The Sabbath was made for ἄνθρωπον (anthropon; mankind), not mankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
This statement means that the Sabbath Days of Yahweh were meant to assist mankind.
Therefore, Sabbaths are meant to bring mankind closer to Yahweh and eternal life. It is a time for mankind to refresh himself and rest from his work of creating a livelihood and from doing his own concerns.
The Sabbaths are a time for one to turn toward creating his or her perfected innermost self and establishing their relationship with Yahweh.
Accordingly, on that day, the discussion, work, labor, and activity required must deal with Yahweh and the work he desires that we accomplish.
There are six general categories which are allowed on the Sabbath Day:
• Good works (healing, assisting in emergencies, etc.).
• Biological necessity (breathing, eating, etc.).
• Requirements of Yahweh (obeying Yahweh’s charge to do something).
• Contact with Yahweh (prayer, worship).
• Activity that will bring one to Yahweh (e.g., studying Scriptures, inquiring from the prophets).
• Speaking Yahweh’s דבר (debar; innermost thoughts), e.g., teaching, examining, and exploring Yahweh’s words and thoughts.
We shall proceed to take a closer look at the underlying principles of these basic guidelines.
Yahweh’s works are good works, which flow from love. For example, the statement that “a cheerful giver loves Yahweh” is bound up in the idea of “you may abound unto every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:7-8)
Love, accordingly, is the nature of father Yahweh. It is a commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. As such, an act of kindness toward your neighbor, which is a good work, flows from love.
To begin with, Yahweh’s works, which arise from Yahweh’s love, are based upon trust in Yahweh. In the book of John, we read:
They (the Jews) said therefore to him (Yahushua):
What do we do, that we may work the works of the deity? Yahushua answered and said to them, This is the work of the deity, that you should trust unto him who he sent. (John 6:28)
Trust, i.e., incorporated truth, flows from the report given in Scriptures. It is for the very reason of doing good works, which reflect Yahweh’s nature, that we have been created:
For we are his workmanship, created in Yahushua the messiah FOR GOOD WORKS, which the deity has before prepared that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
Good works bring us to eternal life. For example, Saul charges those who are financially blessed:
That they do good, TO BE RICH IN GOOD WORKS, to be liberal in distribution, ready to communicate, treasuring up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:18)
In this regard, it is our goal to bring others to acts of good works so that they may inherit eternal life:
We should hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering, for is trustful he who promised; and we should consider one another UNTO PROVOKING TO LOVE AND GOOD WORKS. (Heb. 10:24)
Good Works on the Sabbath
Since good works reflect the nature of father Yahweh, a sinless nature to which we want to conform, good works can be accomplished on the Sabbath. The first step is to avoid defiling the Sabbath and not doing evil on that or any other day (i.e., you should not sin).
Blessed is the male who does this, and the son of Adam who holds on it; keeping the Sabbath from defiling it and keeping his hand from doing every (type of) evil. (Isa. 56:2)
Yahushua calls healing a work. (John 7:21-23) While healing a man with a withered hand, Yahushua asked the Jews who had a hardness of mind and condemned him for breaking the Sabbath:
Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good or to do evil? To save a life or to kill? (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9)
Yahushua elsewhere explains this view when he identifies his acts of healing as father Yahweh’s work. (John 5:9-17)
Yahushua healed many people from their infirmities on the Sabbath Day: e.g., a man with a withered hand (Matt. 12:9-12; Luke 6:6-11; Mark 3:1-5), a man blind from birth (John 9:13-34), a woman suffering 18 years from a bent back (Luke 13:10-13), a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-4), a man lying in infirmity (John 5:6-16). He also cast out demons on the Sabbath Day. (Luke 4:31-36)
One man, who had an infirmity for 38 years, after Yahushua healed him, was ordered by Yahushua to carry his bed. (John 5:10) The Jews condemned the man of breaking the Sabbath.
Nevertheless, Yahushua argued that his instructions to the man were based on a sound principle. He did only what he saw father Yahweh do and did what he was told by the father to do. (John 5:19) Merely carrying one’s mattress back home after lying infirm for 38 years is hardly breaking the Sabbath.
Yahushua was directly asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to heal?” His response was:
What man shall there be of you who shall have one sheep, and if his one falls into a pit on the Sabbaths will not lay hold of it and will raise it up? How much better is a man than a sheep? SO THAT IT IS LAWFUL ON THE SABBATH TO DO WELL. (Matt. 12:11-12)
On another occasion, when the ruler of a synagogue became indignant that Yahushua had healed a woman on the Sabbath Day, he argued: “Six days there are in which it behooves men to work; in these (days) therefore come to be healed, and not on the Sabbath Day.” Yahushua responded:
Hypocrite, each one of you, on the Sabbath does he not loose his ox or ass from the manger, and having led it away give it drink? And this (woman), being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, 18 years, ought she not to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath Day?” From these words those who opposed him were put to shame. (Luke 13:14-17)
On another occasion, Yahushua directly asked the rulers and legal experts of the Pharisees if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. But they were silent. He then told them:
Of which of you has an ass or an ox that shall fall into a pit and he does not immediately pull him up on the Sabbath Day?” These experts were not able to reply. (Luke 14:3-6)
The above evidence proves that solving emergencies and health concerns is Yahweh’s good work. Yahweh’s work can be done on the Sabbath as well as any day of the week. This rule does not mean that one can be paid for such services rendered. Yahushua was never paid for his acts of healing or his casting out of demons.
These acts were good works, performed out of charity, kindness, and for health concerns. If Yahushua had been paid for these services, they would have no longer been good works. Payment would have been rendered from man, not from father Yahweh.
Another work that does not break the Sabbath is that which is of biological necessity. To allow for biological necessity is accommodating a good work of Yahweh.
For example, one is allowed to prepare food on a Sabbath or High Sabbath Day. (Exod. 12:16)
Though one was not allowed to harvest crops on the Sabbath, it was Scripturally allowed and lawful to eat directly from the field (Exod. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:12), especially in cases of emergency, starvation, or necessity.
In Exodus, 23, for example, we read:
And six years you shall sow your land and shall אספת (asapth; you shall collect together, gather, harvest) its produce. And the seventh (year) תשמטנה (tha-shamat-nah; you shall leave it alone) and let it lie fallow; and the אביני (abiny; needy) of your people shall אכלו (akal-u; eat it) and what they leave the animals shall eat of the field; so you shall do to your vineyard, (and) to your olive-yard. (Exod. 23:10-11)
The rule is very straightforward. Those needy can eat directly from the field, and what they leave in the field the animals can eat. Since every day is a Sabbath Day for the land during a Sabbath year, wherein no one can sow or harvest, this rule obviously applies to any Sabbath Day as well.
It is important to note, the needy cannot harvest (gather or collect together) the grain for storage, but they can eat directly out of the field.
In this regard, the messiah was falsely condemned by the Jewish leaders of his day for breaking the Sabbath by eating directly out of the field on the Sabbath. (Luke 6:1-5; Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28)
King David, similarly, ate bread from Temple showbread that he was normally not allowed to use. (Lev. 24:9; 1 Sam. 21:1-7) Yahushua noted that David was justified under the same rules that apply to eating grain from out of the field. (Matt. 12:1-4)
Therefore, eating is a necessity and is lawful on the Sabbath for the needy as long as he or she takes only what they need to survive for that day and do not buy or sell the food. They must abide by the rule that one is not allowed on the Sabbath Day to prepare food for another day, “only what must be eaten by each person, that alone may be done by you.” (Exod. 12:16)
Further, there is only one Sabbath Day upon which fasting is required, the day of Atonement. (Lev. 23:26-32) This requirement to fast is by command of Yahweh and for prophetic reasons.
To obey a command of Yahweh is always superior to anything else allowed on a Sabbath.
It is also a biological necessity that we breathe, drink water, sleep, and relieve ourselves. Bathing is also a biological necessity. Under the Torah, there are numerous instances wherein one becomes unclean and is required to bathe before the end of the day, regardless of what day his uncleanliness occurs. (Lev. 15:1-27, 17:15-16; Num. 19:7-8, 19)
On the High Sabbath of the Day of Atonement, or on any day in which you fast, you are to “anoint your head, and wash your face, so that you may not appear to men as fasting.” (Matt. 6:17; Lev. 16:23-28) Notice that being well-groomed is clearly permitted.
Another example of grooming comes with being well-dressed on the Sabbath. An example of this principle comes with the events of the Sabbath Day, followed by the High Sabbath of Pentecost (Festival of Weeks), which was celebrated at Mount Sinai.
Yahweh ordered the people the day before this back-to-back Sabbath to wash their clothes in preparation for these Sabbath Days. (Exod. 19:9-15) This request indicates two things:
• Clean clothes were to be worn on the Sabbaths.
• The washing of clothes was done prior to a Sabbath Day (i.e., clothes were not to be washed on the Sabbaths). The high priest also bathed and put on a beautiful wardrobe on the Sabbath Days.
Such activities are not breaking the Sabbath, but if we should go beyond necessity, it would.
For example, if we bought food, water, or clothes on the Sabbath Day or washed our clothes or prepared food, which is meant for the following day, then we break the Sabbath.
The exception would only be if you were forced by others, without your consent and over your protest and objection, to do such things under the conditions where:
• The circumstances were beyond your control.
• Forced servitude or slavery.
• Emergency concerns (e.g., someone is dying of thirst, and the only water available was in possession of a pagan who refused to give it to you unless you bought it. Therefore, the water must be purchased to preserve life). In such cases, the conditions are beyond one’s personal control.
Our study continues with Keeping the Sabbath – Pt 3. In this installment, we will address other work issues, including those to be done by Yahweh’s Assembly on the Sabbath Day.