Sabbath for Believers in Yeshua

How does someone keep the Sabbath? We know it is important – it’s one of the big ten. We are instructed to “remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 12:8) and to “observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12). And out of those ten, it is the one repeated most in all of the Torah. So how do we keep this commandment? What should we do?

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(Exodus 20:8-11)

Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
(Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

The primary purpose of remembering and observing is clearly stated right there in the first line each time: “to keep it holy.” The Sabbath day is to be holy, set apart for a divine purpose, different from all other days. The opposite of holy isn’t profane, it is just common. The first six days of the week are common; the seventh is special. So again, what should we do?

First Sabbath

The first mention of Sabbath in the Bible is when God gave manna in the wilderness.

Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a Sabbath observance, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.”
(Exodus 16:22-23)

It might be surprising that Sabbath is never mentioned at creation or anywhere in Genesis. While Genesis 2:2-3 does say that God rested on the seventh day and that he blessed and sanctified it, there is no command given for anyone to observe it. There is no indication anywhere before the exodus from Egypt that anyone kept the Sabbath or was instructed to do so.

The Sabbath is cyclical, always described as the seventh day of the week. It is never described as any other day (such as the eighth or fourteenth day). Annual celebrations are given calendar dates and are determined by the moon (month). The Sabbath is not determined by the moon and is not assigned a calendar date.

We do not need to attempt to calculate back to creation or to the exodus to figure out which day of the week is the seventh day. We need only go back as far as Yeshua, because he would have observed Sabbath on the correct day. Scripture gives no indication he ever challenged the day the rest of the community observed Sabbath, and we know that the Jewish people have kept a consistent cycle since that time. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week and is never defined as the first day of the week.

But I’m Not Jewish

Neither am I. And, neither is the Sabbath. The prophet Isaiah tells us God himself said the Sabbath is for all who follow Him, including foreigners (Isaiah was, of course, Jewish).

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the Sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.
The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
(Isaiah 56:6-8)

Paul observed that the Jewish people were entrusted with the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2) and yet God makes no distinction between Jew and non-Jew. The Sabbath, along with the rest of the Torah instructions, are for all who follow the God of Israel.

The Biblical Way to Observe Sabbath

That’s pretty simple – do nothing. Actual instruction as to observing Sabbath is only in the Torah (with the possible exception of a summary in Isaiah 58). Of the ten times instructions are given, seven say to do no work (Exodus 20, 23, 31, 34, 35, Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 5) . One (Exodus 16) says not to gather and prepare food – OK, that’s work – and two are only for the priests (Leviticus 24, Numbers 28). Leviticus 23:3 adds the instruction to convene.

So, the only directive for the people is do not work (8 times) and convene (1 time). That’s all. Anything else is tradition, and tradition isn’t bad. We just need to recognize it as tradition.

Outside of the Torah, Scripture describes people observing or not observing the Sabbath. Isaiah (again prophesying direct words from God) says this:

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable,
And honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure
And speaking your own word,
Then you will take delight in the LORD,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
(Isaiah 58:13-14)

Sabbath is to be different from all other days of the week. Rather than pursuing our own desires, we are to delight (ענג oneg, Strong’s H6027) in honoring Yah on this day.

In Yeshua’s day, religious leaders were focused on the negative – on what not to do on the Sabbath. Yeshua focused on the positive. We should follow his example.

Traditional Jewish Observance

In the traditional Jewish home, Sabbath begins on Friday with the evening meal.

Two candlesticks are set on the table, or in another prominent place. They symbolize the two-fold commandment to remember and sanctify. These candles are lit, according to rabbinic interpretation, eighteen minutes before sunset so that the act itself will not be considered work on the Sabbath. Hebrew blessings are normally said by the woman of the house, though anyone may perform this duty. With a scarf covering her head, the woman lights the candles. She then circles her arms around in a motion as if to draw in the warmth of the light. (Kasdan in God’s Appointed Times)

This is followed with kiddush, the blessing over the wine and challah bread, a blessing spoken over the children in the home, and the eating of the Sabbath evening meal.

Corporate worship services are held in Synagogues on Saturday morning.

The typical service, while having flexibility, has followed the same basic structure since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8). There are opening praise psalms and hymns largely based on the Book of Psalms, along with later rabbinic readings. This is followed by the public reading/chanting from the scrolls of the Torah (Law) and the Haftarah (Prophets). These readings are based on an annual or triennial cycle of selected passages. A third major section is a sermon on the passage for that week. (Kasdan)

The Sabbath day concludes with havdalah, from the Hebrew word l’havdil meaning “to separate.” There are variations to this practice of ending Sabbath and separating it from the week to come. There are three primary traditions. First, a goblet on a saucer is filled with wine to overflowing. Wine in the goblet is sipped by all present as a reminder of the sweet Sabbath. Next, a small box of assorted spices is passed around for everyone to smell, again a reminder of the lingering pleasantness of Shabbat. Finally, a special havdalah candle is lit and its light enjoyed for a moment before extinguishing it in the overflow of wine in the saucer signifying that the Sabbath has ended. Appropriate blessings are recited for each step.

Messianic Observance

Nothing in the New Testament has changed anything regarding God’s initial instructions for observing the Sabbath. It is still the seventh day of the week, and we are still to rest and refrain from any work. Though offerings and duties of priests are currently unable to be performed, we should to the extent possible meet together. Yeshua and some of the early disciples read scripture and taught in the Synagogue on the Sabbath.

Some Messianic families and congregations keep many of the Jewish traditions, including the Friday evening erev shabbat meal and Sabbath gathering for worship including Hebrew blessings or liturgy. If you are unable to find a local congregation, you can probably find services streaming online.

Many people meet with other families in their homes on the Sabbath. These informal gatherings usually include singing songs together, prayer and Bible study discussions, and of course, food. It is important for us to fellowship with each other and to encourage each other in this walk.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:23-25)

Sabbath Blessings

Lighting the Sabbath Candles

בׇּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֺלָם
אֲשֶׁר הַצְדָקֵנוּ עַל יְדֵי אֱמוּנָה בְּיֵשּׁוּעַ הַמָּשִּׁיחַ אוֺר הַעוֺלָם
וּבִשְּמוֺ אָנוּ מָדְלִיקִם הָנֵר שּׁל שַּבָּת

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam
Asher hatzdakeinu al y’dey emunah b’Yeshua hamashiach or ha-olam
u’v’shemo anu madlikim haner shel shabbat

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe
Who has justified us through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, the Light of the world
and in his name we kindle the Sabbath lights.

Blessing Over the Wine

בׇּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
בּוֺרֵא פּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
bo’re p’ri ha’gafen

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Blessing Over the Bread

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
הַמּוֺצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz

Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

Blessing of the Messiah

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ הַדֶרֶךְ לְיְשׁוּעָה
בַּמָּשִׁיחַ יֵשׁוּעַ אָמֵן

Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha-olam
Asher natan lanu ha-derekh l’y’shuah
ba’mashiach Yeshua amein

Blessed are You, O LORD
Our God, King of the universe
Who has given us the way of salvation
In Messiah Yeshua, amen.


This has been my go-to recipe for challah for many years. This will make two small or one large loaf.


1 pkg yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 stick melted butter (not margarine)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. honey
3 eggs
3+ cups flour (1 cup whole wheat plus 2 cups white)


Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4-cup warm water. Allow to foam.

Pour yeast mixture into large glass mixing bowl. Mix in all other ingredients except flour. Add flour slowly until desired consistency is reached. Increase flour by small amounts until dough is not sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes – good time to pray for others. Allow dough to rise for one hour, then punch it down.

Separate into three sections. Stretch, roll and braid. Allow to rise in oven for about one-half hour, then turn oven to 350 for about 20 to 30 minutes (watch carefully!). When top just begins to brown, brush with egg white or melted butter.

Additional Posts about Sabbath

A Simple Messianic Sabbath Liturgy
Starting a Home Fellowship
You Shall Not Kindle A Fire
Sabbath – Saturday or Sunday or Not At All?
Sabbath – First of the Feasts?

5 thoughts on “Sabbath for Believers in Yeshua”

  1. Hello,
    1) I disagree that God instructs us to convene on the Sabbath and believe “convocation” is a mistranslation in Leviticus 23:3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” (ESV)

    Yeshua started His ministry with a 40-day fast in the wilderness, during which there would’ve been 5 Sabbath days where He did not go to the synagogue. If we are commanded to assemble, then Yeshua sinned. Yet Yeshua is sinless, so it’s not disobedience to God’s law, or a sin, to NOT gather on the Sabbath.

    Strong’s Concordance interprets the Hebrew word “miqra” to mean “convocation” or “assembly,” but Strong’s is not meant to be a dictionary. It just shows how some translators chose to translate some words. Strong’s also interprets miqra as a proclamation, rehearsal or reading, and this would be a more proper and accurate definition for the Hebrew word miqra. There are several Hebrew words that mean “to assemble,” and yet none of those words are ever used when referring to the weekly Sabbath. Even today, the word miqra in Hebrew still literally means “that which is read or proclaimed.”

    119 Ministries has a video on the Hebrew root of holy convocation:

    2) With regard to following God’s Law, I disagree that tradition isn’t bad. Yeshua often challenged the “traditions of the elders,” such as properly washing hands before eating (Matthew 15:2). These “traditions” are part of the “Oral Law,” and Jesus characterized them as rules commanded by men (Matthew 15:9). Jesus affirmed the Mosaic Law, the Written Law (Matthew 5:17-19 NIV), and He never affirmed the Oral Law but challenged them.

    • Did Yeshua gather on the sabbath regularly? Yes. (Luke 4:12) Are we to imitate Him? Yes. Are we to forsake the gathering together as is the habit of some? No.

  2. Please explain Col 2:16? Seems sabbath was abolished with various other ‘traditions ‘ leading to Jesus.

    • Thanks for your comment; it is a pretty common one.

      Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
      (Colossians 2:16 ESV)

      The believers at Colossae likely would not previously have had the custom of keeping Sabbath or Biblical Festivals. Now they were, and Paul is simply instructing them not to allow others to pass judgment on them for the things God instructed that they were now doing.

      Your comment suggests Sabbath and these other observances were “‘traditions’ leading to Jesus.” They weren’t – they are commands. The entire context of the letter to the Colossians is the pre-eminence of Yeshua. In fact, this statement telling the believers not to fall under judgement for keeping Sabbath is followed by the observation that all of these things point directly to Yeshua. He is the substance of the Torah.

      For a more in-depth analysis of this and other New Testament passages, I recommend David Wilber’s book Remember The Sabbath: What The New Testament Says About Sabbath Observance For Christians.

  3. I would like to learn more about this subject. We have returned to the Sabbath worship instead of Sunday worship. Sometimes I feel like we are stumbling in the dark, but we want to follow Yeshua instead of the world.


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