The 7th Day – Sabbath

The 7th Day – Sabbath

The 7th Day – Sabbath.

Seven (7): The Biblical number that represents perfection, completeness, wholeness, finished, fulfilled.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the 7th day God had finished the work He had been doing. So on the 7th day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the 7th day and made it holy (set apart from the other days, sacred), because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)

(1.) The ancient rabbis believed that there was indeed an act of creation on the 7th day, that the universe was not complete after God’s work. On the 7th day, God completed the universe by creating rest, sanctifying that day as holy and set apart unto the Lord. The world was created in 6 days, say rabbinic sources, but its survival depends upon the holiness of the 7th day.

(2.) “God created the 7th day, not because He was tired, but because He was satisfied. He knew that creation was very good, complete, so He rested with satisfaction.” (Howard and Rosenthal).

(3.) Refer to the passages outlining the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Especially note that we are to “remember” (Ex. 20:8), “keep” (Lev. 19:3), “observe” (Deut. 5:12), and “sanctify” (Jer. 17:22) the Sabbath. The Sabbath (Hebrew word, Shabbat) is sacred time and to be kept set apart from all the other days of the week.

(4.) Regarding the Sabbath commandment in Deut. 5:12… “The reason given here for Sabbath keeping differs from that in Exodus. In Exodus we’re told to keep the Sabbath because God kept it. Since He rested on the seventh day, we should also rest on that day, getting back in step with the creation rhythms of work and rest. In Deuteronomy, however, we’re told that keeping Sabbath is a matter of simple justice: it prevents the stronger from exploiting the weaker, whether parents over children or employers over employees. Each of us is given a day to recover the simple dignity of being ourselves in the community without regard to function or status. Even animals are included. Community cannot flourish without Sabbath. The moment we begin to see others in terms of what they can do rather than who they are, we desecrate humanity and demean community.” (Eugene Peterson).

(5.) “A thought has blown the market place away. There is a song in the wind and joy in the trees. The Sabbath arrives in the world, scattering a song in the silence of the night: Eternity utters a day.” (A. J. Heschel, The Sabbath – all other references to Rabbi Heschel is from this amazing book).

(6.) In the Hebrew calendar each new day starts at sunset, which is based on the story of creation in Genesis 1, “There was evening, and there was morning...” So the Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The Sabbath ceremony begins with the lighting of the candles as soon as the sun goes down on Friday. (For the complete Sabbath ceremony to celebrate at home, refer to end of this article.)

(7.) “Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space. On the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the result of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world. The Sabbath is the most precious gift mankind has received from the treasure house of God.” (A. J. Heschel).

(8.) Excerpts from Psalm 92. Ancient Jewish tradition declares that Adam composed this psalm on the first Sabbath after creation. And so Psalm 92 was sung as part of the Temple worship liturgy every Sabbath day. It has been included in Sabbath liturgy in Judaism ever since… “A psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing Your name, O Most High, to proclaim Your mercy in the morning and Your faithfulness in the night. For You made me rejoice, O Lord, through Your work; of the work of Your hands I sing with gladness. How magnificent are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are exceedingly deep. You are on high forever, O Lord!” 

(9.) The eternal aspect of Sabbath has been described by many authors in various ways: A taste of the world to come; a window to eternity; a rehearsal for the end of time; possessing a holiness like that in the world to come; Sabbath and eternity are of the same essence; to observe Sabbath is to celebrate the coronation of a day in the spiritual wonderland of time; a picture of eternity; a taste of heaven on earth.

(10.) “All our life should be a pilgrimage to the 7th Day. The thoughts and appreciation of what this day may bring to us should be ever present in our minds. Our lives are a Sabbath day’s walk. The Sabbath is the Day of days. The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. Sabbath is last in creation and first in intention. What we are depends on what the Sabbath is to us.” (A. J. Heschel).

(11.) “Sabbath creates a space within our lives to be truly free… from restlessness, from burnout, from the pressures of work and bosses; freedom from production, from consumer society, from constant availability. Sabbath is a time dedicated to, not what is urgent, but what is important.” (Jonathon Sacks).

(12.) “Sabbath implies that time has an ethical dimension. We rest in order to honor God and His creation, which suggests that not to rest dishonors both. So must we say that the speeding up of everything is not only psychologically harmful but also morally wrong?” (Judith Shulevitz).

(13.) “The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time. There are few ideas in the world of thought which contains so much spiritual power as the idea of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is holy by the grace of God. The Sabbath is a palace in time with a kingdom for all. Sabbath is the true happiness of the universe.”  (A. J. Heschel).

(14.) “Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization. How proud we often are of the multitudes of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats. In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the works of our hands. It is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us.” (A. J. Heschel).

(15.) “The Sabbath is a bride, and its celebration is like a wedding. The Sabbath is welcomed with joy and love. Some rabbis saw the Sabbath day as a living presence, and when it arrived they felt as if a guest had come to see them.” (A. J. Heschel).

(16.) “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Jesus, Mark 2:27).  In other words, the Sabbath was made for the sake of the people, and not people for the sake of Sabbath. The Sabbath was made to serve us, we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. An old rabbinic saying is, “Shabbat is committed into your hands, not you into its hands.”

(17.) “As an observant Jew, Jesus loved the Sabbath. Nowhere did He teach that Sabbath was to be broken. He encouraged the people to have biblical balance, to bypass only those rules that were the traditions of the religious folk and not of God. Jesus affirmed the keeping of the Sabbath. He desired that His people get past the traditions that had obscured the true meaning of Sabbath. Jesus wanted them to experience the blessing of rest, the remembrance of the Creation, the reflection of the covenant God had made with Israel, and the realization that Sabbath was a picture of eternity. The Sabbath is the queen of all the holy days.” (David Stern).

(18.) Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). He co-created the 7th Day rest. He was not afraid to be picky when it came to many of the pointless sabbath rules that were in place during His time. He loved doing works of mercy on the Sabbath, especially in His healings. As the Lord of the sabbath, we find our Sabbath rest in Him. He invites all of us to find our rest in Himself. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matt. 11:28-29).

(19.) Why keep the Sabbath and celebrate it in a special ceremony now when we know that Jesus is our rest?

  • Because it is healthy in every way to establish a day each week in which there is no “business as usual;”
  • Because a Sabbath rest now prepares us for the eternal Sabbath rest later;
  • Because the ceremony celebrates God the Creator and delights in His Creation;
  • Because the ceremony reminds us of God’s love for us as His creatures;
  • Because one day a week it is good to be reminded that we are not slaves to Pharaoh and servants to our work;
  • Because God commanded it often in Scripture, and it’s a matter of obedience;
  • Because the sabbath idea needs to be a central part of every Indvidual’s and family’s lifestyle;
  • Because once a week we can stop everything and be reminded of our rest in Christ and our destiny in heaven;
  • Because it helps establish a pattern in our spirit of the rhythm of creation… work and rest;
  • Because it weaves peace and tranquility into the other days of the week, days in which we can work “in a Sabbath mood.”
  • Because to celebrate biblical truth at home in an experiential way will go far in Christian discipleship of the children.
  • Because, and this is significant, God told Isaiah in ch. 58:13-14 that if believers find their delight in the Sabbath, then most likely they will then find delight in the Lord Himself. Then the contrary must be true… if they don’t delight in the Sabbath, then they will have a difficult time delighting in the Lord. As if to confirm this passage, Bible historians have stated that whenever the Sabbath was ignored or profaned in Israel, there soon followed spiritual decline and a withdrawal of God’s blessing.

With all apologies to the rabbis where I first heard this, to paraphrase an old rabbinic saying, “More than the Christians keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Christians.

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

1. The Liturgy for the Family Table. (the night before the chosen Sabbath day, which officially starts at sundown)

a. Put fresh flowers, nice tablecloth, good dinnerware, two big candles on the table; No business as usual, eg, discussing homework, duties, logistics; All cell phones muted and in another room; Landline phone takes messages. A time set apart.

b. The Preparation Prayer (mother prays at sundown before lighting candles):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who is the Author of peace. You who made the Sabbath, enter our home this night. Almighty God, grant us and all our loved ones rest on this Sabbath day. May the light of the candles drive out among us the spirit of anger and the spirit of fear. Send your blessings that we may walk in the ways of your Word and your light. Enter our hearts this night. You, who made the Sabbath, come sit at table with us. Embrace us with your Tent of Peace. Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your creation! It is from you that we receive every good and perfect gift. Giver of life and love, grant us your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

c. The Creation Prayer (mother prays while lighting the first candle):

“This candle represents creation. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth light out of darkness.”

d. The Redemption Prayer (mother prays while lighting second candle):

“This candle represents redemption. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ Our Lord also said, ‘You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify Your Father who is in heaven.’ As we light these candles and set them to give light to all who are in this room, light our lives with the great love of your Son, Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.”

e. The Blessing of Marriage (Use names of each person during blessings):

Honoring Wife and Mother (husband holds hand of wife as he reads from Proverbs 31):

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Honoring Husband and Father (holding hands while she reads from Psalm 1):

“Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent; rather, the teaching of the Lord is his delight, and he studies that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever it produces thrives.”

f. Blessing the Children (father goes to each child around the table, places his hands on each child’s head, and prays a blessing over each one… Each child is affirmed and offered to God with their unique abilities, dreams, personalities). If desired instead, the father may give the traditional Aaronic blessing over each child, found in Numbers 6:24-26… “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his face upon you, and give you peace. Amen.”

g. Family Sings Grace (sing a favorite; this is sung to Doxology tune):

Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. Thy creatures bless, and grant that we, May feast in Paradise with thee. Amen.

h. The Prayer of Celebration (father prays over a cup of wine, after which each member of family sips from same cup):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

i. The Prayer of Sanctification (father prays before the handwashing, in which oldest child brings basin of water and a towel to each family member; rinse and dry hands):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has instructed us through your commandments, set us apart through the waters of baptism, and purified us through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross.”

j. The Prayer of Thanksgiving (father prays over Sabbath bread, after which each family member takes a piece of the loaf and eats it):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

k. Enjoy the Meal! (Don’t forget… No family business that relates to school or sports or work. Parents are asked to lead a biblical discussion appropriate to the ages present at the table, such as Creation, favorite Bible heroes or stories, a life lesson recently learned, a parent’s story from growing up, or maybe even the possible meaning of a favorite parable of Jesus.)

l. Grace After the Meal (father prays)

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who provides the fruit of the earth for our use. Teach us to remember that it is not by bread alone that we live. Grant us evermore to feed on Him who is the true Bread from heaven, even Jesus Christ our Lord. O God, our heavenly Father, look with favor upon all the homes of your people. Defend us against evil and supply all our needs according to the riches of your wonderful grace. Make our homes to be sanctuaries of peace, love and joy. Help us to follow you every step of our daily lives. May we always abide under the safe shadows of your love, through God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

2. The Sabbath Day, the Day Set Apart.

a. No burdensome legalism here… “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Choose whichever day works for your family; discuss as a family what “no business as usual” looks like in your home, such as putting cell phones, computers or video games aside for the day; enjoy nature and each other and neighbors; remember God and our dependence on Him; honor His kingship, and consider that the universe depends on His productivity, not ours. Stop, relax, and celebrate that we have no pharaoh oppressing us in our labor.

3. The Havdalah Ceremony – Saying good-bye to the Sabbath at sunset, and preparing for the following week.

a.  The selected woman lights the braided candle, signifying the light of God and the unity of Creation and Redemption. The room lights are all turned off;

b.  Prayer said over the lighted candle: “We are reminded, Lord, that darkness still covers the earth. We lift our hands to Your light (everyone lifts hands to the light) because we know that You are the light of the world. We ask and desire that our lives may be filled with Your light; and because we acknowledge that our only hope is in You, we dedicate the work of our hands in Your service.” 

c.  Wine: make sure each person’s cup has a small amount of wine. Keep candle lit, but turn lights back on.

d.  Selected person: “As a symbol of our desire that the blessings of Sabbath will flow into the week ahead, and also in our joy in the Lord that causes our “cup to run over,” we say to the Lord: 

e.  (All pray together) “Surely the Lord will save me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” (taken from Isaiah 12);

f.  The selected person will place a plate under his/her chalice of wine and fill the cup to overflowing. Everyone sips some of wine in their cups.

g.  Blessing the Spice Box (includes clove, cinnamon, cardamom, pieces of orange peel, and rosebuds): A selected person prays, “But thanks be to God, who in Messsiah always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

h.  As the spice box is being passed around the table, someone prays, “May our lives carry the fragrance of Jesus, Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath; a royal fragrance that will bless and draw others wherever He may take us.” 

i.  The person who lit the candle extinguishes it in the spilled wine in the plate.

j. The Prayer After Havdalah (mother prays this Farewell Prayer at sundown of the Sabbath day):

“O God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel, guard your people. Your beloved Sabbath is departing. Help us through this evening to consider the darkness that covered the earth when your Son Jesus died on the cross. May your love go with us through the night and wake us in the morning with renewed spirits, to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.”

4. Breakfast on Morning After Sabbath

a. Mother lights a candle on the breakfast table;

b. A reading of John 1:1-16;

c. Family prays together: “And Jesus said, ‘As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’”

d. Father says triumphantly: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!”

e. Everyone responds with gusto: “Thanks be to God!”


** An excellent resource for learning more about the Jewish roots and history of the Sabbath ceremony, as well as recipes and family activities, refer to Martha Zimmerman’s book Celebrate the Feasts (1981, Bethany House Publishers) or her updated version Celebrate the Biblical Feasts.