Celebrating the Sabbath – 7 Old Testament Principles

Its Sunday! For most of us that means its our Sabbath. It’s the day when we go to church, eat lunch, and be lazy — because that’s the way God intended it. Right? Well not really.

If you do a quick word study on the word “Sabbath” in the Old Testament certain principles emerge which can help us formulate a robust theology of the Sabbath. Thankfully you and I don’t have to do the word study ourselves. Aida Beacon Spencer has done it for us in her paper Seven Principles for the Seventh Day.

This Sunday we will take a look at what she finds in the Old Testament. Next Sunday we will take a look at the New Testament.

  1. Finish Work (Genesis 2:2) – When God works he finishes work. On the 7th day of creation God rests because he has finished his good work.
  2. Rest (Exodus 20:9-11) –  God’s rest becomes a model for all human beings. Hebrews, Gentiles, men women, employers, employees, animals, and even the land are called to rest.
  3. Be Holy (Gen 2:3) – The 7th day is set apart, it is selected or set aside. It is made holy.
  4. Praise (Leviticus 23:2-44) ­– God’s rest isn’t idleness and neither is ours. The OT records the fact that praise and worship occurs on the Sabbath.
  5. Have Faith (Exodus 16:16-30) – While in the wilderness the Hebrews were taught to wait on bread on the 6th day and have faith that it would last two days. Sabbath is about having faith, its about having faith in god to provide for you, you express this faith by being willing to stop working for a day.
  6. Remember the Sign (Exodus 31:13-17) – Godly rest is a testimony or a sign of God’s having made the world in six days. It is also a sign or reminder of the covenant that the Israelites had made with God.
  7. Liberate (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) – The fiftieth-year Sabbath required liberation and offered hope for all. It was also a time for the Hebrews to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt but that they had now been liberated by God.

So this Sunday remember the fact that Christ has finished his saving work of the cross; rest in his finished work. Be Holy because Christ has purchased the Holy Spirit for you. Praise Christ for your salvation. Have faith in the fact that Christ’s work was enough. Remember Christ’s atoning work through the Eucharist. Celebrate the fact that Christ has liberated you from the power of sin, death, and Satan.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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