4 Reasons for God’s Sabbath Rest in the Old Testament

This is part 2 of a series I am working on about God’s Sabbath rest and what it means for believers today. Click here to read part 1… What Does It Mean to Honor the Sabbath Day?

If you’ve been around Christianity a while, then you’ve probably heard about how often Jesus spoke to the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath day. These religious leaders had taken what God had intended to be a holy day of rest, and transformed it into nothing but work, stress, and rule following. Essentially, they had missed the entire purpose behind the Sabbath.

4 Reasons for God's Sabbath Rest in the Old Testament | alyssajhoward.com*This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.


In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was all about one thing – rest.  It was God’s entire purpose for the day. In Jewish tradition, it began at sundown on Friday and ended at sundown on Saturday. But that wasn’t the only Sabbath rest of the Old Testament. The land was also to receive a Sabbath rest every seven years. They would work the land for six years, and then allow the land to rest during the seventh year – that meant no planting or harvesting for an entire year.

Not only did the land receive a Sabbath rest every seven years, but after the 49th year (or seven Sabbath years) there would be a year of jubilee and freedom. During this year, all would be free – debt was erased and all prisoners and slaves were set free.

So what does this all have to do with Christianity and the Sabbath?

The Sabbath rest served a purpose beyond simple obedience.


  • Rest – This one is obvious. The Sabbath rest was all about resting and ceasing from one’s work. God created man to need this rest. And I think we all know what happens when we work ourselves to the bone seven days a week.
  • Trust – Keeping the Sabbath meant trusting in God to provide. The Israelite’s were commanded not to grow any crops during the Sabbath year. They had to trust there would be enough and that God would provide. I don’t know about you, but this one would have been hard for me. (Interesting side note, a farmer once told me that this practice of letting the land rest is actually amazing for the soil!)
  • Freedom – The year of jubilee was all about freedom. Slaves and prisoners were set free, and debt was pardoned.  It was a year of celebration and family reunions as all were entitled to return home.
  • Holiness – The Sabbath set the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world. They were God’s people, and the world could see that truth through this visible sign of their reliance on God and His provision.

I think it’s safe to say that all of these “purposes” are still relevant today. God longs for us to find our rest and freedom in Him, to trust Him fully, and to be set apart as His children.

So I have to come back to the main question: Are we as believers today (under the New Covenant) required to honor the Sabbath the same way the Jewish people did?

Click here to read part 3 of this series… Did Jesus Break the Sabbath Day?


Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy. - Ezekiel 20:12


*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

**Photo by Nadine Rupprecht on Unsplash



I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on the Sabbath day. Feel free to comment below!

(And please remember that we are all part of the body of Christ. We are here to learn and grow as believers, not tear each other down. Thanks!)


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