My Choice is Shabbat
About a year ago I wrote an article called “Purpose in my Heart.” I shared in this writing that since leaving Israel we have had to make a point to celebrate Shabbat and the Festivals. Israel is the only country in the world that follows the calendar God ordained in His Word. Outside of Israel you are questioned and scorned for celebrating the Feasts and days God set apart for His purposes.
This choice of mine and my family has caused us to experience disrespect from others. It has been said that we “follow a different religion.” Friends have been told that they need to be careful because we are “placing them back under the law” and that we “don’t live by the New Testament.”
Writing an article might help with some of the misconceptions. It might clarify some things for people. Writing might bring some understanding about who we are and what our family believes. So, I will do my best to explain why my choice is Shabbat.
Shabbat is the seventh day of the week. God created everything He wanted to make and it clearly says in Genesis that He stopped working and rested on the 7th day.
Genesis 2:2-3 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
2 On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.
This day was separated as HOLY. God created this day HOLY. God rested so that the work He created could produce.
This day was ordained from the beginning of time. I believe that Adam and Eve would have celebrated a day of rest. Noah and his family would have celebrated a day of rest. As I began to look at the Word of God, I realized that this day was truly set apart. Then I had to ask myself, did it change anywhere in the Word of God? Did the New Testament say something different?
After the flood, the world once again began to follow their own paths. God knew that what people needed was something different. He knew He had a plan that would help the earth prosper and allow people to live abundant lives. God spoke to Abraham and told him to go to an unknown place and follow Him. Abraham’s obedience brought a new nation and people group that has prospered and thrived for many years. We know them to be Jews and the nation known as Israel.
This group of Hebrews were given instructions to follow. If they did what God asked of them, they would continue to prosper. Moses was given the “laws” for this nation to live by. One of the most important for this group to follow was Shabbat. It was stated over and over that Shabbat was important. (Exodus 20:8, Exodus 31:17, Exodus 34:12, Exodus 35:2, Leviticus 23:3, Deut. 5:12, Isaiah 56:2, Isaiah 58:13 and the list could go on and on)
From this people group known as the Hebrews/Jews came a man known as Jesus. This man radically changed the world. This is the man I believe is the Messiah. This man was Jewish. He came from this group that God set apart. Because Jesus was Jewish, He was required to celebrate Shabbat. This observance would have been highly important and if He did not, He would have been completely rejected.
We know that Jesus was questioned for how He celebrated Shabbat. We know that the Pharisees and Sadducees of the day thought that He violated Shabbat requirements. There is a book written called, “He Loved the Torah.” In this book it explains how Jesus never broke Sabbath laws. Like most instances of the day, the Pharisees and Sadducees had placed man-made laws and traditions as fences around the actual instruction God gave Moses. There was so much fear in the lives of these people that they decided to build fences around what was allowed so they would not accidentally break the commandment God gave. They lived in such fear of God that they placed themselves under more laws so that they would not accidentally go against what God said.
Stop and give that some thought… Make more laws so that you don’t accidentally break a law. If I tell my child not to touch the stove because it is hot, and my child then says that he will not touch any pan that might have been on the stove because it might be hot, how does that help? The whole situation became like OCD on steroids.
Jesus never stopped observing Shabbat. What He did was celebrate Shabbat with LIFE and TRUTH and GRACE. He was the living example to the people of how Shabbat should be celebrated. He clearly told those who listened that Shabbat was made for man.
Mark 2:27-28 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
27 Then he said to them, “Shabbat was made for mankind, not mankind for Shabbat; 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of Shabbat.”
Jesus knew that Shabbat was given so we could spend time with our Creator and learn from Him. He never said that Shabbat should go away. Those who chose to follow Him learned how to bring LIFE into this holy day.
Ultimately, Jesus fulfilled Shabbat. Shabbat is seen as a bride. It is a day of purity. It is celebrated with a family meal. It is the highest of all the days God ordained. When Jesus came to earth to dwell among us, He became God with us.
Wine and bread are blessed at every Shabbat meal. It is the most important part of the meal. You don’t have to have anything else. Wine and bread is it. What does that say to us who believe that Jesus is our Messiah? When our family celebrates a Shabbat meal, we ultimately recognize every Friday night WHO Jesus is.
I’ve gotten away a little bit of why I wanted to write this article. I really want it to focus on why the day of Shabbat hasn’t changed and why it is still important today. That’s so difficult to do without explaining why I enjoy celebrating it so much!
Going back to the fact that Jesus was Jewish and He would have been required to celebrate the Sabbath… As I have read the New Testament, I read nothing that tells me Jesus stopped celebrating this special day. I read nothing that says the day changed from the 7th day to the first day.
Some people say we need to go to the book of Acts and we can see that the people gathered on the first day of the week. If we read this verse from the Complete Jewish Bible, we will see it a little differently. We will see that Paul left Sunday morning. Maybe the meeting continued, but Paul was not there.
On Motza’ei-Shabbat, when we were gathered to break bread, Sha’ul addressed them. Since he was going to leave the next day, he kept talking until midnight.
Then he went back upstairs, broke the bread and ate. He continued talking with them till daylight, then left.
In order to understand what happened on this day we need to understand Hebrew and how the days work. The words “Motza’ei-Shabbat” mean when Shabbat ended. As we have explained before, the Hebrew day begins at sundown. Shabbat is from Friday night until Saturday night. Shabbat ended and “motza’ei-Shabbat” began at sundown Saturday night. Paul (Sha’ul), as they gathered to break bread began teaching and addressing them. He was planning to leave the next day (which would be the first day of the week, which we know as Sunday). He kept talking until midnight (midnight Saturday night). There is the issue of the young man Eutychus falling asleep and falling out of the window. That was taken care of, and in verse 11 we read that Paul went back upstairs, broke the bread and ate. He “continued talking with them until daylight, than he left.”
PAUL LEFT SUNDAY MORNING! He was not there on Sunday, the first day of the week, like we have been taught. Paul left. Now, I am sure they stayed gathered together because after an evening like they had they would have wanted to continue the gathering. BUT, it is important to note that Paul left. The gathering did not happen like we think with a service continuing on a Sunday during the day.
This was a new discovery for me as I just now studied this again. I just realized that we have missed the mark on what this “first day of the week” really means. They had an ALL NIGHT session with Paul. They were so excited to hear him speak that they stayed up all night!
In Acts and other epistles it tells us that Paul went from synagogue to synagogue as he traveled. He spoke in the synagogue’s on Shabbat. What happened is, the people so enjoyed listening and learning that they wanted more time to learn. They chose to continue the meetings to other days. In fact, they met in homes every day of the week at times! The fact that they chose to continue learning on other days does not mean Shabbat stopped.
Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart, praising God and having the respect of all the people. And day after day the Lord kept adding to them those who were being saved.
There are times communities of faith today have meetings that are not on Sundays. They have a special speaker and the meetings are several nights. Does this mean their Sunday service changes or becomes less important?
Shabbat was known as a sanctified and holy day. This would not have changed in the thinking of any of these people who were Jewish. Shabbat would have continued to be observed and practiced.
Some people want to say that because Jesus rose again on the “first day of the week” we should celebrate this on the first day of the week. Yes, the tomb was empty on Sunday morning when Mary went to visit. Yes, we need to give this celebration. It is the reason we have LIFE and LIFE more abundant. However, once again, if we look at the Hebrew understanding of a day, Jesus rose sometime after sundown on Saturday night. This is the beginning of the “first day of the week.” The reason Jesus rose on the first day of the week is because God, celebrating Shabbat, would have rested on the 7th day and not done any creative work - like raising Jesus from the dead. He had to wait until Shabbat ended. God was celebrating Shabbat.
There also needs to be an understanding that because it was the time of Passover, the day that Jesus rose again will change every year. It won’t always be on a Sunday. If we truly want to celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the grave, we should celebrate Passover and celebrate the resurrection on the 17th of Nisan when the Jews brought their first fruits offerings before the Lord at the Temple. They waved their grain and gave thanks for what they had been blessed with. We can wave our Messiah and give thanks that on that day He conquered the grave and lives.
We have been taught that they met on Sunday and that because Jesus rose on Sunday that it is okay for us to meet then as well. That meetings like this approve that Shabbat changed and we do not have to observe this holy day anymore. But where in the New Testament does it say that Shabbat stopped?
Let’s stop now and look at when a change occurred. When did people begin to meet on Sundays instead of Shabbat? Well, history tells us that this occurred when the Jewish/Hebrew calendar was rejected. Constantine did not like the Jews and chose to expel anyone who followed their practices. He told people that they needed to follow his teachings and changed dates and celebrations. He completely eliminated any idea of the days/feasts that God ordained.
Maybe there were people before this that began to walk away from the Hebrew calendar and that influenced Constantine in his thinking. These groups, however, would have been pagan from what God intended. God intended that His calendar to be observed and followed. To begin to change anything in it would be “following another gospel.” If it strayed from the Torah and the teaching’s God gave, it was not Truth. Remember, these disciples and apostles only had Torah to teach from. They did not have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John yet. They did not have all of Paul’s letters neatly together in one place. They knew Truth to be Torah.
We can try and say all we want that God is okay with whatever day we celebrate. Of course He is. He wants us to celebrate Him every day. We are required to give Him praise all the time. This is a given. But, He set a day apart from all of the other days that is His and His alone. This day is Shabbat.
I realize this article is long. It got much longer than I anticipated. My discovery was the fact that we have missed the mark on the verse in Acts concerning the “first day of the week.” We have missed the mark on understanding that this meant ALL NIGHT LONG, not a meeting on the first day all day long.
PLEASE, let us stop and think about what we have been taught. Let us acknowledge the fact that we have been stripped of a Jewish understanding of our faith. We must understand the Hebrew calendar. The Word of God was written by Jews. It was written with a Jewish context and understanding. Shabbat was highly important. That never changed. When it was forced to change by man, it changed many things that have been kept hidden from those who claim to follow the Word of God.
My challenge and question to all who say that they follow Jesus is, if Jesus celebrated this special and holy day, why wouldn’t you want to also?