Sabbath In the End-times

We have compared the Sabbath temptations we face today with Jesus’ wilderness experience, tracing Sabbath through Old and New Testaments. Having sought out the basic themes for Sabbath-keeping, now we tie it all together, looking at specifics for Christians in the end-time. In question is how shall we observe the holy day that Jesus kept.

What God looks for in us is not a cold, legal attitude, but the warm-hearted spirit of loving reform. Interacting with Him changes us. He seeks those who will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 24)—not whose lips draw near but hearts remain far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). When His people have departed, they need to reform and return. Moses saw eventual hope. Although Israel would depart from God and suffer scattering, later would come renewal.

From there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29).
The benefit and result of all reform must meet in the last generation. These are the Christians who finally show in their lives the fullness of the gospel. In all the history of planet earth, if ever any church was raised up to demonstrate what is the result of following Jesus fully, this is it.

Turning our attention to the holy day that Jesus kept, we realize that behaviors we have engaged in on God’s holy day are either:

Sabbath-appropriate, or
To be avoided during Sabbath, or
Not to be done during Sabbath
And so, let’s address very plainly some specifics.

Sabbath and Travel

In earlier times, believers usually could walk to the worship center. Travel by automobile and rail created a new situation. Population has also shifted from rural to urban. In some cases, participation in worship events during Sabbath hours would be impossible without for-pay public transportation. Our travel needs fit into two categories:

local, limited, covenant community-related travel
distant travel
Our goal during the Sabbath should be to limit local travel. If possible we should avoid situations where we must pay tolls, fares, or parking fees, and should seek to minimize labor for ourselves and others. If it is too far to church for us to walk, we may be able to arrange to ride with someone. A last resort would be the use of public transportation. If this is your only option, try to purchase a pass before the Sabbath. This doesn’t remove the labor of the driver, but because it is public transportation, he would be driving whether you took the bus or not. You have not initiated his labor.

Distant travel is a different category. This means means driving or flying long distances during Sabbath. While honoring God and His Sabbath may make matters inconvenient, such travel can almost always can be avoided if one is determined to honor the holy day that Jesus kept.

We should be careful about driving automobiles on Sabbath. Doing so can create special needs (mechanical repair, towing, purchasing fuel). Drivers must maintain a certain measure of concentration. There is a labor in driving. Energy used this way cannot be devoted to worshiping God. Many must drive an automobile in order to travel to church, and this is understood. This is limited local, covenant community-related travel. But distant travel should be avoided.

Sabbath and Food Preparation

If we engage in unnecessarily elaborate preparation of food during the Sabbath hours, we contradict its spirit. Exodus 16 is clear. Preparing food by means such as boiling or baking is considered excessive labor.

Have we forgotten so soon the lesson Jesus taught Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)? Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing food; Mary was listening to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus gently reproved Martha and approved Mary’s choice. This incident may not have involved a Sabbath, but the principle remains. Sabbath is a time to simplify. Prepare your food ahead of time.

When we eat during the Sabbath hours, we need to be thoughtful. In order to set the Sabbath apart, we want to limit our eating to:

the simplest foods
precooked foods
These foods require but minimal time and energy in order to prepare; labor intensity is minimum. Rewarming food in the microwave oven involves minimum labor.

It is common for the women in our churches to do much of the food preparation. But we must not think that somehow women have less need to participate in the worship of the covenant community. If there is a community meal on Sabbath (for example, one immediately following the Sabbath worship service), those who prepare it can accomplish the needed activity without needing to miss the last portion of the worship event. Let our sisters remain with the congregation until the worship event concludes. Afterward, limited meal preparations can be made.

The Sabbath in Relation to Various Activities

Eating in Restaurant

What about eating in a restaurant during the Sabbath? What if we enter but do not pay for our meal until after the Sabbath has ended? Then money is not changing hands on the Sabbath. But those preparing the meal are serving us for pay. This takes place during Sabbath hours. Then our behavior is exactly opposite the fourth commandment, which says that during the Sabbath, neither we nor our servants are to work for us. Here may be an opportunity for immediate reform.


Setting the Sabbath apart as a holy day means cessation from work. Of course, we will not engage in secular work in any form on Sabbath. We are the one religious body in particular that God has raised up to highlight the seventh day Sabbath. Under no circumstances is one permitted to become a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church if he is not committed to faithful observance of the Sabbath. He will not engage in secular employment during the Sabbath hours. Such behavior is grounds for removal from membership from the covenant community.

We should labor in a loving-manner with the offender and pray that God will strengthen him to repent. Many violate the Sabbath who are not engaged in intentional rebellion; many simply have not been shown the way. Jesus loves us and is ready to help. We must not turn our backs on Jesus now—not when we are so close to His Second Coming!

Study and Exams on Sabbath

We are not to engage in doing classwork, studying for class, or taking examinations for credit during the holy day that Jesus kept. We may be tempted to study on Sabbath but this is time for fellowship with brother and sister believers. If there is study, it should be kept to investigation of the Scriptures. Arrangements may be made so that examinations may be held at some time other than the Sabbath.

Shopping and Hanging Out

Shopping during the Sabbath violates the prohibition against engaging in commerce (buying and selling). This is the open treatment of Sabbath as one of the six working days. Remember, when we ignore the Sabbath, we are undermining remembrance of God as Creator. Our lives testify for the sacredness of Jesus’ Sabbath day when we faithfully refrain from buying and selling on Sabbath. In this way, every Sabbath provides practice in preparing to be faithful in the time of final conflict when none can buy or sell but those who have chosen to receive the mark of the beast (Revelation 13). Nor should we loiter in places of business during the Sabbath. These businesses are violating God’s holy day, prompting people to sin. Our presence in such settings would suggest to others that we are engaged in activity that is not Sabbath-appropriate.


Sabbath is a time for communion with God and for the blessing of our meeting together in holy convocation with fellow believers. Sometimes we find ourselves weary during the Sabbath day, and we may feel like sleeping. This should alert us that we are working too hard during the week. We should not so exhaust ourselves during the six working days that we can hardly stay awake during the daylight Sabbath hours. Slow down. Be human. Come into the Sabbath hours ready to worship the holy God with energy!

Labor-saving Devices

We have labor-saving devices that accomplish for us what otherwise would have to be done by our physical labor. But a machine running during Sabbath is still humming in the background. The use of such machines can distract. These are holy hours. Not only should we permit our animals to rest, but most will experience a closer Sabbath time with Jesus when we begin to turn off our electronic devices.

Sabbath and Sports Activities

God’s Word urges us to set apart the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. It urges us to avoid doing our own things, business or pleasure, on His holy day. Activities such as soccer or other sport ought not be engaged in during the Sabbath. Even friendly physical competitions are inevitably distracting. They do not draw to God on Sabbath but turn hearts from Him. Let Sabbath be a time for communion with God.

Sabbath and National Holidays

There are three kinds of observance: (1) the holy day that God instituted for all time; (2) holy days that God instituted until Jesus’ death on the cross, and (3) other. In the “other” column is Sunday observance, along with all national “holidays” etc. These are observances instituted by men.

The world-system will always suggest that we engage in the observance of traditions. But how we treat Sabbath is the clear indicator who we are really worshiping. God reminded His people,

And I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God (Ezekiel 20:18-20).
Jesus, referring to the traditions of the Pharisees, says, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). We should have crystal clear vision about days that are holy and days that are not.

Holding Organizational Meetings

We have a responsibility to be faithful stewards over the tithes and offerings God receives through His church. In such meetings we go over the monthly financial report. We plan how we will spend the moneys, some for common maintenance, some for expansion, some for paying bills, some for evangelistic fliers to be mailed out. We deal with the furnace problem, the parking lot expansion, the latest rules that the government expects the church to comply with. We deal with repairs that must be made and equipment to be purchased. There is no way to handle these topics on the Sabbath without jeopardizing our sense of its holiness.

Sometimes there will be a true emergency and we may need to hold a church board meeting on the Sabbath. But our regular organizational meetings should not be held on Sabbath. When we have a board meeting, we will almost always find ourselves discussing something that has to do with the world system that is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). Jesus warned us that we cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Preparation and Simplicity

Sabbath is not just about what we cannot do on the seventh day, but includes our positive stewardship over the week God has given. Preparation for proper Sabbath observance begins, not at sunset on Friday evening, but sunset Saturday night. It starts with the first day following Sabbath.

Paul helps us understand this. In 1 Corinthians 16:2 an offering is being taken to provide relief to believers in Jerusalem. He asks that those who contribute set aside their offering on the first day of the week so that neither the details nor physical labor involved need be addressed on Sabbath.

The week is divided into three portions. The first through fifth are working days. The sixth is set apart especially for Sabbath preparation. Six times in the Bible the sixth day is called the PARASKEVAZO (the preparation) (Matthew 27.62; Mark 15.42; Luke 23.54; John 19.14, 31, 42). God took time during six days to prepare to meet with humans; we are to take time during six days to prepare to meet with God.

From the Wilderness into the End-times

Recalling our first presentation, the three testings that Jesus faced, applied to the Sabbath, were

the material over the spiritual—choosing outright violation of the Sabbath
the spiritual on our own terms—selectively observing the Sabbath
compromise—intentionally avoiding one’s cross, presenting a form of godliness with reference to the Sabbath
Self-deception is seen in all three approaches. The first is the temptation to believe that we really do not need to keep the Sabbath. The second is still partial self-deception, thinking that we may decide how to observe it. Under the third deception, compromise is out in the open. The trend is clear; the person is aligning his character in opposition to God’s law.

Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, our Recreator, went out into the wilderness to reprise Israel’s wilderness failure and come off victorious. Moreover, His experience has a direct relationship to us. He knew that in the end-time, we too would face an extraordinary test. We shall be prevented from buying and selling. Food will be withheld. The ultimate question will be whether we love Jesus enough to let Him be Lord of the Sabbath for us. As Lord of the Sabbath, He has marked out an intelligent path of Sabbath-observance for His people. He did not loosen but clarified our obligation.

The three temptations He met are those that we now face. Satan urgently desires to destroy us, so he tries to cloud our vision. His special ploys for us are to turn us into materialists, or to provoke us obey but selectively our own way, and most dangerous of all, the temptation to compromise. Jesus has shown how we are to resist all three temptations. In the strength and counsel of God, His pattern must become ours.

The Sabbath is a mirror. Unlike beliefs which might seem to be mostly points of intellectual agreement, obedience to Jesus according to His Sabbath commandment is not falsifiable. In the end, the Sabbath reveals what we are. For this reason, it is the key to Christian reform. We keep it holy because this reminds us that God is making us holy.


Sabbath in the New Testament

Systematically now reviewing the major Sabbath texts in the New Testament. Our goal is to discover Bible themes for the faithful observance of the day Jesus claimed to be Lord of—the seventh day Sabbath.

19. Matthew 11:25-12:8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5. Grain incident/Lord of the Sabbath. The Pharisees say that Jesus’ disciples are violating the Sabbath by harvesting and eating a few handfuls of grain. Jesus counters that His disciples are guiltless. He cites David and his band eating showbread while fleeing Saul (1 Samuel 21:1-10). It was not proper for David to receive that bread, yet it was given and no divine displeasure expressed. The Gospel of Matthew has Jesus adding that on the Sabbath priests work in the temple and it is not held against them. He points out that He, Jesus, is greater than the temple, and that had they understood that God desired mercy rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) they would not have claimed that His disciples were guilty of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus declares that He Himself is Lord of the Sabbath. Mark includes Jesus saying that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. God’s purpose is not to make the Sabbath a burden but to free man for communion with Him. Who was more in communion with God than His disciples in that field with Him? They were walking with Jesus on the Sabbath when instead they could have been sitting down to a meal of more than those few handfuls of grain. They were not engaged in excess. Just as taking a few handfuls of grain out of a stranger’s field was not theft, so gathering and eating a few kernels of wheat on the Sabbath was no violation of Sabbath. And, for you and I, plucking an apple or pear off a tree and eating it on Sabbath is no sin.

20. Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37. Teaching and Exorcism in Capernaum. Jesus conducts an exorcism on the Sabbath. Relieving people from demonic oppression on the Sabbath is doing good. Sabbath is release from bondage to a world-system that is under the sway of Satan (1 John 5:19; John 15:18; 14:30; Ephesians 2:2; Luke 4:6). Sabbath is like a fresh exorcism for every Christian, a removal from the relentless negative influences and pressures encountered in the daily grind. This release is essential for our sanity and spiritual progress.

21. Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6. Watering/recovering Ox, Sheep, Donkey, from Ditch. In similar incidents, Jesus compares healing on the Sabbath with watering a donkey, or rescuing an ox or other creature, even a man trapped in a ditch. He teaches that it is in harmony with God’s law to do good on the Sabbath. He equates saving life with doing good, acting harmfully with destroying life. He argues from lessor to greater. Ironically, because of His authentic Sabbath-observing behavior, antagonists become determined to kill Him. Jesus’ focus is on the positive, helping and delivering others. As in Isaiah 58 where the true fast is helping those in need, Jesus shows that Sabbath observance includes acts of goodness.

22. Luke 4:16-30. Jesus’ Teaching Ministry Launched in Nazareth. It was on the Sabbath that Jesus publicly announced His mission and was almost slain. The Sabbath is thus identified with freedom as a central motif in the purposes of Christ. Jesus’ normal practice, we find here, was to worship God in company with others on Sabbath. Our mission in these last days is an echo of His. The Holy Spirit is to be upon us, we are to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, the recovery of sight, liberty for the oppressed, and to herald His intervention in this world.

23. John 5:1-18. Healing at Pool of Bethesda. Jesus again goes out of His way to heal on the Sabbath. He helps us understand that it is in harmony with doing good on Sabbath to carry one’s bed away from a healing that glorified God. Others, uninterested in the healing, wanted to know why the man was violating their interpretation of Sabbath-keeping by carrying his bed. It became known that Jesus was He who had healed on Sabbath, and the complaint was that Jesus was breaking it. Jesus’ answer was, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (vs. 17). Jesus cannot mean that the Sabbath is no more, or that we are to disregard it. The Sabbath is God’s holy day but it was made for man. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are still engaged in bringing our deliverance; all this is accomplished for our benefit. Jesus’ work was not to violate, but to illuminate. Likewise, our present calling is not to violate Sabbath but to illuminate it.

24. John 7:14-28. Jesus Heals, Pharisees Circumcise. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that they circumcise a male even on the Sabbath if it is the eighth day after birth. No male who was uncircumcised was considered “whole” as a Jew. Jesus proceeds to point out that they are angry with Him because He has made “a man’s whole body well.” The fundamental problem with the Pharisees and others was that the Sabbath had been cumbered about by them with man-made prohibitions and imagined violations. Jesus showed that the Sabbath was better understood as a sign of God’s healing power. There was nothing inconsistent in Jesus’ practice of Sabbath observance. Seventh-day Adventists also need to be careful to avoid creating artificial human prohibitions, and to embrace the positive, healing aspect of Sabbath.

25. John 9:1-40. Jesus Makes Mud, Gives Sight. Jesus takes mud, mixes it with saliva, rubs it on a man’s eyes, and he receives sight—all on the Sabbath! The Jews say that by this act He has proven that He cannot be an agent of God because He is breaking the Sabbath. They had so confused themselves about the Sabbath that Jesus’ manner of observing it confirmed to them that He could not be the Messiah. But to participate in a restoration of sight by God’s power is no contradiction of authentic Sabbath-keeping. Restoring sight on this Sabbath was an echo of Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:16-30. We bring sight to the blind when we publicly demonstrate reverence for the holy day that Jesus kept.

26. Matthew 24:15-28. Pray Will Not Need to Flee. Jesus says that the Christian is to pray that in the end-time it will not be necessary to flee during the winter or on the Sabbath day. Praying that it will not be in winter means asking that God will intervene to limit the special hazards of winter travel. But Sabbath imposes no such hazards. The prayer that this situation of duress not occur during a Sabbath is powerful testimony. It not only makes very clear the continuing existence of Sabbath, but says that even the need to flee in an emergency is no license to completely ignore it. Sabbath remains so special that we are to pray that God will intervene in order to prevent the need to flee during it from arising when the final crisis is upon us.

27. Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42. Preparation Day. The distinction between sixth day and others in Exodus 16 is, in the time of Christ, especially employed to prepare for Sabbath. This highlights our need to make the fullest use of the preparation day, so that the Sabbath might be kept holy. It would be well for us henceforth to refer to the sixth day as “Preparation day.”

28. Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8. After Sabbath. The Sabbath is mentioned again after Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ followers waited until after Sabbath to prepare His body for burial; this is an example of deferring labor that can wait until after Sabbath.

29. Acts 13:13-52. Preaching on the Sabbath. Preaching is a Sabbath-appropriate activity, both then and now.

30. Acts 15:21. Reading from the Bible. Moses is read from every Sabbath. Another Sabbath-appropriate activity then and now.

31. Acts 16:11-15. Spiritual Meetings and Evangelistic Activities in Nature Settings. Paul went out through the city gate and found believers in God whom he further instructed. We can be indoors or outdoors on Sabbath; each situation offers a different setting for the worship of God.

32. Acts 17:1-9; 18:1-4. Engaging in Christian Apologetics. Paul entered synagogues and won converts to Christ, reasoning with others “from the Scriptures.” We may apply this to our own experience in spending some of the Sabbath hours instructing others from God’s Word.

33. Hebrews 3:7-4:15. The Rest That Remains. Israel in the wilderness is presented as choosing an attitude of unbelief and failing to enter God’s promised rest. This passage is about the need for perseverance. The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to endure testing. A promise remains; those who believe enter into His rest. Entering Canaan was symbolic of the rest intended by God. The real rest, the sabbatismos, or state of sabbathness (vs. 4:9), is available to us as believers. Today is the day of opportunity; we can turn to Christ. To us—to end-time believers—there remains a resting, a living fully by faith. This kind of life is a sabbath-like, or sabbathized life, persisting in trusting in Jesus. It cannot make sense for His people today to claim to experience the beauty of gospel rest while at the same time denying His instruction and Sabbath rest. Life lived this way makes us restorers of the breach, repairers of right paths, rebuilders of the wall. Sabbath rest is gospel rest—trusting in God. This rest remains as a reality.

34. Revelation 1:10. In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. John received the Apocalypse on the Sabbath—most appropriate since the Sabbath will be the central issue in the end-time. (The only day identified as God’s day in Scripture is the Sabbath. See Isaiah 58:13; Mark 2:28). There is no better day for us, as John, to spend some of the time in quiet, personal communion with God.


In the New Testament we find further insight shaping our observance of the holy day that Jesus kept. In case after case, Jesus shines a light on true sabbath observance. He cuts through the crust of accumulated human traditions and shows the eternal blessedness of His holy day made for man.

Sabbath in the Tanakh (Old Testament)

1. Genesis 2:1-3. This is the first text in the Bible where something is identified as holy. In Genesis two, the word “Sabbath” is not used, but God sets apart the seventh day as holy. He ceases from creative work. His cessation from creative work is a cue for us. If God discontinued creative work in order to commune with man, it is logical that we must discontinue creative work during the Sabbath hours in order to focus on worshiping Him.

2. Exodus 16:1-36. The people were still thinking of the food of Egypt. They complained. God chose to demonstrate His power by providing food for them. They were instructed to gather for themselves every morning, and on the sixth day, double. They were do all their cooking on the sixth day (Exodus 16:23). Then, on the seventh day, God would provide none; He had already provided double on the sixth. This was a test provided by God to see whether the people would follow His instruction. (The primary meaning of “law,” TORAH, is “instruction.”) God commanded them to minimize labor on the Sabbath (16:29, 30). The lesson is not obscure. We are to accomplish the necessary preparation for Sabbath before the Sabbath, and we have been given six days to do so.

3. Exodus 20:8-11. This is the fourth commandment. The statement begins with a positive: remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The command reiterates—no work during the Sabbath hours—not only for us, but for our family members, employees, or those who sojourn with us.

4. Exodus 31:12-18. The Sabbath is to be kept as a sign to remind us that God sets us apart. It is to be observed as a covenant. Those who profane it are cut-off from Israel. Those choosing to work on the Sabbath (during the time of the Hebrew theocracy) were to be killed. If we know what God requires, and choose to disregard it even in part, then we must ask ourselves: will we truly understand that it is God who sanctifies us? Disregard for the Sabbath leads to disregard for personal holiness. It leads us to forget God.

5. Exodus 35:1-3. Moses assembles all Israel for instruction, and the first item on his list is the Sabbath. We are to do our work during the six days but not on the seventh. On that day, no work, no fire. Some have puzzled over the fire prohibition, but we recall Exodus 16:23, where the Israelites were commanded to bake and boil their food on the sixth day. That is, they were to kindle fire for cooking on the sixth day. But the Exodus 35:2 prohibition against fire is a prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath.

6. Leviticus 23:3. Immediately before outlining the various ceremonial Sabbaths, the weekly Sabbath is presented as distinct from them. It is a day for holy convocation. That is, the Sabbath is not only a day for personal cessation from work, but it is a day for gatherings of believers. In our case, we should not absent ourselves from church on the Sabbath (see also Hebrews 10:24, 25).

7. Leviticus 24:8. The priest placed the showbread in the sanctuary on the Sabbath. Here is a positive activity that occurred during the Sabbath. Some Sabbath injunctions are positive. (See also 1 Chronicles 9:32.)

8. Leviticus 26:1-46 (2). There is a general truth associated with the Sabbath as well—that God blesses obedience but sends trouble when we disobey. The blessings for obedience listed in this passage are: (a) plentiful harvest, (b) peace and safety in the land, (c) victory over enemies, and (d) God will dwell among His people. But, if they are disobedient, God brings the opposite. Applying this general truth to God’s interaction with His church today, it is not difficult to understand why we need Sabbath reform. Our own disobedience in keeping Sabbath is key to preventing God from blessing us. If we seek His blessings in general, so that the Korean union can have God’s blessing and afford to employ more pastors and grow and be witness for the truth of Jesus, then we must return and obey.

9. Numbers 15:32-40. Israel is in its camp, observing the Sabbath according to the commandment (“Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day” Exodus 16:29). Now, just looking at the text, two options: either the man was an Israelite or not; it is not specified. If he is an Israelite, he is more guilty. In any case, a man appears within sight of the camp collecting sticks. Perhaps he is gathering in order to build a fire and cook food. Men apprehend him. Instruction comes down: God says that he must be killed. He is executed. Immediately following, God gives Israel an aid to help them remember His commandments—He commands them to sew blue tassels to the fringes of their garments. The stick man could not have been unaware that within his sight, millions in the camp were quietly engaged in a holy observance. The Israelites understood that even non-Hebrews who dwelt near them were subject to God’s command to the community not to profane the Sabbath. The lesson for us is to be careful to maintain in and around our community, so much as possible, the sanctity of the Sabbath.

10. Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Here we have the Sabbath command as in Exodus 20:8-11, but this is later and Moses includes slaves among those who may not do work on the Sabbath. Deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt is mentioned as a reason for Sabbath observance. “Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (vs. 15). If we are Christians, then we have been delivered by Jesus. In the strength of God we are enabled to keep the Sabbath day holy. We are witnesses to the power of God. Others are made in God’s image and He wants to deliver them too. Not just we ourselves but all are to be free. If we engaged others to work for us during the Sabbath we would be denying this. We must completely avoid all secular work during the Sabbath, not only for ourselves, but work we might ask others to engage in.

11. Nehemiah 10:31. Here is explicit prohibition against engaging in commerce—buying and selling—on the Sabbath day. Occasions for buying and selling on Sabbath had been few in the desert waste. In Nehemiah’s time, however, Israel had entered Canaan; they are now a nation with cities. Engaging in commerce during the Sabbath hours is destructive to maintaining a sense of its holiness. The lesson for us? Like Israel, we must be aware that changes in situation sometimes require additional safeguard behaviors in order help us preserve the holiness of God’s Sabbath day.

12. Nehemiah 13:15-22. Nehemiah observes people treading wine-presses, carrying loads, and engaging in commerce inside Jerusalem on Sabbath. While Nehemiah directly warns the perpetrators, he also forthrightly confronts Jerusalem’s leaders. “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath” (vv. 17, 18). Nehemiah charges those possessing influence with the profanation of the Sabbath. Because they could have prevented it, the leaders share strong responsibility for the people in these sins. Sabbath-breaking actively draws God’s wrath upon Israel. He commands that the gates of the city be closed during the Sabbath hours and sets guards at the gates to keep the Sabbath holy. But the merchants camp outside the walls of the city. Even this, Nehemiah forbids, warning that if they do it again, he will send men out after them. This passage teaches us that those who find themselves in positions of influence toward God’s people are responsible to exercise that influence to guard the sanctity of His holy day. They are especially responsible for helping guide the covenant community aright, that His wrath may be avoided and His blessing upon it encouraged.

13. Isaiah 56:1-8. Keeping the Sabbath is here paralleled with refusing to do evil. Even the foreigner, if he embrace the Sabbath, is included in Israel. Sabbath is presented as an agency of integration, so that others may be included in God’s covenant community. The non-Jew may join Israel. Joy is explicitly connected with Sabbath observance. Isaiah refuses to limit the Sabbath to ethnic Jews. The Sabbath is a bridge into God’s covenant community. This passage helps us to understand that the Sabbath must not be minimized; it is nothing to be ashamed of, hidden from others, or downplayed. On the contrary, it is among the most evangelistic of Bible institutions. God sanctified the day before ever there was a Jew. Sabbath is a day for all who would seek Him. Rather than downgrading the day, we must upgrade it. The Sabbath day with all that pertains to it is a positive help, and barriers to its profanation must be upheld. We are to close the gates to Sabbath profanation in the midst of the covenant community.

14. Isaiah 58:1-14. Isaiah warns. He identifies the sins of Israel, among them, superficial religiosity, quarreling, and self-centered pleasure-seeking. But true believers will release the oppressed, help those in need, aid the afflicted, and guard the Sabbath. They will refuse to engage in doing their own things, their own business, even speaking their own words on God’s holy day. If we would experience the blessings of Sabbath, we too must guard its sanctity. There should be no overlap between secular business and God’s holy day, or talk that pertains to worldly matters mixed with talk that pertains to the worship of a holy God.

15. Isaiah 66:23. This text states that Sabbath observance will continue in the new earth and throughout eternity. All will be Sabbath-keepers. Sabbath is essential to man, in past, and in future. We do not advance beyond Sabbath observance; we return to it.

16. Jeremiah 17:19-27. Why are we to keep the Sabbath? For the sake of our lives (17:21). The promise is given that if the Sabbath is kept holy Jerusalem will stand forever, but if the Sabbath is profaned, Jerusalem shall be burned. The same issues are mentioned as before: working and bearing burdens on Sabbath. This prophecy explains why Jerusalem was burned and the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. The Sabbath is a benefit for us; its violation is a lightening rod for disaster. This was true in the past and it is true for believers today.

17. Ezekiel 20:1-49(12-26). The Sabbath is a sign so that God’s people might remember that He sets them apart. But Israel ignored this sign, and Sabbath violation is one of the stated reasons for the Hebrews’ divine sentence to forty years of wilderness wandering. In this passage, God warns them about the temptation to follow tradition and convenience more than His ways. Listen: “And I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (20:18-20). The lesson for us is to consult God’s commands and refuse to be trapped in any tradition or practice presuming to obey His rules so that it conveniences us but destroys the sanctifying effect of the Sabbath.

18. Amos 8:5. This text warns against an attitude of disregard for the Sabbath. Those obsessed with commerce wait impatiently for Sabbath to end, that they may engage in buying and selling. Indifference, even hostility toward the Sabbath, marks a pattern of injustice and oppression that will ultimately result in God’s judgment poured out upon the land. Feasts and observances will be turned into lamentation and the insincerity of the people rejected by God (See also Lamentations 2:6, 7). God does not discontinue His Sabbath, but turns their Sabbaths into mourning, and causes the apostate to forget the Sabbath.


Even but a brief review of these 18 Tanakh passages is remarkably fruitful and clarifying. Tanakh is rich in instruction about Sabbath and how to observe it in a spiritually healthy manner. But there is more!