Ezekiel 20 on YHVH’s Sabbaths, the Regathering of Redeemed Israel and the End Times Wilderness of the Peoples

Ezekiel 20:12, 13, 16, 20, My Sabbaths. YHVH cites Israel’s failure to keep his sabbaths as a prime reason for YHVH not permitting the older generation to enter the Promised Land. Judah’s not keeping the land sabbaths determined the length of her captivity in Babylon; namely, 70 years. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews brings up the Sabbath issue in chapter four of that book. What is the connection between keeping YHVH’s sabbaths and entering the spiritual rest of his Promised Land? (Read Heb 4:1–11.)

The Sabbath was the eternal sign between YHVH and his people, and it was one of the first Torah laws YHVH called upon Israel to practice. As noted, the failure of YHVH’s people to keep his sabbaths prevented the Israelites from going forward into their spiritual destiny.

Likewise, the fourth or Sabbath commandment of the Ten Commandments is the only one of the ten where YHVH instructs his people to “remember” it implying that they would eventually forget to keep his Sabbaths. History records that the Sabbath was the first so-called Jewish law that the early church left replacing it with Sunday (in the second century a.d.). In the modern Hebrew Roots Movement, YHVH’s people are beginning to leave the non-biblical religious traditions of men by returning to a more true-to-Scripture spiritual walk (a fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy about the heart of the children being turned back to their fathers in the end days in preparation for Messiah’s arrival [Mal 4:4–6]).

How prominently does the Sabbath figure in the lives of those believers who are returning to the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith? How significant is this prophetically? Is history repeating itself in reverse? Instead of YHVH’s people leaving the Sabbath, they are returning to it. The keeping of the Sabbath is an acknowledgment of YHVH’s sovereignty as the Creator of all, and of his sovereignty over our time, work and lives. Keeping the Sabbath is a direct assault on idolatry, materialism, selfishness, rebellion, and assimilation into the surrounding pagan culture that occurred when Israel forsook the Sabbaths of YHVH. Notice how Ezekiel ties the idolatry, rebellion and general apostasy of Israel with her desecration of YHVH’s Sabbaths. What was Israel’s heart condition that caused her to rebel against this commandment of YHVH? What are the excuses used by many today in order to justify themselves in desecrating YHVH’s Sabbaths? 

In Ezekiel 20, we see that YHVH’s feasts (or sabbaths) are a covenantal sign between YHVH and his people (Ezek 20:12) that they were to live by (Ezek 20:11), yet which Israel, in rebellion, refused to do while in the wilderness. Instead they defiled his sabbaths by, presumably, not doing them and doing other things on YHVH’s holy days (Ezek 20:13). Israel’s rebellion against YHVH with regard to their refusal to keep his sabbaths brought upon them YHVH’s judgments (Ezek 20:13). In other words, it was YHVH’s will for the Israelites to keep his sabbaths in the wilderness, but because of their idolatrous rebellion, they refused to do so. In fact, YHVH calls refusing to observe his sabbaths idolatry and for this sin (along with other sins), the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for forty years (Ezek 20:15–16). In profaning his sabbaths, YHVH accuses the Israelites of despising his Torah (Ezek 20:16). YHVH then goes on to urge his people to not follow the example of their rebellious forefathers, but rather to walk in all of his Torah commands (including his sabbaths, Ezek 20:18–20). Because of their profaning his sabbaths, he punished them by scattering them in exile among the heathens. Those modern saints who refuse to keep YHVH’s Sabbath and feasts are walking in the same sin as the ancient Israelites. Often people who refuse to keep YHVH’s feast days holy do so because the feasts conflict with their secular activities (such as their jobs and recreational activities). YHVH calls this idolatry and being like the heathen (Ezek 20:30, 32). In the end times, YHVH is going to separate his people out from the heathen and bring them back into covenantal agreement with him including obedience to his sabbaths (Ezek 20:33–38). He will purge from his people those rebels who refuse to obey him including keeping his sabbaths (Ezek 20:38), which are a sign of his covenantal relationship with them.

Ezekiel 20:33–38, I will bring you out.This prophecy has never been fulfilled. In the end times, YHVH will begin to regather his scattered people (the 12 tribes of Israel) with his mighty, sovereign hand in the midst of his last days fury or judgments that he will pour out upon the earth just prior to Yeshua’s second coming. As an intermediate step before returning his people to their inheritance in the Promised Land, he will bring them into the “wilderness of the peoples.” This is the only place this term is found in the Bible. It appears to be a spiritual wilderness (not a literal one) in the midst of the Gentile nations where YHVH’s people find themselves. Presently, there are many saints who have answered YHVH’s call to come out of the spiritual Babylon of the church system. They presently find themselves alone in a spiritual wilderness where YHVH is teaching them about the Torah and Hebraic roots of their faith. This wilderness is a time to testing for YHVH’s people for him to determine who will love him by keeping is commandments or not (v. 37). This period will be similar to the that of Israel in Goshen, Egypt (v. 36). At that time, YHVH tested the children of Israel by allowing them to go through the first three plagues, but he protected them from the last seven plagues. This is how he refined them spiritually and, at the same time, got their attention focused on him and off of Egypt. YHVH will make all to pass under the rod of his judgment and separation (v. 37). He will purge out from is flock those who refuse to follow his Torah (the rebels and transgressors) and they won’t be allowed into the Promised Land (v. 38). 

Ezekiel 20:35–36, Wilderness [Heb. midbar] of the peoples [Heb. am, not goy].This wilderness is like the “wilderness” of Goshen in Egypt. This prophecy doesn’t seem to be referring to a wilderness outside of Egypt, but one that is in Egypt prior to the Exodus. In end times Babylon the Great, this could be a prophetic reference to a spiritual wilderness experience YHVH will force believers to endure to test whether they will be obedient to his Torah or not (vv. 37–38) to determine whether they’re worthy candidates to come into the Promised Land as Yeshua’s warrior bride at his second coming. This wilderness of the peoples seems to be a wilderness in the midst of the heathen people in which believers find themselves as opposed the wilderness of Rev 12:14 that YHVH will carry his end times persecuted remnant into for three-and-a-half years.

 

What do I do on the Sabbath?

I get asked the question frequently, “What am I supposed to do on the Sabbath day?” The following Torah Scripture and gives us much a unique insight into the answer to this question.

Numbers 28:9, On the Sabbath day. Every Sabbath YHVH required double sacrifices to be offered. What can we learn from this seemingly minor, easily overlooked detail pertaining to the Levitical sacrificial system to enrich our Sabbath (Heb. Shabbat) experience? Much!

The Levites offering a double sacrifice on Shabbat was a foundational principle of the sacrificial system. This teaches us that we need to spend more time seeking YHVH on his set-apart or holy Shabbat. This means being a living sacrifice to YHVH. What are the ramifications of being a living sacrifice?

In this age of self-indulgence and self-centeredness, the subject of self-denial and being a living sacrifice is not a popular one, yet laying one’s life down or becoming a living sacrifice, is a fundamental principle of the Christian life—something about which Scripture speaks volumes! (Read the following: Rom 12:1; Pss 4:5; 27:6; 50:8–15; 51:17; 107:22; 119:108; Prov 15:8; 21:3; Jer 17:26; 33:11; Hos 6:6; 14:2; Jon 2:9; Mal 1:11; Matt 9:13; 12:7; Eph 5:2; Phil 2:17; 4:18; Heb 9:26; 13:15; 1 Pet 2:4.) 

Self-denial is rooted in our covenantal relationship with our Yeshua, who is not only our Savior, but also our Master. When we become a disciple of Yeshua the Messiah and laid down our lives in the watery grave of baptism and accepted his payment for our sins, we covenanted to follow and obey him—to lay down our lives as well for him just as he did for us (Phil 2:5–8), that is, to become a living sacrifice to love, serve and to obey him regardless of what our carnal nature wants to do. As the apostle declared, we are not our own, but we were purchased with a price—the precious blood of Yeshua (1 Pet 1:18–19; Eph 1:4). This all translates into how we observe the Sabbath. On this set-apart day (i.e. it is set-apart from our normal, worldly activities), do we do what pleases our fleshly appetites or what pleases our Heavenly Master (Isa 58:13)?

So what types of activities should fill our Sabbath time that exemplify the Levites’ making a double offering on the Sabbath? Once again, please review the scripture verses listed above about being a living sacrifice. From these we learn that being a living sacrifice involves any activity that is a of worshipful and devotional nature toward our Heavenly Creator. Therefore, shouldn’t all of our Sabbath-day activities in some way point to YHVH, and in some way strengthen our walk with and relational ties to our Creator, and our relationship with others who are of the household of faith? 

Let’s not forget an important truth: Keeping Torah is not about bondage (to a legalistic set of dos and don’ts); rather, it’s a vehicle to promote bonding and relationship (i.e. building loving relationship between man and his Creator, between man and his fellow man). Therefore, our Sabbath activities are about building spiritual relationships Elohim and our fellow man.

 

Don’t work on the Sabbath—No excuses!

Numbers 15:32–36, On the Sabbath day. Let’s take a closer look at the Sabbath desecration in the wilderness.The Torah juxtaposes the sins of idolatry and Sabbath desecration because they represent the same concept. Just as the idolater denies the sovereignty of Elohim, so too, one who flouts the Sabbath, which testifies to Elohim’s creation of the universe, declares his lack of faith in the Creator. Because of the vital place of Sabbath in the constellation of Jewish belief, the Torah places this incident here, although it did not necessarily happen immediately after the rebellion of the spies (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 815).

Working on the Sabbath is evidence of lack of faith in the Creator to provide for our needs on the other six days so that we will not have to work on the seventh day. Working on the Sabbath is also a result of unbelief (faithlessness), which is fear (the antithesis of faith; see 2 Tim 1:7). It is doubt, unbelief and fear (faithlessness) that prevented Israel from entering into the Promised Land for 40 years (Heb 4:1–11). 

As we see from Hebrews chapter four, the Sabbath is a prophetic picture of entering YHVH’s spiritual rest and is symbolic of the Promised Land and the Millennium. When we rest from our physical labors on the seventh day we demonstrate that we have the requisite faith to enter the spiritual or millennial rest that YHVH has prepared for us, unlike the ten evil Israelite spies who lacked the faith in YHVH’s word necessary to go in to possess the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb had this faith and they were able to enter the Promised Land. 

Remember that the Sabbath is the sign of the Sinaitic Covenant (Exod 31:7, 13). If one walks in the righteousness of that covenant, one will be a recipient of the promised blessings of the New Covenant, which also includes the blessings of Torah-obedience as found in the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenant. Perhaps this is why the Sabbath incident is juxtaposed with the spy incident in this section of the Torah. It shows the connection between keeping the Sabbath and entering the Promised Land.

Numbers 15:32. A man gathering sticks. A man gathering sticks. The man gathering sticks on the Sabbath is an example of intentional sin, for which there is no sacrifice (atonement or forgiveness; Num 15:30–31).

Furthermore, the act of gathering sticks on the Sabbath teaches us something else. Sticks are used to start fires, something that the Torah commands us not to do on the Sabbath—especially if it relates to our work, business or secular activities such as building the tabernacle (Exod 35:3 cp. vv. 4–35 or cooking food, see Exod 16:23).

A fire is a biblical metaphor for strife and division, which is usually caused by the misuse of the tongue (Prov 16:27; 26:20–21; Jas 3:5–6). Those who stir up the fires of strife and division must be put out of the camp, even as the man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath to build a fire had to be put out of the camp of Israel.

Similarly, Paul gives instructions about putting individuals outside of the camp or congregation of redeemed Israel in several places (Rom 16:17–18; Tit 3:10 cp. 1 Cor 5:9–11 in reference to a reviler).

Why should such individuals be treated as a pariah to the congregation of the righteous? Simply this, with smooth words and flattering speech they will deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom 16:17–18) and destroy the congregation. Paul calls such individuals who use their tongues to draw a following grievous or savage wolves and perverse men (Acts 20:29–30).

 

When Does a Biblical Day Start?

Recently, I’ve had several inquiries as to when a biblical day starts, with those asking the question asserting that a biblical day begins in the morning, not in the evening as most Hebraic-minded people believe, and as the rabbinic Jews teach. I have answered this question before on this blog, but my previous response didn’t fully address all the main issue, so I have just written this present article to more properly address the issue. — Natan

The Hebrew Yom (Day) Defined

To help us to understand when the biblical day begins, let’s first define the Hebrew word for day which is yom. This will give us a clearer, contextual understanding of how the biblical writers use this word and what its many meanings are and how, and if, it relates to the 24-hour period we normally think of as a day.

According to the The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (or The TWOT), the primary meaning of yom is “day, time, year.” Yom can represent a point of time and a sphere of time. It can represent (a) a period of light in contrast to a period of darkness, (c) a period of 24 hours, (c) a general vague time (e.g. time in general, a long time, a season of time, “the day of the Lord,” or years of time), (d) a point of time, (e) a year or years. Reflecting these various meanings, we find yom translated in Scripture (the KJV) using the following English expression:

  • today
  • when
  • in the time of
  • as long as
  • day
  • continually

The TWOT goes on to note that other Hebrew words sometimes translated in Scripture as day include the Hebrew word ohr meaning “light” as well as boqer (or boker) meaning “morning.” Conversely, antonyms of yom include layila meaning “night,” and erev meaning “evening.” The TWOT also notes that the Bible reveals that the day can start in the evening (Est 4:16; Dan 8:14) as well as in the morning (Deut 28:66). This fact adds confusion to the question as to when a biblical day actually begins. We will discuss this below. So, what does this all have to do with the biblical definition of a day? It is important to know this, for how else are we to know when to observe the biblical Sabbath and feast days? 

Does a Biblical Day Begin at Sunset or Sunrise?

The Creation Model

At the creation, Elohim defined a day as beginning in the evening (Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Each of the six days of creation follow this model. Although the phrase “And the evening and the morning were the [first, second, etc.] day” is not found in reference to the seventh day Sabbath (Gen 2:1ff), the parallel linguistic construction of the first six days beginning at evening strongly suggests or hints (a remez) that the same pattern for delineating the beginning point of the seventh day would continue over into the Sabbath. Some argue that daylight or morning begins the day since light was the first thing that Elohim created. While spiritual light (not physical light [i.e. the sun, moon and stars] were created on day four) is what was created on the first day, this in no way nullifies how Scripture defines a physical day in the same creation account. All attempts to say that because spiritual light was created first as proof that the day begins in the morning overlook the plain (or pashat) meaning of the text, which says that “the evening and the morning were the [first, second, etc.] day.” We will discuss this point further below.

The Model of the Biblical Feasts

The fact that evening begins the day in Scripture—a pattern that is clearly laid out in the Genesis chapter one account—is transmitted into the starting times of several of the biblical feasts as well.  

Exodus 12:6—Passover

In this verse we find the command to keep the Passover. We read,

On the fourteenth day of the first month in the evening  [Heb. beyn ha-er’va’im literally meaning “between the evening] is YHVH’s Passover. (adapted from KJV)

We see this same grammatical construction elsewhere (Lev 23:5 and Num 9:3, 5,1. ) plainly showing that the day of Passover is to be kept “between/beyn the evenings/ha-er’va’im,”  that is, between the setting of the sun of one day and the setting of the sun of the next day. This correlates with the Genesis one account that shows that the Bible reckons a day beginning at sunset and continuing until the sunset of the next day.

It must here be noted that confusion often occurs if the reader doesn’t understand that Scripture uses the word Passover to mean two different things. First, the word Passover can refer to the actually day of Passover, that is, the fourteenth day of the first month of the biblical year (Lev 23:5). But the word Passover can also refer the actual lamb that was slaughtered on Passover day (Exod 12:21). While it was slaughtered and roasted on the day of Passover (Exod 12:5–6), the Passover lamb was eaten after Passover day had passed and the next day (the fifteenth day of the first month) had begun the following evening after the daylight portion of the fourteenth day had ended (Exod 12:8). The point of this brief discussion is that just because the Israelites ate the Passover lamb in the evening, this was not the evening of Passover day, which occurred 24 hours earlier when that day begin. By the time they were eating the Passover lamb, Passover day had already ended and they were now eating the lamb at the beginning of the next day (the fifteenth day of the first month), which was the first high holy day (a Sabbath) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Leviticus 23:32—The Day of Atonement

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More Info on How to Observe the Shabbat

It’s time to shake some people out of their spiritual complacency and to wake up the spiritually lukewarm!

WARNING!

This passage of Scripture gives us more information on how to observe the seventh day Sabbath or Shabbat. In this regard I have a serious question for some of you. How long will you hard-hearted, stiff-necked and rebellious people refuse to keep the seventh day Sabbath as the Creator of the universe himself gave us an example to do in Genesis chapter two, as he commanded all humans (not just the Jews) to do when he gave the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20, which he commanded his people to do down through ages via his prophets, which Yeshua the Messiah and the apostles and early New Testament believers kept, and which the Bible prophesies will be kept during the millennial reign of King Yeshua the Messiah on this earth after his second coming? How long will you believe the lies that most of the Old Testament law and Jew-hating early Catholic church fathers pawned off on generations of Christians to this day that the Sabbath no longer matters, was done away with and nailed to the cross and that now Sunday has replaced the Sabbath? Almost all of Christendom believes this unbiblical lie. At one time they mainstream church believed that the earth was flat and persecuted and killed those who taught otherwise. Maybe the church is wrong about their view of a the seventh day Sabbath as well!

The Bible instructs us NOT to follow the masses to do evil, that is, to sin against Elohim by going against his Word or commands (Exod 23:2).

Finally, one last question: how long will you continue to follow the dictates of your carnal hearts as Paul so clearly states in Romans 8:6–8 and go against the clear commands of YHVH Elohim and not observe the seventh day Sabbath?

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Furthermore:

“But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” says YHVH Elohim (Isa 66:2)

[F]or not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of Elohim, but the doers of the law will be justified… (Rom 2:13, according to Paul)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness/Torahlessness!'” (Matt 7:21–23, Yeshua speaking)

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17–20, Yeshua speaking)

(Note: At this point, I’m not feeling inclined to take any comments countering my position on the validity of the seventh day Sabbath. I know what the Bible says, and I don’t care what men have to say to the contrary, and, frankly, I’m not interested in arguing over this point. This is time-consuming old business for me and it’s time to move on. For those who are honest truth seekers and want to learn more about what Scripture has to say about the Sabbath as opposed to those people who merely care to uphold traditions of men by which the word of Elohim has been made of none effect (Mark 7:13), I have this to say: On this blog, I have posted numerous articles on the Sabbath. You can find them by typing in “Sabbath” or “Shabbat” on this blog’s search engine on the front page. Love and blessings to everyone — Natan)


Exodus 35:2, The seventh day … shall be … a set-apart day. In our journey through the Torah, the subject of the seventh day Sabbath keeps popping up. Why is this? This is because it’s obviously an important subject to YHVH. 

When YHVH said in Exodus 20:8 to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it set-apart (Heb. kadosh),” he is reminding the Israelites of it so that they won’t forget it! He reminds us again in the verse above to keep the Sabbath set-apart. 

But there’s more. 

Continue reading
 

What’s so special about the Shabbat and how to keep it so

Exodus 31:13–17, My Sabbaths you shall keep. Note that Sabbaths is plural. This is a reference not only to the weekly Sabbath, but to the feast day Sabbaths as well. However, the seventh day Sabbath remains central to YHVH’s spiritual economy for his people. In fact, it was so central to the spiritual life and YHVH’s people that he designated it to be a visible and outward sign of the special relationship between him and his people. Let’s explore this idea.

Why did YHVH designate it as a sign (“signal, distinguishing mark, banner,” Exod 31:12) between him and Israel? As YHVH’s set-apart people, Israel was distinguishing itself from the surrounding nations who did not keep the Sabbath. What distinguishes the saints today as YHVH’s set-apart people from the non-believing heathen around them? Certainly our love for one another is a distinguishing mark, according to Yeshua (John 13:35). Yeshua also said that if we love him we will keep his Torah commandments (of which the Sabbath is the fourth of the ten commandments, John 14:15; Exod 20:8). John was inspired to write that those who say they know Elohim and don’t keep his Torah-commandments (of which the Sabbath is a foundation stone) are liars and the truth is not in them (1 John 2:3–6). And finally, Yeshua told those who were Torahless (i.e. workers of iniquity or lawlessness) to depart from him, that he didn’t know them even though they claimed to be his followers and had done many religious works in his name (Matt 7:21–23). Although the Sabbath and the biblical feasts may not be the exact sign of the Renewed Covenant, Elohim’s Sabbaths are foundation stones of the Torah, and the keeping of them remains to this day for the saints of Elohim (Heb 4:9).

The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach translates verse 15 as follows:

For six days work may be done and the seventh day is a day of complete rest, it is sacred to [YHVH] … (emphasis added)

What is complete rest? What is the connection between “complete rest” and the idea of sacredness or being set-apartness or kadosh? The people of YHVH are called to separate the kodesh from the common or profane:

Her priests have violated my Torah, and have profaned my set-apart/kodesh things: they have put no difference between the kodesh and profane [common, polluted] neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. (Ezek 22:26)

And [the priests] shall teach my people the difference between the kodesh and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezek 44:23)

What is common or profane is that which is commonly done on the other six days of the week.

Exodus 31:14, Sabbath…profanes it.Profaning or polluting the Sabbath with secular activities is a sin. Sabbath desecration is as much a capital offence in YHVH’s eyes now as it was then. The wages of sin is still death (Ezek 18:4; Rom 6:23). 

Exodus 31:18, Written with the finger.The Sabbath was ordained by Elohim and written by his finger. How dare men subsequently declare that the Sabbath was changed and that what YHVH wrote with his finger in tablets of stone is now irrelevant or passé! What hubris and arrogance on men’s part to counter the will and laws of Elohim with silly, specious and vacuous justifications for man-made and unbiblical teachings. Such edicts of men will not stand, but will blow away like dust in the wind, will be burned to ashes in the fiery judgment of Elohim, and will fall by the wayside like all the other traditions of men, which have dared to make the word of Elohim of no effect!