Benefits of the Sabbath                                                                Study No. 239


When you search for a job, you look for a company with attractive compensation and benefits.  In fact, in some cases, the benefits may be even more important to an employee than the salary they receive.  Employees are interested in company-paid pension or retirement plans, medical insurance, as well as paid vacation and sick days.  In the United States, company-paid employee benefit costs are typically 30-40% of salaries.

It is surprising that some employees do not avail themselves of company-paid benefits.  For example, a relative of mine has a good job for a stable company, yet he does not participate in the company’s 401(k) retirement plan, foregoing the company match of tax-free contributions to his retirement savings account.

The Sabbath has more valuable benefits than any employer can provide.  However, most of the world does not participate in the Sabbath Benefit Plan.  They opt out of the best benefits in the universe.  Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man,” Mark 2:27.  Or, in other words, “The Sabbath was made for the benefit of man.”  Let us examine some of the many benefits of the Sabbath, and see how we can fully participate.

The Sabbath is a family day, a day of joy, a meeting with God, a day of equality, a day of freedom, a day of remembrance, a “palace in time,” a service day, and even, if you understand it correctly, a day of work.


Family Day


The daily grind causes us to rush to get the kids off to school in the morning, get to work through rush-hour traffic, work a hard day, return in rush-hour traffic, rush to shop and prepare meals, and often rush to a game or school activity in the evening.  We meet our family members in passing, and quickly conduct the necessary business of family affairs during the week.

The Sabbath ends all rush hours.  It allows us to take quality time with our loved ones.  Our sons and our daughters are to keep the Sabbath with us, Exodus 20:10.  On Sabbath, the family takes time to get to know each other, to eat together, to talk and engage in quality activities together, such as listening to fine music, enjoying the creation, a light game, visiting friends, family Bible Study, attending Sabbath Services together, etc.

Members of the Mormon Church (Latter Day Saints) understand the necessity for regular family activities.  They designate one night a week as “Family night” when the whole family takes time to do spiritual and physical activities together.  We need to fol­low their fine example, especially during the time God has designated as Family Day.

Even some Sabbath-keepers do not fully participate in Family Day benefits.  They load up poor mother with extra work on the Sabbath.  I make it an extra point to help my wife Shirley clear the dishes off the table on Sabbath, and do other things to lighten her burden on the Sabbath, so that she can fully enjoy the blessings of Family Day.

You don’t have any immediate family?  As a Sabbath-keeper, you have an extended family of brethren.  Take time to be with them, and enjoy their company.


Day of Joy


Happiness is a state of mind.  One of the shortcomings of our modern society is that we are too rushed to appreciate the good things that we have.  On Sabbath, we take time to enjoy our family, ourselves, our Creator and His Creation, our accomplishments, good food, fine music, and other simple, yet sublime, pleasures of life.  On the Sabbath, even food tastes better.  My friend, Dr. Samuele Bacchi­occhi, is a native of Italy.  He enjoys spaghetti with special sauce.  Authen­tic Italian sauce takes much time to prepare.  It adds zest to the pasta.  Dr. Sam says that the Sabbath is like this sauce: it adds zest to life.  The Sabbath takes the ordinary aspects of life and adds spice to them!

When we walk through a park or on a country road with loved ones on the Sabbath, we stop to appreciate the fresh air, hills and trees, the birds and wildlife, and feel closer to the Creator who made these beauti­ful things.  The grass is greener on the Sabbath!

On a special weekend, we went camping in the Big Horn Mountains, to my favorite place high upon a mountain meadow, a wilderness place where you can see God.  On Sabbath morning, I got up early and kneeled on a rocky crag to pray.  As I was praying, a female deer sauntered along the mountain trail right next to me.  She did not hear or see me until she was only a few feet from me.  Then, her eyes met mine, and, startled, she paused for a moment of curiosity, then bolted down the trail.  As the sun rose, the cathedral-like mountains were bathed in red-orange light.  God’s presence was so eminent you could practically taste and feel Him.  Every Sabbath is like being in God’s Country!

One of my favorite joys of the Sabbath is that I have more time to listen to what God says.  Many times on a Friday evening, after a hard week’s work, after a great meal and family activities, after the rest of the family is in bed, I return to my study to receive from God a “second wind.”  I am no longer tired; I am refreshed, lifted up on eagle’s wings.  As I study the Bible, new truths are opened before me.  This Sabbath joy is unspeakable, a deep knowledge of the reality and awesome power of the Almighty.


Meeting with God


Yes, the greatest joy is our weekly divine meeting with God.  The Sabbath is a holy convocation, a feast (Hebrew: mo’ed, “divine appointment”), Leviticus 23:2-3.  My den­tist’s receptionist calls me the day before a checkup, to remind me of my dental appoint­ment.  It is easy for me to forget, even with a reminder!  However, there are so many benefits of the Sabbath, that in thirty-five years of Sabbath-keeping, even old forgetful me has never forgotten this divine appoint­ment with God!  It is too good to pass up.

I have met John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, and perhaps a few other famous people, but meeting our awesome God on His Sabbath day, tops everything!  The Psalmist expresses this well, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” Psalm 16:11.

The famous Patrick of Ireland was a Sabbath-keeper.  His biographer, Muirchu, said that “The angel was want to come to him [Patrick] on every seventh day of the week,” and further, “Patrick as a man who was visited by . . . God every seventh day” (see Leslie Hardinge, The Celtic Church in Britain, pp. 78-79).  God visits us every Sabbath day!


Day of Equality


Ostensibly, Communists want to establish an egalitarian society, where everyone is economically equal.  After a seventy-year experi­ment, the utter failure of Communism should be apparent to all.  In Communism’s heyday, elite Communist bosses lived like kings, while the working class people toiled in poverty.  There was no equality there.

In America, unless you are exposed to inner city ghettos or Appalachian backwoods poverty, you might not notice great inequities of wealth.  But, go to a developing country like India, Indonesia, Mexico, or El Salvador, and you will see vast distinctions in class and status, between the elite and the abject poor.

One of the great benefits of the Sabbath is that the Sabbath is a great equalizer.  Thomas Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence, did not pull out of thin air the phrase, “all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  That idea comes right out of the Bible, to be specific, the fourth commandment.  Deuter­onomy 5:14 states that our servants and even our animals, are not to work for us on the Sabbath day.  Whether a king or a servant, on the Sabbath day, nobody is to work!  But even the king, for example, should make his own bed and clean up his dishes, on the Sabbath!

The rich are not allowed to continue reaping financial gain on the Sabbath.  The poor are not forced to work for the rich on God’s Holy Sabbath.  Keeping the Sabbath demonstrates that every human being is equal in the sight of God.  Obviously, this is a great physical benefit, especially to the poor and lowly.

However, the mental benefit of Sabbath equality is far greater than the economic benefit.  No matter how far down the social ladder you are, no matter what your physical or mental handicaps, the Sabbath makes you equal to the richest and wisest man in the world.  Knowing this, your attitude is totally changed.  The Sabbath enables those of low estate to walk and talk with kings.  Psalm 119:45-46, “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.  I will speak of Thy testi­monies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.”

The Sabbath leads to the recognition of the dignity and worth of every human being as equal in the sight of God.  What a benefit!


Day of Freedom


Black Africans wanted freedom from the white man’s colonial rule.  Yet, in almost every case, they exchanged fairly benevolent colonial governments for corrupt, brutal, dictatorships, which destroyed and ruined their land of vast natural resources.  Today, neither Africans nor most of the rest of the world are free.  Many people, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., want “freedom now.”  But, they do not have it.

So, what is freedom?  It is the ability and good sense to choose to do the right thing, and the willingness to accept the conse­quences of making the wrong choices.  Free­dom cannot exist without God’s Law.  True freedom is obeying God’s Commandments.

The Sabbath is a day of freedom.  Like the Israelites of old, before we kept the Sabbath, we were in bondage to this world’s rat race.  Without the Sabbath, life was a treadmill of never-ending work we “had” to do.  No sauce with the pasta.

In the office where I work, there are sometimes “crunch times,” when reports have to be submitted to management or corporate headquarters, and times when critical tasks “have to” be done, “now.”  It is not uncom­mon for Fridays to be especially demanding and hectic.  When sundown approaches, I stop work, and am liberated from this stressful situation.  No, it is not easy, and sometimes Sabbath-keepers lose their jobs because they refuse to work on God’s Holy Day.  But, He never forsakes His people.  The freedom to rest from servile work is a wonderful benefit.

We work too hard, we are too stressed, we have too many tasks that must be done, and we worry about jobs not done.  We make bricks, with and without straw.  As a wit once quipped, “The only man to have his work done by Friday, was Robinson Crusoe.” 

“Sabbath” comes from a word which means “stop.”  Sabbath is a “timeout” from that which presses down and oppresses us.  It is a weekly vacation, a holiday, and much more, a holy day.  Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.”

The Sabbath is a celebration of our freedom from sin, freedom from endless toil.  Those who do not know and keep this twenty-four-hour period of rest, relaxation, and rec­reation, do not have freedom.  Bless the Lord for the freedom of His Holy Sabbath!


Day of Remembrance


Am I forgetful or not?  One of the biggest complaints of my fellow employees at work is that I sometimes forget the details of a difficult project on which they are working.  When they return to ask me for help, they sometimes need to rehearse what they told me before.  There are many items on my plate, and my brain only retains so much informa­tion, and can focus on only so much.  Older people often think of the hereafter.  They go into a room looking for something, and wonder what are they here, after!

The Sabbath provides me fifty-two times a year to remember who God is, who I am, who my family is, and what my priorities are in life.  The Sabbath is a day of remembrance.  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” Exodus 20:8.

All too easily, we forget God and our purpose in life.  Our plate is full.  Sabbath benefits us by clearing our plate of life’s responsibilities, so that we can remember the Lord of the Sabbath.  Since Sabbath is a family day, a day of joy and freedom, a day of meeting with God, by nature, the Sabbath creates memorable events that we love to savor.  A shined up car, clean and smiling faces of the kids, Sabbath services, fellowship with the brethren, special meals, God’s creation, music, and much more, the Sabbath reminds us of the joy of our salvation.


A “Palace in Time”


Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his classic book, The Sabbath: its Meaning for Modern Man, gives an excellent philosophical expo­sition about the meaning of the Sabbath.  Religions not based on the Bible sanctify places and images, physical things.  In contrast, the religion of the Bible sanctifies time.  The first thing mentioned in the Bible as being “holy,” is not a temple, an altar, a statue, or anything like that.  Genesis 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done,” NIV (see also NAB).

“The meaning of the Sabbath,” Heschel reminds us, “is to celebrate time rather than space.” Six days a week we toil under the tyranny of things of space, this physical world.  On the Sabbath, we seek to become attuned to the holiness of time.  God is eternal: He was, is, and ever shall be.  God fills all of time, past, present, and future.  By observing the sanctified special time of the Sabbath, we enter the presence of the Holy One.  We turn from the creation to focus on the Creator.

Sabbath is not an interlude so we can go out and do something we think is better.  It is the object of the six days of toil.  We observe the Sab­bath wrongly if we count the hours and minutes until it is over.  Instead, we should relish each precious moment of this holy time.  Heschel says, “Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art.”  The seventh day is a “palace in time” that God builds with us through our soul and our joy.  It is a day founded on love, and that is why Sabbath-keepers refer to the Sabbath as a “bride.”  As a young man eagerly looks forward to being married to his lovely bride, so we are in love with the Sabbath.

There are many palaces on earth today.  From the Biltmore House in North Carolina to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, people love to tour palaces and see exotic rooms and furniture.  But, the greatest palace is the spiritual palace in time, the Holy Sabbath.  In the Sabbath palace, I am a king and the richest person in the world.


A Service Day, Day of Work


Another great benefit of the Sabbath is that it provides us an opportunity to work and serve others.  Have I gone daft?  Isn’t the Sabbath supposed to be a day of rest?  Isn’t working on the Sabbath day forbidden?

Jesus shocked and offended the Pharisees when on the Sabbath He healed a man that had been infirm and unable to walk for thirty-eight years.  Jesus retorted, “My Father work­eth hitherto, and I work,” John 5:17.

In case you missed an essential point about the Sabbath, let’s review a basic principle.  Not all work is forbidden on the Sabbath.  “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work,” Exodus 20:9.  You may do all YOUR work on the first six days of every week.  But, on the seventh day, the Sabbath, you can do only GOD’S work.  You can serve others, but not for gainful employment (servile work). Jesus went out of His way to heal even chronically ill people on the Sabbath.  He could have waited to heal them on any other day of the week.  Why did He do this?  Not to do away with the Sabbath, but to enhance, magnify, promote, elevate, the Sabbath day.  Acts of compassion and mercy are not only allowed on the Sabbath, they typify what the Sabbath is all about.  God made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a tool that we should use to serve others, which, after all, truly makes us happy.

You don’t have time to serve others?  Don’t have time to visit an elderly lonely widow, a sick friend, or time to spend with a child needing attention?  The Sabbath gives you the time to serve others.  And in serving others, we are actually serving God, and ourselves, Matthew 25:40

Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath day serving others with acts of compassion.  If we are to follow His steps, we will work on the Sabbath day doing good for others.


Remember the Benefits


I have covered some of the benefits of the Sabbath.  It would be dumb to opt out of these astounding benefits.  Yet, strange as it may seem, many professing Sabbath-keepers don’t sign up for all of God’s benefits available to them.  They don’t make the Sabbath a family day; the Sabbath is a harsh day of do’s and don’ts to them, rather than a day of great joy; they walk into the doctor’s office but miss their appointment with the “doctor”; they treat others, even fellow Sabbatarians, as second-class citizens; like the Pharisees, they make the Sabbath a restrictive burden to themselves and others rather than a day of freedom; they forget God on His day of remembrance; for them, the Sabbath is a hovel rather than a “palace in time”; they miss out on the joy of serving others on the Sabbath.

Don’t lose out on the Sabbath benefits!  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,” Psalm 103:2.

                              — by Richard C. Nickels