After wrestling for years with whether God expected a New Testament disciple to tithe, in 2008 I started tithing 10% of my gross income. Over time since then, I’ve developed confidence that God will provide all my financial needs, and He has.
In 2014, the Spirit of God led me to take the next step in my discipleship journey—honoring the Sabbath.
The Christian Sabbath
Like most Christians, I believed the ‘Christian Sabbath’ was on Sunday, and that Jesus removed the requirement for us to obey the Old Testament commandments and laws. We’re now under grace, right? And, just like 99% of Western Christians, I felt my Sabbath ‘obligation’ to God was complete after I went to church for 1 or 2 hours each Sunday. After that, I was free to enjoy what I wanted to do, whether it was watching sports on TV, mowing the lawn, or going shopping, without another conscious thought about God that day.
The 7th Day?
In 2013, one of the last courses I took for my Doctor of Ministry degree was entitled “The Feasts of Jehovah.” I think this is when the Spirit of God really started tugging on my conscience. I learned that the Sabbath—like tithing and burnt offerings—was instituted long before Moses received the law on Mount Sinai. It goes back to creation itself. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, and their first task was to rest, with God, on the seventh day.
In January 2014, the Spirit of God used the following verses to challenge me to honor the Sabbath Day.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:16-17)
So, God Himself observed the Sabbath, and the 4th of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. I knew in my heart I wasn’t honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy. The Spirit challenged me with these probing questions:
- Are you going to obey My word?
- Am I the Lord of your life, or not?”
Since the Sabbath was instituted at the beginning of Genesis, and not at Mount Sinai, I wondered whether Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection negated God’s requirement for mankind to keep the Sabbath? Then, I remembered there’s a 1000-year Sabbath coming in our future, in the millennial reign of Christ, the 7th millennium of this creation. God said the Sabbath was to be observed perpetually for all the generations of Israel. Also, the Sabbath is to be ‘a sign’ to the world. Keeping the Sabbath is like tithing our time.
But, following the Biblical Sabbath, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, would mean some radical changes for me.
1. A sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever.
a. Dedicating each Saturday to the Lord would immediately put me out of sync with the world system and the majority of Christendom.
In our culture, Saturday is generally used for entertainment and sports, shopping, and other non-spiritual activities.
While my Christian brethren are going to Church on Sunday, I’d be free to enjoy entertainment and sports, shopping, and other non-spiritual activities.
b. This difference is a testimony and a sign to both me and them.
It testifies that some are trying to follow the commandments of the Lord, even though it makes them be ‘out of sync’ with the world.
It testifies that I value the Lord’s approval more than the fellowship and approval of the world.
Forsaking profitable work on the 7th day of each week is a sign that I trust in the Living God to provide my needs.
2. Remember the Sabbath to Keep it Holy:
‘Dedicating’ the day means using the 24-hour period from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset to seek the Lord, fellowship, and worship.
Profitable work, entertainment and sports, shopping, and other non-spiritual activities are excluded.
Keeping the Sabbath is like tithing my time. When I dedicate one day a week to the Lord, I’m worshipping by:
- Being obedient to His word.
- Showing that He is worthy of one day of my focused attention each week.
- Believing that I’ll be able to accomplish all the things I need to do in the other 6 days each week.
Keeping the Sabbath — New Testament
Many will argue from Colossians 2:16,
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ”
Jesus honored the Sabbath perfectly in compliance with scripture, but He often got in trouble with the Jewish leaders who judged Him to be non-compliant with their added rules.
After the resurrection, the apostles, including Paul, continued to honor the scriptural Sabbath day. So, in Col 2:16 (and other places) I don’t think Paul was saying not to observe the Hebrew scriptures about the Sabbath.
Jesus and all the apostles, including Paul, strived to honor the scriptural Sabbath day. But, they didn’t follow the additional legalistic requirements that Jewish leaders added to the scriptural requirements. Here are a couple examples of such legalistic additions to scripture:
- For many years my son had Hasidic Jewish neighbors in Brooklyn NY. Once, he was walking down the street when a young Jewish man asked my son to do him a favor. It was the Sabbath and the Jewish family’s apartment was very hot. Because it was the Sabbath, the Jewish man wasn’t allowed to adjust the thermostat because that would constitute work on the Sabbath.
- Another time, my son noticed that every Saturday in NYC, many of the elevators were programmed to automatically stop at every floor. He discovered that this was because Jewish people were restricted from pushing an elevator button on the Sabbath.
So, Paul was saying that (while we should follow the Hebrew scriptures) we don’t need to comply with manmade rules, and we shouldn’t let anyone judge us for not following them.
This was also Jesus’ attitude. He perfectly obeyed all the Sabbath commandments of scripture, but ignored many of the manmade rules and refused to let the Pharisees and Sadducees judge Him for it.
Since I started honoring the Sabbath I’ve been attending the local Messianic Jewish synagogue. I immediately found myself in a Hebrew culture that was very different than any Church I’d ever attended. By moving from Sunday to Saturday, I’d also moved from a Greek/Roman Christian Church to a Hebrew Messianic Synagogue. Both follow Jesus, but they’re as different as night and day.
The weekly 7th-day Sabbath is a type and shadow of what’s to come, when Jesus our Messiah will establish His 1000-year reign on the earth in the 7th millennium. Until then, let us obey the 4th Commandment, using the weekly Sabbath to rest, fellowship, teach, and remind us of the reality that’s coming.