In order to understand the meaning of the word Sabbath, we need to look at its roots. Sabbatismos and sabbatizō are Greek words of the Hebrew noun shabbath and its related verb shabath. The root meaning of the verb shabath is “to cease,” “to rest.”
Shabbath appears 101 times in the Old Testament, where it commonly means “Sabbath,”—the seventh day of the week—or “week,” a period of seven days. It is also, used of the sabbatical year as in Leviticus 25:6; 26:34, 43; 2 Chronicles 36:21.
The verb shabath is mentioned 70 times, 7 times to point to the Sabbath rest and 63 times in realtion to other kinds of rest. The word sometimes means the weekly Sabbath rest. But the noun shabbath, taken from shabath, generally means the weekly Sabbath rest, and also the time marked off by successive Sabbaths, the week (Leviticus 23:15), and the sabbatical years (Leviticus 26:35).
Also, the word shabbathon, which is simply shabbath is used to refer to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:31; 23:32), to the sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:4, 5), to the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24), and to the first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus23:39)—as well as of the seventh day Sabbath.
Sabbatizō is used seven times in the LXX, once of the literal seventh day Sabbath (Exodus 16:30), once of other sabbaths (Leviticus 23:32), and five times of the land’s resting in the sabbatical year (Leviticus 26:34, 35; 2 Chronicles 36:21). The basic concept expressed by sabbatizo in the LXX is that of resting or ceasing from labor. Thus, the usage of the related Greek and Hebrew words means that the noun sabbatismos may refer to either the literal Sabbath “rest” or simply “cessation” in an expanded sense.
Although the Lord commanded His children to literally rest on the seventh day Sabbath from all their physical work, He also wanted them to enter into a loving relationship with Him especially in that day and also throughout the week.
We enter into God’s “rest” when we “consider” Jesus (Hebrews 3:1) and obey His voice (Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7), when we put our faith in Him (Hebrews 4:2, 3), when we cease from our own efforts to earn salvation (v. 10), when we “hold fast our profession” (v. 14), and when we approach the throne of grace by prayer and dedication (v. 16).
Thus, the spiritual rest that God requires is the “rest” of soul that comes with full surrender to Him and with aligning the life with His eternal plans. “Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…‘” (Jeremiah 6:16 also Isaiah 30:15).
Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). The Lord invites His children to yield to His training. The purpose of a yoke was not to make the burdens of animals heavier, but lighter; not harder, but easier to bear.
The “yoke” of Christ is His divine will as summed up in God’s moral law (Exodus 20:3-17) and amplified in the Sermon on the Mount (Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 5:17–22). The Lord enables His children to do His will by the power of His grace (Philippians 4:13). So what was hard before, now by His grace, becomes easy. Thus, God writes His “laws in their mind and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10).
In His service,
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