The "Sabbath" (meaning "rest") was instituted in the very beginning and has great spiritual significance. During the time of creation, after spending six days creating the heavens and the earth and everything in them, the Bible states:
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which hea had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3; KJV)
Let's dig a little deeper into understanding what the "Sabbath" is and what it is not, according to the scriptures.
The "Sabbath" understood under the old covenant (Old Testament):
- Exodus 16:27-31..."And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord that given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the teste of it was like wafers made with honey."
- Exodus 20:8-11..."Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day, wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
- Observance of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, which was the seventh day, was instituted to point to the believer's spiritual rest in Christ under the new covenant (New Testament).
- The expectation of the Sabbath under the old covenant was that no work would be performed, including preparing food. As we see in Exodus, the food necessary for the sixth and seventh day was provided on the sixth day, indicating that God required complete rest on the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:29)
- The old covenant required "keeping the Sabbath day holy," meaning the rest provided an opportunity for worshiping God.
The "Sabbath" understood under the new covenant (New Testament):
- In place of a one day emphasis on holiness, God requires that we "be ye holy." (1 Peter 1:16...reference to Leviticus 11:44; KJV) Therefore, the necessity of holiness extends all seven days.
- In place of a one day emphasis on worship, worship should occur throughout the week, every day...every minute...every moment.
- Sunday is not the Sabbath, but it is a day set aside by the church to give special attention to the worship of God and the fellowship of the saints.
- In Matthew 12:1-14, Jesus illustrates this new covenant teaching of the Sabbath. One of the purposes of this passage is to reveal to us how the "Sabbath" is intended to be used. A tradition (or ritual) will never please God. Actively loving and worshiping God is His desire.
Is the "Sabbath" Saturday or Sunday? The "Sabbath" day must not be seen as a day, rather, as a way of life. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath day was Saturday (the seventh day). However, when Jesus was crucified on Friday (the sixth day), He didn't rise on the seventh day, rather, the first day of the week (Sunday). Therefore, under the new covenant, the church recognizes Sunday as a corporate day of prayer and worship.
Am I permitted to "work" on Sunday? The aspect of "rest" can't be understated. The Lord didn't want our lives to be so full that we miss out on him. Taking a time of rest, physical and spiritual, is significant and should always be a priority for a child of God, for who has time to worship God if we never have our spiritual rest?
Conclusion: Rest is important. Worship of God is important. Holiness is important. Make sure you take time to "rest" in the Lord.