THE SABBATH QUESTION
By Pastor Jack Hayford

The Sabbath, which we usually think of as Saturday, literally means "the seventh." It has to do with the seventh day—the day the Lord set apart, or "sanctified," in the first chapter of Genesis and elaborated on in the second chapter.

I came to realize early in the Lord's dealing with me on this subject, that the question of the Sabbath does not have to do so much with a specific day of the week as it has to do with one out of seven (Romans 14:5 & 6). In other words, the Bible says that if you keep the Sabbath, you keep the day unto the Lord by observing a break in your schedule, not necessarily by observing a specific day.

The Sabbath is viewed in different ways. Some people think of it as the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, and they fervently treat it as the day that must be observed for worship of our Lord. I don't have any quarrel with people who choose to do this. A number of traditions do—most notably our friends, the Seventh Day Adventists. I have many friends in that tradition who know and love Jesus Christ dearly, and I respect their choice of that day. Surely we could learn from them the wisdom of setting aside a regular day for worship and rest. 

Others will insist that Sunday is the "Christian Sabbath," but that is not accurate either. The Bible refers to Sunday as "the Lord's Day." On this day Jesus rose from the dead, and we celebrate on the first day of each week to renew the covenant of His Resurrection and live out His Resurrection life for another week. However, in observing Sunday as their day of worship, many devoted believers do not experience it as a day of rest. It's a day of worship, spiritual enterprise, devotion, enjoyment, and much activity, but it certainly is not a day of reprieve. Of course, for some it is. They attend church in the morning and take the remainder of the day to rest or pursue recreational activities.

Still others consider the Sabbath a day to be set aside each week for the sake of the human body. And that's what I want to talk about: the principle of keeping a Sabbath for the sake of your body.

Worship is unto the Lord. But according to the Bible, God, at creation, made holy or "sanctified" the Sabbath as a day to be kept for the purpose of fulfilling one of man's basic needs.

Several years ago, the Lord showed me what an idolatrous (that's a tough word to use) thing it was to suppose I could live on this planet and survive with strength and effectiveness without observing one of the ordinances God set forth at creation. In calling us to observe the seventh day, I understand the Lord to be saying not only that we need to worship and honor Him, but that we also need to recognize our finiteness. And God has made that finiteness very clear. He said we must observe one day in seven as a day of rest—a day for a change of pace.

The basic idea of Sabbath, by the way, is not to be a "couch potato" for 24 hours. The Hebrew word means "to cease or rest," literally "to stop." The idea is beautifully expressed in the word "intermission" as the interruption of one's own effort. That definition comes from the meaning of the Hebrew word in the original language of Scripture. The Lord says "... if you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and doing as you please on My holy day, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father, Jacob" (Isaiah 58:13,14).

Look at what’s wrapped up in that verse:

"You will find your joy in the Lord." (You will find joy and refreshing that transcends burn-out.); "I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land." (You will experience spiritual triumph.); "You will gain the inheritance of your father, Jacob." (You will find the fulfillment that the Lord has in store for those who purpose to walk in His covenant.)

But you will not find that fulfillment on the terms of your own power or will to accomplish it!

When the Lord dealt with me about this, I was 42 years old. I felt as though I did not need a day of rest. It wasn't arrogance. I was still feeling the vibrancy of youth. (I still do at times but my body needs a bit more rest than it did then!) I thought, "As long as I feel strong, I don't need to take a day off. And besides . . . " (Here's the clincher!) "There is so much to do." That was when the Lord asked me, "Do you think I observed the Sabbath because I was tired?"

That was a revelation! God was not telling me to observe a change of pace because I was tired. He was showing me that I need to do it! We are finite beings. Our emotions, our mind, our body, our soul—everything about us needs a change of pace. So Sabbath became for me the acknowledgment that I need a change of pace because I am human. To try to live any other way is to presume that I can serve God on my own terms and in my own strength. And that is idolatry! So our challenge in understanding the Sabbath is to learn God's pattern for our rest and then to live by that pattern—not just because we feel like it—but because He is our loving Creator and He knows what is best for us.


"Brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He consecrated for us..." Hebrews 10:19-20

Jack Hayford Ministries 14800 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA 91405-2233
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Last updated on: 7/09/03