There are A LOT of scriptures about Sabbath which explain its purpose. This study will look at several Sabbath verses as an overview. I encourage you to read all of the scripture in its complete context for yourself.
Sabbath is to be Sanctified, Set Apart (to be Holy)
The word Holy in Hebrew is qadosh. It means to be set apart for a special purpose. Think of how china dishes are used in most homes. They are stored in a special place and treated with extra care. They can be used everyday, but are usually only brought out for a special event. Sabbath should be set apart as special.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it. Genesis 2:3
I am called to remember it and keep it holy. It is the Sabbath of the Lord.
It is a sign to show that God sanctifies (set apart, made holy) His people. A
perpetual covenant forever. Exodus 31:13-17
I should sanctify it (set it apart) because God commanded me.
The purposes of Sabbath begin with setting it apart as special.
Sabbath is for Rest and Refreshment
He rested from all His work on that day. He set the example of rest.
It is for rest and refreshment. Exodus 23:12
No matter what time of year, I should rest on Sabbath. Exodus 34:21
It is a holy day of rest to the Lord. Exodus 35:2-3
I should refrain from all work. Exodus 20:8-11
No work. Exodus 35:2-3
Everyone in all my dwellings should rest. Leviticus 23:3
Everyone in my household should rest. Deuteronomy 5:12-15
It is pretty clear that Sabbath is a time for me to refrain from work so I can rest. God intends for me to be refreshed in and through Him. He intends for me to rest every Sabbath. He also wants everyone in my home to benefit from this refreshment.
Sabbath is for Knowing God (Not for Our Personal Entertainment)
God wants an intimate relationship with us. He wants us to value that relationship more than anything else and desire to know everything about Him. He wants us to seek Him with all our hearts. Sabbath establishes an ideal situation for that to happen.
Isaiah 58:13-14 says:
Call Sabbath a delight and you shall delight yourself in the Lord.
Honor God, not yourself, on Sabbath.
Don’t do your own ways.
Don’t find your own pleasure.
Don’t speak your own words.
God says it brings joy when I honor Him and celebrate Sabbath, whether I feel like doing it or not. Sabbath is not about me, it’s about God. It’s a time to practice putting Him first in my life. As soon as I start focusing on myself, I have lost sight of this purpose of Sabbath.
Amos 8:4-7 says:
We shouldn’t wait eagerly for Sabbath to be over so we can have personal gain.
After reading this verse, I had to say, “Ouch!” I may not be as bad as those in the verse who wait for Sabbath to be over so they can take advantage of others and gain money and power. But I certainly have been guilty of looking forward to the end of Sabbath so I can go do what I want to do. I have to ask- Do I desire to know God more than anything else?
Mark 2:27 says:
“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”
This is one of the most quoted verses in the Sabbath keeping community. I have also found it to be one of the most misunderstood verses. After much reading and examining, I have an illustration that I hope presents a clear picture.
A hammer is a tool. What does it do? It helps build. That is the purpose and what it was designed to do. In the same way, Sabbath is a tool for man. For what purpose? To help build my relationship with God (know Him). So, a man’s sole reason for being created was not to use a hammer or to keep Sabbath. But both are great tools to be used by man to help build.
Sabbath is for Reflecting God to Others
I reflect God best to others when He is in me and I know Him well. One of the purposes of God’s followers is to show Him to those who don’t know Him. I don’t sacrifice this purpose on Sabbath. It is a part of being a disciple.
Luke 13:10-17 says:
Jesus was teaching His ways to the crowds so people would know Him. (Know God)
He also healed a woman so the people would know who He is and what He stands for. (Reflecting God)
Luke 6:7-10 says:
Jesus, to prove His point to the Pharisees, asks if it is against Sabbath law for Him to do good and reflect God to others. He then answers by healing a lame man.
Matthew 12:1-12 says:
Jesus reminds those who are hung up on Sabbath law that He sets the standard, not them. He has all authority and desires us to know and reflect Him. He says it IS lawful (by His authority) to do good on Sabbath.
John 7:21-24 says:
Jesus asks why some people are fine with circumcision on Sabbath but not making someone whole (doing good). He tells them not to judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
John 5:1-17 says:
Jesus healed again on Sabbath. He explains to the Pharisees that His purpose and God’s purpose for the people of this world does not change on Sabbath day. He came to heal (in every sense) and there is no reason to halt His purposes on Sabbath.
John 9 says:
Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. He explains it was so God could be made manifest in the man. Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” The Pharisees threw a fit because the man was healed on Sabbath. They condemned the man and Jesus. The man told the Pharisees, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” The man believed in and worshiped Jesus.
Clearer Understanding of Sabbath
I hope that reading through these Sabbath scriptures has given you a clearer understanding of the purposes of Sabbath. These purposes give me a greater focus as I approach each Sabbath. I love how each one builds on the other! It starts with God and is all about God. I set apart the Sabbath day as holy out of obedience, then I find my rest and refreshment in Him, I also seek to know Him, and then I seek to reflect Him to others.