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Keeping Shabbat

 

The Shabbat is YaHuWaH's holy day. In Exodus 20:8-11 we are commanded to refrain from doing our own work on the seventh day. The Shabbat, however, is not to be a day of idleness. YaHuWaH set it aside for doing His work. Devoting the day to YaHuWaH's work is translated by the Savior as doing good on Shabbat. (Matthew 12:12, Mark 3:4)



Is it lawful to do good on Shabbat?

 

Doing YaHuWaH's work: teaching His Word, visiting the sick, helping the aged, the wounded, the lonely, studying YaHuWaH's handiwork in nature etc., are permitted on Shabbat. All these activities can be described as 'doing good.'

The Pharisees had made up a set of rules and regulations and added them onto the Torah, YaHuWaH. In doing this, the Pharisees sinned by disobeying YaHuWaH's command not to add to His words.

Deuteronomy 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

YAHUSHUA continually obeyed His Fathers commandments, and broke the commandments and regulations that the Pharisees had added onto the Torah. Because YAHUSHUA wouldn't 'play church' with the Pharisees and come under their man made authority, it infuriated the Pharisees and incited them to have Him crucified.


YAHUSHUA's healing work on the seventh day is proof that doing good on the Shabbat is perfectly in order. That is why it is perfectly in order for doctors and nurses etc. to work on the Shabbat. They are doing good, they are saving lives, who might otherwise die. Seeking one's own economic advancement (normal secular work, business deals, debt collecting etc.) is not recommended on the Shabbat day. These things, though perfectly acceptable on other days of the week, should not be done on the Shabbat day. In short, we should rest from our own work on YaHuWaH's Shabbat and concentrate on His. The Master set us a perfect example in this matter of Shabbat keeping; He went out of his way to heal on the Shabbat day - of doing good - even though the Pharisees didn't agree.

Further definition of these broad principles is not an area on which we wish to pontificate. A lot of hot air has been spoken about 'how to keep Shabbat.' We have no wish to add to the confusion. Each believer will need to decide for himself how to keep Shabbat. Why, even the Savior's performance was not up to the standards of the religious leaders of his day. Who are we to expect a better assessment of ours? Let each believer examine the issue carefully and decide for him/herself. Going beyond the plain statements of Scripture is a dangerous occupation I can assure you. More people have rejected the vital issue of 'faith in YAHUSHUA' because of incorrect opinions about how Shabbat should be kept than any other issue. No doubt you know what I mean. Isaiah chapter 58, especially verses 13-14, offers some very good advice about how to keep Sabbath. Study that chapter.


Matthew 12:1-9

 

The Pharisees thought, because of their traditions, that the disciples were breaking the law when they plucked a few ears of corn on Shabbat and ate the grains. But the Pharisees were wrong. That act was not a violation of the Shabbat law. The disciples were 'guiltless' as Messiah pointed out in verse 7.


Mark 2:27-28


The Shabbat was made for man and not man for Shabbat.
This passage is given to show that to save life, certain actions - which under normal circumstances would not be acceptable - are permissible. For example: rescuing an ox from a pit, helping to put out a fire that is endangering life, feeding someone with sacred bread who might otherwise die of hunger. These actions are excusable in certain circumstances. In the same way laboring to save life on Shabbat is doing good. It is not a sin.


Luke 6:6-11

 

The same principle was demonstrated in the healing of the man with a withered arm. To restore him on Shabbat was perfectly in order; so the Savior healed him. The Pharisees were furious; but somehow they couldn't see that Shabbat was given for mankind's good: rest from toil, healing, companionship, instruction in YaHuWaH's Word and all the other blessings this world so desperately needs. The Pharisees had misunderstood this beautiful command; and burdened it with restrictions which made it more of a curse than a blessing. Messiah went out of his way to tear away their man-made restrictions.


When does the Shabbat begin?

 

 

Leviticus 23:32 From evening unto evening shall you celebrate your Shabbats.

Because the sun can set at different times during the year and also at different times in different countries, the Shabbat could start any time between 3 and 11pm. It depends on when the sun sets in your area. Just watch the sun set on the sixth day and you will know when the Shabbat starts. In high summer when the sun sets much later it could start at 9 pm. However in some countries the sun sets more or less at a regular time - about 6pm. But as I said above, you'll need to look out for sunset in your own district to know the exact time. Some believe that the word 'evening' does not mean 'sunset:' but some hours before. Others think that evening means several hours after sunset when it is dark. The Scriptures quite clearly state that evening is when the sun sets. Here are several texts that prove this:
 
Mark 1:32 "And at evening when the sun did set ..."
Joshua 8:29 " And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down ...."
Joshua 10:26-27 "...And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, ..."

See also 1 Kings 22:35-36 & 2 Chron.18:34 where the evening clearly means at sunset. In 2 Samuel 3:25 we see how king David reckoned that the day ended when the sun went down.

In short the Shabbat starts at sundown on the sixth day and ends at sundown on the seventh day.


Kindling fires on the Sabbath

 

Now to the matter of lighting fires (Exodus 35.3). In ancient days and perhaps even for some in these modern times - the lighting of a wood fire was quite a laborious task. It involves collecting, cutting and carrying wood; and this time-consuming work frustrated the main object of Shabbat keeping; it came in the way of increasing holiness. It was a laborious task and was therefore forbidden - and still is. If, however, the lighting of a fire, (e.g. an electric fire, an electric bulb or torch or an electric or gas stove) can be accomplished without such laborious effort, and most modern fires are lit with virtually no effort at all. Indeed in our part of the world it is dark for most of the day during winter; the sun is up for only 7 hours and it is very cold too. So we use our electric, oil and gas heaters and fires. Also remember that in the extreme north others have an even worse time - the winter nights are very long and there is sometimes no daylight for 3 months in the year. For these people, as for us, the lighting of a fire or lamp on the Shabbat is an absolute necessity - if the day is to be a joy.

So you can see that there is some difference between the ancient Israelite in the desert who would spend a lot of time gathering and cutting wood to light a fire and the modern believer living in a world where a simple flick of a switch can put on a fire or light.

It is for this reason that we emphasize that the commandment is firstly - Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy when advising believers to obey YaHuWaH. The other activities are secondary - and we leave it to the individual congregations and believers to decide for themselves by weighing up local conditions whether or not the lighting of a fire is wrong or right. At all costs we would hate to put off a potential Shabbat-keeper by insisting that he/she mustn't light a fire or lamp by using a switch on the Shabbat day. Some believers, I am told, do not even use their electric or gas fires on the Shabbat, but I have not met any of them - and I doubt if they live in the distant north or south of this world. Nevertheless, if such individuals do exist, and perhaps they do, then I would be the last to judge them; for their stand - which would appear to be more correct than my own - is praise worthy to say the least.


We present the truth as best we understand it: and speaking for ourselves, all I can say is that we use electricity, gas and oil fires to heat and light our homes on the Shabbat day and even to warm up meals prepared mostly on the day before. Concerning the preparation of meals on the Feast Days (which are all Shabbat days) the Bible says that meals may be prepared on them. I quote the text.

Exodus 12: 16: And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.

This text clearly allows the cooking of meals on YaHuWaH's Feasts. And the weekly Shabbat is included with the other festivals in Leviticus 23:3. All are Shabbat days. Indeed all are rest and Feast days to a greater or lesser degree. One could hardly have a feast day without cooking a meal. The preparation of meals is allowed on the Festival Shabbats. And I am inclined to think it is allowed on the weekly Shabbat too. But again let me say: wherever possible all laborious work (collecting and cutting wood etc) should be done on the day before.


Transport

 

Those who live some distance from church and who would find a walk exhausting should drive to church, either in their own cars or by public transport (bus or train). A two mile walk to a young person is easy; but to an elderly person it can be a great distance. It's not only the distance that counts, but also the fitness and health of the person walking. Traveling long distances, however, is not advised. But believers must decide for themselves. If they can drive or walk without become tired, fair enough, but if not, then better to stay at home. But always remember, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Shabbat.' (Mark 2:27)


Does Shabbat-keeping Save a Person?

The answer is No.
Salvation is a free gift. It comes from YaHuWaH to a believer through faith in YAHUSHUA the only begotten Son of the Most High. No man or woman can earn salvation. I repeat: salvation is a free gift. Keeping a particular commandment will, in itself, not earn salvation any more than being honest will obliterate past lies, or being thrifty cancel existing debts. Persistent sin can, however, jeopardize salvation - even though faith is verbally expressed. Faith, to be acceptable must be followed by obedience, else it is dead. The book of James in chapter 2 makes this point abundantly clear. In other words, a person who deliberately breaks the Shabbat commandment, after being convicted about it, is on extremely dangerous ground. This of course applies to every one of the Ten Commandments. Those who persist in idolatry, blasphemy, adultery, theft and deception etc. may well find that on the Day of Judgement they are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven for these very sins. Indeed, persistent refusal to acknowledge and obey YaHuWaH's law is the sure path to destruction! But faith and obedience - even though both may be feeble - is the best policy. In short: Trust & Obey.


Sport on the Shabbat

 

Sport should not be engaged in on Shabbat. Ball games, swimming, long hikes and cycle rides etc. may be engaged in on weekdays. The Shabbat is a rest day, a day set apart for YaHuWaH's work - not man's sport.


Buying & Selling

 

We recommend that there be no buying and selling on Shabbat (Neh.9:15-22).


Burials on the Shabbat

 

Burials, as you can imagine, call for a lot of physical labor: preparing and carrying the corpse and digging graves. This particular matter is not dealt with in the Scriptures; but Israel as a nation did not bury their dead on the Shabbat; nor do they do it to this day. Speaking for myself, I would not attend a burial on Shabbat. If at all possible you should try to persuade people to bury their dead on the other six days of the week: as this would not threaten life or cause undue hardship.