קהילת תלמידי ישוע
Talmidei Yeshua Fellowship
95 Milvan Drive, North York, Ontario

Shabbat Observance

·      Since Creation, Shabbat and its lessons have constituted a primary theme in Scripture. It is the first mitzvah named in the Torah and, interestingly, it is the only ritual mitzvah Elohim is said to have observed (Genesis 2:1). At Sinai, the Shabbat is given as one of the ten fundamental commandments, a testament to its importance. Indeed, Shabbat can play a powerful role in the life of a believer but, unfortunately, this efficacy has been thrown to the wind by many believers, by those who claim that it has been abrogated or partially abrogated or by those who reduce it to an endless list of do’s and do-not’s. In doing this, the Shabbat and the plethora of advantages it carries are lost, bringing severe consequences. This compendious article examines the heart of the Shabbat and the importance of its role in the life of a believer. 

The first reference to the Shabbat takes place in Genesis 2:2-3: “And in the seventh day Elohim completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day form all His work which He had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because on it He rested from all His work, which Elohim in creating had made.” While Elohim clearly did not require a day to recover from fatigue, He did establish a day that would be “set apart” for mankind as a sort of spiritual creation after six days of physical creation. In this way, it was the absolute climax of the Creation!

  Shabbat stages its second appearance in the Book of Exodus, after the Children of Yisrael exited Egypt yet still before the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Moshe explains to them the basics of Shabbat observance. Only when Elohim gives the Ten Words is the Shabbat explained definitively: “Remember the Shabbat day to set it apart. Six days you shall labor and shall do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat of יהוה your Elohim. You do not do any work – you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger, who is within your gates. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore יהוה blessed the Shabbat day and set it apart” (Exodus 20:8-11). Observance of Shabbat is a reminder of the Creation and especially of the Creator.

  Indeed, in the preceding verses, the Torah explains the three Words that, first, establish the Divinity of יהוה, second, forbid the worship of other false gods, and, third, require a profound respect of the Name. That the Shabbat follows these three consequential commands is hardly unexpected, for it marks the dedication of an entire day out of every week solely to the service of the Holy One in memory of His Infinitude. The Shabbat is also quite personal, for after יהוה states His identity, He proffers to His people the Shabbat, a time when His People can completely dedicate themselves to developing their relationship with Him. This is the true essence of the Shabbat.

  Isaiah expounds on this, writing in Isaiah 56:2: “Deeply content is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it…” Moshe also makes reference to the spiritual significance of the Shabbat: “Between Me and the children of Yisrael it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17). In Hebrew, the word “refreshed” may literally be translated “re-souled”, implying an event of spiritual refreshment as opposed to merely a physical rest. Indeed, this is consistent with the spiritual nature of Shabbat!

  In order to focus completely on one’s Maker, the Torah has delineated a guideline of what one is permitted to do on Shabbat (that will not distract him or her) and what one is not permitted to do on Shabbat (that would distract him or her). On a most basic level, Isaiah explains in 58:13-14 of his Book: “If you turn back your foot from the Shabbat, from doing your pleasure on My Holy Day, and shall call the Shabbat ‘a delight’, the Holy Day of יהוה, ‘honored,’ and shall honor it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in יהוה. And I shall cause you to ride on the heights of the earth, and feed you with the inheritance of Ya‘akov your father. For the mouth of יהוה has spoken!” Quite simply, Shabbat is the abandonment of one’s transient physical desires in order to wholeheartedly commit to the service of our Father!

The failure to recognize the Shabbat as being a spiritual rest is a great loss to many believers. Those who reduce it to a list of do’s and do-not’s fixate their eyes on the physical in order to scrupulously ensure perfect observance of the Torah. On the other hand, there are many others who will pursue their own secular interests on the Shabbat and also miss out greatly on the spiritual value of the Shabbat as well as set themselves directly against the Word of Elohim! When observed properly, though, the Shabbat becomes a natural expression of one’s desire and effort to strengthen his or her relationship with the Creator. Followed correctly, Shabbat unquestionably becomes a life-changing observance, as any Shabbat-observant believer can affirm.

  While Shabbat does become a natural expression of one’s worship, it does not begin as such for most believers. Much like the new driver, the Shabbat-keeping neophyte must adhere closely to the driver’s manual (i.e., the Torah) until the habits transform from forced and difficult to natural and relaxing. Nearly every believer intent on obeying יהוה and thus His mitzvah of the Shabbat has found it difficult at first to set aside their worldly pursuits and desires for twenty-four hours but, after some time, they learn to release these matters and put them second to the service of our Father. Then they soon learn to look forward to Shabbat as a time of spiritual proximity to their Maker. From such believers as these, the Shabbat has been given the popular alias “an oasis in time”. As with every blessing, however, observance of the Shabbat meets stiff adversity, as the idols in one’s life must be forced back into their proper positions – at distant second. Only a persistent belief in the priority of יהוה Word and in the desire for a relationship with the Father can enable one to drive past this point of temptation.

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