Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Journey from Sunday to Saturday

The words of Yeshua kept ringing in my ears, "You nullify the Word of G-d for the sake of your tradition." Adonai was pressing in hard and teaching me daily that some of the things I was doing as a believer were traditions of men, not commands of Scripture.  This was one of those "aha moments" (more like days and weeks of moments!) where things come into clear view and you see them as they really are. It was unsettling, but it was good. Adonai has a way of fine tuning your vision.

In the midst of my studying Hebrew versus Greek thinking, the Jewishness of Yeshua and delving deep into the scriptures, I came to the place where He was showing me His heart concerning the Sabbath. To be honest, it took months of reading, praying and searching this out to come to the place of peace that I am at now, which is fully embracing a 7th day (Saturday) Sabbath with complete conviction. Here is a description of this process of moving my Sabbath from Sunday to Saturday, the questions I asked, observations I made and their resulting conclusions in this area.

I was taught in the Roman Catholic Church that I grew up in as a child, as well as in Protestant churches as an adult, that the Sabbath was "changed" to Sunday because that is when the Messiah rose from the dead and that the early church met on Sunday. I just accepted this without really thinking them through or giving it much serious thought. So much for being a Berean! The Bereans searched the Tanakh to see if what Shaul (Paul) was saying was true. Hmmm. Right there, I should have wondered how G-d's Word from the beginning can be altered and why it isn't consistent from beginning to end. (It is in fact VERY consistent and it is this very fact that helped me to understand and identify commonly held misinterpretations of scripture).

 Did Elohim change His mind and declare that all the commands to keep the 7th day holy (set apart) in the Tanakh are now null and void?  Why do we seem as believers to keep the rest of the Ten Commandments but have altered the 4th? Are His laws eternal and unchangeable? These were a few of the important questions I was asking and I wasn't content unless I found out the answers from both history and scripture. I wanted to understand why and how after thousands of years and scriptural commands to keep a 7th day Sabbath, this changed.

It's kinda funny that you never hear preachers in the Christian pulpit say that tithing is a command nailed to the cross or it has been "done away with" because it is in the Mosaic (read archaic) Law and we as "New Testament" believers don't have to follow that. Interesting how that works! Reality is, many believers pick and choose the laws they want to obey no matter what part of the Bible they are written in.  Whether we want to own up to that personally or not, is another thing.

Did you ever have the experience of reading the scriptures with your children where you are reading aloud yet thinking quietly to yourself, "Wow, how do I explain what we do in practice when it doesn't coincide with scripture??!" Yeah. That is a really fun (sarcasm here) thought to have. Actually, it is quite disturbing. As a mother who is trying to teach her children the Word of G-d and practice it, it is more than disturbing. As we were reading through the whole Bible this year, we had ample time to discuss scriptures regarding the Sabbath as they are plentiful! It was in these moments of not wanting to explain away these Sabbath scriptures that the Ruach started to whisper to me, and all I could do was to follow Him.

Right in the beginning at creation Elohim set up a 6 day work week and the 7th day was set apart and made holy. It was from the very beginning to be a Sabbath unto Adonai. Later as Moshe (Moses) journeyed in the desert with the mixed multitude that went out of Egypt, they received miraculous provision of Manna which they were not to gather on the 7th day or it would rot. They were to gather a double portion on the 6th day. Yahweh, in giving Moshe His commands for all Israel (the native and the stranger) gave specific instructions that even the land was to have a Shabbat (Sabbath) rest once they entered the promised land. Every 7th year was a sabbatical year of rest for the land. Of course the Ten Commandments were given in which the 4th clearly commands us to rest from our labors on the 7th day. Yeshua kept a 7th day Sabbath as did His followers, as He never transgressed the Torah. The Sabbath is a command and spiritual truth present throughout all of Scripture. If Yeshua didn't want His followers or disciples to keep this command, wouldn't He have made that very clear that it was to be changed? There are NO DIRECT STATEMENTS in the entire Word of G-d that dismiss or change the 4th commandment.

 Many spiritualize the 4th commandment and say, well, Messiah is our spiritual rest as He paid the price for our sins on the tree. Now, we have spiritual rest in Him. Yes and Amen, we do! But we cannot spiritualize commands which He gives explicit practical ways we are to obey them! Yeshua's sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of G-d doesn't mean we now can go our own way, quite the opposite. The Sabbath is such a major theme throughout the Scriptures with so many scriptures related to the blessings of keeping it and illustrations of what happens when we don't, that we cannot take it lightly and flippantly (as I did for many years!).

Why would Yeshua, when He spoke of the last days, tell us, "pray that your flight not be on the Sabbath" (Matthew 24:20). Why would he say that if He knew that this command would be done away with?  In Matthew 5:17-20, Yeshua also said that He did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (make them real...the Word made flesh!) and that as long as heaven and earth are here, nothing in the Torah will be done away with. Not only that, but in Isaiah 56:3 and 58:13, passages which are clearly referencing the time of the Millennium in the future (soon approaching), the Sabbath is clearly in force for not only Israel but also for all the foreigners who attach themselves to Israel. All these observations I was making were linking together to form a clearer picture of the fact that Yahweh's command to keep a 7th day Sabbath is still indeed very much a command, just as all the other 9 words of the 10 are commands. We cannot slice and dice up the Word of Elohim and pick and choose, yet, that is exactly what I was doing in this regard.

There are only 2 references in the entire New Testament (Acts 20:7-12 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3) in which the first day of the week (Sunday) is mentioned in regard to Yeshua's followers. In the second of these, there is no clear evidence that they even met together. In the Acts passage they had a picnic (broke bread) but I hardly can think that just because they ate together, justifies a changing of the Sabbath on that day. Another very important point to consider is the Hebrew reckoning of a "day" which is very different from our reckoning of a day. In our western world a day begins at midnight and ends at the following midnight, but more so is thought of in terms of the daylight hours or from morning to evening. The Hebrew reckoning and indeed Elohim's reckoning of a day based on "and then there was evening and morning, the first day" in the creation account in Genesis is sunset to sunset, or evening to the next evening. SO, when we read a passage with this understanding and it says "on the first day", what is that referring to? We have to remember the cultural context here and not Westernize the Scriptures or make hasty assumptions! The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday night and ends on Saturday at sunset, SO the beginning of the "first day" or Sunday actually begins on Saturday evening! Tim Hegg in his book, It Is Often Said, explains that it was the custom of the early followers of Yeshua to gather together with the Gentiles after the Sabbath to celebrate their life in Messiah. The Gentiles would be finished with work. Remember (not unlike in our day), their masters were not worshipers of God and thus would not have honored the Sabbath by giving their slaves the day off. It was at this kind of a meeting that Eutychus, sitting in the window, fell to his death. In 1 Cor 16:1-3, Paul is giving an admonition to the congregations to gather money for the relief of the believers in Jerusalem. Gathering money would not have been appropriate on the Sabbath, so a different day was chosen." So it seems to me that Shaul was preaching on a Saturday late into the night when this poor fellow fell to his death. IF we read the Word with a Hebraic understanding we can understand it's true meaning better. Sadly, I didn't have that understanding for much of my believing life. Now that I have recognized and corrected that and taken off the antisemitic glasses I had on, I can see much clearer. I'm so thankful!

At this point, and after doing a lot more investigation into many scriptures related to the Shabbat (I won't get into here as it would make this post a BOOK), I was convinced that from beginning to end, G-d's Word was consistent and that the Sabbath command was to be on the 7th day, or our Friday eve to Saturday eve. Now, I wanted to know how in the world things got so messed up and it changed to Sunday. Honestly, it bothered me and I just wanted to know how it happened! If you want a very in depth look at this subject, see my page "My Favorite Books for the Journey", and read Samuele Bacchiocchi's books as well as Dr. Ron Moseley for starters.

Enter Constantine, the supposed "Christian" Roman Emperor who in 321AD formally changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, "in veneration of the Sun" as it was a very common pagan practice to worship Zeus, the sun. Actually this sun god worship goes all the way back to Nimrod and it is seen throughout history and in every culture. Is this the changing of the times and seasons that Daniel prophesied about when the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday and biblical Feasts were banned/changed to match the pagan festivals? I do believe it could be. Have you read the Council of Nicea and the anti biblical, antisemitic tone it takes? Read Ezekiel 8:16-17 for a reference to worshipping the sun and what Elohim thinks of this if you like.

 Of course, over time, worshipping the sun wasn't enough, the rest of the planets were feeling neglected I guess, so the Romans named the 7 days of the week accordingly, and in honor of their pagan deities. Does this nauseate you as it does me? Therefore, the day of the sun became Sunday; the day of the moon became Monday; the day of Mars (the Roman god of war) became Tuesday (after Tiw, pronounced too, the German god of war); the day of Mercury became Wednesday (Woden's Day, the Germanic version of Mercury); the day of Jupiter became Thursday (Thor's Day, the Germanic version of Jupiter); the day of Venus became Friday (after the Germanic female god Frigg or Freyja - pronounced note...which is exactly what is gonna happen to her!); and last but not least, as we wouldn't want to offend Saturn, it became our Saturday. The day of the Sun, dies Solis, or Sunday was preeminent over all the other days of the week, long before it became a Christian institution and it was proclaimed "holy" or set apart from all other days. No where in Scripture does Yahweh indicate that Sunday or the 1st day of the week is to be set apart!

I am not going to comment here too much on when Yeshua resurrected. I will say I am not convinced it was on Sunday and very well could have been on Saturday evening. I have done some reading and thinking on this and several scriptures seem to conflict. However, if you take into account the Hebraic accounting of days and when the Sabbath begins and ends, it can truly make a difference. Study this out for yourself and show yourself approved!

After Constantine issued the decree, the Catholic Church reinforced the act in one church council after another. That's a whole history lesson in itself which I won't delve into. But being an ex-Catholic I was very interested in this part of the puzzle. What I found was disturbing in that not only are the Ten Commandments of the Catholic church massively messed with, with commands changed, deleted or majorly truncated, but that there are numerous bold statements claiming that they were the ones responsible for the change from Saturday to Sunday based on their own authority, not based on scripture. By the way, no one has the authority to change the Word or Laws of G-d!  The Catholic version of the 4th commandment conveniently reads as this, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day." doesn't read that way in my bible. This is what mine (KJV) says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God:  in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your  cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." It is actually one of the longest commands of the ten commands.

Here are some interesting quotes from the RCC in regards to their observance of a 1st day Sabbath: 

"For example, nowhere in the bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the (Roman Catholic) church outside the Bible." -Catholic Virginian, October 3, 1947, p. 9, article, "To Tell You the Truth".

"Question: Which is the Sabbath day? Answer- Saturday is the Sabbath day. Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Answer- We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (AD 364) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday."  -Peter Geiermann, C.S.S.R., The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p. 50, 3rd edition, 1957. 

"But since Saturday, not Sunday, is specifies in the Bible, isn't it curious that non-Catholics who profess to take their religion directly from the Bible and not from the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Yes, of course, it is inconsistency but this change was made about fifteen centuries before Protestantism was born, and by that time the custom was universally observed. They have continued the custom even though it rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church and not upon an explicit text from the Bible. That observance remains as a reminder of the Mother Church from which the non-Catholic sects broke away like a boy running away from home but still carrying in his pocket a picture of his mother or a lock or her hair."  - The Faith of Millions, p 473.

I left the RCC because of the unbiblical practices they promoted when my eyes were opened by the Ruach HaKodesh as a born again believer. I ran to the Protestant church thinking it was different. In my opinion, while yes, there are very important differences, the reformation didn't go far enough. It wasn't able to break with all the man-made traditions and mixing of paganism by exchanging not only the true Sabbath for a man made one, but also in replacing Elohim's holy days with pagan counterfeits! So much deception and the church follows blindly along, most not even wanting to consider they could be wrong. Do you hear Rome's challenge to the Protestants? They basically are saying, if you really believe the Bible, Sola Scriptura, you would keep a 7th day Sabbath as G-d commands! Okay, here is a point that the RCC is making that I believe is true! The Sunday observance of the Sabbath is a man made tradition and not a command of Yahweh.

I realize there are other factors in why the Sabbath was changed, perhaps even by some before Constantine. Although as Dr. Ron Moseley states in his book on the first century believers that there is scanty evidence for that time period, making it difficult to research. However, we do know there was persecution from the Jews toward those recognizing Yeshua as Messiah, forcing them out of the synagogue. There was also persecution of Jews making followers of "the Way" distance themselves from all things Jewish in order to survive.  So much to consider here, but for the most part, it appears from Scripture and other sources that believers in Yeshua kept a 7th day Sabbath until the 3rd or 4th century.

Getting back to more questions I asked myself....

Are all the laws in the Old Testament only for the Jew? Who was at Mount Sinai?  A "mixed multitude" left Egypt (Exodus 12:38). Several scriptures declare one and the same law for the "native born and for the foreigner (stranger)" such as Exodus 12:49, Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 9:14; 15:29.  Yes, the covenant was made with Israel and is nationalistic, yet also extends to all who attach themselves to Israel through faith in her G-d (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Isn't that what Ephesians 2:12-13 is about? Abraham is the father for all who believe as Romans 4:16 states.  We are grafted into Israel (Romans 11) and that root is grounded in the Torah!

In Zechariah 14:17-19 we have an interesting passage where Elohim says He will punish the nations (not Israel) in the Millennium if they do not keep the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Tim Hegg in It Is Often Said, "Yet, they did not enter into the two-sided covenant between Israel and Yahweh. Yet they are held to the standard of Torah. This being the case, one cannot argue that present day Gentiles are exempt from the Torah on the basis of covenant ratification, for if such were the case, the same would apply to Gentiles in any era. That it clearly does not is evident from the prophetic texts, which consistently portray righteous Gentiles as observing the Sabbaths given to Israel (Isaiah 56:1ff; 58:13, 14; 66:23)." To me, this is a very compelling argument.

The more I study the scriptures the more I see the consistency from beginning to end. The 7th day is the Sabbath. From beginning to end and forever, because that is what our Creator decided it to be and His laws and Word are eternal and unchanging! When we alter the commands of Yahweh, there will be negative consequences. He isn't pleased when we make up our own rules. And every time I see inconsistencies in my life from what the Word says, I pray He will help me to align myself with Him and His Word. No matter how much it goes against man's traditions, church traditions, my warm and fuzzy feelings, or the culture around me. Not easy, believe me, I know. But the wonderful thing about obedience is, there are so many blessings! I can't tell you the sweet words He has spoken to me when I took a stand in this area as it is too personal. But I will say this. He confirmed to me that what I was doing, He was pleased with and He gave me marching orders in a way only He could do. He encouraged me, strengthened me and told me to persevere and to not be afraid. Fear of man or what people think is a snare! And many fall into it.

Really, I don't want to live a life in fear of man or my friends or family or whomever. I want to live knowing that it is only His opinion of me that matters. I want to live life in the light of eternity as KP Yochanan would say. Even if all my believing friends think I have gone off the theological bandwagon, that is okay. I want to live a life of obedience in response to what He is teaching me.

I hope this post has piqued your interest in this topic or at the very least helped you to understand why I and other believers celebrate a 7th day Sabbath. Isaiah 56:6-7 speaks of Gentiles who keep the Sabbath and refers to the coming Messianic Kingdom..."And the foreigners who join themselves to ADONAI, to serve him, to love the name of ADONAI, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

Shalom and Todah (thanks) for reading!

Note: During this time of transition from Sunday worship to Saturday, Adonai kept speaking to me words related to the Exodus out of Egypt. I didn't understand it at first, as I was studying prophecy as well and thinking He was drawing my attention to a future Exodus. What I understand now, is that it was personal, for me, in that season. The Torah portion during that time frame in January was also centered on the Exodus passages! He indeed very clearly and specifically called me out of a fellowship I had been a part of for 6 years that I had dearly loved. There were many tearful nights of prayer and being ministered to by His Ruach. It was difficult, but there was complete peace because His Word was very clear to me and His will made known that He wanted me in another fellowship of believers (a Messianic fellowship) that kept the Sabbath holy. Sometimes following Adonai's voice can have aspects that are painful, yet there are no regrets when we stand for Truth and obey His voice and follow Him. There isn't any other place in this world I would rather be than in the center of His will for me.