“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Ingrid at Slice of Laodicea recently posted an interesting article describing how a 'church' in New Zealand has preempted their Sunday service with a rugby tournament, and that caused me to think a bit about how we (especially in the West) view 'the Lord's Day'.

I am from a Jewish background, where the Sabbath is taken seriously, and that is what I want to address in this post. I am not attempting to right every wrong, or get into some deep, theological debate over whether or not Saturday, or Sunday is the proper day to worship, there are plenty of those arguments all over the web. Quite frankly, I have my opinion, and you have yours, and it is not about a day, but about a heart condition... I weary of people fighting great theological battles 'proving' their position about the 'correct' day, and even at the end of that battle, STILL not understanding about the rest that is to be found in the Lord.

In an observant Jewish home, the Sabbath (Shabbat) is an honored time of setting aside the cares and woes of this world and getting back to the important things of the Lord. Now, I will not bore you with all of the aspects of a Jewish Shabbat, however, I also will tell you that I believe there are aspects that are wrong-headed, such as making the Shabbat an idol, and there are some practices which are just not proper for one found in Messiah, however the CONCEPT of shabbat is important and something that, unfortunately, is lost on most people in the Church. I have talked to many who say 'I am not under the law, therefore why would I do something like this?" A plain misunderstanding about the shabbat; it is not about HAVING to do something, but taking one day of the week and DESIRING to be found resting in the Father.

What many people mean, honestly, is that they will not divide off one day purely for the Lord. Wal*Mart calls, and the mall is packed on the weekend, and of course there are the movies, football games, and children's sports that must be attended to. So, the real answer is; I am too busy to devote one day to the Lord.

First off, in the Jewish mind, the shabbat is not just another day in the week, but is truly a day MARKED OFF for the Lord. Now, Sunday is NOT the Sabbath, it is Sunday; however, it would behoove you to mark off that day for the Lord if you observe on that day. (Again, please remember that this post is not about whether Sunday is correct or not, it is about something else).

So, on to shabbat -- There are several things that are done to mark off this day as special. First on Friday evening, the fine china is brought out, and the table is set as if one is expecting a very special guest. Candles are brought out and lit, there is an anticipatory mood, even by the children. The man of the home (yes, we are politically incorrect in this), then raises a cup (called the kiddush cup), and says a blessing over the wine, then he blesses the challah (if you have never had challah, oh you poor brother/sister!).

Once the bread is broken, it is passed around the table and everyone greets one another with 'Shabbat Shalom' and usually there is an accompanying embrace. The next portion of the shabbat observance is critical as it is lost in most homes today:

The children and wife are blessed by the father/husband. Then the blessing for the meal is spoken.

Then, as in all good Jewish celebrations we eat!

In all homes that remain true to shabbat, there is no TV, no radio, but there is a study of the Word of God, and singing of songs. I must admit, the closest I find to this is in the Reformed concept of Family Worship.

On Saturday morning, the family gathers to go to shabbat service, and at the end of the service, there is a celebration (again we eat), called an oneg.

Many observant Jewish homes will not even turn on the stove on the shabbat, abiding by the instruction to do no work. I have to admit that I am not THAT observant, but one of the great things about shabbat is cholent, a dish some might call a crock-pot type of dish. It is great, and it seems that everyone makes it a bit different.

At the close of the shabbat, Saturday evening, there is a havdalah service in which the candles are lit, and a mix of spices are passed and inhaled. As the beautiful aroma invades the room, it is a time to focus on the light of the world, and the sweet-smelling aroma that is Messiah Yeshua, Jesus the Christ.

A beautiful celebration, oft misunderstood, but when properly observed a celebration that brings all members of the family into a laser focus on the Lord.

Compare this with the modern church family's 'Lord's Day' (I am generalizing. Please forgive me, if this is not you, then feel free to ignore. However, if this does describe your family, maybe you should re-evaluate your priorities.):

The family rushes around in the morning, shoveling food down the gullets of the kids, and gulping coffee as everyone rushes (because, after all, we sleep until the last available moment, rather than anticipate the Lord's Day), to get dressed, put on their make-up, comb their hair, and ensure that they catch the morning news.

Often there is no Bible reading, nor is there even a reference to the Bible except the ubiquitous, "Has anybody seen my Bible?", and in today's church environment, I am not even sure that is asked anymore!

Everyone piles in the car for a high-speed run to the church, getting there after the music has started (dad doesn't like to sing, so we get here a bit late), and quickly coming in and sitting down.

The family goes through the service, and immediately upon the final 'amen', everyone rushes back out to the car, because, after all, the BIG game is on today, and dad has fifty bucks on the hometown heroes. Once home, mom gets the kids settled in; little Jimmy, safely ensconced behind the pad of a gameboy in his room, Sally on the cellphone with her friends, Bobby in his room playing Doom on the computer, and dad in his 'comfy clothes', chips and beer at hand, to watch the game. She then departs for the mall to 'window-shop' and get out of the house for a bit, letting dad be the responsible adult for a few hours.

When mom returns home, she is beat, it has been a long week, so they all head to McDonald's for burgers and fries, returning home to face another week.

How restful, how peaceful, how focused that is!

It is time to bring back the rest... Stop the games, stop the shopping, stop the madness, and truly bring the family into focus, at least once a week!


Ephraim said...


We began observing Shabbat about 12 years ago. It has at times fallen by the wayside, but when we honor the day, we experience His peace and rest.

You're right, it is very difficult for this western culture to rest from the world for a day. Sundown to sundown.

Someone once told us that if YHWH had required that we dig ditches on Shabbat, the dirt would be flying without fail. But to rest, many find it almost impossible.

And then there is the confusion between resting and a day of worship. Another part of the debate that gets wearisome at times.

My wife makes homemade challah from fresh ground organic grains. Right from the oven, it is a bit of heaven on earth. Sometimes she will make extra for other messianic fellowships in the area. Our kiddush cups are filled with Welches, but hey, it works. After the blessings over the bread and the cup, a beautiful dinner, song, fellowship with the family. And the blessing of the children, very important, but alas, we often forget.

It is a special time, erev Shabbat. There have been times when the blessing of His presence at the table was so real, it was hard to get through the blessings without tears. It is a tabernacle in time.

It is sad to see so many believers say that "Jesus is my rest", and then they never do. For folks who make a lot of noise about grace, they are quite often the hardest working bunch on the planet.

There is so much more to say, but I will end with this:

Isa 58:13 "If you turn away your foot from the Shabbat, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Shabbat a delight, [and] the holy of the LORD honorable; and shall honor it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking [your own] words:
Isa 58:14 then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will make you to ride on the high places of the eretz; and I will feed you with the heritage of Ya`akov your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it." HNV.


Ray said...

HEY! Can I come by for Shabbat sometime (the cholent sounds GREAT!)


As always Ephraim -- thanks for the comment....

Ray said...

Ephraim -- Sorry, I meant challah, NOT cholent! :-)


Paul said...

I found the beauty in your writing not to be the honoring of the day but the respect of tradition and ritual that is missing from our lives these days. I was raised Catholic and ritual and traditions remain with me to this day, even the sacrifices that have been rescinded (no meat on Fridays). It was ritual and tradition that have drawn me back, certainly not dogma.

Charles North said...

Ray. I love what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10:38 - 42. "Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

In other words, spending quiet time with the Lord learning in submission is better than the rigors of work. Sabbath is a commandment from God that we crowd out at our own peril.

Ray said...

Charles -- Amen brother...

Ryan said...

We see the mess our constant business has created. Broken homes, relationships and stress related ilnesses. God is proved right once again by the results of us living counter to what he desires for us. Even He rested on the 7th day of creation. The created should follow the example of the creator.

steve d said...

Hey Ray...check out this story about my friend's grandfather. He got booted off the Cubs because he refused to play ball on Sunday.

just popping by. would love to talk about the different organizations that help persecuted Christians...

Ray said...

Steve --

Wish more people had`Zoots' perspective... Could you imagine a pro baseballer (or any sport) not playing on Sunday nowadays? I am sure that there might be some, but I don't know of any...

Sandy Koufax (many years ago) refused to pitch during the series because it was Yom Kippur...

We have just put God behind a lot of other things, and as Ryan noted in his comment, we are reaping the consequences of this...

Ray said...

Steve d --

BTW, one of the organizations that works with reputable organizations for the Body of Christ throughout the world is headed up by Ryan, another commentor on this site, whom I personally know and respect...

If you would like to know more about his organization, you may go to http://www.partnersonline.org/