By: William Jackson
Isaiah 56:2 tells us “not to desecrate or profane the Sabbath”. The Hebrew word that could mean either desecrate or profane is “chalal” which means to pierce. So we need to protect the Sabbath from those things that would depreciate it. When each of us started off on our faith journey, we usually followed those that had been doing it longer. “Why not?” they seem to know more. But; we all need to get to the point in our walk that we look to His answers in Tanakh on our own; rather than always depending on what others tell us His word says . One reason to do this is, if we are to protect the Sabbath, we must know the rules outlined in Tanakh for keeping the Sabbath, for ourselves – personally.
Why does Sabbath start Friday evening?
We should always prepare for Sabbath. Like getting ready for a date, or an important meeting, everything needs to be ready. We don’t want distractions during our Sabbath rest, like not having groceries, or getting telephone calls, a lawn that needs mowed, or a house that’s not kept, and anything else that would prevent us from enjoying His holy day and being able to rest in Him. A good example would be in (Exodus 16:22-23,29-30), where we’re told to make sure we’ve prepared food in advance.
Let’s explore more instructions for Sabbath Day:
Exceptions: The Tanakh reveal either side of the spectrum when it comes to events that could interfere with Sabbath observance.
a. Financial Reasons:
Ancient Israel was an agricultural society (2). Thus sowing seed and harvesting would have been critical to their culture. So when Exodus 34:21 tells us to rest in spite of “plowing time and harvest season” it says a lot. As a farmer, by resting on planting and harvesting day, you would have to have a lot of trust YHVH.
b. Self Preservation:
When it comes to national defense there are exceptions for observing the Sabbath in History and the Tanakh. One example is Jehoiada, the Temples chief priest around 841 BCE (3). He put a third of the priest and Levites on guard duty during Sabbath (2 Kings 11:6, 2 Chronicles 23:4). Also, about 700 years after that (during the Maccabean rebellion), Jews not defending themselves against Syrian attacks on the Sabbath where killed and greatly defeated. This changed in 1 Maccabees 2:39-41 where Mattathias, a Jewish priest and his friends decided to defend themselves against attacks during the Sabbath (4). It appears only situations on preserving human life woulds allow us to violate the Sabbath.
4. Make no fire: Exodus 35:3
6. Do not pursue or speak about your own interests: Isaiah 58:13
8. Sing and Praise YHVH: Psalm 92
10. Read His word: In Leviticus 23:3 it states we are to have a “holy convocation or assembly. What does that mean? Holy Convocation is made up of two Hebrew words; “qodesh” which is apartness or sacredness and “miqra” which is a convocation or a reading. Studying Torah would meet this requirement.
For those that keep the Sabbath,
Isaiah 56:7 I will bring them to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.”