About the Episode
If I tell a mom she needs to rest regularly, she nods her head in a agreement. But, the moment I use the word “sabbath” it’s like I’ve opened a can of worms… worms that have lots of questions about the properness and legitimacy of Christians observing this spiritual practice. So, this week and next week, we’re answering the questions: if we observe Sabbath, are we being legalistic? Didn’t Jesus get rid of the Sabbath? Sabbath applied only to Jews, right? Are we missing something if we don’t practice Sabbath? Let’s dig in to part one of this conversation.
Click for Transcript
You’re listening to episode 34 of the Simply Sabbath podcast.
Rest doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. If you feel like you’re about to break from exhaustion. Let me invite you to Simply Sabbath, a podcast for the burnt-out Christian mom, who longs to get back to the core of who she is and to reclaim the deep joy and stabilizing peace Jesus has for her in her every day– without the mom guilt that often accompanies self-care practices.
Hi, my name is Rachel Fahrenbach and I help busy moms just like you add a simple restful family Sabbath to their week. So they can experience a refueling that gives them exactly what they need to live the life that God has called them to. I’m so glad you’ve joined me today. Let’s get to it.
Today, I want to answer the question or, or maybe a better way of saying it is explore the question should Christians observe Sabbath? Should they practice it? Should they celebrate it now?
I mean, of course my answer is yes, sure. Yeah. Do it otherwise I wouldn’t have an entire podcast dedicated to this conversation of how do you implement a simple family Sabbath into your week, but I felt it was important that we talk a little bit about this because I do get this question fairly often or rather just variations of it, people wanting to understand if they’re doing the right thing by observing it. If they’re doing the wrong thing, by observing it, it’s kind of a loaded question. And so I thought we should explore it a little bit, pull it apart.
It’s kind of interesting. We’re coming off of Easter just within the last couple of weeks, and my daughter came to me during Easter, we were setting up for our dinner and she, she was trying to make it make sense in her head, why we celebrate Sabbath and nobody else that she knows celebrates Sabbath.
And this, the correlated with the fact that during Easter weekend in our family, we observe a Passover Seder that explores the, the foreshadowing of the coming Messiah within the Passover Seder. A Seder that connects how Christ fulfilled and was our Passover lamb.
And so, as we were setting up for these things, she started asking me these questions, like, why do we, why do we do this? Isn’t this just for the Jewish people? And, why didn’t anybody else do this that she knew of. “Why don’t more people observe Sabbath, Mom?”
And so it got me thinking that maybe this is the time for me to explore this conversation in this podcast. And so let’s dig into it. Now, I’m going to do my very best. This is obviously a very, um, A short podcast episode, and I can only cover so much in this time. And, um, there have been many, many wonderful resources written about the Sabbath, about Sabbath keeping, about, um, Christianity and the Sabbath. I will link to a few of those.
The one I want to mention here. And I think I’ve mentioned this one before in past episodes. It’s A Brief History of Sunday: from the New Testament to the New Creation and it’s by Justo Gonzalez, I think is how you pronounce his name. But I, I want to recommend this resource. The author’s intent is not to convince you one way or the other. It is literally a short, very concise summary of how the early church began practicing Christianity, observing the Lord’s day, in addition to Sabbath and how the church adapted and modified. And it explores how external political events and leaders, as well as internal leadership impacted the decision to move away from Christians observing the Sabbath to observing what we call it the Lord’s day or Sunday.
I love that about this book because it really opened my eye then up to the history of what had gone on throughout the past couple hundred years. I’ll definitely link to that in my show notes. I think too, right now, if you go on Amazon, the Kindle version is like $3 or something. So definitely check that out because it is a really great resource. I will link to other resources as well. Some other books that I have found helpful, um, just in terms of keeping the mindset of Sabbath, finding rest, avoiding that hurriedness feeling.
Bible project, they did a seven the seventh day rest series on their podcasts and that I will link into my show notes as well. And that was very insightful for me just to see this theme of the seventh day rest throughout the entirety of scripture and just connecting some of the themes and they too don’t really come to a should we, should we not, they spend a very small amount of time on that question, but I do think that the way that they approached it as a whole was very eye opening for me and just really helped solidify some of my thoughts on the Sabbath as well as pointed me to some really great passages and understanding, um, some of the bigger picture, literary themes, Hebrew words, all those things. So definitely check that out as well.
Okay. Now having said all that, let’s get into this question. I think that when people come to me and ask me this question, should somebody observe Sabbath? They’re actually asking three different questions. They’re either asking me one: if we observe Sabbath, are we engaging in legalism and disregarding grace? I think that’s really the behind the question for some people. For other people what’s behind the question is: wasn’t Sabbath given to the Jews? Isn’t that the law, and we’re no longer under the law. So why would we need to pay attention to that anymore? And then for others, the question is: is Sabbath an essential command that we are neglecting. Have we forgotten an essential part of our salvation? Not necessarily are we saved by Sabbath, but are we forgetting something like, is this the command that we’re supposed to pay attention to?
So typically when somebody comes to me and they ask me, should a Christian observe Sabbath, they’re actually wanting to know the answer to one of these three questions. And so let’s just take them one at the time. Okay. The first question, if we observe Sabbath, are we engaging in legalism and disregarding grace?
Well, I want to make this very, very clear right up at the beginning for, I started throwing out all these different verses and start diving in even deeper. I personally do not believe that our salvation is tied to our Sabbath keeping. I do not believe our Sabbath keeping is essential to our salvation.
You know, there’s a ton of verses that support this, the one that comes to mind immediately as Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. It is not of your own doing it is a gift of God, not a result of work so that no one may boast,” right? So we are saved by God’s grace, by his ending, the savior Jesus, death, and resurrection. Those are the thing that save us, not the things that we do. And this has been the truth throughout all of scripture. If you look in Hebrews in the hall of faith in chapter 11, you see this come up again and again, by faith so-and-so is saved by faith, blah, blah, blah. They were saved by faith people who were not even under the law, Abraham, Noah, these people were saved by their faith.
We are all under the same expectation of faith by God. It is his grace that saves us. He has an expectation of faith in us in order for that salvation to be fulfilled. We have always been under that expectation from the moment he turned Adam and Eve out of the garden to the moment that we are living in right now, we are all under this expectation of being saved through faith. Now, the way that I see it is that Israel was given this immense responsibility, this immense privilege to be a nation set apart, a sign that God would send a Messiah and the things that he gave to Israel, the observances, the festival, the law, all of those things were that the immense privilege to foreshadow the coming Messiah to point people to the Messiah for the Messiah to show up and say, look here I am, I fulfill all these things.
We see this throughout all the old Testament again and again and again, these foreshadowings of Jesus, these symbols and figures, and all these things that are pointing to the coming Messiah from things like Passover to Christophany that happened throughout all of the old Testament, we see this happening again and again, where it is pointing towards this coming Messiah.
Even if we hone in on Abraham for a moment, let’s hone in on him for a second, God is talking to Abraham before he even set up the covenant with Moses, right? Like this is way before Moses comes onto the scene. God is talking to Abraham and he promises Abraham “through your offspring, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
This was always meant to be for all of us. God did not create the world for Israel. God created the world for humanity. God created Eden for humanity. God created a garden in which He could commune with humanity, not Israel. And I think sometimes we forget this, we think that God created Israel and he had a covenant with them and then he decided to open it up to everybody.
And that is not truth. The truth of scripture says that God created Eden. He put man and woman into Eden. He walked with them, he talked with them, he commune with them. They had a special intimate relationship. They work co-rulers with him in this garden kingdom.
And then they messed it up. They sinned and God removed that intimacy from them because sin now was in the world and it broke in it fragmented this intimacy with God that’s walking alongside of him. This co-ruling with him, it fractured it, it made it less than what it was before.
This intimacy this, this communion with God, the Sabbathing with God, has now become fractured. It is no longer what it was intended to be. And so he turned, he turned them out of the garden and there is some hope in those verses in the thing that he speaks to them.
There is a little bit of hope that one day the serpent will be crushed by the offspring of the woman. We don’t get into the full-blown messianic promises until later on in scripture. But what’s important to note here is that God had a plan to redeem and put right the world, as it should have been.
He had a plan to redeem the world back into a Sabbath rest. And through the stories that come along, the prophets that come along, we start to see how his plan is going to unfold. We can begin to see that there will be a Messiah coming, and it will fall on the people of Israel to point out the Messiah when he comes.
The nation of Israel is given this privilege and this promise and this responsibility and this position, being set apart and holy, a covenant made between God and them, for them to act like a mirror.
For them to be a little mini Eden in the, in between time between when God had turned them out of the garden of Eden to the time that God would send the savior. And so Israel becomes the place in which God communes with humanity. There is the temple, there’s the holy of Holies and God has to set up all the requirements because he cannot commune with them in the same way he did in Eden because of all the sin because the sin that had broken that communion. And so these things they had to put into place and they got the privilege, they had the privilege of doing it. They had the, the intimacy of being his people set apart from the rest of the nations to be a sign of his covenant.
So I look at this and think, oh my gosh, like, well, it was a great privilege that Israel had, it was also a great responsibility, right? They were living in this time where they had access to the Creator God, they had a responsibility to be a mirror to the nations around them of God’s glory and God’s goodness and God’s faithfulness, but it was still fractured in it still wasn’t complete.
And it was a lot of work. It was a lot of struggle and striving. It did not save them. That was always God’s grace. God’s compassion. Their work, it didn’t make it happen because they could never meet the full extent of what the law required of them. We find that in James 2:10 “for whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble one point, he is guilty of all of it.”
So there was never a moment that Israel truly, truly, truly, truly kept the law perfectly, sinless. And that was the point. But that’s not what saved them. They’re striving to keep the law and their failure to do so never saved them. It was always the work of Jesus. It was always the grace of God. It was always God meeting us where we could not, you know, the gap filling in the gap for us. It has always been that. And so I say that to emphasize the fact that keeping or observing the Sabbath is not essential to our faith. It never was. It never was.
So we, we see this in scripture, we see that our salvation is not dependent on our observing or not observing Sabbath. Now to answer the question, if we engage in Sabbath, are we being legalistic?
I see Sabbath as a much bigger, much more holistic picture than that. Sabbath is really the way in which we were supposed to live. Sabbath is a state of being, it is being fully immersed in the provision and faithfulness of God, you are not relying on yourself. You are communing with God, communing with others, and you are recognizing God’s faithfulness in that moment of Sabbathing.
I think Christians tend to think that Sabbath was given to the Israelites, but in fact, it existed before the Israelites were given the law. In chapter 15 of Exodus, we see the whole situation with manna being given to the Israelites. And even within that experience, God gives instructions to have a seventh day of no gathering, a seventh day of rest, a seventh day up where he was providing they were trusting that he would provide. So what is interesting about this is that the people didn’t obey, of course. They were trusting in their own provision and– okay, let’s not be too hard on them. They literally had just come out of slavery or they probably didn’t have enough food. And now they’re in the desert and they’re hungry and they, you know, I, I don’t blame them. I probably would’ve done the same thing, but God says to Moses after they, after they messed up and they went out on the seventh day to gather manna, God says to Moses, “how long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions?” this is in verse 29. “Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath. That is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone has to stay where they are on the seventh day. No one has to go out. So the people rested on the seventh day.” It is a gift that he gave them.
God did not just take them out of Egypt. God did not just deliver them from the Egyptian. God gave them rest, provision, faithfulness, communion. God return them to an Eden like status. It was a gift. That’s why I say it was a huge responsibility that they got, the great privilege that they got. They were given a gift, but note, this has happened before the law have given.
And this is why I think that Sabbath is included in the 10 commandments. If you look at the 10 commandments, you see the first three, many people know this, but when we look at the, kind of the structure of the 10 commandments, the first three are talking about our relationship with God. And then the next, um, you have the fourth commandment, which is about the Sabbath. And then the remaining ones are about our relationship of others. And I see the fourth commandment as the hinge commandment, the commandment on which everything hinges, because it’s about both our relationship with God and our relationship with others, because it’s talking about resting as a whole, as humanity, in this case as Israel.
But when we’re talking about these, these laws, you know, these 10 commands, It’s summarizing everything that God hopes and wants from us. Right? And it doesn’t change just because we’re not a part of Israel. God hopes and wants for us a life that is in right relationship with him and right relationship with others. We see this in the New Testament, jesus says, this is sums up the laws and the prophets to love God and love your neighbor. That’s what God desires for us. He wants us in that Eden like status again.
All right. Now, bringing it back to the question of, if we observe Sabbath, are we becoming legalistic?
That has to be a question you answer for yourself. Are you being legalistic if you observe Sabbath? If you are expecting your observance of Sabbath to save you from your sins, then yes, you’re being legalistic. Is observing Sabbath with this full picture that Jesus Christ is our, is our Sabbath rest, that Jesus Christ died and was raised from the dead and has begun the redemption process of the world, if you observe Sabbath with that in mind, the no, no, you’re not being legalistic!
You are engaging in a practice that points us back to an Eden-like state. It points us back to this resting in God’s provision. This non-striving. If anything, Sabbath reminds us of our salvation. If anything, Sabbath reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith. If not anything we do is not by our works. We can’t strive our way into heaven. And Sabbath reminds us of that. It reminds us that we have to put down our tools once a week and live in the being that God has made us to be, that we have to live in the creation that he set us into, that we have to live in right relationship with him and with others.
And if we think that that’s legalistic, oh my gosh, what is wrong with us? Honestly, I would probably say that reading your Bible, like the expectation, read your Bible, pray every day, that is more legalistic then observing Sabbath. Now to clarify, I don’t think any of them are legalistic. My point here is that we can get sometimes get so caught up in a to-do list, reading our Bible, doing the Bible study, serving in our churches, you know, uh, all the things that we can get caught up in doing as Christians, we can get so caught up in that, and we don’t see any of that as legalistic. But yet for some reason, this beautiful picture, this beautiful practice of weekly submitting our work and our productivity to God, tithing our time in a way that is releasing our expectation for our striving, like, we see that as legalistic? I don’t think so.
Okay. Why don’t we pause right here and pick this up again next week. There’s a lot more that we need to dive into to answer the question wasn’t Sabbath given just to the Jews and so we don’t need to practice it anymore? And the question of, should we practice it? Like, is this like, we’re missing a key component of our Christian faith? And this is really supposed to be a part of our faith, just like communion and just like going to church is? Reading the scripture, studying, all those things that we typically consider part of our Christian faith, should Sabbath be considered a part of our Christian faith as well? Actually, the answer to those two questions are pretty much tied up together. And so next week podcast, I think I’m going to dive into that, into that answer.
But I hope that today’s conversation has given you a little bit more of a big picture understanding of Sabbath and the rest that God offers us. That it’s not just this legalistic thing that the Israelites were tasked with, and entrusted with to steward, it’s actually part of creation and God dwelling with humanity. Sabbath is a real key component of that. When we understand Sabbath and this bigger picture and this more holistic picture, in this picture that christ fulfilling, and redeeming, and making right, that Eden-like state of being in communion with God, uh, we can start to see that having that weekly rhythm in our weeks points us back, reminds us of, and helps us live more fully into our state of being saved by grace through faith.
And on that note. I am going to leave you with the question for you to ponder this week. And my question is this:
Have you truly embraced your Sabbath identity of being saved by grace through faith?
Have you truly put your trust and hope into the provision of God not your own striving?
Or are you still trying to work your way into God’s favor?
I’ll see you next time. Bye.
Hey, I just want to say thank you for joining me for today’s conversation. I know many things demand your attention. I don’t take lightly the privilege it is to share your time. I want to make things as easy and simple for you. So I’ve linked to all the resources mentioned in the episode in the show notes, and you can always find the link and more helpful information on my website, www.rachelfahrenbach.com.
As we say our goodbyes, let me remind you that what we’re talking about in this podcast is not just another thing to add to your to-do list. This is not another expectation for you to live up to. It is a gift out stretched from the hand of your creator. An invitation to press pause on walking alongside Jesus in all the things He’s called you to do. And instead the down, across from Him and just be with Him.
It is an invitation to Simply Sabbath.
BibleProject – Seventh Day Series
A Brief History of Sunday: From New Testament to New Creation by Justo Gonzalez
The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
Bible Verses Referenced
Exodus 16 (I erroneously reference this as Exodus 15 in the episode)
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help busy moms add a simple, rest-filled family Sabbath to their week. If that sounds like something you want for your week, but don’t know where to start, grab this free how-to resource: The Busy Mom’s Guide to a Simple Family Sabbath.