By: Jordan Y.
When Friday evening falls on the city of Jerusalem, one can feel the holiness of the Sabbath. A “quiet” descends on the city like a light blanket, bringing peace that is hard to find throughout the week. Even the greatest cynic cannot deny the unique atmosphere that spreads through the air when the people wear their fine Sabbath clothes and walk together to synagogue near their home.
But this is not a phenomenon specific to Jerusalem; it happens all throughout Israel and observant Jewish communities throughout the world. From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, the busyness stops to embrace God’s sacred day.
Shabbat – or “Sabbath” – is a sign of the eternal covenant between God and the people of Israel.
“Between Me and the children of Israel, it is forever a sign that [in] six days The Lord created the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.” Shemot (Exodus) 31:17
The meaning of the word “Sabbath” in Hebrew is derived from the root שבת, literally “Shabbat”, which means a break from work and crafts. In the book of Exodus, God gives the people of Israel the Sabbath and commands them to observe it in the following way: Do not do any work, not the worker, not the mother, neither the proselyte nor even the animal. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. Shemot (Exodus) 20:8
It is clear here that God’s emphasis is on a day of rest for all created beings. It is a time of complete rest for the soul and body, and to allow the Divine presence to envelop us in order to recharge and bless us. It is one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to humankind!
Yeshua had much to say about the importance of the Sabbath, but not in the way the religious leaders of the time expected. The New Covenant describes a case in which Yeshua and His disciples harvested crops in the field on Shabbat. The Pharisees saw this and accused his disciples and Him of desecrating the Sabbath. Yeshua answered them that the Son of Man is the master of Shabbat (Matthew 12:8).
Yeshua therefore emphasized the importance of the Sabbath to be subordinate to the Son of Man; He is its master, and not the opposite. Shabbat is not to become a source of pressure and even additional work for its observer! Instead, as Yeshua demonstrated to all of Israel and the rest of the world, the true meaning of Shabbat (as determined by the Almighty at Mount Sinai) brings us a sense of calm and holiness for the body and soul. It is time to reconnect with the Lord, who is our ultimate resting space, and to honor Him in our rest
Ultimately, Shabbat is a picture of our eternal rest in Him. Rav Sha’ul (Paul) understood this and emphasized that the true meaning of the Sabbath is embodied only in Yeshua:
“Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a festival, a New Moon, or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body that casts it belongs to Messiah” Colossians 2:16-17
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