SABBATH/SHABBAT, THE SEVENTH DAY 23.02.18
What is the correct day for keeping Sabbath/Shabbat? Why are there two different choices for what is called “Sabbath”? What is behind the different days and the reasons for two alternate times for keeping “The Lord’s Day”? What does Scripture tell us about this? Can either one be okay?
From a close look at God’s Word, the Scriptures clearly instruct: “Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work. . . . . For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy” (Ex.20:8-11).
We see from this set of passages that: (a) We are to remember the Sabbath; (b) to keep it holy (i.e., set it apart from everything else); (c) Days 1,2,3,4,5, and 6 are work days, and (d) day #7 is the day of completion, the Sabbath/Shabbat, at which time God could now (e) Rest: this was henceforth to be a day of rest for all people. This was non-negotiable; it was, and still is, God’s law.
Let us dispel some of the myths around the issue of Sabbath:
Myth #1: The Sabbath/Shabbat was designed only for the Jews.
The Hebrew nation was nonexistent when, in the Garden, even before the creation of Adam and Eve, the Word of God declared: “So the heavens and the earth were completed along with their entire array. God completed—on the seventh day—His work that He made, and He ceased—on the seventh day—from all His work that He made. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He ceased from all His work that God created for the purpose of preparing,” (Gen. 2:1-3), clearly indicating that right from the beginning, it was God’s intention to make this day holy. This is the first of Yahweh’s appointed times; and they are HIS; they do not belong only to the Jews. “These are the appointed feasts of Adonai, holy convocations which you are to proclaim in their appointed season” (Lev.23:4). When Yahweh gave Moses the “10 Commandments,” He emphasized, “but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work—not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates” (Ex.20:10). The “outsider within their gates” would obviously be Gentile believers. Therefore, this claim (that it only applied to Jews) is a myth. It was for all who would follow Him.
Myth #2: The Sabbath/Shabbat was only for Old Testament times.
Isn’t that like the voice of the snake in the Garden saying to Eve, “God didn’t really mean. . …. ?” (Gen.3:1).
“As a holy people, we are called to live a life that follows all His Ways, always” Brown (https://youtu.be/iNpiRbfx8c4) points out – not just for a little while, or whenever we feel like it. They were to “observe the Shabbat throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and Bnei-Yisrael forever” (Ex.31:16,17). “The very first thing God declared as holy was the Sabbath” emphasizes David Brown; “It was set apart for HIM. It is a sign that you don’t belong to yourself; you belong to someone else – to HIM”, explains Brown (https://youtu.be/iNpiRbfx8c4) . “I also gave them My Shabbatot, as a sign between Me and them, so that they would know that I am Adonai who made them holy” (Ezek.20:12). ”The Sabbath was given for a sign that He sanctifies and sets apart His people. The Sabbath is a sign; and the Sabbath is itself a Sanctuary” (Brown, https://youtu.be/iNpiRbfx8c4). “This was not something that was just pencilled in . .. . .”
If the Sabbath was only for Old Testament times, why did Yeshua attend Synagogue on the Sabbath? “Now Yeshua went out from there, and He comes to His hometown, and His disciples follow Him. When Shabbat came, He began to teach in the synagogue” (Mk.6:1,2).
“These are the moadim of Adonai, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations . . .” (Lev.23:37). “But is it really important today to keep the moadim? He fulfilled them; but He didn’t do away with them” Brown points out:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.5:17-19).
In fact, according to prophecy in Isaiah, this will continue into the Millenium, that’s how permanent it is: “For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will endure before Me”—it is a declaration of Adonai—“so your descendants and your name will endure. And it will come to pass, that from one New Moon to another, and from one Shabbat to another, all flesh will come to bow down before Me,” says Adonai””(Isa.66:22,23).
Myth #3: Jesus/Yeshua didn’t consider Sabbath/Shabbat to be important.
“And they went into Capernaum. Right away, on Shabbat, He entered the synagogue and began to teach” (Mk.1:21).
“Shabbat was made for man, and not man for Shabbat. So the Son of Man is Lord even of Shabbat”(Mk.2:27,28).
“Yeshua returned in the power of the Ruach . . . . He taught in their synagogues, and everyone was praising Him. And He came to Natzeret, where He had been raised. As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on Shabbat, and He got up to read”(Lk.4:14-16).
“Yeshua came down to Capernaum, a town in the Galilee. He was teaching them on Shabbat . .” (Lk.4:31).
“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” (John 15:10).
Sounds like confirmation, not negation. Yeshua never deviated from the original commandments of Torah. If anything, “Yeshua restored the true meaning of the Sabbath” (Messianic Moments, p.11).
Myth #4: That Sabbath/Shabbat was changed during New Testament times, from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week.
“Entering the synagogue on the Shabbat, they sat down. After the reading of the Torah and the Prophets, the synagogue leaders sent to them, saying . . .The following Shabbat, almost the entire city came together to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:14,15,44). Paul taught that “Moses from ancient generations has had in every city those who proclaim him, since he is read in all the synagogues every Shabbat” (Acts 15:21); and Paul “was debating every Shabbat in the synagogue, trying to persuade both Jewish and Greek people” (Acts 18:4). Throughout Acts there are examples of Paul and God’s people, including Gentile believers, keeping Sabbath, as usual. At no point is there a mention of the day having been altered.
“So here we can see that 22 years after Yahushua’s death and resurrection the disciples were attending Sabbath services. In no place do we see Paul or any other disciple teaching them that they should come back the next day for a ‘first day of the week’ service. But they went to three Sabbath services where there were both Jews and Greeks present. So then the doctrine that says the Jews have their day (the 7th day) and the Gentiles have their day (the 1st day) is foreign to scripture. Some would argue that Paul was at the synagogue only because that is where he would find people to witness to…not to observe the Sabbath. But the scripture does not say that. This is an assumption that those who refuse the simplicity of the scriptures want to make, not one that the scriptures support. Again, the Seventh Day is called “The Sabbath day” in this passage” (http://www.eliyah.com/85times.html).
“Walking in His appointed times is His gift to us. Where was Yeshua on Shabbat? In the Synagogues . . . In New Testament times they met at the temple, in the Synagogues, and in the homes. One did not replace another. They would go to the synagogue at Shabbat, and then to someone’s home . . . . ” Brown explains ( https://youtu.be/iNpiRbfx8c4). It had nothing to do with changing of days. They met many times, also, even when it wasn’t Shabbat.
When believers subscribe to Sunday as the Sabbath, they do so on the erroneous assumption that somehow the day was changed. They stop short of aligning the Hebraic times with the Scriptures and the practices of Yeshua Himself, who read the Scriptures in the Synagogue on the traditional Sabbath (Lk.4:15,16,31-33; Mk.1:21; Mk.6:2).
“There is no evidence anywhere in the New Covenant that Yeshua or any of the disciples or Apostles worshipped on any other day than the Shabbat” (Messianic Moments, p.15). The Sabbath/Shabbat carried on just as it had been; and there would be no reason for it to be otherwise. Would there not have been an official proclamation if it had been changed? It doesn’t even make sense.
So what created such a discrepancy between the two groups of believers that caused some to shift from Saturday, the seventh day, to Sunday the first day of the week for that ascribed as Sabbath, or Shabbat? Historical events that created division between Jewish and Gentile believers, strife and division.
As stated in Part I of this study, although “There are those who teach that after the Messiah’s death and resurrection, the Torah was done away with which included the Shabbat,” (Messianic Moments, p.15,16), there is no evidence for this in Scripture. To the contrary, Yeshua Himself said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Torah scholars, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt. 5:17-20). It is difficult to understand what there is about this that leaves any question.
It was during the time of Constantine, when the oppression of the Jews was such that it became difficult for Gentile believers to associate themselves with Jewish believers without bringing persecution and suffering upon themselves. Although some Christian literature would portray Constantine as favouring Christianity because he legalized it as the official religion, his reason for doing so was to control the Jewish influence and create a separation between the Gentile believers and their Jewish counterparts. His leanings were entirely anti-Semitic; his motivations were anything but pure. Emperor Constantine, himself, was a pagan sun worshipper. “Constantine forbade those who believed in Yeshua, on pain of death, from worshipping on the Sabbath. Sunday worship was a convenient means of excluding Jewish Believers from continued fellowship with Gentile Believers” (Messianic Moments, p.16). The practice had already been encouraged, but with the official declaration, the deliberate move to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots became a reality.
“During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great_and_Christianity ). “The first Council of Nicea (325 CE) was attended by 318 bishops that are said to have had no Jewish ancestry. These bishops changed the date of the Passover celebration from its Hebrew calendar date of the 14th of Nissan to a different date,” (Messianic Moments, p.16), years later evolving into the alteration of, and thus further separation between Jewish/Gentile believers, of this resurrection holiday to become known among Gentiles as “Easter” (named after a pagan goddess), rather than the original Feast of “Passover.”
Although much of what Constantine did protected what had become known as “Christianity”, it was not so noble as many would have it portrayed. It was more of a tactic for control over Christianity. By splitting off the Gentile believers from the Jewish believers, it gave Constantine a claim to protecting “Christians,” thus eliciting their compliance. This signified a major turning point in the historic development of “Christianity,” and the ensuing unfortunate split between Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah. It may have begun with the changing of the day of worship, but it progressed far beyond that, including the gradual changing of Feast dates, names, and the incorporation of heathen holidays into what was called “Christian” (Easter and Christmas being primary examples). Holidays/Feasts originally known and shared by all followers of Yeshua Messiah were abandoned by the Gentile believers and replaced by pagan holidays. This was further entrenched when, fear of identification with Jews, in addition to the subtle influence of validation through legalizing such practices, set in place the permanent alterations of Sabbath/Shabbat, (and Passover), gradually tainting the relationship between Gentile and Jewish believers, leaving scars that are badly in need of repair today.
In addition to Constantine’s institution of Sunday as the legal day of rest/worship, and his abolishment of “Passover,” the Roman Catholic Church, through “The Council of Laodecia in A.D. 364 decreed, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s Day they shall especially honour and as being Christians, shall if possible, do no work on that day. If, however they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Messiah” (Messianic Moments, p.17). Notice that “Judaizing” (converting to, or following Jewish traditions) was considered a more serious violation than working on Shabbat. An additional move, raising the division another notch, introducing a new level of alienation between Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah.
Through the assumption of authority by the Roman Catholic Church, having incorporated it into the Catholic Catechism, Sunday as the official Sabbath, increasingly became the accepted practice. Yet, in recent times, “Albert Smith, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, replying for the cardinal in a letter of February 10, 1920. “If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath Day that is Saturday. In keeping Sunday they are following a law of the Catholic Church” (Messianic Moments, p.19), counter to the law of God. It had been identified, yet the erroneous practice still continues. . . . No one wants to change the status quo . . . .
Following along with the changes superimposed by the Catholic Church, parallels accurately the statement: “in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ Having left behind the commandment of God, you hold on to the tradition of men. You set aside the commands of God, in order that you may validate your own tradition” (Mk.7:7-9). They were following Rabbinic teachings which were additions to God’s original laws, which was why Yeshua demonstrated repeatedly that “Shabbat was made for man, and not man for Shabbat” (Mk.2:27), emphasizing that it was not meant to enslave man, but rather for the true rest that God intended. “All of these categories taught by Rabbinical Judaism went beyond what the spirit of the Sabbath was intended. This resulted in the Sabbath becoming a day of legalistic observance that placed guilt and condemnation upon the people. It became a day of bondage rather than a day of delight” (Messianic Moments, p.9,10). It was on the basis of these Rabbinic laws that the religious leaders of the day accused Yeshua of doing what was unlawful; and “It was Yeshua’s purpose to be an example and restore the love, compassion and mercy of God that was lacking among the Jewish leaders” (Messianic Moments, p.12) when, for instance, they accused Him of healing on the Sabbath, as though it were against God’s laws. It was never against God’s laws; it was against laws instituted by man. This is what Yeshua was demonstrating. He was not violating the Father’s laws, as has been misinterpreted by some; He was indicating that Jewish leaders had superimposed man made laws over God’s laws.
So much of what Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach came to show us all, has been misinterpreted largely due to this historical breech, followed by Anglosaxon interpretations which ignored the original Hebraic/Jewish cultural foundation of the Jewish experience.
During the first 100 years after Christ’s ascension, the believing community was united. There was no discrepancy between Jew/Gentile believer regarding Sabbath, Passover, or any God-ordained feast, practice or foundational doctrine. It was due to ongoing proliferation of anti-Semitic prejudices and persecution, combined with fear, thus followed by unquestioning acceptance, that events culminated in altered definitions of dates/times (Sabbath, Passover/Easter, and Christmas), as well as the exclusion of Jewish feasts and traditions originally honoured by the Gentile believers. It is time to reclaim the true roots of Christianity Jewish roots, rooted in Messiah Himself,
and become the living testimony of the “One New Man”: “But now in Messiah Yeshua . . . . made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation. . . . to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom. . . to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross” (Eph.2:13-16).
It is time to lay hold of that true unity and oneness, that Messiah addressed just before His death on the Cross: “that they all may be one. Just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, so also may they be one in Us . . . that they may be one just as We are one— I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:21-23). This is the heart cry of our Lord, as He prayed His last prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion.
© 2016, revised 2017, 2018 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.
Scriptures quoted from Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
http://www.eliyah.com/85times.html – website re Sabbath/Shabbat
Messianic Moments, A Publication endorsed by the Council of Messianic Jewish Congregations of Alberta, by Rabbi Calev Goldberg.
Constantine, Christianity, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great_and_Christianity
© 2018 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.