The Purpose of the Sabbath
God designed that the purpose of the Sabbath would be to have a relationship with Him and obtain physical and spiritual rest (Hebrews 4:9-10). The Lord gave the seventh day Sabbath to meet this need (Ezekiel 20:12). For “on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3). To tamper in any way with the Creator’s purpose is to cancel the truth that God knows what is best for His creatures.
The fourth commandment stated: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Sabbath a Blessing Not a Burden
Jesus declared, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). It was designed to increase his happiness, not to put a hardship on him. It was to give man a pleasure and a delight and enhance His well being.
Sabbath-keeping does not consist essentially in the trivial observance of certain formalities and abstaining from certain pursuits. To do that is to engage in the gaining of righteousness based on works. Christians should not work on the Sabbath day in order to devote their time, energies, and thought to increase their understanding of God, reflect on His goodness and be a blessing to others.
The Pharisees and Scribes burdened the people by their man-made laws regarding Sabbath observance and thus they annulled the word of God by their traditions. And Jesus rebuked them for that (Mark 7:13). And He healed many on the Sabbath to show by example God’s will regarding Sabbath observance (Matthew 12:2,10,11; Luke 6:7; 13:4; 14:5; Mark 3:1-6).
Connecting With God and Man
Sabbath keeping that consists only in the negative aspect of not doing certain things is not Sabbath keeping at all; it is only when the positive aspect of Sabbath keeping is practiced that Christians may hope to derive from Sabbath observance the benefit ordained by a wise and loving Creator. Therefore, whatever draws Christians closer to God, helps them to understand better His will for their lives, leads them to cooperate more effectively with Him, and contribute to the happiness and well-being of others—this fulfills the purpose of the Sabbath.
God intended that His children may gather together in “holy convocation” at His place of worship, study and praise on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 28:25). In addition to worship and fellowship, acts of kindness and mercy to those in need are to be done on this special day. Jesus said, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11-12).
God’s Promise of Blessing
The Lord promised: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13,14). God promised material as well as spiritual prosperity to those who enter sincerely into the spirit of the Sabbath (Matthew 6:33).
In His service,