Top 10 Reasons for Observing the Sabbath

The question is frequently asked, “Why do some people observe a day of rest and worship on Saturday instead of Sunday?” The fundamental answer is because they believe that the Bible identifies Saturday as the Sabbath, the day of the week that God reserved for rest and worship. While many reasons could be given, here is one countdown of the top 10 reasons for Sabbath observance.

10. The Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, consistently calls the seventh day of the week (Saturday) the Sabbath. The first day of the week (Sunday) is never so designated.

9. God himself instituted the Sabbath at Creation by doing three things:

a. He “rested” (literally, ceased) from His creative work on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2).

b. He “blessed” (conferred favor or approval) on the seventh day (v. 3).

c. He “sanctified” (set apart for special care or use) the seventh day (v. 3).

8. The Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. In Exodus 20 the Sabbath serves as a symbol of Creation — a day to remember God as Creator: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

In Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath also serves as a symbol of redemption — a day to remember God as Redeemer: “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy . . . and remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

7. Jesus affirmed that the Sabbath was a Creation ordinance that God intended for the benefit of humanity: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus’ use of the words made and man link the Sabbath to Creation just as His use of the same words identify marriage as a Creation ordinance: “But at the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9). The divine intent of the Sabbath is as universally applicable as is the institution of marriage.

6. Jesus also affirmed the redemptive aspect of the Sabbath through His own ministry. As God gave the Hebrews rest from Egyptian bondage, so Jesus has given those who trust in Him rest from the bondage of sin: “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To illustrate His redemptive work, Jesus performed many of His healing miracles on the Sabbath, thus setting the captives free from their infirmities and declaring that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12). He did this on the basis of His divine authority as the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

As the Sabbath reminded the Hebrews of their deliverance from Egypt, so it reminds many Christians of their deliverance from sin. Both events were solely the work of God, rather than human effort. Therefore, the Sabbath as a symbol of redemption teaches us to rest in Christ as if all our work were done in Him.

5. The weekly Sabbath is also a symbol of the coming kingdom of God, when believers will enjoy an unending sabbath-rest (see Hebrews 4:1-10, especially verse 9, which speaks of the eternal rest that still awaits the people of God). Each weekly observance is an earthly foretaste of the heavenly rest, peace, and fellowship to come.

4. As a regular practice, Jesus observed the Sabbath throughout His ministry (Luke 4:16). Apostle Paul and the early church, including Gentile believers, also used the Sabbath as a day for worship, preaching, prayer, and evangelism (Acts 13:42-44; 16:13; 17:2-4; 18:1, 4, 11).

3. The Sabbath offers a practical benefit for human wellness — time off for physical, mental, and spiritual rest. The weekly cycle of the seventh day liberates us from the tyrannies of modern life: tension from the clock, overtime, rushing to and fro, business and busyness, buying and selling, producing and consuming, work and worry. It’s a day to let go, to be free from the necessity of doing and to enjoy just being, a day of divine rest for human restlessness, a gift to renew and refresh body and soul.

2. By freeing us from the demands of the work week, the Sabbath offers another important benefit: time to cultivate and restore human relationships. Life is most worthwhile and fulfilling through contact and interaction with others. However, due to hectic schedules, we often neglect the very relationships essential to our human existence. The Sabbath allows us to slow down and touch the lives of others in meaningful ways. It affords quality time to bond with family and friends and to fellowship with the community of faith. As a symbol of rest and release from bondage, the Sabbath also invites us to reach out to the community-at-large, to help neighbors who are hurting by meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. After all, cultivating and restoring human relationships is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12).

1. Finally, the Sabbath provides an opportunity to cultivate the most important relationship in our lives — our relationship with God. While we may attempt to worship God throughout the week, our human tendency is to rush along, offering Him a fleeting nod here and there. That’s why the Sabbath (which literally means “to cease”) calls on us to make a purposeful decision to cease from our worldly activities and cares and to focus our attention on God, to commune with Him through worship, prayer, and Bible reading. By spending uninterrupted time with Him, we become more sensitive to His presence and are reminded of His claim on our lives. We see that the whole of our existence is wrapped up in Him — our past, present, and future — because He is our Creator, Redeemer, and coming King. Therefore, when we observe the Sabbath, we are actually pausing to remember that we belong to God. It is not the Sabbath that we worship but the God behind the Sabbath. The Sabbath is merely a time memorial, a needful tool to help us focus our attention on the Source of all things. And when we look to the Source for our existence, then all the other things in our lives are put into perspective.

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from The New King James Version, copyright © 1982, 1983, by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. Used by permission.

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