I'm a Sabbath keeper. Does that sound strange? It does to countless people in the world today. The Sabbath (or a Sabbath) is seen to be archaic, primitive, and something that is no longer relevant in the modern world. Yet many people, even non-religious enjoy some type of Sabbath each week. A day off from work is what I have in my mind. Each time you get a day off from work, this constitutes (in some fashion) a Sabbath. Now, I believe that Sabbath keeping involves more than just a cessation from labor, but nevertheless the primary component of keeping the Sabbath is rest. After all, that is what the word literally means - rest.
One of the most frequent objections I receive from professing Bible believers concerning a devotion to the fourth commandment in Exodus 20 is that our rest is found in Christ. Jesus is now our Sabbath. I'm not really sure I've figured out what these people mean when they make these statements, because it often varies from person to person. I will say that the majority of the time, those who believe such are quick to quote this passage of Scripture, from the mouth of Christ himself:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)
"See," someone remarks to me, "Jesus said that He will give us rest, therefore we do not need to keep the Sabbath." Well, I definitely believe what the above Scripture says, but I've read it over and over and have yet to see where the Messiah says here (or anywhere else in Scripture) that the rest He gives us means we should no longer keep the Sabbath day. As a matter of fact, when we look into this text, examining one of the most important things there is to examine when looking at Scripture - CONTEXT - we should be able to see the following points:
(1) Yeshua made this statement living under the Old Covenant. No Bible believer will argue that a person didn't have to keep the Sabbath under the Old Covenant. If Yeshua was teaching an abolishing of the Sabbath here it would make him a minister of sin, seeing that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
(2) The Greek word translated as "rest" in Matthew 11:28 is anapauo. This word is never used in the New Testament in relation to the fourth commandment. It is translated rest 6 times, but is also translated as refreshed (3x), ease (1x), refresh (1x), and resteth (1x). Thus the Messiah was not saying that He would be our Sabbath in replacement of the fourth commandment, but that in some way He would give us rest from our heavy burdens.
(3) When we examine the text the Messiah was quoting we find that He had Yahweh's law in mind when He said, "Ye shall find rest for your souls." Most people do not even know that He was quoting Scripture here, and most people actually think that the rest He spoke of was freedom to break Yahweh's law. Jeremiah 6:16-19 states the following:
"Thus saith Yahweh, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it." (KJV)
Notice first that Yahweh mentions the old paths, the good way, and finding rest. Yet He also says His people will not hearken to this saying; they rather reject the law and words of Yahweh. This would have to mean that the law and words of Yahweh are the rest for the soul.
(4) When we examine this text and see the above 3 points we then can recognize that Yeshua was probably speaking of the Pharisaical traditions that were being bound on the Israelite people during His day. For instance, notice Yeshua refers to these traditions as being heavy in both Matthew 23 and Luke 11:
"Then spake Yeshua to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." (Matthew 23:1-4 KJV)
"Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." (Luke 11:45-46 KJV)
It is no coincidence that the word phortion (burden) is used in both Matthew 11:30 and Matthew 23:4. It is also no coincidence that the word phortizo (lade) is used in both Luke 11:46 and Matthew 11:28.
The Messiah wanted people to come and learn of Him because He truly taught what brings rest. He knew the words of the psalmist in Psalm 119:165 which say, "Great peace, have they who love Thy law." The law of Yahweh brings rest and ease, while traditions of men bring bondage and slavery.
I made a decision in my life as a husband and father to not allow the celebration of days stemming from pagan origin to go on in my home and family. This would include days that are truly nothing more than "baptized paganism" such as Christmas and Easter. These two festivals were never celebrated by the apostolic assembly according to the writings of the Messianic Scriptures. Any research on the origin of these holidays will yield a beginning that is much less than noble towards Yahweh. What has happened is that people have intermingled pagan practices with Scripture, and Yahweh does not approve of such.
"This is what Yahweh of Hosts says: Ask the priests for a ruling. If a man is carrying consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and with his fold touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does it become holy? The priests answered, "No." then Haggai asked, "If someone defiled by [contact with] a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled?" The priests answered, "It becomes defiled." Then Haggai replied, "So is this people, and so is this nation before me" - Yahweh's declaration. "And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled." (Haggai 2:11-14 HCSB)
Is such the case with Thanksgiving? To my knowledge the answer is a negative. I've not found any evidence that the American holiday known as Thanksgiving has any origins in pagan worship, that is, worship dedicated to false gods. I believe the festival simply commemorates a happening in the early stages of this country, similar to July 4th which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
This being said, a word of caution must be added. What I do not believe should be done is to subsitute Yahweh's commandmend festivals for man-made ones. There were festivals celebrated in Scripture that were not commanded by Yahweh such as Purim (Esther 8-9) and Hannukah (John 10:22). These festivals were celebrated in order to commemorate happenings in the nation of Israel. Israelite history so to speak. These festivals were never meant to be substitutes for Yahweh's commanded feasts in Leviticus 23, but only additional commemorations of important happenings.
I believe as long as we recognize this point in regards to Thanksgiving, we are keeping it in its proper perspective. What we should not do is "scrap" the Feast of Tabernacles - Yahweh's commanded harvest festival - and replace it with one not commanded in Scripture, Thanksgiving. However, so long as we celebrate what Yahweh has commanded, we are not forbidden to commemorate noble, non-pagan events in the history of our family or nation.
Sometimes I have encountered people who have used passages as this one in Hosea to teach that the feasts of Yahweh, mentioned primarily in Leviticus 23, should not be observed under the New Covenant. Usually this verse is quoted, and then it is explained that this was a prophecy which spoke of a future time when Yahweh would place an end to these celebrations. The future time given by such interpreters is the time after the cross of Christ.
Sometimes, I am really amazed at the quality of study, or should I say lack of quality, that people put into texts of Scripture. I do not think that the intent of the prophet Hosea here is that difficult to ascertain, that is, if we read Hosea 2:11 in context of at least chapters 1-3 and even more so in the context of the entire prophetic work.
Hosea 1:1 tells us that Hosea was given a word of Yahweh during the reigns of certain kings in Judah and Israel, and in reading chapter 1 we find that Israel is likened to a promiscuous woman.
When Yahweh first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him: Go and marry a promiscuous wife and [have] children of promiscuity, for the whole land has been promiscuous by abandoning Yahweh. (Hosea 1:2 HCSB)
Here Yahweh basically setting the seen for the house of Israel to actually, physically see what they are doing to Yahweh. Israel was Yahweh's symbolic bride at the time, but Yahweh was so fed up with her going after other lovers that he was going to divorce the house of Israel and send them off into captivity.
Notice Hosea chapter 2. Yahweh begins by saying that Israel is not His wife, and He is not her husband. He orders her to remove the whorish look from her face, and the adultery from between her breast. Here, Yahweh uses such graphic language to reveal the seriousness of the transgression of His people. He had promised and given to Israel many blessings, yet she played the harlot and sought after other gods, which in reality were no mighty ones.
...their mother is promiscuous; she conceived them shamefully. For she thought: I will go after my lovers, the men who give me my food and water, my wool and flax, my oil and drink. (Hosea 2:5 HCSB)
When we read verses 6-10 we find that because of the actions of His beloved bride Yahweh would send strong calamity and cursing. This includes blocking her way with thorns and enclosing her with a wall (vs. 6), and taking back the grain, new wine, and oil that He had blessed her with (vs. 9). He would also remove the fine wool and linen that covered her nakedness, leaving her naked, cold, and ashamed in the sight of her lovers (vs. 9-10). Among all these curses came yet another, and this was the removal of her celebrations which she had been blessed with and enjoyed so much: the feasts, new moons, and sabbaths (vs. 11).
Yahweh is telling Israel that because she has played the harlot, He will remove the good and pleasant things He has given, including the festivals she enjoyed. Yahweh's removal of these festivals was a curse upon the people, seeing that they did not deserve to celebrate them, enjoying the blessings of fellowship with brethren, singing to Yahweh, and time off from laboring.
Yahweh surely did this very thing by sending the house of Israel into Assyrian captivity, causing the festivals to cease in Israel. These same festivals ceased for the nation of Judah as well, whilst in Babylonian captivity, yet they were restored during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The true meaning of the text, in context, is that when Israel played the harlot, Yahweh took many things away from her which she once enjoyed. Grain, wine, oil, figs, jewels, wool, linen, beauty, and all the joyous festivals. All of these were precious gifts of her husband, but she left this husband, so He made her like a deserted, parched land (Hosea 2:3).
Nothing in the context leads to the conclusion that Yahweh has removed the feasts, new moons, and sabbaths from New Covenant worship.
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:15 KJV).
In reading Isaiah chapter one we see the house of Judah on trial in Yahweh's "court of law." Judah was in a terrible state. The Almighty had likened them to less than oxen (vs. 3), saying they were weighed down with iniquity (vs. 4). From the sole of the foot even to the head of the body, there was nothing uninjured (vs. 6). Considering all than went on in the days of the four kings mentioned in verse one (2 Kings 15-20; 2 Chronicles 26-32) we can see that Judah could be likened to nothing more than a lukewarm individual; one who serves Yahweh when it is convenient for him as a person, rather than serving Yahweh with his whole heart and mind.
In Isaiah 1:11-14 Yahweh expresses to His people that He is tired of their worship. Tired of their worship to Him. One may wonder why the Father would be "fed up" with having worship offered to Him, but once you recognize the form of worship given to Yahweh by the Judahites, the reason is readily seen. Yahweh does not desire for His people to live unrighteously, without Him in view, while away from the temple or tabernacle, and come and expect Him to overlook their lives because of the good sacrifice they bring. He instead asks us to live completely for Him in every sphere of life. Yahweh must be at the center of a person's life in all that they do. What was taking place in Judah and Jerusalem was that the Judahites were guilty of injustice, specifically in the area of the fatherless and the widows (1:17, 23). The people of Judah could not expect Yahweh to accept their sacrifices or special days of worship if they were going to continue to disobey His authority in other area's of their life.
It was for this reason that Yahweh summed up His rebuke of Judah by saying that even their prayers He would not hear. Here we have prayers given by Yahweh's chosen people, to Yahweh Himself, yet Yahweh would not hearken unto their prayers. This reminds me of Proverbs 28:9 where Scripture states that when a person turns away his ear from hearing the law, even His prayer shall be an abomination. The word abomination is extremely strong, and it is hard for me to fathom how a prayer to Yahweh could be described as such, yet it is clearly given this appelation in the Proverb. Yahweh wants prayer coming from a people who have heart-felt repentance. A person who genuinely, from the heart, desires to please the Father in all he does. But when an individuals hands are full or covered with blood (1:15) Yahweh turns away His strong right hand; not because it is to short to save, but because of the treason committed by such a person (Isaiah 59:1-3).
The awesome alternative of verse fifteen is that Yahweh is willing to forgive. Though our sins are as red as scarlet and crimson, He will make us white like snow and wool (1:18). Yahweh will forgive, but we must humble ourselves and seek Him with our entirety. We shouldn't just worship Him at the tabernacle, i.e. our local church. We should worship Him each and every single day.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.