While I’ve published a post before on rest, I’d like to take things a step further and discuss a whole day dedicated to it. One of the best ways to study a word, that I’ve found, is to first define it so the true meaning of the word is fresh in the mind. Thus, let’s begin by defining Sabbath:
Sabbath – A time or period of rest; a cessation from labour, trouble, pain, and the like.
Mind you, this is only one definition of three in the Oxford University Dictionary. However, said dictionary also has Sabbath Day right after, defining it as a sacred day of rest. All of which corresponds to the scriptures I’ll be referencing later, but let’s focus on the definition quoted above for a moment.
To uphold the Sabbath is to go a length of time without work or stress. Notice I left out pain, because I kind of dislike this word here. Initially that term brings to mind wounds, bruises, and the like. However, I doubt the people in Biblical times went a few days with pain from a broken leg only to pretend everything is fine, dandy, and the leg magically healed for a day just to uphold the Sabbath (“Dad, I broke my leg.” “Suck it up, son, it’s the Sabbath.”). Upon a second look, the term ‘pain’ here could also mean ‘to struggle’ which sounds better and more reasonable, but still doesn’t work. Try as we may, we cannot go a full day without dealing with the pain or struggle we’ve been facing the week leading up to our Sabbath.
Which brings me to the Biblical stand point and the Sabbath Day definition from earlier. In Jeremiah 17 there is a whole section dedicated to ‘Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy’:
“This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and stand at the Gate of the People, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerualem who come through these gates. This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.”Jeremiah 17:19-23
At least Oxford got the labour part correct. Of course, to be troubled over something is to worry or stress about it which can stem from work as well, so I’ll give them that. However, pain is still missing here.
Continuing onward from that point in Jeremiah and flashing forward to today, the Sabbath Day is still recognized in two different ways. The first, of course, is in Jewish culture. They recognize it as the Saturday of every week, even though technically it begins at sundown on Friday and ends sundown on Saturday. In some Jewish cultures, they take the act of resting very far and, if wealthy enough to do so, will hire people to do even the smallest of things — such as cutting hair or nails, sharpening a pencil, switching off an electric light, and so on (myjewishlearning.com) — to ensure they don’t violate the law pertaining to the Sabbath.
The second way the Sabbath Day is recognized by today’s people is through Christians. However, instead of calling it the Sabbath, we call it ‘The Lord’s Day’ which is Sunday. This is why we meet on Sunday mornings for service. Now, does it matter what day the Sabbath is recognized? Who has it right: the Jews or the Christians? Is the missing ‘pain’ going to be addressed?
Find out on Saturday in part 2! Hope to see you there.