In the beginning God created daily, weekly and seasonal cycles of rest and blessing for us. The daily cycle begins at sunset when according to Scripture we start our day by resting (Genesis 1:5 “…the evening and the morning were the first day.”) Although it is counter to our western lifestyle, we can begin our “day” by entering God’s rest as we trust Him to work on our behalf through the night as we sleep. Upon arising in the morning, we ask God how we can partner with Him in what He has already been doing on our behalf all night long. Most of us rush into our day preoccupied with what we have to accomplish, however, viewing it from this perspective can help us reorder our day.
God created the weekly cycle (resting on the seventh day) as a blessing for man. While not meant to be a legalistic burden, we can learn much from the Jewish observance of Sabbath. The Jews believed the Sabbath was like receiving an honored guest or a bride. It was a joy to prepare the home and special meal in anticipation of this wondrous event. Before sunset as the family gathered, often including friends, the wife or eldest woman would light two candles (representing the two times the commandment was given to remember/keep the Sabbath – Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12) and say the Sabbath blessing. Messianic Jews use one or both of the following blessings:
“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us to be a light to the nations and Who gave to us Jesus our Messiah the Light of the world.
“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, who has given to us holidays, customs, and seasons of happiness, for the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Light of the world.”
Then the father would bless the children (see blog “Blessing our Children”) and then his wife by reading over her Proverbs 31:10-31.
Next came the cup of wine or grape juice similar to our communion as we recall with thanksgiving our redemption through Jesus. “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living…. What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:7-9, 12-13).
The blessing on the bread came next. Typically two loaves would be used representing the double portion of manna that fell on the Sabbath signifying that those who keep the Sabbath would not lose out but receive a double portion even though giving up time from “work.”
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”
A meal followed as family and friends shared fellowship together. While we usually begin a meal saying “grace”, Jewish families ended theirs with one:
“Blessed are you, LORD our God, Master of the universe, Who nourishes the whole world in goodness, with grace, kindness, and compassion. He gives bread to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. And through His great goodness we have never lacked, nor will we lack food forever, for the sake of His great Name. For He is God, who nourishes and sustains all, and does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures which He created. Blessed are You, LORD, who nourishes all. Amen.”
The day would be spent in joyous celebration with family as well as studying the Torah and relaxing. At sunset Saturday another ceremony was often held indicating the close of the Sabbath and the beginning of a new week.
As Christians, God intends for us to enter His rest through Jesus Messiah. Does this mean we have to worship corporately on Saturday? No. Any day is appropriate to gather in worship or teaching (Romans 14:5,6) However, we can still honor the Sabbath day as Jesus did by fellowshipping, resting and blessing others. How would it impact our families if we took communion regularly together and blessed each other? How would our physical bodies benefit if we slowed down and took extended time to meditate, pray and fellowship with others one day a week? Consider entering into the blessing of the Sabbath day. For more information check out www.hebrew4christians.com.