How should the Sabbath be kept? The Bible provides several guidelines:
a) Refrain from working
Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." Hebrews 4:10
b) Consider it a delight
Isaiah 58:13 “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
c) Do good
Matthew 12:10-13 “And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ – that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
d) Do what improves your spiritual well-being
Mark 2:27-28 “And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
God didn’t make the Sabbath and then make man to fit into the Sabbath guidelines. He made man and then made the Sabbath for man. It is for man’s own good. Don’t use the time to be burdened down with man-made dos and don’ts of Sabbath keeping. Use the time to remember your creator and increase your abilities to serve Him and your fellow man more effectively.
e) Observe it from sundown to sundown
Genesis 1:5 to 2:3 “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day...And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day...So the evening and the morning were the third day...So the evening and the morning were the fourth day...So the evening and the morning were the fifth day...Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day...Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
At creation, the evening occurred first and then the morning.
Neh. 13:19 “And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.”
The Sabbath begins at sunset on our modern-day Friday evening. It ends at sunset on our modern day Saturday evening.
Leviticus 23:32 “It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
This text is an example of one of the annual ceremonial sabbaths the Israelites were instructed to observe. While not referring specifically to the weekly Sabbath, it provides additional insight into the structure of a day in the Bible. A day starts with evening and ends at the beginning of the next evening.
Mark 1:32 “Now at evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed.”
This text clarifies that “evening” or “even” (as in some translations) refers to sundown and not sunup.