apostolic decree of Acts 15 was the whole direction for Gentiles. When the New Testament apostles speak of Christ being the end of the Law it means the Law is done away with only in the sense that Christ is the end, that is, the fulfillment, that is, the correct interpretation and presentation of its requirement to live a holy life. Our belief in His majestic deeds empowers “Christ in us, (as) the hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27). The SHALL NOTS and the SHALLS of the commandments are still prevalent today being outlined in the first five books of the Bible as the spirit of life which Jesus gives light to and fulfills as the true sacrifice.
By the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word, Gentile Christians can presently live in the rest of the Sabbath, although few today comprehend this enormous and precious possibility. To do so, Gentile Christians will have to swallow a lot of false pride, set aside some very bad teachings, truly repent of ignorance, and seek a sanctuary that believes in the true Sabbath and strive therein to achieve the true rest of Shabbat.