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How should we keep God’s Sabbath?

Question: I have just discovered that, according to the Bible, the weekly Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. What should I do to “keep it holy” as we are commanded in Exodus 20:8?

Answer: Some mistakenly think of the Sabbath as a day when God oppresses us by forbidding us from doing what we want. But it is actually a time He created for our good, giving us relief from the week’s stress and the opportunity to focus our attention on the One who made that day and set it apart for His holy purpose. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27–28).

Why do we keep the Sabbath? To obey one of the Ten Commandments, which God gave and Jesus Christ Himself observed and taught His followers to observe (Matthew 19:17). The Fourth Commandment reads:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8–11).

To keep each Sabbath holy, we turn away from our labor and from activities that draw our attention away from God and His plan for us. This frees our time to read Scripture, pray, and meditate on the things of God. On the Sabbath, we are to focus on worshiping God and learning about Him. Those who live within a manageable traveling distance of a group of true Christian believers should come together in worship and fellowship unless their health makes it unwise or impossible. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day [of Christ’s return] approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25).

Jesus explained that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12). A person who saves an endangered life on the Sabbath is not violating God’s law; Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath, for which the Pharisees plotted to destroy Him (vv. 13–14). However, Christians must examine themselves to be sure they are not misusing Jesus Christ’s command. It is proper for a Christian to save a life on the Sabbath, but it is not proper to earn money on the Sabbath by doing one’s regular business with the excuse of “helping” people.

When we keep God’s true seventh-day Sabbath properly, He blesses us richly. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (Isaiah 58:13–14).

God’s Sabbaths are a time of joy and of physical and spiritual refreshing. “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast” (Psalm 42:4).

To learn more about the meaning and observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, you can request free copies of our booklets Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? and The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan or read them online at TomorrowsWorld.org.

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