How To Observe The Sabbath

Just how are we to keep the Sabbath? Do you want to know how to observe the Sabbath? The scribes and Pharisees tried to legislate, in minute detail, all that was acceptable or unacceptable to do on the Sabbath. In doing so, they made the Sabbath a great burden—something God never intended. (1st John 5:3) He gave the Sabbath and magnified it in other places in His word with some specifics, but mainly by expounding broad, spiritual principles.

            What does God tell us? In the fourth commandment itself, God says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” (Ex. 20:9) Many would be surprised to know that this is actually part of the commandment. God ordained the first six days of the week for our business and work. Our Creator intended that we work and be productive—earning our daily bread. In Proverbs 19:15, He tells us, “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” The person who shirks his responsibilities the first six days of the week is just as guilty of breaking God’s law as he who works on the seventh!

            That brings us to the next injunction in this great law: “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” (Ex. 20:10) So you are not to do any kind of real work on the Sabbath—be it your occupation, personal business, housework or any strenuous activity. And neither are those in the environment over which you have control. Of course, preparing—or cleaning up after a light meal would not be wrong. For we find a number of occasions when Jesus enjoyed a Sabbath meal with others. And He never condemned the practice of hospitality on the Sabbath. (Luke 14:1-6)

            To really understand how God intended the Sabbath to be used, look at what He said in Isaiah 58. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight…not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth.”

            So we are not to be doing our own pleasure on God’s Holy Day. That means we aren’t to be pursuing our hobbies or leisure activities. That does not prelude doing any enjoyable things on the Sabbath whatsoever, for we are to find delight in it. The point is that, whatever we do, God must be an intrinsic part of it. A family walk through a natural setting, for example, is a wonderful way to get in touch with the great God who made the beautiful creation we see.

To truly keep the Sabbath in the spirit, we must focus our minds on God and those things He wants us to be concerned with during His holy time. Then, as God promises, we will be truly blessed. This is the foundation of  how to observe the Sabbath.