“Sabbath” is a Christian term that we hear from time to time thrown around in church. I remember hearing it as a kid and wondered what it meant. I thought it had something to do with taking a bath because the word “bath” is in “Sabbath.” However, I learned later that it has something to do with rest. However, rest seems like something good for us to talk about, but in our modern society who can afford to rest? It looks like a luxury to those who can afford it. I mean we have to pay rent, buy food, and struggle for what we need. I desire to give a way forward on whether it is essential to take a day to rest despite mounting bills that have to be paid.
From a theological perspective, historically, there have been a good amount of debates in the church with differing opinions about the “Sabbath.” One of the significant discussions has been on which day of the week a Sabbath is to be observed, Saturday or Sunday? Lastly, there has been a debate as to whether Christians in the New Testament era need to be very strict with rest-taking or if they can have fun during their Sabbath? I hope to help answer some of these questions that have plagued the church.
Meaning of Sabbath
Before we get into answering some of these questions, we need to help define what a “Sabbath” is. The Hebrew word for “Sabbath” is used 111 times in the Old Testament. The Greek word for “Sabbath is used 67 times in the New Testament. We first see a “Sabbath” taken by God when he took a day to rest after he created everything. God “rested” on the seventh day and “declared it holy (Genesis 2:2-3).” The fourth commandment instructs us to take a sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). This command is based upon what God did after creating for six days. God declared the Sabbath to be a “blessing” and “holy (Exodus 2:11).” God said that the Sabbath refreshed him after creating for six days (Exodus 31:17). So a Sabbath is something important, for rest, refreshment, it is holy, and it is a blessing.
Sabbath is about Remembering Your Redemption
Would you fight something that is God has declared holy, something that he has set for our refreshment and a blessing to us? As Christians, we are to take one day a week and rest just as God commanded the Israelites. The way that we rest is by enjoying the graciousness and goodness of God (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). God told the Israelites to remember how he removed them from Egypt as slaves with his mighty hand. This is the graciousness and goodness of God. Resting means that you remember the good work the Lord has and is doing in your life. God made the focus of the Sabbath to be on his redemption of the Israelites from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This theme of remembering the redemption of the Lord is the main focus of a Sabbath even today.
We, as Christians, take a similar weekly Sabbath to remember how the Lord has redeemed us from the power of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We reflect on the Exodus story in light of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ because He is the central focus of the Bible. That is why the early church started meeting together on Sunday, or the first day of the week as they would call it, as opposed to Saturday (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). They met on Sunday to remember the redemption that the resurrection of Jesus brought to believers. Sunday is a day for us as the church to remember that because Christ rose from the dead our faith is not in vain and we are no longer dead in our sins, we have been redeemed (1 Corinthians 15:14, 1 Corinthians 15:17). So the Sabbath is a time to rest in our Saviour and remember how he redeemed us. The blessing and refreshment do not come from being idle but through a relationship with Jesus that is made possible because of his resurrection (Matthew 11:28).
How to Take a Sabbath
So if you are busy working on a Sunday by choice and not by circumstance, then you are missing out on a chance to remember the redemption that Jesus brought through his death and resurrection. You are missing out on an opportunity to receive rest that comes through the strengthening of your relationship with Jesus Christ at church. Now maybe you have to work on Sunday and due to life circumstances; can you still have a Sabbath and worship the Lord on another day of the week? The answer is yes. Take time on your day off and rest. Spend time in enjoying your relationship with the Lord and Savior. Worship him and thank him for how he redeemed you. Take time doing enjoyable things like going on a walk, riding your bike, and going to church to meet with other believers. It is ok as long as you remember and worship God for redeeming us through Jesus Christ. Do not neglect to have a weekly Sabbath with your amazing God and Saviour! Doing so causes you to miss out on the blessing of rest found in God through Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 4:3-11).