If we were to arrive at a more comprehensive view of the Sabbath, what would it look like?
Not all of us see the Sabbath in its broadest sense, or are able to experience it as fully as we should—which makes it difficult for us to share the idea of the Sabbath as comprehensively or effectively as we might.
The sacred institution of the Sabbath is a token of God’s love to humanity. It is a memorial of God’s power in the original creation and also a sign of His power to re-create and sanctify the life (Ezek. 20:12). And its observance is an evidence of our loyalty to Him. The proper observance of the Sabbath is an evidence of our fidelity to our Creator and of fellowship with our Redeemer. In a special sense the observance of the Sabbath is a test of obedience. Unless we can pass that test as individuals, how can we adequately present the Sabbath message to the world?
The Sabbath holds a very special place in the lives of Seventh-day Adventists. The seventh day of the week, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday (Lev. 23:32), is a gift from God, a sign of His grace in time. It is a privilege, a special appointment with the One who loves us and Whom we love, a sacred time set aside by God’s eternal law, a day of delight for worshiping God and sharing with others (Isa. 58:13). The believer welcomes the Sabbath with joy and gratitude.
As Ellen White puts it: “God’s love has set a limit to the demands of toil. Over the Sabbath He places His merciful hand. In His own day He preserves for the family opportunity for communion with Him, with nature, and with one another.”1
The Sabbath hours belong to God, and are to be used for Him alone. Our own pleasure, our own words, our own business, our own thoughts, should find no place in the observance of the Lord’s day (Isa. 58:13). Let us gather round the family circle at sunset and welcome the holy Sabbath with prayer and song, and let us close the day with prayer and expressions of gratitude for His wondrous love.
When people think of Adventists as people who “don’t work on the Sabbath,” they are missing the central elements of the Sabbath. It is not just about “not working.” It is a special day for worship in the home and in the church, a day of joy to ourselves and our children, a day in which to learn more of God through the Bible and the great lesson book of nature. It is a time to visit the sick and to work for the salvation of souls. The ordinary affairs of the six working days should be laid aside. No unnecessary work should be performed. Secular reading or secular broadcasts should not occupy our time on God’s holy day.
“The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no labor for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God ceased His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds.”2 3