Each person’s life reveals his beliefs — sometimes uncomfortably so... when what he does contradicts what he claims to believe. One outstanding belief that should affect people’s lives in a noticeable and outward way is Sabbath-keeping. Both Jews and an increasing number of Christians say that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath. And they know the seventh day has the common name of Saturday, not Sunday. Shouldn't Saturday be a much different day for them, given the Sabbath’s great importance in the Scriptures?
Sabbath-keeping results from believing that the fourth commandment on the Sabbath is still a command to be obeyed, just like honoring parents, not stealing, and the rest of the commandments. Further, it is a sign to be held up to the world of who God’s people are. Therefore, in the case of Sabbath-keeping, obeying and believing are the same thing.
Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” (Exodus 31:13)
Surely Jews and “Sabbath-keeping” Christians own many businesses, so you should see “Closed on Saturday” or “Closed on the Sabbath” signs everywhere. Even though it’s the best day for doing business and making money (since everyone takes this day off to go shopping, go out to eat, and have a good time), all those who honor their Creator rest on this day. Interestingly, according to the words of the commandment in Exodus 20, they give their servants (employees) rest, too. Yes, that is what the Word of God says quite clearly.1 Therefore, you can’t use hired hands to “work around” the prohibition of laboring on the Sabbath!
Look around. There aren’t many closed-on-the-Sabbath signs, are there? I’ve hardly seen any in my lifetime, let alone anything near the number of businesses that should be closed if “Sabbath-keepers” actually kept the Sabbath. Remember, real faith is revealed by one’s life — the deeds he does. Pretended faith needs no visible or tangible expression.
What of the virtually innumerable Christians2 who have an ancient tradition (at least 17 centuries old) that Sunday is the “Lord’s Day”? By this they mean that for Christians Sunday is the new Sabbath. For them, the first day of the week has replaced the seventh day as the holy, set-apart day. Then shouldn’t Christian businesses be closed on Sunday? Or maybe there is no rest for Christians, since the Savior did everything for them, including rest?
There have been times when businesses were closed by law in Christian nations.3 But what of grace — the desire and the power (from God) to do His will, to honor His day simply because you love Him? It seems, then, that most Christians and Jews share at least this one thing in common: business takes precedence over beliefs.
Or is the Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy only about which day to go to church (or synagogue or mosque)? After all, each religion has its day — the Jews have the Sabbath, the Muslims have Friday, and the Christians have the day of the Sun God (Sunday). And what does it matter if it’s just a religious observance, and not the sign of who God’s obedient people are?
On our businesses you will see a cheerful sign that says something like, “Closed for the Sabbath,” and right below it, the words, “Shabbat Shalom — Welcome.” Yes, our doors (and hearts) are open for guests and visitors on this most special of days, but we are resting. This is what believers do on the Sabbath: they close shop, come in from the field, and put their hammers down. They do so because He has given them rest from the relentless cares and worries of life that drive this world and all of its inhabitants. This is the salvation that comes to those who seek first His Kingdom:
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
This is possible for us just as it was for the first believers in the Book of Acts because we share all things in common.4 And our rest is based on and maintained by the forgiveness we’ve received and that we extend to one another. Apart from the active flow of forgiveness, just like the lifeblood of a human body, our rest, indeed our life together as a people, would end. We would find “better” things to do than celebrate the Sabbath.
So then, there remains a Sabbath-keeping5 for the people of God... (Hebrews 4:9)