I wrote the following as part of an article on Torah Perspective back in February 2007. I’ve been thinking about what the writer of Hebrews says of the Sabbath of YHWH and instead of writing something new I offer this portion of the February 2007 post for your consideration. -bk
The book of Hebrews is traditionally taught as supportive of the Law – Torah being done away with. Particularly Chapter 4 is said to negate the seventh day Sabbath. But a careful study of the book as a whole will clearly establish that the focus of the writing is the change in the priesthood from that of residing with mortal man to the immortal Son of YHWH, Yeshua. Yeshua (Jesus) is a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” –Hebrews 5:10
Contrary to traditional thought that this portion of the Bible abolishes the seventh day Sabbath observance, it in fact upholds it. I encourage you to take off the lens of traditions and see what the Word of GOD says through the eyes of the Spirit and Truth.
It is important to note the writer’s statement at the beginning of Hebrews 8, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying. We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, Minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man.” The entire Book of Hebrews is about the superiority of Messiah over everything, and especially dealing with the faulty priesthood of Levi/men, versus the eternal and perfect Priesthood of Yeshua Messiah.
The main point of the Book of Hebrews is not that the Law – Torah is done away with, but that the promise of Messiah has been realized and the Levitical priesthood, as outlined in the Torah was a shadow that is now replaced by the substance. It only pertains to the priesthood. The Word gives us Scriptural reason to apply this to any other aspect than the sacrifice (now Yeshua) the priesthood (now Yeshua our High Priest) and the Temple (we are His temple).
Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who, He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds, who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.” The whole of Chapter 1 sets up the intent of the Book of Hebrews. It is about Yeshua. It is about who He is and what His mission is. The mission that was spoken of by the Torah and the Prophets (See Matthew 24:27) is the one He came to fulfill. He spoke it by doing it; “upholding all things by the word of His power.” He is the our Passover, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world who takes away the sins of the world. He is the substance of Passover, spoken of from the beginning. He did not come to destroy the Torah but to fulfill it; to uphold “all things by the word of His power.” He spoke the same message as the Prophets because He, being God, gave them the message to speak.
Verse 1 and 2 is speaking of those whom YHWH led out of Egypt (See Chapter 2 for context). Verse 1 warns us that we are to “fear lest any of you seem to have come short of” entering His rest. Verse 2 gives us the context of the writer’s point that what happened to those who were freed from Egypt is also a warning to us when he says “the gospel was preached to us as well as to them.” Notice the way the statement is framed: “preached to us as well as to them.” They had the gospel first but there was a problem with them, not the gospel; having heard it they did not profit from it because it was not “mixed with faith.” Faith, believing the Word of God, is the concept of believing and doing. But even further, doing grudgingly, and looking for ways around the pure Truth of the Word is not faith either. It is not in the heart and on the mind, which only comes by being born again, by grace through faith (believing). The problem they had was that they did not believe what the Lord said at Sinai, and even before Sinai to the point that they were willing to allow Him to be Lord of their lives and to fall in love with the One who delivered them from Egypt. If they had they would not have attempted to worship Him with a golden calf constructed by their own hands. If they had truly believed the Lord they would have not defiled His Sabbath by trying to gather manna on His day of rest. The gospel is the established Word of God, founded in Torah, that when believed and applied, allowing His grace to work in our inner being, we will become a “new creation” in Him. The result of that work of grace is submitting to the Truth and it will be shown by obedience. The writer is saying to us to not allow the same thing to happen in our lives.
The seventh day Sabbath, as established by God in Genesis, reaffirmed in Exodus, and again here in Hebrews 4:3-10, was spoken of by the prophet Moses. Notice in Exodus 16 that the Lord used Sabbath and the giving of Manna to “test” the people to see if they would “walk in My Law or not.” Sabbath was spoken of by the other prophets as well, but particularly by Isaiah in Chapter 56, showing clearly it is meant for Gentile believers.
Notice particularly the following verses from Hebrews 4. Verse 4 where the establishment of seventh day Sabbath is reaffirmed as from the beginning. It was established by the One who created everything, including mankind, Yeshua. (Genesis 1, John 1:1 and Hebrews 1:2. The promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 is realized in Messiah’s sacrifice according to Hebrews 1:3. The enormous realization of the Scriptural fact that Yeshua is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world brings (Revelation 13:8) this all into focus. It is all about Him and what is about Him does not change as He that it is all about never changes. Who He is… is who He is.
Hebrews 4:9 tells us emphatically, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” The word “rest” is the Greek word Sabbatismos which originates from the Hebrew word “Sabbaton” which is what we call Sabbath. It is the same seventh day that the Lord rested on in Genesis, as we are told clearly in Verse 4, and Verse 10 shows us that we are to cease from our works just as the Creator ceased from His works. He was not working for His salvation, being God. He was working at creating the heavens, the earth and all that is in it. It is from our labors that we are to cease from. And the prescribed day is Sabbath, the seventh day, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday (Genesis 1 and Leviticus 23).
We are exhorted to be diligent to enter that rest “lest anyone fall according the same example of disobedience.” The example of disobedience is found in the Testimony of what YHWH did in bringing the people out and in the Testimony we see the specific acts and attitude of disobedience that was evident in the people. What YHWH did and how the people responded are found in the Books of Torah and the righteous standard established by HIM that the people disobeyed are contained in Torah. In Exodus 31:18 the Ten Commandments (Ten Words – Decalogue) are called the two tablets of the testimony. You will find it in the Books of Torah. YHWH instructed Moses to write it down and keep a record; a record of what YHWH commanded and did and a record of the people’s response in deed. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, the exhortation that the rebellious acts of the people whom God delivered from Egypt were written for our example and admonition that we would believe and not fall as they did.
In Hebrews 4:11 we are reminded as to how we can know what God requires of us. We need to know the righteous requirements of the Lord in order to obey them. The righteous requirement of YHWH is found in the Word of God. We already know that the Word spoken of is the Truth – the Scripture, with its foundation in Torah. Torah is the foundation because it is the instruction of YHWH that all of the remainder of Scripture, along with the actions and understanding of men are to be based upon. Remember Messiah’s prayer; “sanctify them by Your Truth, Your Word is Truth.” Yeshua was praying to His and our Father. The Father’s Word is Torah. It was spoken by the Father’s only begotten Son and His prophets, including Moses. We must remember that is what Yeshua used in Matthew 24 with the two on the road to Emmaus. We know that Romans 8 tells us that is where faith comes from. We know that Paul exhorted Timothy to continue in it in his second letter (Chapter 3) to him. God spoke the Truth to the fathers through the prophets, including Moses. The Truth is the Word of God, according to Messiah’s own words. The foundation of the Truth is Torah.
Notice Verse 11, of Hebrews 4 that the Word of God is “a discerner of the thoughts and intent of the heart.” The Law, written upon the hearts of men, put in their minds, reveals our hearts to us; letting us know the wickedness and rebellion stored up in them that we might yield to His Spirit to cause us to do righteously, obey His commandments and statutes and not fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Verse 12 tells us we can’t hide and that we “give account” to Him. Paul came face to face with this reality of the holy, good, spiritual Torah as recorded in Romans 7. The commandment, “you shall not covet” revealed his heart and showed him that Yeshua was the only way to have victory – the only One who could deliver him from “this body of death.” Here, in Paul’s own words, we read his conclusion to the matter; “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Yeshua, Messiah, our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the Torah of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Get the picture? Paul is making a conscious choice, because he can now make that choice, being set free from the bondage to sin – lawlessness to serve the Torah of YHWH. Paul then acknowledges that when he allows the flesh to lead, not making the choice to serve the Torah – Instructions of YHWH he is serving sin – lawlessness. The Apostle then goes on in Romans 8 to expand upon this awesome truth. We are free from lawlessness and now are subject (subordinate) to the Torah. It only happens when we walk according to the Spirit who is God, who writes His Torah on our hearts and puts it in our minds, and not according to the flesh which leads us into lawlessness.
Verse 14-16 tells us how this happens; the place to go and to whom we go to in order to have this victorious life, free from sin and the elements of the world that seek to keep us in bondage. It is our great High Priest and we go to the throne of grace to obtain help and grace in time of need. Remember that grace is “the Divine influence on the heart with the reflection in the life.” Grace is the Spirit, who is God, changing the hearts of those who yield to His work, and causing us to obey His commandments. Our obedience is seen, being the reflection of His workmanship in and through us (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Just as all of the Apostolic Scriptures, the Book of Hebrews establishes Torah as the standard, the Truth of GOD. Sabbath is the Instruction/Torah of GOD, given in Genesis and reaffirmed throughout Scripture. I encourage you to take the time and effort to study the whole counsel of YHWH, realizing that He has not changed and neither has His Torah. His Torah establishes who He is, who our Messiah is, how we recognize Him, and how we can know if it is His Voice we hear, or the voice of the enemy. It is all about Messiah Yeshua. He is found in Torah, and Torah is found in Him. He is the Living Torah. Because He died and rose again, setting us free from lawlessness/sin, we are now free to keep His Sabbath as He gave it to us in the beginning.