What is the Sabbath? Meaning and Importance

Sabbath is a day set aside for rest and worship observed by Jews from sunset on Friday to nightfall of the following day.

In this day and age of continuous human activities and technological advancements, rest has become a luxury. We find it more challenging to devote time to worship and spend moments with our loved ones. The concept of rest, however, has more than just leisurely significance. Scripture mentions Sabbath as the day of rest. But what is it about, and why is it important to us?

What is Sabbath?

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Affirmation of God as the Creator

Sabbath is a reminder of God’s role as our Creator. It is when God took rest from His creative work of the entire universe. 

Genesis 2:2 tells us, “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.” Throughout the Bible, God is worshipped and beloved as the Creator and Preserver of all things. He is honored because everything comes from His hands. 

Because of this, it is at the very core of divine adoration. This vital truth is conveyed in the most remarkable way possible. Sabbath observance is an expression of devotion to the one and only true God, who created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all the springs of water. 

It shall continue as a symbol and a reminder that God is the Creator of all things. This reminder will remain a motivating factor for worship.

Points to Israel’s identity

Israel is a nation that identifies itself with the Sabbath. The day was given to Israel by God to symbolize their relationship with Him. Israel’s observance served as a constant reminder of her unique place in the divine story of human redemption as a people freed from bondage and slavery. 

The Lord reminded the ancient Israelites of His law as they prepared to depart Egypt and settle in the Promised Land. Israel’s observance of the Sabbath was a covenant between God and the Israelites. It would demonstrate that they were His people and that they will never forget the day when God rested after creating the universe. Through this covenant, the Israelites would share God’s promise of eternal life. 

Day of worship and rest

When God established the Sabbath, He did so as an example. To have the best possible physical and spiritual lives, He calls us to rest. Rest is essential for the health of our bodies. Relaxing our minds and souls is also crucial. Because we were made in the image of God, we must also follow God’s pattern of work and rest

Putting our faith in God frees us from the need to push ourselves past our natural limits. When it comes to our physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being, we must acknowledge that we are finite beings.

In a way, we surrender and rely on God, our Creator. If we choose not to, we will continue to believe that our lives are entirely in our hands. Keeping Sabbath as a core component of our workdays recognizes that God is at the core of our existence. 

Furthermore, this day of rest is based on a trusting act. This act can be tough, both for individuals concerned about not giving enough and those who are worried about not being able to tell when enough is plenty. 

Learning to rely on God for our needs is a daily surrender, especially if we tend to be self-reliant. Staying true to the message of the Sabbath, we must trust and put our faith in God to meet our needs.

Sabbath in the Bible

Old Testament

Sabbath in the Old Testament commemorates the completion of creation as reflected in its name. The observance can be found in the Old Testament as early as Genesis 2:2. God set a time of rest and celebration for humanity on the seventh day.  

The word “Sabbath” first appears in the Book of Exodus. God first gave it to the Israelites when He gave instructions on manna. The Israelites also received it as the fourth commandment from God at Mt. Sinai. Through this day, God also promised the Israelites a moment of rest.

New Testament

When we read the New Testament, we get the most precise depiction of God’s presence on earth and residing in His people through Jesus. Jesus observed the Sabbath, as written in the New Testament. There are numerous reports that Jesus constantly taught on the seventh day of the week. 

According to the gospel stories, Jesus spoke extensively on this day and how it should be observed. He would sometimes use healing to teach a spiritual lesson. When His disciples were picking grain, there was some confusion about what they were doing. He explained the Sabbath to them. 

He demonstrated how God’s fourth commandment should be understood, and He was doing so by setting an excellent example. Throughout Jesus’ human life, He followed a tradition of observing it. The Apostles also observed it. Paul stressed how important it is for Christians to observe Sabbath. He kept it close to his heart and believed it would strengthen our relationship with God. 

Even the gospel of Luke mentions this day. During Jesus’ crucifixion, the women rested on the Sabbath.

Who Observes Sabbath?

Various groups of believers observe the Sabbath. In Judaism, it is called the “Shabbat.” It is a day of rest which lasts from Friday until Saturday. Christians observe Sabbath as well. The day on which they practice Sabbath may vary. Traditions and methods of observance vary across congregations as well. 

But in general, any believer of God can observe Sabbath. It bears stressing that the Sabbath is the fourth commandment of God. As a part of the Ten Commandments, God must have considered the Sabbath essential. As His people, we embrace these commandments as law for how God wants us to live because we desire to obey and please God.

Why is Sabbath Important?

Sabbath is a gift from God

After creating the world, God used the Sabbath to highlight the significance of ‘pressing pause,’ savoring the present and expressing gratitude for what you have. It was an opportunity for Him to take a step back from His work and appreciate the wonderful results of His handiwork. People are meant to revel in God’s Sabbath day. God intended it to be precisely that. It permits us to take time out of our busy schedules to devote to God.

Sabbath strengthens our intimacy with God

There are moments in our hectic schedules when we need to be reminded to slow down and take a breather. The Sabbath can become a powerful antidote to self-indulgence. As we learn to depend on and trust God more and more, our faith grows stronger and stronger. The Sabbath allows us to take our thoughts off ourselves and everything life demands. We will be in the best possible frame of mind to deepen our relationship with God and the world He created for us.

Sabbath helps build a relationship with others

Sabbath is a blessing because it allows us to focus on God, allowing the rest of the week to drift into the background. But God was also aware of putting in the time and effort to maintain connections with others. We were meant for community. Affirmation and a sense of recognition are essential for even the most extroverted people. What Sabbath shows us is that the key to taking care of oneself and others is to take a break from the never-ending rush of life.

How to Observe Sabbath

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Historical rules and traditions during Sabbath

The traditions surrounding Sabbath have changed over time. Many Christian denominations have their traditions and timetables for celebrating the day through rest and worship. 

All through Judaism and Christianity, observation of the Sabbath or Sunday as a rest day was an important spiritual activity. Because of this, the Sabbath has also played an essential role in Christian history and theological study. Many faith groups found their identities in the Sabbath to differentiate themselves from other churches. 

There are various ways to Sabbath-keeping despite Sabbatarian traditions, from stringent to more permissive. The way people observed the Sabbath was shaped by their theologies, confessional practices, and social settings. There was no one set model or pattern for how they observed Sabbath.

Contemporary observance of the Sabbath

Nowadays, there is no singular way to observe the Sabbath. For many people, keeping the Sabbath is as simple as removing all obligations, going to church, hosting a get-together, or finding a way to help others. Each week taking a Sabbath day allows us to become more aware of God’s love, devotion, and constant presence in our lives. 

For Christians, there are no hard and fast regulations for observing Sabbath. Accepting God’s invitation to rest is not about having a perfect formula. Many Christians prefer to take a day off from work on Sundays, but this is not required. For example, priests and people who assist their spiritual communities on Sundays tend to take a day off on Mondays to recharge their batteries.

Worship God

Praising God is an excellent method of keeping the Sabbath sacred. On the majority of the days of the week, we might easily be focused on all our endeavors. The Sabbath or Sunday is a good day to devote ourselves to God’s service. We can go to church. We have access to the written word of God through the Bible. It is also possible to communicate with God through prayer. After the Sabbath has ended, engaging in these activities may help people feel closer to God.

Clear your day of work and other obligations

It is impossible to live a meaningful Christian life if we do not work, yet employment and economic prosperity should never be the driving force in our lives. We shall remember to honor and love God (Matthew 22:37) and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Work can be a platform where we can accomplish these goals. However, even God rested on the seventh day reaffirms the importance of rest. 

During Sabbath, rescheduling household duties, jobs, or even other activities can emphasize Sabbath as one of relaxation and refocus. To effectively manage our time, we must weigh our priorities appropriately. In essence, the Sabbath mandates that we devote the entire day to our most important relationships – with God and with one another.

Pray and meditate on the Word of God

Praying and meditating on Scripture are both necessary spiritual disciplines. Meditation on the Scriptures is essential if we are to be restored and perfected in our faith. It is distinct from reading the Bible in its entirety. Meditation is a practice of entirely focusing on God’s message and allowing it to sink in. As a result of the Holy Spirit’s action, we can anticipate the truth penetrating our hearts and minds.

Spend time with others to nurture relationships

Today’s families are more dissatisfied with their relationships than ever before. Spending meaningful time with loved ones is difficult to come by. Maintaining a weekly Sabbath allows you to prioritize your family’s needs while also giving you time to worship God. According to God’s design, families are meant to worship and pray together. Sabbath can also be a day to take part in our community. Doing charitable activities is one way to nurture our relationships with others.

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In Summary

Believers follow the Sabbath. The need to incorporate frequent relaxation into our daily routines is essential. Other than that, it is a statement to others and ourselves that, as humans, we are not invincible. Frailty is a fact of life. We are not the creators of the universe. Consistently failing to relax often exposes our arrogance and ultimately leads to exhaustion. 

We can use the Sabbath to recharge and connect with God, just as God set things up following His creation of the universe for our benefit as a manifestation of His love. More than anything else, resting on the Sabbath is a call to holiness that strengthens our faith and intimacy with the Lord. It is where we engage in God’s authority and rule in our lives. 

To genuinely relax and bask in God’s presence, we must rest from working and shift our focus on God. When we practice this deliberate pause, we make more room for Him to move into our lives.

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.


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