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How to Keep the Sabbath Holy – 11 Ways to Honor the Sabbath Day

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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!

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Updated and republished from 2/5/2020

How to Keep the Sabbath Holy

As I mentioned, I am a Jewish believer. 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.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

nkjv

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.

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Genesis 1:1-5:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. So God distinguished the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” So there was evening and there was morning—one day.

TLV

We then go on further to the other 5 days of creation.

Finally, in Chapter 2 verses 1 and 2 we see:

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.

TLV

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)

A couple leaning back on a couch resting with Genesis 2:1-2 quoted

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.


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How to 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:

Speak to Bnei-Yisrael and tell them: When you come into the land which I give you, then the land is to keep a Shabbat to Adonai.

For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits.

But in the seventh year there is to be a Shabbat rest for the land—a Shabbat to Adonai. You are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

You are not to reap what grows by itself during your harvest nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. It is to be a year of Shabbat rest for the land. 

Whatever the Shabbat of the land produces will be food for yourself, for your servant, for your maidservant, for your hired worker and for the outsider dwelling among you. 

Even for your livestock and for the animals that are in your land—all its increase will be enough food.

TLV

God put importance on rest, even for the land.

How to Keep the Sabbath Holy – The Year of Jubilee

The year of Jubilee (Yovel) is the completion of a seven year cycle of Shmita.

Leviticus 25:8-17

You are to count seven Shabbats of years, seven times seven years, that is, forty-nine years. 

Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, on Yom-Kippur, you are to sound a blast on the shofar; you are to sound the shofar all through your land; 

and you are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a yovel for you; you will return everyone to the land he owns, and everyone is to return to his family. 

That fiftieth year will be a yovel for you; in that year you are not to sow, harvest what grows by itself or gather the grapes of untended vines; 

because it is a yovel. It will be holy for you; whatever the fields produce will be food for all of you. 

In this year of yovel, every one of you is to return to the land he owns.

If you sell anything to your neighbor or buy anything from him, neither of you is to exploit the other.

Rather, you are to take into account the number of years after the yovel when you buy land from your neighbor, and he is to sell to you according to the number of years crops will be raised. 

If the number of years remaining is large, you will raise the price; if few years remain, you will lower it; because what he is really selling you is the number of crops to be produced. 

Thus you are not to take advantage of each other, but you are to fear your God; for I am Adonai your God.

CJB

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:

Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God.

On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. 

For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.

CJB


What Day is the Sabbath Day?

So we can see that God gave us a command to rest and 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.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. So there was evening, and there was morning, one day.  Genesis 1:5

CJB

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:

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

NKJV

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.

He set the Sabbath day and we have no right to change what God Himself sanctified and set apart. Jesus was Himself Son of man and the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.

If you want to attend church on Sunday morning that is great! You can absolutely do that. But we cannot change what day the Lord determined is the Sabbath. It says on the SEVENTH day. God’s calendar was not the Gregorian calendar! It was HIS calendar! The days of the week were ordered in Genesis, not in Rome or Greece.

I Would LOVE to Try to Honor the Sabbath and Keep it Holy – 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. 

How to Keep the Sabbath Holy – How We Usher in the Holy Sabbath Day in the Bible as a Bride as a Messianic Jew

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.

Challah Bread

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 purely 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.



An infographic with 5 simple ways to keep the Sabbath holy in your home - Prepare Ahead, Light the Candles, Candle Blessing, Family Meal, Devote This Time to Him


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.

11 Ways to Keep the Sabbath Holy

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").

Attend Services

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.

Go Outside!

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.

Do Good!

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!

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.

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36 Comments

  1. Great article! Shabbat Shalom!! Question though, on your portion above about spending time with family & the idea of having a BBQ…we are called to not kindle any fire of any sort on Sabbath. Thought that was kind of misleading to people who are coming into this for the first time and reading that. Was wanting a clarification on that portion or if you meant having a meal that was made by fire the day before😊 thanks!

    1. Well it depends I suppose on how how observant one is and that is between them and the Lord. But for me, especially in the fall and spring, we usually BBQ the food prior to sunset on Erev Shabbat so we can see. But yes, you make an excellent point that needs to be clarified for Shabbat day that it’s food cooked prior or cooked after Shabbat ends. Thank you for pointing that out! I will update that to clarify.

  2. My Sabbath needs some pruning and this article has been a great encouragement to me.

    Yes, Lord, I will.

    Thank you!

    Elizabeth

  3. Hello Diane,

    This is the first time I have been on your website and am enjoying the information and scripture you give regarding the Sabbath Day. God is calling me to refocus on Him during Sabbath Days, so this blog is very timely. It is important to me that the Sabbath is kept holy. Going to Church, visiting with family and sharing a meal with members of our Church is commonplace. However, my upbringing is Christian, so the idea of not kindling a fire intrigues me. Does this mean that all food eaten on the Sabbath is always served cold? Also, how would dirty dishes be approached? These are two issues that I am struggling to find answers. I appreciate any advice.

    1. Hi Sherry…that is a great question. So planning is definitely something that is called for. Cholent, which is a yummy stew, is left on to cook overnight in many cases and you can keep food warm using items already turned on (like the cholent is left on in a slow cooker). As long as the fire is not kindled AFTER the start of Shabbat, it can be on during Shabbat. For dirty dishes, we use paper plates when possible for meals outside of the main meal on Shabbat. I rinse them and put them in the dishwasher and leave them until Saturday evening. The rest we throw out. So it’s some creativity. But keep in mind that not all Jews go to the extreme of not turning on lights and things like that. It says not to kindle a fire. But many Jews have different ways of observing that.

  4. Very intereting. Thank you. Saturday’s Mass reading was from Is 58, where in vs. 13 he says what is a “good” sabbath. The ones that really got me were, “refrain from following your own pursuits” and “avoid idle chatter”. For my family I think that means turn off the video game console and don’t gossip or get into political rants. It got me into looking for ideas for what TO do. This was helpful. Especially the prompt to DO GOOD. (Mt 12:12). Thank you and God Bless, Brad B.

    1. Yes the “following your own pursuits” one is a great way to explain what refrain from! I am happy you found some ideas for what to do on Sabbath as well. There is often such a focus on what not to do. I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. This is wonderful. I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I LOVE Sabbath. Have you noticed, that man’s 1st day was a day of rest. Man could rest because God did all the work, and His work was “complete” (whole, perfect). Our creator is also our kinsman-redeemer (Goel in Hebrew). Jesus redeemed us perfectly, completely. And just like redemption is the theme of the Sabbath command in Deuteronomy 5, the complete work of Christ’s redemption for us is the reason we “rest” on Sabbath. We rest because He did the work. Woo Hoo! Sabbath is a day of remembrance that our creator is also our redeemer who completed the work. Now that’s a reason to celebrate. Shabbat Shalom sister.

  6. First of your articles Ive read, WELL DONE. Im sure I’ll have questions later. Been learning Hebrew since 2014 at least. Changed how I see things alot! Shalom!

    1. Thank you so much and I am so glad you enjoyed it!! Feel free to ask any questions you might have!!

  7. Thank you so much, I recently decided to start keeping the Sabbath and am eager to learn on how to correctly keep the sabbath, especially with kids from toddlers to 12. I’m thankful to God to have found your teaching on Sabbath. God bless you!

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