Three Ways You're Wrong About Sabbath

Immediately, when you hear the word ‘sabbath’ the word ‘rest’ pops into your head, right? That’s great... kinda. These errors in defining and applying Sabbath have mental, physical, and spiritual repercussions. There is depth to understanding what Sabbath truly is and how it applies to our daily living. Here are three common misconceptions about Sabbath we have believed for far too long.

  1. Sabbath and Rest are the same thing

I attended Sunday school at a pretty young age, I would guess maybe around seven. As an eager learner, I latched on to every word my Sunday school teacher spoke about Noah and the Whale, David and Goliath, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead! These exciting stories of faith began to shape my worldview - what is and is not possible. Along with these epic narratives came basics of doctrine as well; prayer, singing in worship, offering, acts of kindness. I also learned about rest and how God commanded the Israelites to Sabbath. Now, for a child to understand the concept of Sabbath, I completely understand why it was watered down to the simple definition of ‘rest’ or ‘not doing any work.’ Now, most of us internally capture that definition and accept it, never digging further into what Sabbath actually means.

In Genesis 2, the Hebrew word for rest means “to be still, to cease from exertion, to be at peace.” This is what God did after six days of creative work. He stopped working - He rested. Now, the word Sabbath doesn’t appear until Exodus 16. The word for Sabbath shares a primitive lingual root in Hebrew with the word ‘rest’, but the meaning of Sabbath is “the day of atonement.” When the Israelites stopped working and rested it was to observe the day of the Lord’s atonement.

2. Sabbath is a single day of observance

In the book of Mark, Jesus teaches that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.” So this atonement is something we are able to participate in as it was created for us. What are the parameters around this day of atonement? Jesus also calls Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath.” Ultimately, Jesus has full authority to outwork God’s plan for the atonement (forgiving the sins) of humanity. In that respect, thinking of Sabbath as one day is the same as thinking as your salvation has an expiration date. Sabbath is not a renewable ritual, rather, it’s access to forgiveness with staying, eternal power.  

3. Sabbath is a quick pick-me-up when I’m feeling stressed

When you-know-what hits the fan, our habitual response is often to “sabbath.” We crave a vacation, we want to push pause, or we drop the problem in someone else’s lap and label it “rest.” In reality, we have access to continual Sabbath through Jesus. Jesus provides not only the forgiveness of sins, but also the peaceful life our souls so desperately strive after. It’s tempting to want to change our surroundings, escape the stress, and fantasize a world where we don’t have any problems. But Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble…” and He also asks us to “abide” in Him. Jesus never downplays the harshness of reality, but He does provide a solution that will transform our view of reality.  

Ashlee Wright