“Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to ADONAI your God. In it you shall not do any work—not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates.” Exodus 20:8-10 (TLV)
Note that this commandment, given specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) is to be observed by all Jews but only by foreigners (Gentiles) who live within the Jewish community: specifically among the people of Israel on their way to and within the land of Israel. This does not apply to today’s Christians who worship the God of Israel but live outside of Israel and further still, outside of the Jewish communities within the diaspora. The commandment to keep Shabbat is specifically a sign on the ethnic, religious chosen people of Israel (Jews):
“So Bnei-Yisrael is to keep the Shabbat, to observe the Shabbat throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and Bnei-Yisrael forever, for in six days ADONAI made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.’” -Exodus 31:16-17 (TLV)
We note that the Shabbat is a sign between God and the ethnic, religious people of Israel (Jews). It is not a sign upon the nations.
When Yeshua said:
“the Shabbat was made for man and not man for the Shabbat” (Mark 2:23-28)
The only “men” present were Jews. Further, He used an example from the Tanakh in which only Jews participated. If we interpret His words to apply to all human beings, we are ignoring the historical and Scriptural context of what He said and impugning His character by suggesting that He contradicted the Torah (Exodus 31:16-17).
To the contrary, He is making a drash (comparative rabbinical teaching) on a commandment given specifically to Israel (ethnic, religious , empirical) and not to the nations. Thus, when He says “man” He means “man” within the context of Israel (Jews) and not humanity in general.
If we go further and interpret His words figuratively to apply the Shabbat to all nations, we must by reason of logical progression be speaking of the eternal Shabbat at the end of the age, that is the Olam Haba (world to come) and not to the literal weekly Shabbat commanded specifically to the Jews. All figurative interpretation must submit to the plain meaning of the text.
In the context of Yeshua’s words the command to keep Shabbat is not made incumbent on Gentile Christians, (who did not yet exist at the time Yeshua spoke), rather He was explaining to the Pharisees that the sign of the Shabbat upon Israel’s “men” was one of rest and restoration through the work of God and was not a form of rest purchased by either the restraint or the actions of Jewish “men” (and women).
All this is done to keep the Shabbat as a sign on the ethnic, religious Jewish people until the end of the age, when:
“‘it will come to pass,
that from one New Moon to another,
and from one Shabbat to another,
all flesh will come to bow down before Me,’
says ADONAI.” -Isaiah 66:23 (TLV)
The prophet Isaiah is clearly prophesying a time yet future (it will come), and is not, as some suggest, inferring that all nations should keep the Shabbat in the present age.
This is also seen in Zechariah 14:16 where, at the end of the age (not now), the survivors of the defeated nations will repent and go up to Jerusalem to join with ethnic, religious Israel in celebration of the festival (signs) placed on the Jews. Neither passage denotes a requirement for weekly Shabbat observance by Gentile Christians.
When Yeshua says “The Son of Man is Lord of the Shabbat” He is alluding to the Messianic title given to the Messiah in the prophecy of Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14) in order that He might be recognised as the Messiah by His disciples and any among the Pharisees who might understand and repent. While it is true that He is the Messiah over all men, we do not glean this understanding from the context of Mark 2:23-28.
Those who teach that Gentile Christians must keep the Shabbat are in fact teaching Gentile Christians to usurp one of the signs that sets ethnic, religious Israel apart from the nations. Ironically, in doing so, these “Seventh Day Adventists”, “Hebrew roots Christians” and so called “Messianic Gentiles” are literally practicing the “Replacement Theology” they claim to detest.
I stand in opposition to those movements who seek to place Gentile Christians under bondage to commandments that were never incumbent upon them.
I am a Jew and a follower of Yeshua the King Messiah, Who has set us free for freedom, that we might not return again to bondage.
This is not to say that Gentile Christians can’t choose to keep the Shabbat as free members of the body of Messiah Yeshua, rather it is to say that the weekly Shabbat is not incumbent upon Gentile Christians.
-YAAKOV BEN YEHOSHUA
Beth Melekh Messiah following Jewish community
17 Iyar 5779
(22 May 2019)
© 2019 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.