“You will keep the Sabbath!” Thus saith YHVH to Israel…

Exodus 16:4–30, The Sabbath. This chapter chronicles YHVH’s efforts to literally force an irreverent, unruly and disobedient nation to keep the seventh day Sabbath. He did so in a most poignant way—through food and hunger. It’s as if he were instructing the stiff-necked and rebellious Israelites that if they refused to follow his Sabbath instructions, they would literally go hungry. “If you don’t obey me, you don’t eat.” This shows the gravity the Creator places on the Sabbath command. Yet despite these clear instructions, most in the Babylonian church today, like the rebellious children of Israel of old, refuse to obey YHVH’s clear instructions regarding the Sabbath. Instead, they prefer to believe the doctrines of men proffered to them by their spiritual leaders that purport to invalidate the Sabbath command. Paul’s sage observation in Romans 8:7 describes the situation perfectly: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim: for it is not subject to the [Torah] law of Elohim, neither indeed can be.” In our day, the same question can still be asked of followers of Yeshua that YHVH asked of the Israelites at that time, “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?” (Exod 16:28).

Not only this, but by forcing the Israelites to gather manna each day, he is teaching them to work for their daily bread for six days. Though the bread came from heaven—YHVH’s was its source—he still required the people to work each day by going out and gathering it. There is no free lunch even where YHVH is concerned. The nation of Israel wasn’t a welfare state empowering lazy freeloaders! If a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat. The Sabbath command in Exodus 20 not only prescribes resting on the Sabbath, but this presupposes that one has followed the preceding command to work the previous six days. Humans are naturally inclined to laziness. If one doesn’t have to work, they won’t. YHVH works maintaining and sustaining the universe. YHVH who created humans in his image expects us to follow his example of working and then resting.

Moreover, this chapter is almost entirely dedicated to instructions pertaining to preparing for the Sabbath. This shows the priority that YHVH places on Sabbath observance for his people. Also note that these instructions are given many weeks before the official giving of the Torah (or law of Moses) at Mount Sinai. This is but one of the many examples of YHVH revealing key aspects of his Torah-law before he gave it the Israelites in one legal codified corpus at Mount Sinai.

Exodus 16:4, On the sixth day…prepare. (Also note verse 23.) The sixth day of the week was to be a day of preparation for the Sabbath, so that the Sabbath rest could be complete allowing for man to fully focus on being spiritually edified in the presence of his Creator without the distractions of food preparation and the other mundane duties of life.

 

What? The Sabbath isn’t commanded in the NT?

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Hebrews 4:9–10, Rest. The Greek word sabbatismos means “a keeping of the Sabbath” and is derived from the Hebrew word sabbaton meaning “the seventh day or Sabbath. It is  derived from the Hebrew word shabbat meaning “sabbath,” which originates from the root word shabat meaning “to cease, desist, rest.”

Those who have entered into the Sabbath rest do so by following the example of YHVH the Creator who not only rested spiritually, but literally rested on the seventh day after the creation. He set this as an example for man to follow.

Some people see this verse in Hebrews only as a mandate to rest from their spiritual works by putting their faith in Yeshua. This is only partial rest. We must follow the example of YHVH who literally rested on the seventh day as well. Yeshua was YHVH the Creator (Heb 1:10; John 1:3, 10). He kept the Sabbath as YHVH the Creator, and as Yeshua the Messiah.

When we rest both physically and spiritually, we’re walking out a higher level of truth, and as such, we’ve positioned ourselves before YHVH to receive more divine revelation from him. In other words, the more we obey him faithfully in love, the more truth he can entrust us with for safekeeping, for he knows we won’t take for granted or trample his precious truth nuggets. To those who are faithful in much, YHVH gives more. That’s how it works in his spiritual economy.

You see, the Jews keep the physical Sabbath, but have missed the revelation of spiritual rest in Yeshua, while the mainstream Christians have rejected the physical Sabbath rest but accepted the spiritual rest in the Messiah. Both sides have half the truth. Let’s put the two halves together and walk out the full truth! This is another way of connecting the gospel message to its Hebraic, pro-Torah roots.

 

There is a connection between profaning YHVH’s sabbaths and his judgments

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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.

 

Resting on the Sabbath is an act of faith

Resting on the Sabbath day is not only about obedience to the laws of the Creator, but is also about worshipping the Elohim, about imitating him by doing what he did and thus becoming like him, and it demonstrates our faith in the Creator while we are obeying, worshipping and imitating him as we will discuss below.

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 4, the Sabbath is a picture of entering YHVH’s spiritual rest and is a spiritual picture 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 go in. 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.

 

False Teachings and Destructive Heresies in the Early Church

Who goes there?

Thief sneaking through door2 Peter 2:1, False teachers…destructive heresies. When did several prominent but destructive, non-biblical heresies creep into the early church, which are now major doctrines in mainstream Christianity? Here is a partial list along with the approximate times the early church fathers began teaching these doctrines.

The Human Soul Is Immortal

The immortality of the soul was not  a Hebraic concept, but originated from the ancient Greek philosophers. This pagan concept made its way into the church as Gentiles who were steeped in the thinking of the Greek philosophers gained control of the early church after the death of the last apostles.

A.D. 130— The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 6

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 18

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Two, ch. 34

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Five, chaps. 7.1; 31.1

Teachings Against the Sabbath and Biblical Feasts

There is no record in the Bible of the early New Testament believers replacing the seventh-day Sabbath with Sunday. To say so is wishful thinking, a twisting of the Scriptures and biblical revisionism. It wasn’t until the fourth century at the Council of Nicea under Roman emperor Constantine that the Sunday officially replaced the Sabbath in the early church. Until that time, many Christian churches still observed the Sabbath throughout the Roman empire. The process of transitioning from Sabbath to Sunday observance was a slow one beginning in the early second century and had its roots largely in antisemitism.

A.D. 130—The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 4. The author calls the Sabbath and biblical feasts “utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice.”

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 2 (also ch. 14). The author says that the Sabbaths (weekly Sabbath and biblical feasts) are abolished.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, ch. 14

Observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) Advocated Over Sabbath Observance

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 9. The author says to keep the Sabbath on Sunday.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. 9

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 67

Teachings Against the Torah

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author declare, “If anyone preach the Jewish law, listen not to him.”

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 10

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 47. The author states that out of “weak-mindedness,” some Christians observe the Mosaic law. Sabbath and feast days observance are optional, but not encouraged.

Anti-Semetic/Anti-Torah Theology

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, chaps. 8, 10

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Four, ch. 16.4. The author declares that the Decalogue was not cancelled by the New Covenant, but the statues and judgments of the Torah were a bondage to the Israelites and are no longer binding on Christians.

Teachings Against the Biblical Dietary Laws of Clean and Unclean Meats

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author states that one who adheres the biblical dietary laws “has the apostate dragon dwelling within him.”

Easter Celebration Established a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 150—The celebration of the resurrection within the early church began in the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, pp. 207–8, by Philip Schaff). The date of Easter and its formal establishment and disconnection from Passover occurred in A.D. 325 at the council of Nicea.

Sabbath Officially Changed to Sunday

A.D. 321—Sunday officially becomes the weekly day of worship (in place of the Sabbath) by a legal enactment of Emporer Constantine (History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 378ff, by Philip Schaff; History of the Christianity, vol 1, p. 93, by Kenneth Scott Latourette)

Christmas Established as a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 354—Christmas originated in the middle to the end of the fourth century as a Christian holiday as an outgrowth of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the pagan sun god.

 

Does YHVH want us to freeze in the dark on the Sabbath?

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. When YHVH said in Exodus 20:8 to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it set-apart (Heb. kadosh),” he keeps reminding them of it so that they won’t forget it! What does this tell us about the importance YHVH places on the weekly Sabbath? With each reminder, he gives additional instructions about how to keep the Sabbath (see Gen 2:2–3; Exod 16:23–30; 20:8–11).

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Exodus 35:3, Kindle no fire…on the Sabbath day. There are several prevailing viewpoints as to the exact meaning of this passage. Let’s explore them.

The Orthodox Jews take literally the Torah’s prohibition to kindle no fire on the Sabbath. As such, many do not even turn on a light switch or start their cars (i.e., fire in the spark plugs) on the Sabbath for fear of violating this command. To counter balance this viewpoint, the Torah does indicate that the priest lit the menorah in the tabernacle each morning, the Sabbath not excluded (Exod 27:21–21; 30:7). So, for ministry purposes, lighting a fire seems not to be prohibited.

There is also the viewpoint that since the next verse (Exod 34:4) begins YHVH’s instructions to build the tabernacle, the immediate context of the Sabbath-fire passage has to do with not starting fires that pertain only to one’s trade or job—in Israel’s case, their job was the building of the mishkan. Fires would have been needed for tanning hides, working with metal, and possibly bending wood and dying cloth along with other activities.

This we know for certain. On the Sabbath, YHVH’s people are not to bake, cook or prepare food from scratch (Exod 16:23), but reheating food seems not to be Continue reading

 

The “Lunar Sabbath” or Saturday Sabbath? Will the Real Sabbath Please Stand Up?

Has the Weekly Cycle Been Altered Since the Time of Yeshua?

Many have come to realize that if there is one thing in life that is certain it is that nothing is certain. The few things in life that seem to be unchangeable and rock-solid we tend to cling to tenaciously, for they give us a sense of permanency and stability—and we need that as we find ourselves being heaved and pitched to and fro on the oceans of change with ever increasing rapidity and frequency.

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For many people, the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) has been one of those Rock of Gibraltor foundational aspects of their lives to which they could anchor their spiritual ships—a harbor in which many have found safe refuge each week, week in and week out, month after month and year after year—with total faith and confidence that indeed the Shabbat was one thing that had never changed and would never change. Indeed, the enduring legacy of the Jewish people, nationless and often homeless for nearly two millennia, yet remaining a distinct people-group, can be attributed to the prominent place the weekly Sabbath holds within their community.

But the validity and immutability of the Shabbat is only as viable as the unchangeableness of the weekly cycle upon which the Shabbat is dependant. If the weekly cycle has ever changed then the correct day for observing the seventh-day Shabbat must immediately be called into question.

And while most Sabbatarians never even think to question the seeming inviolate nature of the weekly cycle, but unquestioningly assume that it has never changed, there is, nonetheless, a very small, fringe group of Sabbatarians who believe that the weekly cycle has indeed changed. These individuals are vocal beyond their size and some can be extremely aggressive, divisive and downright mean-spirited in their zeal to convert the Continue reading