Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

In this three-part series, we first briefly looked at God’s fourth commandment – seeing that it was not only a commandment but a gift – a day set apart to rest from the curse that would later come through Adam and Eve’s sin and to enjoy and be refreshed by God. In the second blog I gave seven reasons that compel me to observe a weekly Sabbath. But I live in the real world with all the schedule struggles that each of you experience. Today’s blog is more practical in nature.

A significant key is to honor God by not being legalistic about the Sabbath while still being disciplined to abstain from working and spending time honoring God. Balancing freedom and discipline is the challenge of the Christian walk in many areas.

Sabbath Saturday, Sunday or ???
The Jewish Sabbath (or Shabbat) is from sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening. There is actually a short ritual and prayer that bookend the day, setting it apart as different from all other days. I have never observed a Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, but it’s on my bucket list! It seems to me that the traditions would enhance a Sabbath observance.

Some Christian denominations observe a Saturday Sabbath, but most recognize Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Whether Saturday or Sunday, I find that observing a Sabbath on one of those days, is easiest. However, I am by no means dogmatic about what day is honored Stepping out of legalism and into freedom, I honor the spirit of the law in lieu of the letter of the law. I am somewhat legalistic about it being one day a week (because if I’m not I too easily allow many weeks go by without a Sabbath), but exercise complete freedom about which day of the week.

My husband works two jobs – part time at our business and part time at a local hospital. His hospital schedule varies and he is required to work most Sundays. Each week we look at our schedules and set aside one day for him to honor as a Sabbath to the Lord. It’s sometimes very difficult for me to not violate his Sabbath when he’s been out of our office for several days and I need his assistance on a project. But Sabbath observing is as much about disciplining ourselves not to meet the demands of this world as it is about resting and enjoying the Lord. So I try not to be one of those demanders.

Observing the Sabbath on the same day every week is ideal, and clearly what God intended, but your schedule may not make that possible. In Phil’s case, for example, sometimes ten days may go by between Sabbaths and the next week it may be only five days. It’s not ideal, but it still honors God and enables Phil to experience the blessing of observing the Sabbath.

Do’s & Don’ts
People often think of a long list of restrictions when they think of observing a Sabbath day. The only true restriction is “don’t work.” Anything else I write is simply a guideline designed to help you enter into the spirit of the day. As I wrote in my first blog in this series, as a child I was not allowed to sew on Sunday. To me sewing was a joy and I never understood the rule. I understand now that the rule was developed when sewing was just another chore required to make a household run smoothly. My great-grandmother couldn’t stop by WalMart to buy a new dress for my grandmother when she outgrew the one she’d been wearing. Great-granny had to sew a new one. Hence, sewing was something that was prohibited on a day of rest. That rule was passed down to my grandmother and my mother and eventually me. I bucked the tradition.

Space does not allow for a lengthy discussion about how Christians might observe the Sabbath, but a few suggestions might be helpful. Again, they are not meant as rules, simply suggestions to get one started on a path of honoring the Sabbath and the One who created it. One suggestion, however, as you begin to enjoy Sabbaths as days set apart for the Lord – they take a little preparation sometimes. Don’t wait until your Sabbath day each week to enjoy it. Plan ahead to take a nature walk or gather with friends. Not every week, but frequently enough to keep your Sabbaths from disintegrating into days of sitting around doing nothing!


  • Worship
  • Rest
  • Family activities that promote positive interaction
  • Fellowship with friends
  • Rest (repeated here because our natural inclination is to do something instead of do nothing)
  • Explore nature
  • Discuss God’s Word, nature, ways, etc. and what He is teaching – “discuss” means you’re gathering with family and/or friends for enjoyable times centered on God
  • Be creative – draw, sew, play an instrument, garden, write (so long as you’re not working at it!)
  • Practice peace


  • Work or discuss work
  • Discuss bothersome issues like finances and “to do” lists
  • Get lost for Sabbaths on end doing things alone – playing computer games, watching television, even reading
  • Rush – for anything or anywhere
  • Quarrel – set differences aside for a day
  • Adhere to a strict schedule

A key is to recognize the commandment, need and blessing of observing Sabbaths and making a commitment to do so. God will be honored and pleased by your efforts and you will be blessed more than you can imagine. I like what Abraham Heschel wrote in his book The Sabbath, It’s Meaning for Modern Man.

“The art of keeping the seventh day is the art of painting on the canvas of time the mysterious grandeur of the climax of creation: as He sanctified the seventh day, so shall we. The love of the Sabbath is the love of man for what he and God have in common. Our keeping the Sabbath is a paraphrase of His sanctification of the seventh day. (page 16) (bolding mine)

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