When we look at the placement of the Sabbath in the list of the Ten Commandments, we see that it divides the decalogue into two parts. It comes right after the first three laws which speak of our relationship with God and before the six others which describe the way we ought to live and love our neighbors. Three concerned God and six concerned man. Three is the number of God and six is the number of man. But see that the Sabbath stands in between, like a link, a bridge, a bond that is renewed every week, but which extends way further than a 24 hour rest. The Sabbath is given such an important place, for it is classified among those non-ceremonial and eternal laws. Let us dig deeper and see why it is so important.
Now, at the beginning we asked a question. How is it that the Lord sanctified and set apart the Sabbath at creation but only gave the commandment to follow it way later, in Exodus 20, and to Israel only? How could such an important idea be not found in between creation and Sinai? And once the Law was fulfilled through Messiah we also see how such an important day takes on a different understanding in the New Testament. We read in Colossians 2:17 that the Sabbath day is a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to the Messiah. Where then does the Sabbath projects us and how is its substance to be found in Yeshua? Let us begin to answer this question by looking into a couple of Sabbath psalms. This will then lead us to the heart of the Brit Chadashah, the New Testament.
These beautiful psalms will help us see the essence of the Sabbath which brings our hope to the past and future redemptions, making our present moments here full of great anticipation for a better world. As it is with the Ten Commandments and in Leviticus 23, many of these Sabbath psalms bring us back to the creation and forward to the Messianic Era.
One famous Sabbath psalm is Psalm 92. Some say that it is Moses who wrote it, others say it is David. Ancient Jewish commentators, as in the Targum of Psalms, say that it must have been Adam who wrote it, after he heard of the Sabbath and contemplated the great work of creation. Every day in Temple times they sang a psalm and this one was the seventh in the series. It became customary to sing it at the synagogue every Sabbath. If you would like to know the order of the psalms which were read at the Temple, from the first day of the week (Sunday) to Shabbat, I will list them. Maybe you would like to read one psalm a day in your own reading and follow what they did in the Second Temple times!
These are the psalms in their weekly order: Psalm 24, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93, finishing off with 92 for the Shabbat. Why was Psalm 92 chosen? Perhaps because of its great description of God’s creation and fellowship with Him. It begins with the words: It is good to give thanks to the LORD. For such is the spirit of the Sabbath.
In different midrashim, it is entitled “A Psalm for the world to come, for the day which will be entirely Sabbath and rest in eternal life.” (Tamid 7:4; Midrash Psalm 92) It is from this psalm that some rabbinical commentators came out with the idea that the world would last 6,000 years, but at the seventh thousand-year mark, it would be the Sabbath. (Pirke R. El. 18) They are just about right when you consider the Bible’s calendar, but it may also have been chosen because the name of the Lord is mentioned seven times, which made it very appropriate to read this psalm every Sabbath. Each mention of God covers one day of the week and the last is the Sabbath. In this psalm, the last mention of the Lord says: To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
So how should we see the Sabbath?
The book of Hebrews speaks of this rest in Hebrews 3, which also speaks of a future Sabbath for the people of God today – believing Jews and Gentiles. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Hebrews 4:9,10
The writer uses the Hebrew word Sabbath for the future rest in God. Hebrews 3 and 4 present God’s Sabbath as beginning at the moment when the work of creation ceased, continuing through the present time, and ending in heaven. Notice how the writer of Hebrews associates faith and Sabbath. Because of unbelief, many cannot enjoy the true Sabbath rest. But we also learn that many enjoyed this rest from God before they reached heaven. There is a cloud of witnesses who seem to have experienced the spirit of the Sabbath before the law was even given. They are listed for us in Hebrews 11, the chapter of faith.
Here the writer mentions so many people whose faith was their common denominator. They were all waiting for that city whose architect and builder is God. They were experiencing the hope of the Sabbath all through their lives. Furthermore, most of the people mentioned there lived before the Law was given: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’s parents. They did not even have the Sabbath law but knew about the rest they would have in God. It is a rest which is brought about through belief, through faith in God. To this cloud of witnesses we can include Rahab, who did not know the Mosaic Law. In essence, the spirit of Sabbath is to remember the past and the future so that the present will be so much better.
To conclude, let us remember the comforting words of the Messiah, found in Matthew 11:28. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. The word labor speaks of worries and trouble. When we experience these things, Yeshua says that He is waiting for us to give us rest.
The true Shabbat rest is found in Him.