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As a Jewish believer, the Sabbath is a very important part of my life. Keeping the Sabbath holy and setting a day apart from the other days, is a vital part of faith in God, whether you are a Jew or a Christian believer in Jesus. In this article, I share how to keep the Sabbath holy and share 11 ways to honor the Sabbath day!
Updated and republished from 2/5/2020
How to Keep the Sabbath Holy
As I mentioned, I am a Jewish believer (Messianic Jew). While I did not grow up in a Jewish home because my mother chose to adopt the faith of her father and not her mother, I did have quite a bit of exposure to the Sabbath day of rest through my Jewish family members (including my much older sister who WAS a practicing Jew for many years before she too became a believer) and later on, my Messianic Rabbi and congregation.In this post I am going to share about the Sabbath and 11 ways to keep the Sabbath holy in your home! Click To Tweet
Shabbat (the Hebrew word for Sabbath) was and is an important part of my life and in the lives of Jewish people all over the world. In fact, it is central in our lives.
What is the Sabbath Day?
The Sabbath in Judaism is a day of complete rest that is observed on the seventh day of the week, beginning from Friday at sundown and ending Saturday at sundown. It is the day on which God rested after completing all of creation and also commemorates the Lord freeing the His people from slavery in Egypt. The Sabbath commandment was given at Mount Sinai, when Torah was given to the children of Israel after the Exodus from the land of Egypt.
What Does the Bible Say About Sabbath? – God’s Creation Timeline
When we go back to the story of creation, back to the very beginning of the Bible, it is interesting to note one thing. One of the most vital and one of the most important aspects of creation, the thing that God Himself created even before the heavens and the earth that ISN’T mentioned as one of the elements of creation in the narrative, is time and order.
And yet, there it is as the first words of the Bible; in the beginning.
Even before God spoke a single thing into existence, there was time and order. Time as a concept was established even before the heavens and the earth. Even before God marked the day and night, there was time and order. “In the Beginning”.Even before God spoke a single thing into existence, there was time and order. Time as a concept was established even before the heavens and the earth. Even before God marked the day and night, there was time and order. "In the… Click To Tweet
We then move on to the specific order of creation beginning with the heavens and earth and then with light and the first day.
We then go on further to the other 5 days of creation.
Finally, in Chapter 2 verses 1 and 2 we see:
Time has always been a vital element, something of utmost importance, to God.
He’s established His calendar. He established days and seasons.
Seven, to represent the days of creation, has always been an important number in God’s Word. Seven represents perfection and wholeness.
So we have seven days in a week and on the completion of these seven days, on the day numbered for perfection, on the day He completed all He planned and called into existence, God rested.
There is time, and there is space.
The word kadosh means holy in Hebrew. Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, in his book called The Sabbath:
“One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word qadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?
It is indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word qadosh is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”” (Heschel)
In another quote from the same book, The Sabbath, Heschel says:
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
I love that! It is a time we turn from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
It is a time we stop trying to conquer the world, to achieve things in space and let time take over us.
As Heschel says in another part of his book, and I paraphrase: the Sabbath is a time to realize that the world has already been created and we are to stop trying to create for ourselves.
That is profound and THAT, my friends, is where observing the Sabbath begins. Laying down our striving and trying to dominate and conquer the world and, as Heschel says “try to dominate the self.”
But is there only a Sabbath day?
No…we have Shmita and Jubilees and a shadow of things to come. The first Sabbath is only the beginning of many Sabbaths the Lord has given the people of God.
Keep the Sabbath Holy – The ‘Shmita’ or Sabbatical Year
We have a Sabbath of seven years! It is called Shmita, the Sabbath year or Sabbatical year. It pertains to the agricultural cycle and is a year of Sabbath rest for the land. It is when the land is to lie fallow and no planting or harvesting or working the land is allowed.
Leviticus 25:2-7 says:
God put importance on rest, even for the land.
Keep the Sabbath Holy – The Year of Jubilee
The year of Jubilee (Yovel) is the completion of a seven-year cycle of Shmita.
This is often referred to as the year of redemption. It is the year debts are cancelled and property restored!
God has a plan for rest for all of creation, whether it be 7 days, 7 years or 7 cycles of 7.
So let’s get back to the Sabbath day.God has a plan for rest for all of creation, whether it be 7 days, 7 years or 7 cycles of 7 Click To Tweet
What is the Sabbath? – A Day of Rest
So on the 7th day, God ceased from His work and He gave the people a command to observe the Sabbath and keep the Sabbath holy.
Exodus 20:8-11 says:
What Day is the Sabbath Day?
So we can see that God gave us a command to rest, do no work on the Sabbath and to keep the Sabbath holy but in considering how to celebrate the Sabbath day we have to consider what day IS the Sabbath? And does it matter?
As I mentioned earlier, the Sabbath day is specific.
The Hebrew word for “Saturday” is literally “Shabbat” or Sabbath. Yom Shabbat is that day’s name. So it has always been observed from Friday at sunset (when the day begins in Jewish culture since God created evening and THEN morning) to sunset on Saturday.
This Sabbath was observed by the early believers in Yeshua as well as most of them were Jews. The idea for Sunday worship came about much later, and it was derived from a verse in Acts 20:7 which says:
Here we need to examine why they came together to break bread on the first day of the week. It was not communion as some think as Jesus did this at the Passover Seder and there was no command by Him to observe this EACH week. So that is an assumption. Breaking bread however was a common term to describe the sharing of a meal.
We DO see here that Paul was departing the next day for Jerusalem. So it is likely they gathered together to see him off before his trip and to pray over him.
Yes, Paul preached at this meeting but the truth be told, they preached ALL the time, not just on this day.
So the argument for this being the signal to switch the Sabbath to Sunday is weak at best.
BUT…yes, there is a BUT…they clearly DO meet on Sunday!
So, I do hesitate to tell non-Jewish believers they have to keep the Jewish Shabbat.
There is clearly evidence in scripture for the early gentile believers along with those Jews among them to meet and pray and worship on Sunday and there is a beauty to that…to honor the day of the resurrection each week.
Yes the Jews continued to keep Shabbat but there is also beauty in honoring the resurrection every week.
For the non-Jewish believer who wants to keep a Sunday Sabbath and to attend church on Sunday morning that is great! It is not my job to tell anyone what day to worship the Lord and as I said, I think there is wonder and beauty in celebrating the day of the resurrection.
And it has since become the day of worship for the church and as Dr. Jen Rosner states in her interview with me, we would never want to denounce Christianity or the church and take away from that worship.
We are both Jews who have spent a lot of time in the church and while yes, it has its flaws and mistakes, one cannot take away from the beauty and the love of Messiah the church has and force them into Jewish praxis.
I think anyone can gain from what Jen Rosner calls the “Sabbath ethic”, the meaning behind Sabbath
I Would LOVE Keep the Sabbath – But How?
If you would like to try ushering in the Sabbath like the Bride she is, there are some great ways you can go about it! Now if you are not a Jewish believer, you can simply devote that time to study and prayer. There is a difference between what God has commanded in Scripture and what Jewish cultural observance is for that command.
If you are not Jewish, you do not need to observe Shabbat the same way we do. But you can certainly form your own tradition of welcoming the day of rest in!
How to Keep the Sabbath Holy – How We Usher in the Holy Sabbath Day in the Bible as a Bride as Messianic Jews
We prepare for the Day- Friday is traditionally Preparation Day! The meals are cooked ahead of time since cooking is work. This is SO much fun because one of the things I love most about Preparation Day is making homemade challah bread. The table is set with candles and it is so warm and inviting.
At 18 minutes before sunset on Friday night, we light the Shabbat candles. The 18 minutes has been a tradition in order to prevent getting the time of sunset wrong. It is a buffer basically and is pure tradition.
The oldest woman in the household will typically light the candles but again…tradition. The woman will cover her head with a scarf, she will light the candles, and then circle the light with her hands to “take in” the Sabbath light. She will then cover her eyes and recite the Sabbath Candle Blessing.
Baruch Atah ADONAI, Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam Asher kidd’shanu bidvaro v’natan lanu et Yeshua M’schicheinu v’tzivanu li-h’yot or l’olam.
Blessed are You, ADONAI, our God, King of the Universe Who has made us holy through His Word and has given us Yeshua our Messiah, and commanded us to be light to the world.
11 Ways to Keep the Sabbath Holy
Whether you try a Sabbath tradition or you practice a Sunday day of rest, there are some ways you can keep the day holy and devote it to the Lord.
Spend Time With Family
The Sabbath is a great time to just spend time with loved ones and friends. Invite your family over for a great Erev Shabbat meal (Friday evening) with food prepared before Sabbath begins! Or spend time together during the day on Shabbat having lunch with food prepared the day before!
If you are a Messianic Jew and attend synagogue, you can spend time with your congegration (whether in person or virtually) having an oneg after service (a gathering with food or via Zoom these days where you just spend time "schmoozing").
Whether you are a Messianic Jew and go to shul or you are a Christian and attend church (or both!), attending service on the Sabbath is a great way to draw closer to the Lord and be fed! Fellowship with other believers is vital for us as a Church family.
Read and Study the Word
Devote time to reading the Bible AND studying it. Choose a book to study and learn more about! Read together as a family and allow for open discussion!
Set it Apart - Make it Different From Other Days
You can do this by saying no phones, no social media. Make it like a mini-fast for a day and focus on God. Do something that really lets you know THIS day is different.
Get out and enjoy creation! Sit on your deck and enjoy the view or just lay in a hammock in your yard if the weather is nice! Have a picnic or play in the snow depending on the weather.
Take the time to appreciate the beauty HaShem has placed all around us no matter the time of year!
Create a New Tradition
Find something new you can do as a family. Maybe its as simple as beginning to have that meal on Friday evenings with the candles! Do something that honors God. Make the Sabbath something that your children look back on with love and carry on for their own families.
Usher it in Like a Bride
Find a way to make Sabbath something you WELCOME into your home, not just wake up to. Usher it in! Again, those Friday evening meals if you do a Saturday Sabbath.
If you do Sunday, do something special in the morning to usher it in, like a special prayer time together or a devotional time. Play worship music throughout the house as you get ready for church.
It is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath Jesus said. So find a way to serve others.
Fill Your Home
Play praise and worship for the day! I have Alexa and I set a playlist to play everywhere so that the rooms we go into are filled with worship even when we are not in them. This just fills your home with the Spirit.
Talk With Your Children About God
Family devotions are a great way to share God with your children. Share a Bible story with them. Ask them to give you lessons they drew from the story. Share with them about Jesus. This is a great time to compliment the message they got from church or children's church. Have them share what they learned and foster conversation.
If you have very young children, color a Bible coloring sheet with them and tell them about God. It will be something that they grow up with and will always remember as being part of their lives.
Work on Scripture memorization! You will find some free coloring Scripture memorization cards below this list!
Take a Nap!
This is, after all, a day of rest. So rest! Take a nice nap! Kick back and just let God reward you for a week well done!
The Sabbath as a Shadow of the Things to Come
The Sabbath of creation is a shadow of the perfect Shabbat, the coming Kingdom of Messiah that is perfect rest. It will be fully Shabbat, fully rest. Your work will be done and it is my prayer we will all hear “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)
The Lord of the Sabbath is the Lord of Eternity and His Kingdom, the Messianic Kingdom, the New Jerusalem come from Heaven, will be our eternal reward.
Our heavenly Father will cause God’s people to have His perfect rest and His perfect peace and Shabbat is a taste of that.
What are some of the best ways you will keep the Sabbath holy, usher it in like a bride and celebrate the day of rest the Lord has blessed us with? How can you start keeping the Sabbath day holy in your home?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.
Quotes from: Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1951, 1979.