Chapter 4:  SABBATH, the Original Holiday

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy:  6 days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work,  but the 7th day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God;  in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.   (Exodus 20:8-10)


As noted in this study (“book”)’s introduction (in the discussion captioned “Are holidays special blessings, worth celebrating?”), the Sabbath is the original holy day – and the seventh day of creation. Because God rested after six days of creation work, God hallowed the seventh day, and it has been holy ever since.


Moreover, as noted above (in the discussion captioned “Are holidays special blessings, worth celebrating?”), many Christians have dubbed Sunday (because the first day of the week is when Christ rose from the grave) as “the Christian Sabbath”.  Sabbath-keeping Jews, as well as Christian Sabbath-keepers (such as Seventh-Day Adventists) and “Christian Sabbath” keepers (like Eric Liddell, shown above), have respectively and respectfully celebrated their understanding of the Biblical “Sabbath” for literally thousands of years.  Most have looked to the Fourth Commandment (i.e., Exodus 20:8-11) as the moral mandate for doing so.


Sabbath-Keeping Near and Far

One famous example of the “Christian Sabbath” tradition is the Olympic runner, Eric (“the Flying Scotsman”) Liddell. A Scottish Presbyterian born in China to missionary parents, Eric Liddell (like many other Presbyterians) deemed the Christian Church as the New Testament “replacement” of Israel, so he regarded Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath” (i.e., as the replacement of Israel’s seventh-day Sabbath). Accordingly, Liddell hallowed Sunday as a holy day of rest and worship, not a day of “worldly” recreation. This personal belief was controversially accentuated in AD1924, when Eric refused to run for Great Britain on Sunday, in the Paris Olympics. Because the Paris Summer Olympics scheduled the 100-meters race on a Sunday, Eric Liddell would not compete in it, even though the 100-meters sprint was his best race. Rather, Liddell ran the 400-meters race, and he won it, becoming a Gold Medalist and an Olympic world-record breaker in the process! (Eric later went to China as a Presbyterian missionary, serving there until he was captured by the invading Japanese during World War II. Liddell died at the hands of his Japanese captors shortly before World War II ended.)

Likewise, if we too recognize that Day Seven of Creation Week was sanctified by God (which necessarily means we affirm the Genesis account of creation, as opposed to the humanistic evolution myths that pervade our world nowadays[1]), we too are “remember[ing] the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (see Exodus 20:8-11). Only Biblical creationists truly hallow the Sabbath.

Faith Foundations for Sanctifying the Sabbath

  1. The Sabbath was made holy on the seventh day of creation, the first of more holidays to follow.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work.  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

One example of a strict Sabbatarian, during Old Testament times, was the great reformer Nehemiah. When Nehemiah noticed that ordinary commerce was occurring on the Sabbath, at the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah took drastic action against the offending merchants:

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.  Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.  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.  So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.  Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.  And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.    (Nehemiah 13:15-22)

In more modern times this same kind of ban on ordinary commerce (i.e., marketplace work that is not critically necessary, such as medical services when someone is injured), in America, is known by the nickname “blue laws”. In one somewhat famous U.S. Supreme Court ruling the imposition of “blue laws” was deemed a legitimate exercise of secular political power.[2]

Of course, as noted above (in the discussion captioned “How free are we, to celebrate holidays as blessings?”), it was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who clarified the proper boundaries of Sabbath observance:  the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8 & Luke 6:5).

The Pharisees took the commandment “to rest” and carried it to a ridiculous end which distorted God’s original purpose [for the Sabbath]. In our day[s], some overreact against Sabbath restrictions, tending to neglect or forget the importance of the day and giving it only a token place in their lives.[3]

And, more importantly, Christ Jesus Himself is “Lord of the Sabbath” (as well as “LORD Sabaoth” [also transliterated “Tsabaoth”], i.e., “the LORD of hosts”, a play on words in the Hebrew language  —  see Romans 9:29 & James 5:4 in comparison with Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, & Luke 6:5).

Family, Friends, Fellowship, and Fun

How do Sabbatarian (i.e., Sabbath-observing) families celebrate and “keep” the Sabbath?

In many ways —  some simply relax, devote some time to review of a Scripture passage, eat a simple meal (most of which was prepared the day before), and enjoy watching the sunset that commences the holy day’s “beginning” (because the Sabbath begins at sunset, in accordance with the Genesis formula of evening preceding daytime).

Others attend religious services (on Friday evening, or Saturday, or Sunday).

Yet it seems that all who appreciate (and hallow) the Sabbath do so with some kind of mixture of rest/relaxation, reverence, and remembrance of God’s Creatorship. Remembering God’s Creatorship ultimately recalls the close of Creation Week, when God Himself “rested” from His miraculous works of creation, on Day Seven, the day that He Himself chose to sanctify as a special celebration of His Creatorship.


As a young boy, many decades ago, I recall regular attendance at our local church: Sunday worship service and Sunday School. This is what we understood as “keeping the Sabbath”.  It was a special day, “the Christian Sabbath”  –  a day to be extra respectful of God and His Word:  on Sunday I shined my shoes, combed my hair, and even wore a white shirt and clip-on tie!

Later, during my teen-aged youth, I continued this family habit, with my parents and brothers and sisters, —  plus my older brother (Tom) and I enjoyed watching Sunday evening football games with friends, as did (and still do) many other Americans.  Obviously professional football games gave us an opportunity for rest, relaxation, and recreation – because we were enthusiastic spectators.  (But not so for the football players themselves!)

Years later, as a young collegiate, I also attended a Sunday evening worship service. During these years I assumed that Sunday (because it was on a Sunday that Christ rose from the dead) was “the Christian Sabbath”. It was not until I became a grandfather (i.e., what Norwegians call a “Farfar[4]) that I would come to appreciate the original Sabbath (i.e., Day Seven of Creation Week) as a special holy-day that emphasizes God’s Creatorship, as I appreciate it nowadays.  Now I better appreciate why the Sabbath is such a holy day  —  to forever remind of us God’s wonderful Creatorship, without which we would not even exist.

Foods for the Sabbath

Orthodox Jewish families, who observe the original Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12), often practice preparation of meals the day before sundown on Friday evening, so that “ordinary work” is minimized for Sabbath day meals.  While discussing a suggestion for a kôsher Sabbath-day meal, Martha Zimmerman[5] provides the following nutritious pot-roast recipe:

It originated on the principle that no [unnecessary] work should be done on the Sabbath. This [cholent] dish is made on Friday [before sundown] and simmers in a slow oven all night or in a crock pot.  Try it and continue to enjoy your rest!  . . . .


2-3 lbs. pot roast

2 onions [onion lovers might want to try3!]

¼ cup [olive] oil

½ cup barley

5 potatoes [peeled or unpeeled, your preference]

5 carrots

2 tsp. salt


Brown the meat in the oil. Cut up the onions and brown them lightly, too.  Peel the potatoes and quarter them.  Peel and slice the carrots.  Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy oven-proof container with a tight-fitting lid [to be added soon].  Cover with boiling water and place the lid securely on top.  Bake this in a slow oven 250o [Fahrenheit] overnight [or in a slow-cooking crockpot overnight].  Check from time to time and add water if necessary.  It may also be cooked like a pot roast at 350o [Fahrenheit] for four or five hours.

Thus, the hard work of preparing a pot roast, or a multi-ingredient chowder or stew, can be accomplished in a “slow cooker” crockpot, to eventually serve family members on the Sabbath.


Actually, slow cookers can just as easily serve other main entrees, such as slow-cooked fish (like salmon) or fowl (like chicken).

For another example of crockpot (a/k/a “slow cooker”) cuisine, conducive for minimizing kitchen work on a Sabbath, consider using the following recipe for “Roasted Poblano and Beef Soup”.[6]

6 medium Poblano chiles (about 1 ¼ pounds)

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 cup beef broth, divided

1½ pounds lean top round steak

2 (16-ounce) cans small red beans, undrained

1 (16-ounce) jar salsa (such as Herdez Salsa Casera)

1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2/3 cup 30%-less-fat sour cream (such as Breakstone)

  1. Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes [unless you want a very hot-and-spicy result!]. Place chile halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Add unpeeled garlic to baking sheet.  Broil 15 minutes or until chiles are blackened.  Place chiles in a zip-top plastic bag; seal.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Peel chiles and garlic.

  2. Place half of roasted chiles, garlic, and ¼ cup beef broth in a food processor; process until smooth. Coarsely chop remaining half of chiles.

  3. Trim fat from steak; cut steak into 1-inch cubes. Place pureed chile mixture, chopped chiles, remaining ¾ cup beef broth, steak, beans, salsa, tomatoes, onion, corn, cumin, and oregano in a 3 ½ -quart electric slow cooker; stir well. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour.  Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 6 hours or until steak is tender.  Stir in lime juice.  Top each serving with sour cream.  Yield:  10 servings (serving size: 1 cup soup and 1 tablespoon sour cream).

What a great south-of-the-border soup, especially if served hot on a cold (or cool) day!


Final Thoughts on the Sabbath, the Original Holiday

To close this review of the Sabbath, as the world’s original holy-day, consider this limerick:

Memorializing the Sabbath Means Hallowing God as Creator

                   Day 7 was God’s day of rest;

                   His 6 days’ creation He blessed:

                             Cosmos, earth beasts, and man,

                             Made in just 6 days’ span;

                   The Sabbath, God hallowed for rest.[7]

The Sabbath: a weekly holy-day for rest, remembrance, and reverence!   Keep it holy!



[1] This book is not intended to argue the author’s case for Biblical creation, so a citation here must suffice. See  James J. S. Johnson’s chapters (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13) within Creation Basics & Beyond: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution (Dallas: Institute for Creation Research, 2013; co-authors also include Henry Morris III, John Morris, Jason Lisle, Randy Guliuzza, Jeffrey Tomkins, Frank Sherwin, and others).

[2] McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101 (1961). This judicial result was not a novel expression of “secular” rationale, because an earlier panel of that same court had applied “secular” reasoning to enforce “blue laws” during the late AD1800s, in Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U.S. 703, 5 S. Ct. 730. 28 L.Ed. 1145 (1885).

[3] Martha Zimmerman, Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home or Church (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), page 23.

[4]Farfar” = “Father’s father” in Norwegian.

[5] Martha Zimmerman, Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home or Church (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), pages 45-46.

[6] Alyson M. Haynes, ed., Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook (Birmingham, Alabama: Oxmoor House, Inc., 2002), pages 10-11.

[7] Limerick reprinted from James J. S. Johnson, “Memorializing the Sabbath Means Hallowing God as Creator”, Limerick Legacy series (Cross Timbers Institute, Short Paper # AD2013-08-08-A; © AD2013 James J. S. Johnson, used by permission).


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