I am often confounded by the fact that the Scriptures have so little to say about how to celebrate something so dear to the heart of G-d, the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath). How do I know that it is dear to the heart of G-d? Well, I don't think it is a mere coincidence that, in so many individuals lives that are coming to a messianic understanding and lifestyle, one of the first areas of conviction concerns keeping the Shabbat. I have countless stories of this happening, and it happened to me as well. Furthermore, the Scriptures attest to the importance of keeping Shabbat, especially in the life of a non-Hebrew.
My favorite example is seen in Isaiah 56:1-7, which states: "Thus says the L-RD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation [is] about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed [is] the man [who] does this, And the son of man [who] lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the L-RD speak, saying, "The L-RD has utterly separated me from His people"; Nor let the eunuch say, "Here I am, a dry tree". For thus says the L-RD: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the L-RD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the
L-RD, to be His servants-- Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant-- Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [will be] accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." This is a beautiful exhortation to those of us who are messianic believers, but are not Hebrew by birth, to keep the Shabbat, His Shabbat.
I was deeply touched and encouraged yesterday by stumbling upon a blog by an 18 year old young woman who is growing in her own messianic lifestyle while living with her non-messianic parents. One of her recent posts (http://www.asetapartlife.blogspot.com/) was about her efforts to keep the Shabbat. I am very grateful to now be the woman of my own house, married to a godly man, mother to a beautiful little girl, and daughter to a mother who lovingly accepts and embraces my messianic, Shabbat-keeping lifestyle (and even my husband's family understands that there are things we don't do on Shabbat). Hearing of another's struggle only reminds me of how blessed I am, and I am confident that this faithful young woman will one day become the queen of her own house as well.
Concerning how to keep Shabbat, I will be referencing Scriptural verses and also commenting on how they may be applied in [brackets], trusting that you will prayerfully have to come to your own conclusions, keeping in mind that G-d's Word is authoritative above everything else that I write here. The ministry called "First Fruits of Zion" has published a helpful booklet on 'Guarding Shabbat'. In it are listed "The 10 Commandments of Shabbat" and I will be quoting them:
1. Remember and observe Shabbat. (Exodus 20:8, 31:13, Deuteronomy 5:12) [using the traditional way of bringing in the Shabbat using candlelight, wine or grape juice, and challah bread is a beautiful way to welcome Shabbat and set it apart as holy.]
2. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 5:15) [read and re-read the story of Israel's slavery in Egypt (and tell it to your children), which will only make us more grateful to be free in Yeshua to enjoy His Shabbat]
3. Gather together for a holy convocation. (Leviticus 23:3) [whether that means walking or driving to a local congregation (or not-so-local), gathering in a home, or using the internet, Shabbat was not meant to be 24 hours spent all alone]
4. Call Shabbat a delight and honorable. (Isaiah 58:13-14) [Shabbat should be a day that is joyously anticipated, not dreaded. Spend time with family, sing special songs, do special activities, read together, etc. Shabbat should not be a 'boring' day for children, and I plan to write more in a separate entry about celebrating Shabbat with children]
5. Do not pursue your own desires on Shabbat. (Exodus 20:9-10) [Although some time on Shabbat should be spent on introspection, I don't think it is a 'me' day to be spent doing hobbies all day or going to the spa! However, I also don't think that Shabbat is a day on which we neglect to bathe or groom ourselves, because if we are congregating with others, these are not selfish acts! Our first focus should be on resting in HaShem and enjoying His presence]
6. Do not work on Shabbat. (Exodus 20: 9-10) [Anything that we get paid to do is work, and in my estimation, anything that stresses us out (besides caring for children of course!), takes our focus away from resting in G-d, or makes Shabbat just another day is also work. I try to refrain from writing blog entries on Shabbat because I hope to publish a book (and get paid for it) one day, but I am guilty of 'writing' in my mind when I am supposed to be taking my Shabbat nap! Also, I refrain from intensive cleaning (definitely work, and even the servants got to rest on Shabbat)... notice I said intensive cleaning, because sometimes we have to do some clean-up on Shabbat, especially when there are little ones around. I rarely wash dishes on Shabbat, because Shabbat should be about not doing those things that we do every other day of the week.
7. Do not cook on Shabbat. (Exodus 16:23) [Well, I am certainly guilty of breaking this one! I try to prepare extra food on Fridays, or we eat leftovers on Shabbat. I am working on being more diligent to prepare special meals ahead of time to enjoy on Shabbat.]
8. Do not kindle a fire on Shabbat. (Exodus 35:3) [In many ways, I am still uncertain of how to apply this mitzvah. It has a lot to do with the previous command to not cook, but I do not believe that it restricts us from turning on light switches or starting a car]
9. Do not participate in commerce on Shabbat. (Nehemiah 10:31; Jeremiah 17:21-22) [My family and I keep this command by not shopping or going out to eat on Shabbat, and striving not to buy anything on Shabbat, unless of course, it's inevitable. Two Erev Shabbats ago, however, we had to purchase a Metro card to ride the subway in order to get to a Shabbat gathering at someone's house, so we made the purchase. Also, if something is needed for the baby or for our health's sake, we feel it is permissible to buy it.]
10. Do good on Shabbat. (Matthew 12:12) [So many ways to apply this! If someone needs help, help them! If someone needs you, be there for them! Don't use Shabbat observance as an excuse to be reclusive or unavailable. Remember that Shabbat was made for us, and not the other way around.]
Learning to observe and guard Shabbat is a process, and I am still learning myself. By putting Scripture first and allowing the Spirit of G-d to speak to us about the importance of this special day, we can begin this process. I feel the most important aspect of keeping Shabbat is regarding it as holy, set apart.... different. Do whatever it takes in your life to make it different from all the other days, because G-d intended it to be that way. Just as He intends us to be holy, set apart.... different.