The Pattern of Shabbat

Genesis 1-2
Exodus 31.12-17, 35.1-3
Hebrews 4.8-10

One of the most controversial subjects within the body of Messiah is Shabbat. Those who worship on Sunday are prone to be suspicious of those of us who keep Shabbat, asserting that all of that has been done away with in the coming of Y'shua. They further state that He is now our sabbath rest and that the seventh day is no longer special. As with most things, they are both right and wrong.

In Genesis we find that Shabbat predates the Torah given by Moses. It is something that God established after the creation. So before the creation ('before' is somewhat awkward since time itself is a created thing), God is at 'rest' and after creation He is at rest. In a sense then, Shabbat represents the presence of God outside of His creation. Said another way, before creation is Shabbat and after creation is Shabbat.

God at 'rest' > Creation < Shabbat

Now consider the commands to keep Shabbat given to Israel at the end of Exodus 31 and at the beginning of Exodus 35. Between those two markers we find the sin of the Golden Calf. Recognizing that the Golden Calf was an unauthorized attempt by Israel to draw God down to earth, we begin to see a pattern.

God via Moses > Shabbat | Golden Calf | Shabbat < Tabernacle

So Shabbat seals off man's sinful attempt to bring God into the camp. It also marks the beginning of the construction of the Tabernacle and the proper presence of God in the camp of Israel. In other words, Shabbat is associated first with the creation and later with the presence of God among His people within that creation.

Keeping this pattern in mind, consider the life of Y'shua. If we believe that Y'shua was 'God with us', some of the things He did take on a subtly different flavor in light of the pattern of Shabbat. He was at odds with the religious establishment over many things, but most often their disagreements arose around issues concerning Shabbat. This makes sense when we see Shabbat as a marker of God's presence with His people within His creation.

Looking on the Messiah in this light, we see that He and the Spirit of God inaugurate Shabbat among the people of God. In other words, the coming of the Holy Spirit marks the continuous presence of God within His creation and among His people. Hence the Hebrews passage about entering into His rest.

Having said that, the need to work for our bread has not gone away. There is still sowing and reaping to be done and there is still physical rest to be taken. There the pattern established by God at the creation and restated at Sinai has not changed. During the time God was in the camp of Israel, He insisted that the children of Israel keep Shabbat.

As at the time when Y'shua walked the earth, the religious establishment is still at odds with Him over Shabbat.