What is the big deal about Shabbat? And why do Jews say this to each other every Friday afternoon?
Well, it is a big deal. God even told us in his Ten Commandments to honor the Sabbath. (Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.)
This is something that we struggle with in our Western Christian thinking, and it is something that we both miss the meaning of and miss the benefits of because as a society we do not honor it.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters shut down their work places and spend sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday in fellowship together and with the Lord. It is so amazing to be in Jerusalem on Shabbat when the streets literally empty for 24 hours and resume the hustle and bustle of life on Saturday evening. Everyone returns to their routines rested and happy, and ready to work. Let’s discuss the meaning of Shabbat and Shalom.
Shabbat in Hebrew literally means “ceasing” or “stopping.” This is the word that is always used for the seventh day, the day work ceases for the purpose of rest. Not only is this a time of rest, but a time for holy gatherings together.
Leviticus 23:3 says, “Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to rest in all your dwellings.”
We know the word Shalom as the word for peace in Hebrew. But the noun Shalom has the more literal meaning of “being in a state of wholeness with no deficiency.”
Therefore, when we put the two words together, Shabbat Shalom, the simple meaning is, “may your day of no work be peaceful.” But, if we dive deeper and look at the literal meaning, it really becomes, “may you become whole during your ceasing of laborious work,” or, “may your wholeness be restored as you cease work on the seventh day.”
This is fantastic, right? So why aren’t we doing this? God actually gave us a day that we should dedicate wholly to Him and to gathering together with our loved ones in His Name. Why do we miss this when it is such a gift?
Now hold on to your hat, because I just learned something that both helped me to understand just how special and important we are to our Creator God, and made me appreciate the Sabbath enough to want to keep it from now on. Ready?
Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth. The 1st Chapter of the Bible tells us how he created all things and then made man at sundown on the 6th day. He made everything in creation perfect BEFORE He made us. He made it for our pleasure because we are the apple of His eye, made in His own Image. Then, once everything else had been made, He formed man. And, He formed man just in time for His Day of rest! Man’s first day on earth was set apart for rest and communion with God. Our first day in existence was Shabbat, spent building our relationship with the One who made us.
I can hardly contain my excitement! We are special, and we were made to be in relationship with God.
We are free in Christ, so we are not bound by law. God does command us to keep the Sabbath and to keep it holy. However, our society does not collectively adhere to the Sabbath. The day of the week doesn’t really matter – what matters is that we unplug once a week and take our God-given gift of a day of rest.
Imagine how our relationships with God and with each other will deepen when we set aside 24 hours a week to rest together in His Presence.
May your wholeness be restored as you cease work one day a week to commune with the One who created you and gave you peace and rest!