Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom, and how the Sabbath has always been intended by God to be a benefit, not a burden, to those in his kingdom.
When he was confronted by religious leaders as to his interpretation of appropriate Sabbath activities, Yeshua replied with the following:
Mark 2:27 – Then he told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
In this simple statement, Yeshua was corroborating several things at once. Firstly, he validated the Sabbath as a viable concept within the eternal counsel of God, not as a mere temporary requirement. Secondly, he defined the Sabbath as being for all men, not as a practice just for Jews. And thirdly, the Sabbath has always been designed for the benefit of man, not for anxiously maintaining a detailed list of rules and regulations. As we examine this topic today, we’ll look at each of these ideas in turn as we explore how the Sabbath is involved with the Kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God has been designed by God to be not just an ideal to strive for, but to be a practical outworking of his desire for human behavior. God’s will is established and conducted through his Kingdom people.
In one scathing denunciation of the Jewish religious establishment, Yeshua told a parable of the owner of a vineyard kicking out the tenants who were not proper caretakers for him.
Matthew 21:43 – I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.
In this statement, we find that those within the Kingdom of God have a responsibility to produce fruit, that is, to act in accordance with the purpose and plan of the owner’s will for the vineyard.
In a similar confrontation on another occasion, Yeshua provides another indication that the Kingdom of God would be different than the Jews had been expecting.
Luke 13:28-29 – “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world–from east and west, north and south–to take their places in the Kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom was to be made up of all kinds of people from all over the world, not just Jews. And they would be individuals who were accomplishing God’s will which was to be exerted through his Kingdom.
Now in many places, I have stated that I believe the Ten Commandments provided to Israel at Sinai were the revelation of the “Kingdom Charter,” the principles that establish the baseline expectations that God has for all participants in his Kingdom. It was presented first to the nation of Israel (along with those who had chosen to leave Egypt with them), it became exemplified through the pinnacle of its outworking in the physical kingdom of David and Solomon, and then further fulfilled and brought to its ultimate fruition in the teaching of Messiah.
Israel’s faithfulness to the Kingdom principles would allow them to be the “light to the nations,” as prophesied by Isaiah.
Isaiah 42:6 – “I, Yahweh, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations.”
Isaiah 60:3 – “All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.”
However, if they were unfaithful, their place and their lamp would be removed.
Ezekiel 5:5-7, 11, 14-15 – “This is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: This is an illustration of what will happen to Jerusalem. I placed her at the center of the nations, but she has rebelled against my regulations and decrees and has been even more wicked than the surrounding nations. She has refused to obey the regulations and decrees I gave her to follow. “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: You people have behaved worse than your neighbors and have refused to obey my decrees and regulations. You have not even lived up to the standards of the nations around you. … “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Yahweh, I will cut you off completely. I will show you no pity at all because you have defiled my Temple with your vile images and detestable sins. … “So I will turn you into a ruin, a mockery in the eyes of the surrounding nations and to all who pass by. You will become an object of mockery and taunting and horror. You will be a warning to all the nations around you. They will see what happens when Yahweh punishes a nation in anger and rebukes it, says Yahweh.”
Of course, all of this came to pass as the physical nation of Israel fell first to the Assyrians, and then to the Babylonians. Then, hundreds of years later, as Yeshua is teaching about the good news or the gospel of the Kingdom that was at hand at that time, he flatly states that the Jews would also lose not only their physical kingdom, but the spiritual kingdom that God had intended for them all along.
Matthew 21:43 – “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.”
Yeshua came to teach them how to live out the principles of the Kingdom of God, and that those who received the truth of his message would inherit the Kingdom, and with it eternal life. This was corroborated by his disciples decades after Yeshua’s physical death and resurrection.
James 2:5 – “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?”
Additionally, those who would not inherit the Kingdom were also described, and warned.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people–none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”
So the kingdom has always been designed to be the earthly representation of God’s people who are faithful to his commands. And, through the example of the nation of Israel, God has demonstrated that he expects his people to abide by his commands.
As the commandments of God are expected by God to be observed by those who love and obey him, there is a specific command within the Ten Commandments wherein lies an aspect of the kingdom that is largely neglected among Christians today. God’s people have been instructed to remember the Sabbath and keep it set apart. It is a gift from him, a sacred memorial honoring the Creator (Yahweh), his provision, and his eternal purpose.
So let’s return to those three aspects of the Sabbath that were upheld by Yeshua in his discussions and debates with the religious leaders of his day.
Firstly, Yeshua validated the Sabbath as a viable concept within the eternal counsel of God, not only as a mere temporary requirement. Most people assume the Sabbath was instituted for Israel at Sinai. However, we find that the seventh day was actually set apart at Creation, as God demonstrated a practice of rest from his work of creating on that day.
Genesis 2:2-3 – “On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.”
From the very beginning of all things, God declared that this day was to be set apart as special. We also can see from the Torah record that God expected his people to observe the Sabbath even before the Ten Commandments were officially spoken from Sinai.
Exodus 16:23, 29 – He told them, “This is what Yahweh commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for Yahweh … They must realize that the Sabbath is Yahweh’s gift to you.”
Due to their captivity and slavery through their years in Egypt, the Israelites had lost the ability to do maintain their recognition of the seventh day as a day set apart to Yahweh. So this command was a reminder that the Israelites should have been keeping the Sabbath that had been set apart at Creation.
Secondly, in his debate with the religious leaders, Yeshua said “the Sabbath was made for man,” not just as an expected practice for Jews. This had to be the case, since God’s Kingdom was ultimately to include all men, not just Jews.
Isaiah 60:3 – “All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.”
Luke 13:29 – “And people will come from all over the world–from east and west, north and south–to take their places in the Kingdom of God.”
If the commands that were to guide the Kingdom were just for the Jews, then none of the rest of the Ten Commandments should apply as still being universal today. However, almost all believing denominations today accept that the Ten Commandments (minus the Sabbath) should still be practiced today. We still should love God, not worship idols, not bear his name for no purpose, honor our mothers and fathers, avoid killing others, not commit adultery, not steal, not lie, and not covet what others have. Why then do believers skip over the fourth commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it set apart?
The word Sabbath actually conveys more than just rest, but an intermission; the cycle of days is intentionally interrupted by something different, a unique day unlike the others. It is a day meant for Yahweh, but the rest we can experience is a gift from Yahweh to us. It is the unique day of mutual recognition; God observes it for our benefit and we observe it in his honor. As the Creator of everything that is, he instilled the desire for this day of mutual recognition right into our DNA and into the fabric of Creation itself when he personally exhibited its purpose at the very beginning of all things. If God participates in Sabbath, and if Yeshua and all of the early believers participated in the Sabbath, then it follows as Yeshua’s disciples and as those who are trying to learn from the early believers, we also should observe the Sabbath.
And finally, Yeshua identifies how the Sabbath has always been designed for the benefit of man, not for anxiously maintaining a detailed list of rules and regulations that might offend God. While an exhaustive list of restrictions can be produced by looking up all of the passages where the concept of the Sabbath is discussed in Scripture, out of context the individual things mentioned can total up to a guideline for legalism and judgment of others. This is what the day had become in the time of Yeshua, and he railed against the religious authorities for spending their time being the Sabbath police rather than enjoying the Sabbath for what it was intended to be: a day for the rejuvenation of every man, body and spirit combined.
The exhaustive list contains a host of practices like avoiding stocking firewood, laboriously building fires, and conducting sale and trade on the Sabbath. Yet, when viewed holistically, it becomes readily apparent that these things serve to illustrate how the Sabbath should interrupt our daily routines and remain unique. It is not a day for industry, or extensive cooking and food preparation, or for trade in the marketplace. Those all can take place on the remaining six days. Things on Sabbath are meant to be minimalistic in nature: simple foods prepared ahead of time, time spent with Yahweh in his Word and with like-minded individuals, bonding with immediate family and friends.
During each week as we look ahead to the seventh day, we should be considering what preparations may need to be made ahead of time to allow for a relaxing and focused Sabbath observance. This was and still is a common practice among Judaism to this day, with Fridays being considered “preparation day” before the Sabbath the next day. It is even mentioned in our New Testaments surrounding the events of the crucifixion of Yeshua, as preparation days were also practiced prior to the annual holy Sabbath days, like Passover, as well.
Mark 15:42 – “This all happened on the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath.”
Luke 23:54 – “This was done late afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.”
John 19:14, 42 – “It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!” … And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”
These preparation days were designed as ways of ensuring the “set-apartness” of the Sabbath would be thoughtfully maintained, not just a careless day of not doing anything.
So in conclusion of what we have reviewed today, Yeshua was very pointed in ensuring that the Sabbath day was to be employed for its intended purpose within the Kingdom of God’s people, not hijacked for the strict traditions of religious extremists. Seeing that the Jewish authorities had corrupted the purpose of the day into a long list of requirements and restrictions, Yeshua stated simply that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. The day was originally and solely intended to be a benefit, not a burden. The New Living Translation brings this out in its rendering of this verse:
Mark 2:27 – NLT – “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
Taking the whole of the Bible into consideration, it becomes apparent that God intended for the Sabbath to be recognized and practiced by all people, especially exemplified by those representing his Kingdom. As humans come to recognize and honor their Creator and the Kingdom of God expands, the Sabbath cycle instituted at the creation of all things can then continue to grow in influence and benefit, intentionally interrupting our daily routine and becoming the living mode of reconnecting with the Source of our true life.
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