Christian Faith and Practice Through the Sabbath
by: Bruce Bertram
The Sabbath originated with God before the fall and a long, long time before the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, although the Sabbath and the Law are intertwined. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
He did not need to rest because He does not run out of energy as we do, but He rested anyway which serves as an example to us all. "Be still and know that I am God" is one of the purposes of the Sabbath. We rest because He rested and gave the day to us. Any word He gives us could be considered a command or a Law, but His Law is full of love and mercy. The Sabbath is part and parcel of the Law, because it is part and parcel of God's Word to us. I think the reason for giving the Law (again) at Mt. Sinai was that God had to remind the Israelites of His Laws because they had been forgotten. There is much evidence that the instructions that were eventually part of The Law were practiced long before the Law was “given”. This is why I think it's obvious The Law was actually "re-given" on that mountain. Look at this list and see if you don’t agree.
Another example of “Law before Law” is that murder was obviously prohibited before Moses gave the Law, and murder is still prohibited. In Genesis 26:4 & 5 notice, too, that 430 years before the giving of the Instructions (Law) at Mt. Sinai, Abraham was commended and blessed because he obeyed God's Laws:
Genesis 26:4,5 NASB
Lest you think that the Law (and the Sabbath) only applies to the "Jewish people", the Word testifies that there was to be only one Law for everybody:
Numbers 15:15,16 KJV
Not only does God say one Law for everyone, but notice in verse 27 of Leviticus 18 that the people in the Land before Israel had "defiled" the land by doing all these "abominations" (against the Law). Also in verse 29 "whoever" does "any of these abominations" shall be cut off, with or without the Law, Jewish or not.
26 "But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you.
27 "(for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled);
28 "so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.
29 "For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.
30 "Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am YHVH your 'Elohiym."
God also tells us we are not to do what is right in our own eyes.
Deuteronomy 12:8,9 KJV
Nor is anyone allowed to add to the Word, or take away from it:
Deuteronomy 4:2-8 NASB
Those who argue for the elimination of the Law by “fulfilling” have trouble with the Ten. So, they try to get around this difficulty by saying that somehow just the dietary and ceremonial Laws have been fulfilled, but not the Moral Law. They really can’t explain how some were eliminated and some were not, nor can they explain where these headings are in the Word. But God says not to follow the ways of the nations and live:
Some may argue that this is addressed to the “sons of Israel.” Okay, so does that mean everyone else CAN do what was done in Egypt or Canaan? Obviously, that does not make sense. Besides, if we (followers of Yahshua) are not children (sons) of Israel, I don’t know who is. If we (sons or children of Israel) obey YHVH, we do not get the diseases the Egyptians got:
Exodus 15:26 NASB
As children, our motivation to follow what our Father says is that we love Him:
Deuteronomy 11:1 NASB
The King of Israel (does this apply to Yahshua?) was to make a handwritten copy of the Law:
Deuteronomy 17:19,20 NASB
Curses are given if the Law is not followed (not serving YHVH with joy and a glad heart):
David was known as a "man after God's own heart," and he says this about himself:
2 Samuel 22:21-24 NASB (See also Psalm 18)
Note that "iniquity" is literally "no law" (Greek - anomias).
And later David advised Solomon on the way to succeed in 1 Kings 2:3:
"Keep the charge of YHVH your 'Elohiym, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,"
Then, later still, Solomon tells us what “wholly devoted” to YHVH means:
1 Kings 8:61 NASB
Nehemiah (9:13,14) says that God’s Law (and the Sabbath) is good:
"Then You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven; you gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. So You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and laid down for them commandments, statutes and law, through Your servant Moses."
God tells us in Psalm 50:16-21 that hypocrisy (saying but not doing) is wickedness, and that those who think His silence equals approval for “lawlessness” are mistaken:
"But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes."
And He also tells David in Psalm 89:33,34 that He will not alter His Word:
"But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips."
Isaiah tells us that ALL the inhabitants of the earth have violated the Law and broken the covenant, but how can this be unless all are subject to its requirements?:
Isaiah 24:5,6 NASB
But this squares with Romans 3:9 where Paul says ALL were under sin:
"What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;"
Israel is said by God to have rebelled against His Laws in Ezekiel 5:6 even more than the nations, which, along with Isaiah 24:5,6 above shows that everyone on the whole earth was expected to follow God's Laws.
"But she has rebelled against My ordinances more wickedly than the nations and against My statutes more than the lands which surround her; for they have rejected My ordinances and have not walked in My statutes."
Even the New Covenant is between God, Israel, and Judah and involves the giving of a soft heart, a new spirit, and God’s Law (we are “grafted in” to an existing tree according to Romans 11):
"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God."
Fortunately, God extends an invitation to the wicked to follow His commands. Righteousness and justice are also equated to His statutes (including observing the Sabbath):
And, according to Ezekiel 44:23,24 the Priests in the Millennial Temple will observe His Ways:
"Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts and sanctify My Sabbaths."
So, the origin of the Sabbath was in Genesis, with God observing the first one; the Sabbath and the Law are wrapped up together; there was a lot of Law before Law; there was to be one law for everyone; everyone breaks the Law; God invites everyone to observe His Law; and we will be following the Law again in the Millennium Kingdom.
Isaiah chapter 56:1-8
Notice that justice and righteousness are equated to observing the Sabbath, and foreigners are invited to observe it. "Choosing what pleases Me" is the same as "holding fast My covenant."
Some think that the Law and/or the Sabbath was just for the Jews, but I think the Word has shown in the references under The Origins heading that God's Word is for everyone, even the Torah. One might get the impression that only the Jews are being chastised and encouraged to follow His Word, including the Sabbaths, but in places such as Isaiah 56 verses 2, 4, and 6 the Lord includes the stranger and the foreigner (both the same thing). The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
What Yahshua did on the Sabbath
The list below says that He healed and ate food. But, according to the text, He only went against the “traditions of men” which had tended to drift from what God had instructed. Not a single one of these actions was against Torah. They could not have been or Yahshua could not have been the Messiah. For Yahshua's definition of what He was doing see Matthew 15:3, 6; and Mark 7:8, 9, 13.
What Paul did on the Sabbath
Mostly teaching. Teaching on the Sabbath day was never forbidden in the Word of God. However, Paul also spent time teaching “traditions.” I wonder what those could’ve been?
Studying the Word is never considered "work" in the sense of making a living. Also, not only did Paul always deny breaking Torah, but if he taught disobedience to Torah then he was a hypocrite of the worst sort, even worse than he accused Peter of being. A cursory examination of the book of Acts shows Paul observing feasts (20:6,16), fasts (27:9), vows (18:18; 21:23-26), Sabbath (13:14,42,44, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4), circumcision (16:3), temple worship (22:17, 24:11,17,18), teaching from the Law and the Prophets (28:23), and keeping the Law (21:24, 22:3, 23:6, 24:14).
To add further consternation to those who insist that the Law is eliminated by fulfillment, Paul teaches traditions to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and the Thessalonians. It seems plain from Galatians 1:14 that he must be teaching them his traditions, that is, his "ancestral" traditions, probably those that held closely to the written word rather than the word of men.
What the Apostles taught about the Sabbath
We need to be careful, given the many scriptures quoted so far, that in our teaching positively about the Law and the Sabbath, we do not take a few scriptures in the New Testament out of context and use them to deny all those previous teachings. God does not change, and neither does His Word. If the Word appears contradictory, it is our understanding that is out of whack, not the Word. So look up the following references and read very carefully, and let us attempt to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
In Romans 14:5-8 Paul talks about observing days and so on, to (apparently) imply that the Sabbath is a "disputatious" matter. But, if you back up a little and check out 14:1 two facts are very clear: (1) Paul is talking about men's opinions, not Torah (or Sabbath), and (2) he is referring to "not condemning" a person with weak faith, which doesn't have anything to do with whether or not Torah should be followed. A third fact is that many other people observe days and so on, not just the Jews. These facts cause the verses to convey a whole different meaning.
In Galatians 3:1-14, the general tenor seems to dismiss the Sabbath observance (and, by extension, Torah). This reference does not speak of the Sabbath directly, but it does speak of the Law. However, if you read carefully you will see that Paul is teaching against using the Law for a purpose for which it was not intended, that is, to gain right standing from God sufficient for salvation (2,3). Go a little further ahead to 3:21 and see that the Law is not contrary to the promises of God, and in verse 23 Paul says that all (I think this means a-l-l p-e-o-p-l-e) were shut up under the Law. This is not teaching us to ignore the Torah.
Next we have Galatians 4:10, which, like Romans 14:5 and 6, is referring to observing days and so on. Again, I point out that Jews are not the only one to observe days, months, seasons, and years. Why do we keep thinking that this applies only to Jews? Who is the book addressed to? And yet again I point out that if you look at this verse in context, you will see that Paul is referring to the "elemental things of the world" in 4:3, which could not possibly refer to God's Word in the slightest degree. Also, in verse 5 and 6, Paul says Yahshua "redeemed those under the Law that we might receive the adoption as sons." Does this mean only the Jews were redeemed? Of course not. According to verses above, all persons were “under the law.”
When we get to Colossians 2:16-23, it is an easy one to understand if you look at verse 20, which mentions "elementary principles of the world," and verse 22 where Paul again is teaching against the "commandments and teachings of men." This is NOT God's Word as revealed in Torah. You know, a lot of trouble could be avoided if we just READ THE TEXT. AND, in verse 16, Paul says to let no man "act as your judge" which in no way shape or form teaches negatively about the Sabbath. Why, when this verse could mean that we shouldn't let men tell us NOT to observe the Sabbath, do we take it to mean that we shouldn't obey the Sabbath? Could it be that we are naturally disobedient children and desperately looking for any excuse to avoid obedience?
Hebrews 4:1-11 comes up a lot to defend lawlessness, but for the life of me I can't see why:
"Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience."
THEY had the "good news" preached to them just like WE did, but the Word did not "profit them" because it was not "united with faith." They "failed to enter because of disobedience." It seems pretty clear to me that "faith" is equal to "obedience" while "no faith" is equal to "disobedience." Therefore, "faithful obedience" will cause us to enter His rest while "unfaithful disobedience" will cause us to "fall." If the gospel they heard had been united with faith, then by implication, it would have profited them, and, if we do not unite faith with the gospel we hear then it will not profit us either. The plain, literal meaning here is that the Sabbath rest is entered by "obedience" (or "faith"), and there is a warning for us not to follow the previous example and "not enter" or disobey.
Yahshua Himself established the Sabbath in Genesis (He was the Word that Created), and He was the first to observe it. And it is obvious from many references in Genesis and Exodus that His Word (Law, teachings and instruction - Torah) was known by all and obeyed by few well before Mt. Sinai, and penalties enforced on all for disobedience (why else was the world destroyed by a flood before the Law was "given?"). All through His Word, the Sabbath (and any other commandment, statute, ruling, law, or instruction) is spoken of as the Standard against which behavior is measured. He constantly appeals to Man to repent of following his own ways and turn to God and His Ways. Sabbath, and by extension Torah or any Word that God gives, is His Ways.
We cannot hide our disobedience in Romans 14 and the perceived teaching on “disputatious matters.” By definition, a disputatious matter would be any matter that God had not already given us instructions for. Good grief, if a disputatious matter was defined as anything people argued over, then I suppose every thing God ever said is a “disputatious matter.” If He has already given a specific instruction, then there should be no argument or "disputation." If He hasn't given an instruction, or we can't determine His will from the existing instructions, then it becomes an opinion and open to interpretation. It becomes “disputatious” when we fight over something that God didn’t spell out. We ignored His Word in the beginning (Did God really say ...?), fell away from an intimate relationship with Him, and allowed death to come into the world. Some people today are still asking, "Did God really say?"
We also cannot expect the Word to justify our refusal to observe His Ways by pointing to verses in the New Testament that appear to contradict or "change" the Word as already delivered by God through His servants in the Old Testament. Unfortunately for some, the Word is a complete package that, taken as it was intended, without fogging it's meaning with the doctrines of men, constitutes a crystal clear picture of what God requires of man. Paul does not teach against the Father's Word, he confirms it in the same fashion as Yahshua does. Both of them attack the "traditions" that are built up around the Word and tear down the walls of separation that legalists even today continue to try and reinforce. For some, this is a bitter pill to swallow because it goes against pride; they keep thinking there must be some other way to get what they want without having to go through God.
The instructions that YHVH gave us in the Old Testament are full of life, act as basic stepping-stones in the learning of more difficult concepts, show us our sin, and bring us to Yahshua. As each command is discovered and applied, they provide rich nourishment, fullness, depth, and expanded learning and understanding and “knowing” YHVH. I experience the peace of YHVH by resting "in Yahshua" on the Sabbath day. It is a shame that these benefits are stolen from new believers, and in their place we are given meaningless platitudes, empty philosophies, and useless traditions taught by men that lead people away from a true understanding of YHVH and His Messiah.
I suggest that teachers who want to eliminate parts of my Father's Word from our consideration want to place themselves in the believer’s life as the final authority. Instead of teaching independence (better still interdependence) or maturity, they want the believer to stay in a perpetual state of milk-induced dependence, immaturity and weakness.
Isaiah 32:6 NASB
In order to remain the primary influence in a believer’s life they deliberately keep him or her in a constant state of need, that is, a need for the teacher rather than a need for the Word.
As I've said before, if people don't want to obey YHVH I guess that's their choice. But they shouldn't try to call the mish-mashed, lukewarm things that they do "scriptural," or sanctify their behavior by sprinkling it with parts of the Word like so much holy water, or say that they "have Jesus" without having actions consistent with that claim. These people are wolves in sheep's clothing, they are liars with seared conscience, rending and tearing by the misuse of the Word and denying the benefits and blessings of obedience to those who are untutored and weak. They are like a mirage in a waterless desert, promising life but delivering death.
Yahshua said "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." Let's not fool around with semantics - His commandments include those given in the Old Testament. We abide in the Vine and bear fruit as we do what He said; mere "mental acknowledgement" is not enough. We can't split up what's in the Word and call some of it New and some Old, because all of it comes from Yahshua. If you want to "show Yahshua" then do what He says. He has given us all of the Word for our benefit, and expects us to take the talents given and return to Him an increase. After all, He has removed the penalties (but not the consequences) for not doing His Word perfectly and given us the Spirit to lead us and strengthen us. What else do we need?
II Pet. 3:14-18 CJB
May you be blessed by your obedience to the Word of the Messiah