Ex. 31: 12-17 “And Yahweh spoke to Moses saying...”
Twice we read here, in verses 13 and 17, that observing the Sabbaths is a sign between Yahweh and the Israelites. And we know that Yahweh doesn't have one set of laws for Israel, and another set of laws for Gentiles. As the apostle Paul explained in Romans 11:17, the Gentiles are grafted in Israel, that he compares with a cultivated olive tree. So all true believers are grafted in as spiritual Jews or Israelites and must keep the law, including the Sabbath.
But let's go back to Ex. 31 verses 13 and 16 and read them again.
Notice that the word “Sabbaths” is plural in verse 13, and singular in verse 16. So observing all of Yahweh's Sabbaths, both the weekly and annual Sabbaths, is a sign between Yahweh and those who belong to Him.
This morning I want to examine with you how we are to observe the Sabbaths. Considering the death penalty that Yahweh promises for those who profane it, we certainly wouldn't want to profane it inadvertently, would we?
So let's turn to the very first place in the Bible that mentions the word “Sabbath”. That's in Ex. 16. In the first few verses we read that the entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they were afraid to die of hunger in the wilderness.
So Yahweh tested them to see whether or not they would follow His instructions.
So right here, when the Sabbath commandment is introduced for the very first time in the Bible, Yahweh tells His people to bake or boil a double amount on the sixth day, and eat what is left over on the Sabbath. So the Sabbath is not the right day to prepare meals, but rather a day to eat what you have prepared in advance. The context of Ex. 16 is of course the weekly Sabbath. We can prepare our food on the annual Sabbaths, as we read in
These verses speak only of the first and the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but by carefully reading Lev. 23, we see that we are not do any work on the weekly Sabbath.
So Yahweh's instruction for the weekly Sabbath is: “Don't do any work at all on the weekly Sabbath.”
Yahweh's instruction for the annual Sabbaths is slightly different:
Here we are told “you shall do no customary work on it”. In the Holman Christian Standard Bible this is translated as “you are not to do any daily work” on the first and the seventh day of UB. The KJV has: “ye shall do no servile work therein”. And Today's New International Version has: “do no regular work”.
We find the same instruction to do no customary work on Pentecost (verse 21), the Feast of Trumpets (verse 25), the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (verse 35) and on the eighth day (verse 36).
On the other hand we are told to do no work on the Day of Atonement:
So, the same restriction applies on the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement: we are not to do any work at all on those days. On the six other annual holy days we are not to do any customary work. What is the difference between “no customary work” and “no work at all”? Well, we have already seen in Ex. 12:16 that no work may be done on the first and the seventh day of UB, except for preparing what people need to eat. Let's read it again
So, putting together this verse with Lev. 23, we must conclude that on the weekly Sabbath and on the Day of Atonement we are not to do any work, not even preparing any food, and that on the other 6 annual holy days we are to do no work, except for preparing what we need to eat.
Now let's turn to the second passage in the Bible that gives us instructions regarding the Sabbath. This is in Exodus 20, where Yahweh gives the 10 commandments.
Let's understand this 4th commandment correctly. It says “6 days you shall labor and do all your work”. To me this sounds like an order that we must work Sunday through Friday. So are we sinning if we take vacation and don't do any work on a Tuesday for instance? Or if we decide to devote an entire Sunday to fasting, prayer and bible study, without doing any work all day long? Is that a sin? The way Ex. 20:9 is translated here, it sure sounds like it! But that's really not what Yahweh intended here.
Let's read Ex. 20:9 in God’s Word translation: “You have 6 days to do all your work”. This is also in line with the HCSB translation of Ex.31:15, that we have already read together: “For 6 days work may be done”. So Yahweh is giving us 6 days to do all our work. We must organize ourselves so as to finish our work in 6 days. If we can do it in 5 days, that's fine with Yahweh. If we go on vacation for a week, and we don't do any work all week long, that's OK too. And if we devote 1 or more days to fasting, prayer and Bible study, without working at all, that's certainly pleasing to Yahweh!
So the 4th commandment is not telling us that we are to work each and every single day, Sunday through Friday, but it IS telling us not to work on the Sabbath. But it's telling us even more. Not only we ourselves must not do any work on the Sabbath, neither must those who are under our control. Verse 10 says: “you, nor your son, nor daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates” – none of them is allowed to work.
Let's read the 4th commandment also in
Here we find an interesting addition: “that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you”. So our servants or employees are to rest as we ourselves. This implies of course that we are not to pay anyone to serve us on the Sabbath, for example in a restaurant, or that we don't pay a painter to paint our house on the Sabbath.
Some will say, well these people working in the restaurant are breaking the Sabbath anyway, so why can't we eat out on the Sabbath? Well, the reason is pretty basic. The 6th commandment says “Do not murder”. Does this mean that we can hire a professional killer to murder someone, as long as we don't pull the trigger of the gun ourselves? Of course not! Even according to our civil laws, we would be guilty of murder, even though technically speaking, we would not be the ones who did the killing. But we would be held entirely responsible of this murder, and rightly so.
This is a general principle that's endorsed by Yahweh too. Not only are we not to sin ourselves, but we are not to ask or push or order others to sin either. Otherwise Yahweh will consider us just as guilty as the one who is committing the sin, technically speaking. Let's see an example of this. We all know the story of David's adultery with Batsheba, and how he got rid of her husband Uriah. Let's read in
2 Sam. 11:14-17, 26-27
2 Sam. 12:9
Notice what Nathan says here: “YOU have killed Uriah... YOU have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon”.
The same is true if we eat out on the Sabbaths. Yahweh holds both us and those working in the restaurant responsible of breaking the 4th commandment. But they do it out of ignorance, while we should know better.
Some say that it's OK to eat out on the Sabbaths during the FOT, because we are not within our gates. But the Bible contains no exception allowing us to eat out on the annual Sabbaths. On the contrary!
So these Jews are committing themselves to follow the law of Yahweh, among other things not to buy merchandise or food on the Sabbath or a holy day. Notice that it says “on the Sabbath or a holy day” – any holy day, without exception. So we don't buy food on a holy day – not in a supermarket, nor in a restaurant.
Is all this a minor detail that Yahweh will readily overlook, or is it even Pharisaic legalism? Let me answer with another question: Was Nehemiah a Pharisee, or was he a faithful servant of Yahweh? And is this an important issue in Yahweh's eyes?
Neh. 13: 15-18
Notice that Nehemiah is telling here that selling and buying is profaning the Sabbath. It was one of the main reasons why Yahweh brought the disaster of captivity on the Jews. So in Yahweh's eyes this is an EXTREMELY important issue. Do you share Yahweh's point of view? If not, are you willing to change yours?
The issue of eating out on the Sabbath is controversial in many Churches of G-d, and there is really no reason for it, as the Bible is perfectly clear. Those who eat out on the Sabbaths usually refer to Matthew 12:1-8 to defend their practice. But this passage isn't dealing with going to restaurants, nor with buying food, nor with asking others to prepare a meal.
So this is simply saying that the disciples were guiltless for plucking and eating heads of grain as they were walking through the grainfields. It's rather mysterious to me how anyone can conclude from this that it's OK to pay others to prepare a meal for you on the Sabbath.
And did you notice something else? It was the disciples who plucked heads of grain! Yahshua didn't! The Pharisees didn't accuse Him, but His disciples for doing it. They accused Him for allowing THEM to do it. And He, the Son of Man decided that His disciples could pluck heads of grain, just as Yahweh decided that David and his men could eat the showbread. Let's read
1 Sam. 22: 9-10
So the high priest inquired of Yahweh, got Yahweh's consent, and then gave provisions to David and his men. And here in Matthew 12 the Messiah gave His consent to His disciples to pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath, although He Himself refrained from doing that. Isn't it strange that true believers would want to justify themselves for dining out on the Sabbaths by referring to the example of the disciples, while not even considering the possibility of following Yahshua' example who preferred not to pluck any heads of grain? I would think that Yahshua' s example here is at least as worthwhile following as the example of the disciples.
Another objection that some come up with is utilities such as water and electricity. Their argument goes something like this: every time you use water or electricity on the Sabbath, you are buying and selling, so it's OK to buy a meal in the restaurant, and have them prepare it for you.
Well, this is really an excuse for continuing to transgress Yahweh's clear instructions in Exodus 16, in the 4th commandment and in Nehemiah. If you observe Yahweh's instruction in Ex. 16 to prepare the Sabbath meals on Friday, then you eat those meals on the Sabbath and you have no reason to go to the restaurant.
As for the utilities, these are things beyond our control. This world is organized in such a way that we need electricity and water and other utilities every single day of our lives. And we don't control the production and distribution of those utilities. By the way, even if we would somehow manage to suddenly stop consuming water and electricity on the Sabbaths, that would cause no one in the utility companies to work even one single second less. On the contrary, if too many people would suddenly stop consuming electricity at sunset on Friday evening, and suddenly start consuming electricity again at sunset on Saturday evening, that would cause disturbances and extra work. Going to the restaurant is within our control. The way of operating of the utility companies is not within our control.
Sabbathkeepers in the Churches of G-d come up with several other excuses to defend their habit of eating out on the Sabbaths, but none of these excuses can ever overrule Yahweh's instructions.
Ox in the ditch
Luke 13: 10-17
Luke 14: 1-6
These passages show that you are not supposed to let someone or even an animal suffer on the Sabbath. You pull the ox out of the ditch, even if that takes considerable effort and work on the Sabbath. Yahshua healed people on the Sabbath, but this did not take any work on His part.
Some people say that an ox doesn't fall in a ditch every Sabbath. That's true of course, but they mean to say that working on the Sabbath in order to prevent people or animals from suffering should be very exceptional. But let me give an example from my personal life. Deborah
Stay where you are on the Sabbath? Ex. 16: 29
So we are COMMANDED to assemble ourselves on the Sabbath, even if this takes a long drive by car, or by train, to go to services.
So what about Ex. 16:29? Why does it say that everyone must remain in his place?
Ex. 16: 27-30
So they went out to work, to gather food. Yahweh told them to stay where they were in order to prevent them from working on the Sabbath. So this instruction can’t be used to overrule Yahweh’s clear command to have a holy convocation on the Sabbath. Even if you need to use mass transportation to go to services on the Sabbath, that’s OK.
Ex. 35:2-3 v3 HCSB Do not light a fire in any of your homes on the Sabbath day.
Notice that this verse says not to light a fire. It does NOT tell us not to keep a fire burning that was made before the Sabbath begun. So it's perfectly allright to put a block of wood on the fire on the Sabbath to keep it burning. Yahweh doesn't want us to suffer from cold in the winter, so we can turn on the central heating on the Sabbath. Normally there's a pilot light that's always burning. When we turn on the heating, the pilot light becomes a big fire, so we are not lighting a fire, but we are adding fuel to a fire that's already burning. And turning on the heating can hardly be qualified as work.
We saw earlier that observing the Sabbaths is a sign between Yahweh and His people. We also saw that buying and selling on the Sabbaths is one way to profane them.
Now let's turn to Revelation for just a moment.
Rev. 13:16-17 HCSB And he requires everyone – small and great, rich and poor, free and slave – to be given a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast's name or the number of his name.
So the beast has a mark or sign too, and like Yahweh's sign, it has also to do with buying and selling. Some think that Sunday observance is the mark of the beast. But will all muslims and atheists in the world suddenly become Sunday keepers? I don't think so. My suggestion is that this mark of the beast will be given to those who profane the Sabbath, by buying and/or selling on it. Yahweh's sign is keeping the Sabbaths holy, so it would be logical that the mark of the beast would be the exact opposite, that is profaning the Sabbath. Technically speaking it would be very easy to introduce this mark of the beast. The government stops the use of cash money, all payments must be made with a debit or credit card. Then the government checks who never uses his debit or credit card on the Sabbath, and their accounts and cards are blocked. Impossible to buy or sell anything anymore.
This is just my idea of course, I can't prove from the Bible that this is exactly the way it will happen. One thing is for sure however: those who DON'T profane the Sabbaths, but keep them holy, and who keep all of Yahweh's commandments, will NOT receive the mark of the Beast. No one will have Yahweh's seal as well as the mark of the beast on his or her forehead. Those professing to keep the Sabbaths, but who are in reality profaning them by buying or selling, or any other way, will NOT receive Yahweh’s seal of protection on their foreheads, but will be killed when they refuse to worship the image of the beast, as you can read in Rev. 13:15.
Now, so far we have seen what we can't do on the Sabbaths: we can't work, nor buy and sell. We can't allow anyone or even any animal to work for us. On the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement we can't even prepare food. And we are told to eat on the Sabbath what is left over from what we prepared on Friday. With so many don'ts, how can we ever delight in the Sabbath? Yet this is exactly what we are commanded to do.
Is. 58:13-14 HCSB If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of [Yahweh] honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; then you will delight yourself in [Yahweh], and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of [Yahweh] has spoken.
So we are not to be doing our own pleasure on Yahweh’s holy day. That means we aren’t to be pursuing our hobbies or leisure activities. That does not preclude doing any enjoyable things on the Sabbath whatsoever, for we are to find delight in it. The point is that, whatever we do, Yahweh must be an intrinsic part of it. A family walk through a natural setting, for example, is a wondrful way to get in touch with the great Elohim who made the beautiful creation we see.
When the seventh day arrives, we must stop pursuing our “own ways” (the things we normally do), seeking our “own pleasure” (just trying to have fun) and speaking our own words (the everyday things we talk about that do not involve Yahweh). This last one is often very hard to follow because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). To truly keep the Sabbath in the spirit, we must focus our minds on Yahweh and those things He wants us to be concerned with during His holy time. Then, as Yahweh promises, we will be truly blessed.
In addition to worshiping with true brethren on His weekly holy day, we should remember Yahshua’s approach that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:12). So this is a day we can use to for making encouraging phone calls or writing emails to the sick or brethren who are lonely. It may also be possible to visit the sick or others in needon the Sabbath, or to have them over for a Friday evening meal (cf. Matt. 25:34-36; James 1:27).
Now, one word of caution when we invite people to share a meal together at home on the Sabbath.
Like Martha, we could be very busy on the Sabbath with much serving, even if the meal is prepared in advance. So, let’s keep it simple. Even a simple bread meal will do.
Acts 2: 46-47
So, no need for an appetizer, an entree, desert, followed by coffee or tea. Eating your food with gladness and simplicity of heart is what counts. Let’s not follow Martha’s example, who was worried and troubled about many things. Rather, let’s follow Mary’s example, who listened to Yahshua’s words. Fellowship and uplifting conversations about spiritual things are more important aspects of the Sabbath than a delicious meal. On the Sabbath we we should delight in spiritual things.
Finally, let us consider Yahshua’s perfect example of keeping the Sabbath.
1Co 11:1 Become imitators of me, as I also am of Messiah.
So, we should be imitators of Yahshua, just as the apostle Paul imitated Him also. Although Yahshua was accused by the religious leaders of His time of profaning the Sabbath, the truth is that He always kept this day holy.
1Pe 2:21 For to this you were called, because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps, 22 “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth,”
We see here that Yahshua never sinned, so that means that He always kept the fourth commandment. The religious leaders accused Him falsely of profaning the Sabbath, because He did not comply with their vain traditions regarding the Sabbath. So how did Yahshua honor the Sabbath?
He assembled with other Jews in the synagogue.
He read from the Scriptures.
He healed the sick.
He shared meals.
He took walks with close friends.
He criticized self-righteous religious leaders.
He inspired hope in the weak.
He stayed in constant contact with His Father.
In conclusion, let’s not profane the Sabbath by working on it, or having others work for us, nor any other way. Rather, let’s keep the Sabbath day holy, just as Yahshua did.