How I Keep the Sabbath

Last we talked about "why" I keep the Sabbath but most of the questions I receive deal with "how" I keep the Sabbath. This week I want to talk about the beauty of the Sabbath. Yes there are things I don't do, but the Sabbath isn't about do's and don'ts, its about worship and the original state of peace the LORD created for mankind.
13“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14 NKJV

Check out the episode on "don't" vs. "can't" vs. "won't"—it's important concerning the mentality I approach Sabbath with.[1]

Verses about what not to do on the Sabbath:
  • Exodus 16:22-23: Collect food
  • Exodus 20:8-11: Work (done by you or for you)
  • Exodus 35:3: Kindle a fire
  • Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15: buy or sell
  • Isaiah 56:2: Pollute it or do evil
  • Isaiah 58:13-15: Your own pleasure, Speaking your own words
  • Jeremiah 17:21-22: Carry a burden
Important things to think about:
  • Contex (for instance, the amount of work it took somone in Biblical times to kindle a fire vs. the work needed today)
  • Overall goal/purpose for the day
  • Exodus 12:16 and Deuteronomy 16:1-8 show food preparation on the day of Passover considered to be a Sabbath
What did Jesus amend?
Jesus set the Pharisees straight about the purpose of the Sabbath. While there are things God told us not to do, Jesus reminds us that there is a larger picture. As long as our actions align with this larger picture we are in accordance to God's will. It is always acceptable to do good, to do things that bring glory to God even if it may consitute work (example: the preists did work to carry out sacrifices on Sabbath). Here are some examples:
  • Perhaps the most quoted example is that from Matthew 12, in which Jesus and the disciples are picking grain to eat on the Sabbath
  • Jesus heals on the Sabbath. (Mark 3:1-4)
  • Jesus speaks of freeing people on the Sabbath. (Luke 13)
There are things outside of our control. Jesus said if your sheep fell in a ditch, you'd lift it out. Similarly, if your house catches on fire you'd put it out. If someone is sick, they need medical attention. If someone is starving they require food. In the same vein, if you are the firefighter or the doctor, you should rush to help those in need! It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”Matthew 12:12 NKJV
My philosophy concerning Sabbath is to treat it as though God is spending the day with me; He is the guest of honor. How would I treat Him? Would I spend the whole day ignoring Him or doing things that He would not take part in? This also reminds me to focus on planning/time managment. If I know someone is going to visit me, I wouldn't wait untli they get there to clean up, I'd do it before hand. My general rule-of-thumb is if I can plan it, I should get it done beforehand to free up my time with God. If I can't plan it, it's out of my control and the I rely on discernment.

My personal don'ts and why (as you'll see, these are not rooted in scripture but in my personal conviction for myself).
  • Play video games: I don't think about God or God's creation when I play video games. For me this falls under "doing my own pleasure" so I save gaming for other days of the week
  • Secular media: TV shows, movies, music, etc. that is not meant to glorify God or edifying me so that I can better glorify God is something I save for non-Sabbath hours. I do still consume certain media, such as nature, health, historical, and environmental documentaries that can help me take care of God's creation (Earth and myself) or learn more about the history of God's people. For me its about the day being different and set apart that keeps me from watching even wholesome TV. Also, if God literally came to visit I probably wouldn't spend that time watching movies.
  • Attend social functions: this one is nuanced—I still attend potlucks and gatherings at friends homes but usually only certain friends. I usually don't spend Sabbath with my friends who are going to be interested in conversations, activities, etc. that I don't feel are Sabbath appropriate. (Remember what I said about it being lawful to do good? If one of these friends needed me for moral support, I would go to them on Sabbath. When I say "secular functions" I'm referencing things like birthday parties.)
  • Attend other secular/social functions: An example would be sporting events. Most of these events require people to work, which I think is a scriptural no-no,but I also find the focus to be questionable and feel that I would be doing my own pleasure.
  • Travel long-distance: Flying or driving a long distance during Sabbath usually conflicts with buying (purchasing gas, for example) or requiring people to work for me (e.g., the pilot, flight crew, etc.) I more likely to drive a distance that to fly (at least I can find self-serve gas stations). Again, in an emergency, I would get to someone in need.
  • Certain chores: Some people find cleaning theraputic—I find a clean home theraputic, but the process of getting there is work to me. I hate washing dishes, for example, so I usually leave my dishes until after Sabbath. However, if I visit a friend and use their dishes, I would clean after myself because I feel like that is what Christ would do.
Great things to Do on Sabbath:
This is just a list (and not and exhaustive one at that) of options or typical things people do on Sabbath, not a "you should do this" type of list. None of these are required.
  • Attend Church
  • Spend time with family/friends
  • Participate in a ministry
  • Bible Study
  • Openning/Closing the Sabbath[2]
  • Spend time in nature
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the elderly
  • Visit those who may be downtrodden, feel alone/mistreated, from marginalized groups who need reassurance that they are loved, etc.
  • Community service
  • Learn about God's creation

References & Footnotes

  1. Ree Hughes. "Can't, Won't, or Don't?". PSALMS to God. April 15, 2020
  2. I had never heard of this before I met people who grew up in Sabbath keeping households. I'm not sure of all the details, but most people I know who do this do a prayer, devotional, and maybe a song.

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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