Shabbat sunset over Haifa, Israel
by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
"I have called the heavens and the earth as witnesses today against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore you shall choose LIFE so that you live, both you and your seed, to love YHVH your Elohim, to obey His voice, and to cling to Him…" Deuteronomy 30:19-20
"Speak to all the assembly of the people of Israel and say to them; you shall BE HOLY for I, YHVH, your Elohim am holy." Leviticus 19:2
"Remember the Day, the Shabbat, to set it apart for YHVH." Exodus 20:4
"And Yeshua came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on Shabbat…" Luke 4:16
The English word "Sabbath" is derived from the Hebrew word Shabbat (click on highlighted words to view content), is first found in Genesis 2:2 and means "to cease or stop, to rest". Established by YHVH Himself, the very definition of Shabbat IS the seventh day - the Day of Rest. However, a large chasm has emerged between what scripture says about the manner in which to keep Shabbat and all the ritualistic practices that have become associated with it because some Rabbi or doctrine of man decrees it to be so. As mentioned in earlier articles, to keep something holy (Hebrew kodesh) merely means to keep it separate from the world - not some mystical cartwheel. YHVH simply wants us to rest in and be with Him as He rested and by so doing, honoring Him with our obedience to His directive to keep His Day set apart to Him - not to change it. When I began this journey, the Father told me to not be afraid to question anything and everything - that if I approached Truth without an agenda, either of mine or of others, Truth will emerge to stand on its own merit. I find that He still prods me in the same way. For instance, like most, I had believed what I had been taught about there being a NEW covenant and that everything that had come before had been replaced, including Shabbat - that any day will do. I was as many Christians are today, considering the Sabbath of the Original Writings to be "under the law" and, really more out of ignorance than anything else, just figured that was for people of a legalistic mindset. After all, He knows my heart, right? Then, I began asking the Father to reveal Himself to me in Truth - and my whole life changed (see Arrows of Famine for how that happened and One Covenant-What's New? for the scriptural support of there being only one covenant).
When I first came to Israel, I was invited to spend Shabbat with a Messianic couple I had met. With the sun close to setting on that Friday (which is the beginning of the Hebrew Saturday), Hannah said to her husband that she should set the Shabbat clock. Having never heard this term before when I asked what that was, they explained that scripture says there is to be no work done on Shabbat and the Rabbis considered turning electricity on and off as work. But the Rabbis have also determined that if something is already running like a clock, it is kosher to be left on until Shabbat closes. The Shabbat clock was designed to automatically turn things on an off during this 24 hour period because the electricity stays on and the clock does the work. It is a way to get around the rules - which is how people act when they live according to rule. This was in January and when I arose the next morning, the house was freezing. I put on every piece of clothing I had brought with me and was still cold. Hannah and I were eating cereal in iced milk chunks when her husband came in, kicked at the radiator heater they had set in the middle of the room and asked why the heat was not on. She then confessed that she had mishandled how the Shabbat clock had been set the night before and the electricity to the room where the heater was located had inadvertently been turned off. At this point they both turned and looked at me for an uncomfortably long pause. You see, as a goy (a non-observant Torah keeper at the time), it would be OK if I were to turn it on - but they are prohibited by the Rabbis from even asking me to do so. However, since I was ignorant of the whole nuance of the rules, we sat and froze all morning until the sun warmed us up about mid-day. When I got back to my flat, I began researching where "not working" was associated with the Sabbath in the Tanakh (the Original Writings) and what that really meant. I found it as one of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20:1-17. As I was reading through the ten, the Father tenderly whispered in my ear and said, "haRold, you don't have a problem keeping the other nine - what is wrong with this one?"
U'rchatz - washing of hands
Delving deeper into scripture, I found the Father to have never rescinded, altered or changed the Sabbath. In fact, it was not even given to the Hebrews for the first time at Mount Sinai. The Sabbath is different from the other nine. It is the only one of the Ten Words of the Father ("commandments" is a misnomer, see Exodus 20:1) that says to "remember" to keep because it had first been sanctified by the Father at creation for all of mankind and was first observed by YHVH Himself (Genesis 2:2-3). Like the Rainbow (Genesis 9:16), Shabbat is the divinely ordained SIGN or SIGNATURE of the everlasting covenant He has made with all of mankind as a means to enter into His Rest - His Presence (Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:20). The reason you don't find Yeshua ever teaching principally about the Sabbath is that in His day among His people everybody kept it - even as it still kept among His Family around the world today. Since it was an acknowledged part of everyone's life, it was not something that was necessary to teach about. When the Pharisees approached Yeshua over disputes about His approach to keeping Shabbat, He answered them about the hypocritical manner of the way in which they were handling it - BUT HE NEVER REFUTED KEEPING SHABBAT, NOT ONCE. Even when speaking of the tribulation to come, He said to pray their flight be not on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). Why would He do that except He understood the sanctity of the Sabbath - and that it would still be observed? There is NO place found in scripture where the Sabbath is ever rescinded. In fact, what scripture does say is that YHVH's Sabbath day will be observed in the new creation on the new earth in the new heavens by the redeemed host of every nation (Isaiah 66:22-23).
Once I began to traverse this arena, however, I found that there to be a huge difference between what the scripture says about how and when to keep the Sabbath and all the religious practices that have become associated with it. Again, to keep something holy merely means to keep it separate, set apart from the rest of the world. The Hebrew word for "work" (from Exodus 20:9-10 "you shall do no work on the Sabbath") comes from the Hebrew melakah and is pretty plain in its meaning - 1) occupation, work, business; the work of an artisan for public consumption. In other words, you don't do on the Sabbath what you would normally do on the other six days to make a living. This is all the words say to do. Everything else associated with Shabbat has come from someone's ritual of tradition. Christian theologists are quick to point to Matthew 12:1-14 as proof that Yeshua broke the Sabbath. However, in so doing, they use the same standards the Pharisees were using - filtering the words written through the prism of religious traditions that added meanings to those words. The Pharisaical tradition (still in practice in the religion of Judaism today) extended the meaning of the word "melakah" to include no physical activity whatsoever. But, according to the words recorded in Exodus 20, Yeshua did not break the Sabbath - He did no commercial work on the Sabbath nor did He engage in any commercial activity that would require anyone else to break the Sabbath. There are no restrictions given in the original words that prohibit eating. His disciples in the corn field were merely eating - they were not gathering to sell or to store up. What was violated was the religious tradition of the Pharisees (known as the Oral Law) that had been added onto the original meaning of scripture. This is what He chastened the Pharisaical leaders over - "Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil - to save life or to destroy it?" He was rebuking them for the hypocrisy of the manner in which they handled the Sabbath by adding traditions that are contrary to the Nature and Essence of the Father. He never told them to NOT keep the Sabbath - just to keep it properly.
Yeshua is Lord of Shabbat
|"There remains therefore a REST to the people of Elohim." Hebrews 4:9|
The Greek word translated as "rest" in this verse is sabbatismos and means: 1) keeping Sabbath. Strong's concordance has a tendency to overwrite or add to the meaning of the original words in attempt to weasel word-fit the topsy-turvy replacement theology of the New Testament into the Torah it attempts to negate and replace - when the original words are read from their original context the actual meaning of those words are brought into sharp clarity. Christians are fond of quoting the words of Psalm 37:4 which say to "delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart" without properly understanding the context of Isaiah 58:13-14 that specifically tells us how we delight in YHVH - by keeping Shabbat according to the Nature and Essence of ruach hakodesh (Hebrew for the spirit of holiness). In fact, the entire chapter of Isaiah 58 speaks of the rest we are to be seeking for in the Presence of YHVH - which is to get beyond ourselves and into Him. He is not looking for a set of rules and regulations to abide by, He is looking for an attitude of heart that begins with Him and not us - to obey His Voice AND keep His Words which includes keeping His Shabbat the way He interprets it. When does Shabbat begin? It was on the seventh day that YHVH rested from His work - not associated to any celestial cycle or solar calendar. The days of the week in the Tanakh (OT) are not labeled - that is purely a Greek invention. There is only yom echad (day one), yom shenee (day two), etc. Saturday is considered the seventh day while Sunday is recognized as the first day of the week, even given that distinction on the Gregorian calendar universally used today. Genesis 1:5 says "there was evening and morning - the first day". Since, from the scriptural Hebraic perspective, a day begins at sundown - the Sabbath begins at the start of the seventh day at sundown (what modern calendars mention as Friday evening) and lasts until the first three stars in the night sky are spotted on Saturday evening. It would surprise most Christians to learn that Abraham, the "father of the faith", kept the Sabbath - 430 years before the Ten Words were given at Sinai (Genesis 26:5, Galatians 3:17). To keep something holy means to set it apart, to keep it distinctive from the rest of the world.
So, where did the change from Saturday to Sunday occur - and why? History shows the idea that Torah does not apply anymore was introduced in the writings of some of the early fathers of what became the Roman Catholic Church who sowed the seeds for the renunciation of Shabbat contained in Torah (Ignatius, Origen, Marcion, Tertullian, etc.). Most who embrace "Christianity" do not realize the bulk of the doctrine and theology of that religion come from the ideas these men (and others) espoused about scripture - not the words of scripture themselves. Even though it is now commonly assumed that Yeshua and the apostles in the first century did not keep Shabbat, there is not one single verse of scripture in the Messianic Writings (NT) to support this claim. A bit of historical digging will undeniably show followers of "the Way" kept Shabbat up until at least 200 AD (and much later in some areas). While there were undoubtedly many pressures from many quarters brought to bear influencing the change of the day of worship from Shabbat to Sunday over the span of several centuries, the two most decisive factors are briefly: 1) the adoption of the "Day of the Sun" as the first (and most important) day of the week for the whole Roman Empire, becoming a legal holiday in the early part of the fourth century and, 2) the anti-Jewish and anti-Sabbath legislation put in place by the Roman Emperor Hadrian after three years of bloody fighting to crush the second Jewish revolt of 132-135 AD. When the Emperor finally captured Jerusalem, he decided to deal with the "Jewish problem" in a radical way - slaughtering thousands of Jews, taking thousands more of them as slaves to Rome and colonizing Jerusalem, renaming it Aelia Capitolina. He forbade Jews and non-ethnic adherents to Torah from ever entering the city and made the practice of the Torah in general and of Shabbat in particular a capital offense throughout the empire. Fiscally, Jews were subjected to a discriminatory tax (the fiscus judaicus) which was first introduced by Vespasian (who crushed the first Jewish revolt of 66-70 AD), increased by Domitian (81-96 AD) and later by Hadrian. This meant that Jews had to pay a penalty tax simply for being Jews. These repressive measures against Jews were so horrific and unrelenting that there are compelling indications that those of the faith of YHVH who came from non-ethnic Hebraic backgrounds were highly influenced to adopt the selfsame Day of the Sun in order to show separation from their Jewish brethren and identification with the Romans to escape that punishment. To put it more acceptably, they chose to be politically correct by adopting the Day of the Sun rather than to be biblically correct by observing the seventh-day Sabbath.
By the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Day of the Sun had become widely popular throughout Rome - both among pagans and those who had, by now, become known as "Christians". The change from Passover to Easter Sunday had earlier been introduced by the Church of Rome to avoid "even the semblance of Judaism" in order to aid in their appeal to the Roman Empire to not be treated as their ethnically born Jewish brethren. So, Constantine did not introduce Sunday observance - He simply legalized it as an appeasement by the famous Sunday Law of 321 AD. This is indicated by the very wording of his edict which opens with, "On the Venerable Day of the Sun ("venerabili die Solis" - the sacred day of the Sun) let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed…"
...nullifying the Words of YHVH by the traditions of men
"Also the foreigners who join themselves to YHVH, to minister to Him, and to love His Name, to be His servants, everyone
who keeps from profaning the Sabbath
and holds fast My Covenant" Isaiah 56:6
Should you and I keep Shabbat? The answer given by the Christian church for the last 1700 years is "No." But, examine these words from Isaiah closely. YHVH speaks through His prophet Isaiah, exhorting and blessing those not born Hebrew but who have joined themselves to Him and honor His Sabbath. Those with Christian backgrounds like to pride themselves on most of these actions - a desire to serve Him, love Him and be His servants. But then we read "who keeps from profaning the Sabbath." Can it be that all those Christians who ignore the Sabbath are actually profaning it by changing their worship to an hour on Sunday? It certainly seems that Isaiah's declaration of YHVH's words considers the replacement of the Sabbath by Sunday worship to be a form of profaning Sabbath. The question we must ask, if we are followers of YHVH and desire to be His servants, is really very simple: why do we worship on Sunday rather than on the day that is the only day of worship ever mentioned in the whole of Scripture? May I suggest that worshiping on Sunday just because it has always been done so is not a sufficient reason, especially if YHVH thinks otherwise. Worship is defined by individual behavior - what we give ourselves to, what we serve defines who we worship (Deuteronomy 11:16, Luke 4:8). A servant waits on the voice of the Master. The most excellent form of worship we can offer the Father is not found in a crowd, through music or by ritual observances. The most excellent form of worship is to position ourselves before His Presence with a humble spirit and a contrite heart and to wait - to wait upon hearing His Voice as validated in scripture and, thus, entering into His Rest (Isaiah 57:15, Matthew 11:29, Jeremiah 7:22-23). Do we enter into His rest the other days as well? Of course - it is in His Presence we find that rest (Exodus 33:14). The rest Yeshua asks us to enter into is the same rest He entered into by keeping Shabbat (Matthew 11:29). Simply put, to keep this day special to YHVH is to honor Him. Christianity has adopted an "either / or" mentality because of the comment made in Acts 20:7 that says the early believers met on Sunday, the first day of the week - but that was after keeping Shabbat on the seventh day. Acts 2:46-47 encourages the faithful to meet together every day. But, neither of these verses says anything about excluding Shabbat.
Since the time of Abraham, YHVH has invited anyone into His Family who would keep His Words and has a heart for those not ethnically born Hebrew. But most come with a mistaken understanding about what it means to be in His household. It is we who have been grafted into the House of Israel, the Family of YHVH - not the other way around. When a foreigner comes to faith in the Hebrew Elohim of Israel by observance of the Ten Words of the Father, he is considered a member of that family with all the privileges accorded the natural born. It has always been the case that he is to be treated no differently from those naturally born into the family (Leviticus 19:34). However, what he is not given is the privilege to re-write the Words of the Father concerning that family. A "son of YHVH", therefore, is anyone who receives YHVH by obedience to His Words (John 1:12). Maybe it's time to start acting like we belong in YHVH's Family by keeping the fourth of His Words. Eleven times the Tanakh warns against profaning the Sabbath. The prohibition is applied to everyone in the community - regardless of ethnic origin. Ignoring the Sabbath always brings grief and chastisement. Do you think there are exceptions to His Word? If there are exceptions, they are not found recorded anywhere in scripture - nor is it found in scripture where Yeshua rescinded the Sabbath.
Once we realize that all the books of the Book were written by Hebrews, from a Hebrew mindset, out of a Hebrew culture and approach them with an intellectual honesty (the definition of " simplicity" found in 2Corinthians 11:3), - they take on a completely different texture. To read Paul with the understanding that he was a Jew's Jew, a Rabbi of considerable significance and that he said in Acts 24:14 that he kept all of the ways of his fathers, the patriarchs, elevates the rest of his words to a different light - something our "Christian" teachers have failed to pass on to us.
And if this is not enough to convince you that worshipping on Sunday instead of Shabbat is not scriptural, read it In Their Own Words - more evidence the Sabbath change was man-made.
Part One: the Sabbath
Part Two: In Their Own Words
Part Three: Celebrate Shabbat
|"Do not think that I have come to abolish Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not a jot, not a tittle, will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-20|
Please feel free to email them to me at email@example.com. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to share with you what the Spirit is uncovering.