The Bible Project, known for bringing the Bible to life with short-form, fully animated Bible videos, has launched a new podcast series on the Biblical theme of Sabbath, or seventh-day rest. The series, which will soon become another digestible, visually artistic and theologically rich Bible video, explores a number of surprising themes about Sabbath and what it means for us today.
Take a look at these five truths about the Sabbath that you probably didn’t know:
1. The word Sabbath means ‘stop’
The word doesn’t mean “rest.” Instead, it’s a command to stop what you’re doing and remember God’s faithfulness. God could have used another Hebrew word for rest if He merely wanted to communicate laying down all day. But lounging and vegging on Netflix is not the point of the Sabbath. Neither is the Sabbath about going to church. While both rest and church attendance are important, the point of the Sabbath is to cease from working and interrupt your daily rhythm to take time to remember that God, rather than your job or paycheck, is your ultimate provider.
2. The Sabbath was supposed to be permanent
In Genesis chapter one, a repeated refrain closes the first six days: “And there was evening and morning…” However, at the end of the seventh day, that refrain is not repeated. You could say the sun never sets on day seven. Some scholars believe God’s intention was for us to live in that state of rest, not just for a day, but forever. However, Adam and Eve rejected that state of rest when they sinned. The message of the gospel is that one day Jesus will return and give us final enduring rest.
3. The Sabbath was a response to slavery
Genesis was written by Moses to the Jews right after they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. So one of the very first things they hear in the first chapter of Genesis is that even God takes a break from working. This would have been a foreign concept to former slaves who never had a day off. While Israel’s Old Testament laws didn’t disband slavery altogether, they did protect slaves much more than the rest of the ancient world. Jews who had slaves were required to allow them to participate in Sabbath every week, which would have been unheard of at that time.
4. The Sabbath was not just for people
Scripture extends the invitation of Sabbath rest, not only to slaves, but even to livestock (Exodus 20:10) and farmland (Exodus 23:10-11). Rest was designed by God to be enjoyed by everyone and everything.
5. The Sabbath is a time to fight injustice
God has called His people to bring rest and relief everywhere we go. One of the primary reasons He implemented the Sabbath year of rest for the land was to “let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat…” (Exodus 23:10-11). It was a call to fight injustice by bringing rest and relief to the helpless and hopeless.
Jesus did this as well, and the Pharisees hated Him for it. One of their most frequent complaints was that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. They considered this to be work—which was illegal on the Sabbath. In Mark chapter 3, Jesus saw a man walk into the temple with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He overheard the Pharisees whispering to one another about whether or not He would break Sabbath law and heal the man. Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
Jesus fought injustice by bringing the spirit of Sabbath rest to everyone He met, and He calls us to do the same.