This day also encompasses celebrating the Sabbath as a שבתון (sabbathon; special Sabbath), prostrating before (worshipping) Yahweh, teaching and study, and priestly duties.
As we have previously stated, the Sabbath day is a day to be remembered and kept sacred, as Yahweh intended. (Gen. 2:2-3)
Yahweh commands us:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it sacred. (Exod. 20:8)
It is to be celebrated as a sabbathon, or special kind of Sabbath. Celebration of the Sabbath, accordingly, is itself a work of Yahweh.
The Hebrew word שבתון (sabbathon), on the one hand, derives from the term שבת (Sabbath), i.e., to “cease” from some action or work. Yet it means “a time of rest,” “a sabbatism or special holiday,” or more properly, “a special time of ceasing.”
A sabbathon is defined in Scriptures as “a sacred Sabbath for Yahweh.” (Exod. 16:23) A Sabbath sabbathon is “the ceasing of ceasings” or “Sabbath of Sabbaths.”
In Exodus and Leviticus we read:
Six days work may be done, and on the seventh day, it shall be sacred, a SABBATH SABBATHON for Yahweh. Everyone doing work in it shall be executed. (Exod. 35:2-3)
Work is to be done six days, and on the seventh day a SABBATH SABBATHON, a sacred convocation, not any work shall you do. It is a Sabbath for Yahweh in all your dwellings. (Lev. 23:3)
This celebration includes singing, glorifying, and being delighted on the Sabbath days. Isaiah reminds us:
If you will not turn away your foot from keeping the Sabbath to do your business pleasure on my sacred day; and CALL THE SABBATH A DELIGHT, GLORIFIED TO THE SACREDNESS OF YAHWEH AND SHALL GLORIFY IT, keeping away from doing your own business ways, from finding your own business pleasure, and speaking your own innermost thoughts; then YOU SHALL DELIGHT YOURSELF UPON YAHWEH and I will make you ride on the high places of the land, and make you eat the inheritance of Jacob your father, because the mouth of Yahweh has spoken. (Isa. 58:13-14)
Since the Sabbath and High Sabbath days were times when the people assembled, part of this delighting and glorifying comes with singing and music, whether on the weekly Sabbath day (Ps. 92:1), or a High Sabbath Day. (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26)
The book of תהלים (tehillahim, hymns of celebration), which we call “Psalms,” was composed by David, Solomon, and others, specifically for this purpose. Many of these songs, in fact, were specifically addressed to the “chief musician” so that music would be played when they were sung. (Ps. 4:1, 6:1, 8:1, etc.)
Music and songs to Yahweh, accordingly, are encouraged as part of Sabbath-keeping.
Worship and Prayer
The Sabbath was made sacred and blessed by Yahweh, a day for Yahweh. This carries the idea that it is a day set aside for religious service, prayer, and worship.
To begin with, in Leviticus, the idea of keeping the Sabbath is connected with a reverence of the sanctuary, i.e., “You shall keep my Sabbaths, you shall revere my sanctuary.” (Lev. 19:30, 26:2)
Part of this reverence is the worship of Yahweh.
For example, in Ezekiel, we are told that in the future temple at Jerusalem, the east gate shall be shut during the six workdays of the week, but on the Sabbath day and the day of the new moon, it will be opened. The gate will not be shut “until the sunset.”
Worship is more than a physical act. As the messiah stated:
But is coming an hour and now is, when the true worshipper will worship the father in ruach and truth; for also the father seeks such who worship him. (John 4:23)
Prayer is also accomplished on the Sabbath, as it is to be done on every other day of the week, for we are to “unceasingly pray” (1 Thess. 5:17). Yet while praying, one must seek the will of father Yahweh (Matt 6:10), for Yahweh does not listen to the prayers of the wicked (Isa. 1:15, 29:13-24).
Like the act of worship, prayer is to be done in the ruach.
But you, beloved, on your most sacred trust building up yourselves, in the sacred ruach praying, keep yourselves in the love of Yahweh. (Jude 1:20-21)
Also the helmet of salvation receive, and the sword of the ruach, which is Yahweh’s word, by all prayer and supplication PRAYING IN EVERY SEASON IN THE RUACH, and unto this very thing watching with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Eph. 6:17-18)
For in hope we are preserved (saved); but hope seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why would he hope for it? But if what we see not what we hope for, in endurance we await. But in like manner also the ruach jointly helps our weaknesses; for that which we should pray for as it behooves, we know noted, but THE RUACH ITSELF MAKES INTERCESSION FOR US WITH GROANINGS INEXPRESSIBLE. But he who searches the hearts knows what is the purpose of the ruach, because according to the deity it intercedes for the saints. (Rom. 8:24-27)
Unlike worship, prayer is to be a private thing between a person and Yahweh. For example, Matthew points out that we are not to pray as the hypocrites do, who pray in the synagogues (i.e., assemblies) and on street corners so that they can be seen by men. Rather, we are told, “enter into your chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your father in secret; and your father who sees in secret shall render to you openly.” (Matt. 6:5-6)
When more than one person who trusts in Yahweh prays together, it is always as a group, in private, without those who do not trust, and in a request for the same things. (See Acts 1:12-14, 1:21-26, 4:24-31, 6:5-6; 12:4-5, 12:12, 13:1-3, 20:36; Matt. 19:13-15; James 5:13-16.)
These verses demonstrate that praying in groups was a private affair between Yahweh and his followers.
It is to be done as a group only when requesting aid or a blessing for someone else or the aid of the assembly as a whole (not just for the person praying). Nowhere is it said that anyone should lead others in prayer; instead, they prayed in one accord.
Those in authority can pray to Yahweh for others. These prayers, therefore, came from within themselves and not as a public display. As a group, it is a matter of oneness, a single-minded purpose for the prayer.
We should also keep in mind that prayer is not the same as asking for a blessing or the giving of thanks. A request for a blessing or the giving of thanks is an activity that can be led by one individual in the assembly.
Teaching and Study
We learn the commandments and the definitions for good works from studying Scriptures on the Sabbath. It is within this context that Saul’s words must be considered:
Every scripture is inspired of the deity and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for discipline which is in righteousness; that complete may be the man of the deity, to every good work fully fitted. (2 Tim. 3:17)
One of the most important things done on the Sabbath Days, therefore, is teaching. Ask any teacher; teaching is hard work. Yet this work is required on the Sabbaths by Scriptures. Further, the study of Scriptures is itself a requirement on the Sabbaths.
To demonstrate, in Leviticus, we read:
Six days work is to be done, and on the seventh day is a Sabbath sabbathon (special Sabbath), A SACRED מקרא (miqra; GATHERING FOR READING), not any work you shall do. It is a Sabbath for Yahweh in all your dwellings. (Lev. 23:3)
Ezra and the priests, for example, both read and taught from the book of the torath to the people in a public reading. (Neh. 8:1-7)
In Nehemiah, we are told of this event:
This evidence proves that one of the main reasons that the Sabbath was made for mankind is that it was consecrated (made sacred, set aside) so that mankind would study Scriptures and find the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that will lead him to the inheritance of eternal life.
At the same time, an assembly meeting is a place where Yahweh is present. Yahweh tells us:
For where are two or three gathered together into my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matt. 18:20)
The words of Moses, the Law, and the books of the prophets, for instance, were read on every Sabbath day in the synagogues. (Acts 13:14-15, 27, 15:21)
The messiah, who was not a Levitical priest, also read from the Scriptures while in the synagogue on the Sabbath, proving that one does not have to be a priest to read or teach. (Luke 4:16–21, 13:10)
Philo, a Jewish writer of the 1st century C.E., notes that even among the Jews—who constantly overprotected the Sabbath day by means of their traditions and oral laws—it was acknowledged that higher activities were allowed on that day, such as teaching and studying. (Philo, Spec. Laws 2:60-64)
It was likewise a day to consult the prophets (2 Kings 4:23). The Sabbath day, accordingly, is a day set aside for moral and scriptural training, which is doing the work of Yahweh.
For that reason, one’s employees should not work on the Sabbaths so that they will have the opportunity to attend the Sabbath meetings and studies.
Yahweh required priestly duties in the Temple (Tabernacle) as work, which was dedicated to Yahweh. These are works of Yahweh and as such works that do not break the Sabbath. Yahushua tells us:
Have you not read in the Torah, that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless. (Matt. 12:5)
For example, the priests gave burnt offerings and peace offerings on the Sabbath days (Ezek. 46:12). They also prepared the showbread (1 Chron. 9:32), and offered sacrifices to Yahweh on the Sabbaths (1 Chron. 23:31). They rendered to Yahweh lambs, food, oil, and drink offerings and burnt offerings (Num. 28:9-10).
Yahushua speaks of this issue, saying:
One work (of healing) I did and all of you wonder. Therefore, Moses has given you circumcision, though it is not of Moses, but of the fathers, and on the Sabbath you circumcise a male. If a male receives circumcision on the Sabbath, that may not be broken the Torah of Moses, with me you are angry because a man I made entirely sound on the Sabbath? Judge not according to sight, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:21-24)
They include sacrifices of praise of Yahweh (Jer. 17:26), which are defined as “fruit of the lips confessing to his name” (Heb. 13:15). There are sacrifices of thanksgiving (Ps. 107:22), of righteousness (Ps. 4:5, 51:19), and joy (Ps. 27:6). Mercy is greater than any animal or material sacrifices (Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13, 12:7).
The sacrifices of Yahweh also include “a broken ruach, a broken and contrite (collapsed, repentant) heart” (Ps. 51:17). There are also the sacrifices of “doing good and of communicating (the word of Yahweh)” (Heb. 13:16).
The ultimate sacrifice is Yahushua’s example, to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), and to give our lives for Yahweh and those of the assembly (John 15:13; Heb. 9:23-28). These sacrifices and offerings were teaching tools.
The Levitical priests, therefore, were performing acts of teaching by their offerings and sacrifices. Teaching what is required to attain eternal life was the duty of the Levitical priests. (Lev. 10:8-11; Deut. 33:8-10; 2 Chron. 15:1-3; Ezek. 44:15, 23-24; Neh. 8:1-13)
From the data presented, these issues regarding the Sabbath can be divided into two general groups: work allowed and work not allowed.
In the group of work allowed, which is based upon doing Yahweh’s will, the evidence provided shows that there are six general categories:
• Good works (e.g., healing, assisting in emergencies).
• Biological necessity (e.g., being refreshed, rest, eating, self-defense).
• Requirement by Yahweh (following Yahweh’s charge to do something).
• Contact with Yahweh (e.g., prayer, worship).
• Activity bringing one to Yahweh (e.g., studying Scriptures, inquiring from the prophets).
• Speaking Yahweh’s דבר (debar; innermost thoughts), e.g., teaching, examining, and studying Yahweh’s words and thoughts.
At the same time, the evidence demonstrates that those works which are not permitted can be classed into six general categories:
• Your מלאכת (malakath; work, employment).
• Your מעשה (maseh; activity, product creation).
• Your עבד (abad; servile labor).
• Your חפץ (khephets; business pleasure).
• Your own דרך (derek; business ways).
• Speaking your own דבר (debar; innermost thoughts).
Hopefully, this 3-part series covering the topic of “Keeping the Sabbath” has provided answers to various questions asked by many who are striving to keep Yahweh’s Sabbaths correctly.
Yahweh be with you.