The Sabbath—A Bridge Back to the Future!

The biblical Sabbath is like a spiritual bridge that spans the ages—the past to the present and then on into the future. The seventh day Sabbath not only connects man to all three, but carries man back to the Creator and forward with him into eternity, that is, into the eternal Sabbath of the New Heavens and New Earth in the New Jerusalem. The Sabbath is a major bridge linking man to his past, present and future.

When men cease to “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy/kadoash/set-apart [from secular activities]” (Exod 20:8) and substitute it for other days of worship (e.g. Sunday) or replace it with secular work and activities, humans, to one degree or another, cut themselves off from that spiritual bridge linking them to the eternity beyond both past and future in which Elohim inhabits.

Interestingly, the Sabbath was the first biblical truth that the post-apostolic apostate-bound Christian church fathers abandoned in the second century. At the same time, the Sabbath is the first thing to which modern mainstream Christian who are rediscovering their Hebraic roots will return.

As such, these modern day spiritual truth-seekers and pilgrims are unwittingly retracing their steps back to the future and back to the point where their second century antecedents jumped off the spiritual bridge that links them to eternity and beyond.

Yeshua the Messiah is the Creator of and LORD of the Sabbath and, when on earth as a human, he never sinned by violating a single Bible commandment including the command to keep the Sabbath holy.

Moreover, the Sabbath was a sign that the Word of Elohim (who later revealed himself in flesh form as Yeshua the Messiah) audibly gave to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai as a sign linking them to himself in a deep, mystical spiritual way.

The Sabbath as a commandment and a sign linking Elohim to his people has never gone away. Yeshua is the same yesterday, today and forever and does not change.

Those who love Yeshua the Messiah will be imitating him (1 Cor 11:1) and showing him their love by keeping his commandments (John 14:15). The Sabbath will link them to him in a deeper spiritual and mystical way that only those who “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy” can fully understand.

 

Shabbat—A Day to Seek Elohim

Numbers 28:9, On the Sabbath day. Every Sabbath YHVH required double sacrifices to be offered. This being a foundational principle, shouldn’t we spend more time seeking him on Shabbat? What types of activities should fill our Sabbath time that are of a devotional, worshipful nature?

Shouldn’t all of our Sabbath-day activities somehow point to YHVH, and in some way strengthen our walk with and ties to our Creator, and our ties to 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); it’s a vehicle to promote bonding (building loving relationship between man and his Creator, between man and his fellow man).

 

The Sabbath/s of Elohim—An Identifying Sign Forever

Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am YHVH that doth sanctify you. (Exod 31:13)

There remaineth therefore a rest/Sabbath [Greek: sabbatismos or keeping of the Sabbath]  to the people of Elohim. (Heb 4:9)

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. 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!

 

The Other Side of the Sabbath Law—Thou Shalt Work Six Days!

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 was teaching them to work six  days for their daily bread. 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.

 

Sabbath Walk in the Forest With My Bride—Reflections

My wife, Sandi, and I took a walk down by the river this Shabbat afternoon. It was a beautiful day—mild for this time of the year, and after spending most of the day indoors  reading the Bible, writing, studying and praying, I needed to get out for some fresh air and to connect with the Creator through his creation. This is part Elohim’s the river of life I need to get into regularly. It’s part of my personal “God bubble” in which I live. Please enjoy.  Natan

I like photography and I love my iPhone because I can snap quality pictures wherever I go. Every day in our haste, we simply walk by beautiful pictures. One has to have an eye and a love for  beauty as one is walking down the path of life. All around us are beautiful scenes waiting to be seen and appreciated. They are opportunities to stop and pray, to reflect and to worship Elohim. Let’s work hard not to miss these opportunities.  We must learn to extract the precious from the mundane, and sometimes even from the vile. May YHVH, give us the eyes and heart to find the beauty and blessing in everything and everyone around us, and use it as a trigger to move into praise and worship of him for it.

Even a rotton log has its own beauty with the peeling bark, moss and vines growing on it and the  dead leaves. This log has value. In its death, it provides life-giving nutrition for the next generation of plants and animals. It will eventually become precious topsoil out of which everything grows. Life comes out of death. Death of loved ones, death of dreams, death of innocence,  death of hopes, death of finances, death of health or death of relationships. When one door closes, another door opens taking us into new vistas, experiences, opportunities and possibilities. May Yah, help us to wrap our brain around this reality and to embrace life-giving death with these things in mind.

There is a river of life out there. We have to find it. When we do, the light of YHVH’s Presence will shine on it encouraging us and guiding us into his perfect will for our lives.

Follow the path of life that leads to the light of truth. Yeshua is the Light of the world and the Sun of righteousness. Yah, help us to follow the Lamb of Elohim wherever he goes.

YHVH has not called the great and mighty people of this world, but the ordinary, foolish ones that he will use  to confound the wise for his glory. May we be such a people that he can use.

Like these trees that are wading out into the river, we too must get into YHVH’s river of life. The psalmist says that a wise man plants himself next to the river like a tree from which it gains nourishment. But sometimes, like Ezekiel, we have to actually get into that river—even get in over our heads. That’s called passion and zeal.

It’s good to feel small. It keeps life in perspective—that we’re not as great or as big as we think we are. Maybe then YHVH can actually use us for big things—for his divine plans and purposes.

 

Are You “Rising Up to Play” on the Weekly Shabbat?

Exodus 32:4–5, Your gods…a feast to YHVH. This is the first example in the Scriptures of YHVH’s peoplemixing pagan practices (i.e. evil) with the truth of Elohim (i.e. good). We see that Satan the deceiving serpent was the first entity to defile good with evil when he questioned Elohim and tempted the first humans (Gen 2:9 cp. 3:1–6). The Hebrew word babel or Babylon means “confusion or mixture.” It is the mixing of evil with good, error with truth, darkness with light, death with life. In the end times, the saints must first recognize such mixture by knowing the difference between the holy and the profane and then be able to separate the two, and then come away from that which is evil or part of Babylon (Exek 22:26; 44:23; Rev 18:4; 2 Cor 6:14–17.) Though mainstream Christianity and Judaism are biblically-based religious systems, both have allowed pagan traditions, celebrations belief systems to insinuate themselves into their religious practices. In these end times, YHVH is calling his people away from everything that is unholy and unbiblical (Rev 18:4).

Exodus 32:5, A feast. Hebrew chag meaning “festival, feast, festival-gathering, pilgrim-feast or a festival sacrifice.” In the Torah (e.g. Lev 23; Deut 16:16), only three of the seven biblical holidays are referred to as a chag. They are the pilgrimage festivals (e.g. Ps 42:4) called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks or Harvest of First Fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering. Chag can also refer to a pagan festival as is the case in Exod 32:5 at the golden calf, or to the feast instituted by Jeroboam I to replace the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kgs 12:32–33; The TWOT).

The verb chaggag, the root of chag, means “to hold a feast, hold a festival, make pilgrimage, keep a pilgrim-feast, celebrate, dance, stagger, to keep a pilgrim-feast, to reel.” Chagag primarily refers to celebrating the three biblical pilgrimage feasts, but can also refer to a pagan festival (1 Sam 30:16), or to sailers reeling to and fro on a ship as if drunk (Ps 107:27; ibid.).

Now let’s discuss the feast or chag that the Israelites made in honor of the gold calf. There is a strong likelihood that the day the Israelites dedicated to the worship of the golden calf was on the weekly Sabbath. The reasons to believe it was the Shabbat are as follows. Let us first assume that the Israelites received the ten commandments on Shavuot, which many of us believe was on a Sunday (i.e. 50 days after the morrow or day of the weekly Shabbat; see Lev 23:15–16). The next day—a Monday—(Exod 24:4), Moses built an altar and ratified the covenant with the Israelites (vv. 4–8). After that, Moses celebrated with the elders at the base of Mount Sinai (vv. 9–11). Next, Moses went up onto Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of stone (vv. 12–15). It had been six days since the glory of YHVH had been resting on the mountain (from Sunday to Saturday). On the seventh day or the weekly Shabbat, YHVH called Moses to enter the glory cloud where he remained with YHVH until his descent from Sinai. Moses was on the mountain from sometime Monday until Shabbat, when he entered the glory cloud. All total, Moses was on the mountain for forty days (vv. 16–18). At the end of 40 days, YHVH informed Moses of the people’s sin (Exod 32:7). If Moses ascended the mountain sometime on Monday, then the same time on Tuesday would have been day one. Forty days later was the weekly Shabbat. Moses descended the mountain after YHVH informed him of the people’s sin, and after forty days. This means that Moses descended on a Sunday. This also means that the people made a pagan feast to the golden calf on the Shabbat. Although the Bible never calls the Shabbat a chag, nevertheless, as we have seen above, the Bible refers to pagan celebrations as a chag. This is because pagan festivals were not solemn, but were often raucous, lewd, bacchanalian events—hence the term chag to indicate the festive nature of the event, though in a pejorative way.

Exodus 32:6, Play. Heb. tsachaq means “to laugh, mock, play, to laugh, to jest, to sport, make sport, toy with, make a toy of.” In this verse, the verb tsachaq is in its piel (intensive active form) and means “to jest, to sport, play, make sport, toy with, make a toy of” (The TWOT). If the Israelite’s festival dedicated to worship of the golden calf was on the weekly Shabbat (see notes above on v. 5), then YHVH’s displeasure against the Israelites was not only for their idolatry, but for their profaning his holy Sabbath by using it as a time for partying and for carnal sporting activities. They were mocking, making light of, toying with YHVH’s Shabbat, and were seeking their own sensual and carnal, if not, illicit pleasures on his day! This something that Scripture forbids (see Isa 58:13; 56:6).

Some reading this will justify themselves for their profaning the Sabbath by doing “their own pleasure” on that day as having nothing to do with golden calf worship. In reality, the golden calf was a form of or metaphor for Baal or self-worship—i.e., doing our own will or pleasure over that of Elohim’s. Make no mistake about it folks, this is the biblical definition of idolatry!

The Word of Elohim must be the final determiner of what we do or don’t do when it comes to our walk of righteousness—not our own carnal feelings and desires, which are heavily influenced by our fallen, carnal natures as well as the influence of the world and the devil and are thus antithetical to and rebellious against the will and Word of Elohim. It is the Word of Elohim that will judge us. Personal excuses and self-justifications will not pass muster before the throne of the Almighty and Righteous Judge of the universe on judgment day!

 

“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.