There are many reasons why YHVH established Shabbat and the Feasts. These are His set-apart times for teaching us, preparing us, celebrating with us, and bringing order to His Kingdom. The end result is that YHVH desires is to be intimate with us individually and corporately. One of my favorite verses in Scripture is from Deuteronomy 30:19 and the first part of verse 20, in the Complete Jewish Bible translation..
I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving [YHVH] your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him – for that is the purpose of your life!
Shabbats are very important to YHVH and, whether or not we know it, they are important to us. The 23rd chapter of Leviticus designates clearly all the days that are Shabbats, whether weekly or during the Feasts. Later in Leviticus, YHVH points out the consequences for working during a Shabbat.
For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death (Lev. 31:15).
The consequences for disobedience are harsh and hardly seem an invitation for intimacy, but it is most likely a necessary starting place. In the Exodus account of the Israelites in Egypt, we see a people that are unruly and often wayward. They had been immersed in idolatry and enslaved to cruel taskmasters. To win their trust, YHVH demonstrated through signs and wonders that He is to be both feared and respected and also that He is able to protect and provide for His people. YHVH was formidable to their enemies, while protecting and providing for the Israelites..
When they were in the wilderness, YHVH gave them new commands and imposed strict consequences for disobedience, so that He would be taken seriously. Despite all the signs and wonders people still complained that He wouldn’t provide for them and tried to return to their idols. There was at least one person who ignored YHVH’s commands concerning Shabbat. YHVH had to follow through with the consequences He had established and the man was put to death (Num 15:30-36). Were such harsh consequences necessary?
As a former teacher, I quickly learned that at the beginning of a new school year, teachers must be stricter than normal. The more unruly the students the more critical it becomes to establish authority and order. Once the students are settled, a proper atmosphere is established where students can learn and a healthy relationship with the teacher can be fostered. If teachers are extra strict at the start, the focus can more quickly shift from the rules to learning.
Once each of us comprehends that YHVH is sovereign and is to be obeyed, then we are in a position to learn what He has to teach us. As we progress with our learning and interact more with YHVH, we grow closer to our sovereign King. Over time, we set aside our old ways and take on His ways. We experience His concern for our hearts. Eventually, we are ready to hear what is on His heart.
We make the transition from obeying the “no work” command simply because it is a command to refraining from work because we are eager to spend time with our Teacher. We value what is important to YHVH. Sometimes it is necessary to do His work even on Shabbat. Yeshua demonstrated this when He healed on Shabbat. He was showing us that the purpose of Shabbat is to be in tune with our Father’s heart. It is not to become fascinated with rules and regulations.
Even as we grow closer to YHVH, we must be mindful that we are dealing with our Creator and our Sovereign. We are not to take His words lightly or take Him for granted. We must maintain a balance between healthy respect and intimacy with YHVH. Otherwise, we will find ourselves slipping from following His heart on Shabbat to following our own concerns. If that happens, our relationship with YHVH will quickly deteriorate as we move away from Him.
Yeshua spent time on Shabbat teaching, being taught, and healing. He was closely aligned with Abba’s heart and could easily transition to whatever His Father desired for Him to do at any given moment. Such intimacy is our Father’s desire for us and the reason He created us.
If we keep in mind the real purpose for our existence, we will remain focused on our Father’s heart and not fall into legalistic traps. We will reap all the rewards that YHVH intends for us.