God sets down seven specific festivals for His people to observe. The first is the weekly Sabbath.
Each of the appointed feasts were to be perpetual. Some of them were not to begin until after the children of Israel reached the Promised Land. Others were to be observed from the moment of initiation on. These festivals are still being observed in Jewish homes today with varying degrees. The legal ramifications of observance have passed with Jesus’ sacrifice but the attitude of thankfulness these festivals engender should continue on.
The first feast God commands is the weekly Sabbath. God instituted rest on the Sabbath from the beginning of creation. He rested on the seventh day and He calls for man to do the same. This used to be something that was observed even in those who were not Christians or Jews. We still incorporate the idea of rest even in our calendars. The “work week” and the “weekend” are concepts we are all familiar with.
We are geared towards taking time off each week for rest. Our societies have moved away from that “work week” routine. More and more businesses are open 24 hours a day seven days a week. The mighty dollar has spoken! It is now even standard practice to remain open no matter what holiday is occurring. In the United States of America, Thanksgiving used to be a holiday that almost EVERY store closed for and allowed time off for their employees. Not so any longer. Now they don’t even close for half a day. They are too busy getting ready for the early Black Friday sales. SOME still close on Christmas day.
But what does God call for in observance of His Sabbath. First of all, it is a weekly occurrence. EVERY seventh day is to be observed in the same fashion each week. That day is a day of “solemn rest, a holy convocation” in which the people do “no work” (verse 3).
It is a day for the people to reflect on the Lord. To contemplate His presence in their lives. It is a time to focus on Him, His word, and His plans for us. It is a relationship building day.
It is also a day of physical rest from labor. God says that the people are to do no work on the Sabbath. For the sake of the people, MANY laws, stipulations, and examples were added so the people could differentiate between “Sabbath activities” and “work.” Some of these examples included how far one could walk on a Sabbath day, what kind of meal preparation could be done, and what kind of “emergency” activities would be allowed.
I was reading something regarding Jewish women who went into labor and how they were to prepare in advance in the event they went into labor on the Sabbath. They were to use Gentile cab drivers to access the hospital as a Jew couldn’t drive on the Sabbath. Another point was to wait until a Gentile opened the door, even an automatic door, before entering the hospital as this would entail “working” on the Sabbath. This seems extreme to me as a Gentile but devout Jews see this as a necessity for showing their devotion to God.
Jesus freed the people from these restrictions of bondage. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for the man not the man made for the Sabbath. In other words, man needs rest and God provided in His plan for that need but there is no rest in regimented adherence to the exclusion of all else. If ever in doubt about this, try and FORCE yourself to sleep when you are not tired or your mind is busy.
Jesus demonstrated love above and beyond the “required rest” of the Sabbath. He healed any time any where He encountered a need. He didn’t profane the Sabbath by demonstrating God’s love through healing but He also didn’t set up Sabbath healing booths to exploit God’s day of rest. He met the people where they were when they needed it.
One thing I wish I our society would incorporate from the Jewish Sabbath observances is the blessing being spoken over the children each week. Each week the father places his hand on his children and gives them a blessing from God. After watching the above Youtube video I feel inspired to bless my children this Christmas season. I wonder what they will think of me as I do this. I want to bless my grandchildren too this way.
Father God, thank You for reminding me of this blessing Your family shares. Help me bless my children and have them receive that blessing into their lives. Let me use this as a witness and not a condemnation for my family. I wish my husband could do it but I don’t believe he would be able to memorize the blessing. Do you want me to feed it to him line by line as he does this for them as the head of our family? Should I do it for my own children? Give me wisdom here Holy Spirit. I want to honor You while I bless my children and grandchildren.