and you shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:15
Sabbath – God’s command concerning the sabbath has some entirely unique features. We find them buried in the very word itself. The Hebrew word is shabbath. The first thing we notice is the doubled middle consonant (bb). When a consonant is doubled like this, it’s like putting an exclamation point in the middle of the word. It’s like saying, “Pay attention. This is important.” There is something special about this word – and what it means.
The second thing we notice is that this is the only day with a name. If you look at the Genesis creation story, you see that all the rest of the days are simply numbered. Day 1, day 2, day 3 and so forth, until we come to shabbath. Once again, something important!
Then we notice that shabbath comes from a root word shavath, a verb that means, “ to rest, to get rid of, to still and to put away.” Remember that Hebrew is an action language, deriving its nouns from the verbs. The very idea of a day of rest is about activity, not sitting around doing nothing. Maybe this helps us understand that odd phrase in Hebrews 4:11 about working to enter into rest.
Finally, we need a little cultural linguistics. No other ancient Semitic culture or language has a designation for a sabbath day. In fact, none of these ancient cultures even have time calculated in terms of a week (a seven-day cycle). When God established the seventh day, He created something entirely unique. The way that He viewed the relationship between work and rest was exclusively His.
These facts offer another deep insight into the theology of the sabbath. First, it belongs entirely to God. He created it. He named it. He exclaimed it. Second, since it belongs entirely to God, our participation in it underlines our dependence on Him. It is God’s day, but He asks us to enter into it. It is His gift to us, a continual reminder of our need for Him. Finally, it is restful action. This is not a day of lethargy. It is a day of celebration, and parties are active events. It is a shift away from the days of working out stewardship over creation. It is a day of lifting up the glory of the God Who made all of it, redeems all of it and enjoys all of it.
Is it any wonder that the sabbath is held in such high regard? Makes you question why we don’t worship on the sabbath, doesn’t it? (By the way, church on Sunday has nothing to do with the resurrection. Thank you, Emperor Constantine.)