Dr. Viu Meru
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2 &3) “and was refreshed” (Exodus 31: end of 17).
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy….in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20: 8-11. Cf Deuteronomy 5:14 &15).
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain women came to the tomb………. but they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. …. Then as they were afraid and bowed their heads to the earth, they said to them ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen!’” (Luke 24:1-6)
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread ….” (Acts 20:7)
The Christian Sunday is a pattern of the Jewish Sabbath, but distinct from it. Even though both follows the rhythm of 6 days’ work followed by a day of rest, the day of rest for the Jewish Sabbath is observed on the seventh day of the week whereas the Christian Sunday is observed on the first day of the week - the day on which Jesus Christ rose from the death, and each of his post resurrection appearances as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples took place. St. John who received the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ on that first day of the week called it the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10). As the Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means ‘rest’ or ‘cease from work’, we can see that it is a day of rest for both. A look at the portions of the Bible given above, it is seen that the day of rest was established by God at creation wherein He Himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything on the preceding six days and He was refreshed. And that was before the fall of Adam and Eve. It is very important to note this because it gives us an understanding of the ‘creation intent’ of God – what God intents the world to be if Adam and Eve did not fall. We will also find that God included the seventh day rest named Sabbath as the fourth of His ten commandments given in the wilderness to His people hundreds of years later through Moses their leader with a call to remember the Sabbath and cease from all their work remembering God’s six days of creative work as found in Exodus 20:8 -11. A few hundred years later in the book of Deuteronomy 5: 14 &15, we see an added call to remember God’s mighty hands that delivered them from their cruel Egyptian masters. The Jews strictly adhered to this commandment by adding certain rules to it by the Rabbis to make it more difficult to break. When our Lord Jesus Christ walked on earth, He rested on Sabbath with fellow Jews, but was often at arguments with them by His resounding “No” to the rabbinical additions. We must remember that Jesus Christ came to re-establish the creation intent of God. He was ‘Yes’ for the seventh day rest, but ‘No’ to their interpretation of this ceremonial moral law. God wants human to rest on the seventh day physically and mentally and be refreshed remembering His creative works and His mighty deeds of salvation. This the Lord Jesus affirmed saying He is Lord of Sabbath and Sabbath is for human (Mark 2:27 & 28). As this pattern of rest on the seventh day was introduced by God Himself for the good of humankind long before the Mount Sinai event and Jesus Christ himself kept it during His life on earth, I personally consider this to be very important. In fact, the Commandment starts with the word ‘Remember’ meaning don’t forget to rest on the seventh day. I always remember Exodus 31:17 where it says of God “on the seventh day…rested and was refreshed”- a very healthy state worth emulating.
Very interestingly, the new branch of science called ‘Chronobiology’ is beckoning us to pay attention to the biological clock of 7 days inherent to our body system.Chronobiology deals with how living beings handle time. Susan Perry and Jim Dawson observed that “Chronobiology is now a major science being studied in major Universities and Medical Centers around the world. There are Chronobiologists working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as for the National Institute of Health and other government laboratories. Chronobiology is becoming a part of mainstream science, and it is changing our way of looking at life and time.”These Chronobiologists have found that there is a mysterious innate rhythm of 7 days, which they called ‘circaseptan’ operating in the living beings like the one cell algae, plants, fish, birds and mammals including human unrelated to their external environment or culture; it is just there. Of this mystery, Dr. Amie Gotfryd, PhD, a Jewish Environmentalist wrote “….it is nice to know that the One who created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day, gave us the Sabbath not only as a commemoration of His work, but as a perfectly timed rest from ours”. He had further recorded that “Scientists have documented bona fide weekly fluctuations in the human blood pressure, heart rate, blood chemistry, body temperature, kidney function, tooth development, urine chemistry and volume, stress hormones, various neurotransmitters, and the immune system”. It is wonderful to know that our creator should put this circaseptan in us and commanded us to rest for a day after six days of work to be refreshed and restored. This reminds me of the ‘power nab’ I often need in the afternoon for my brain to be refreshed and restored and that we all benefit from the rhythm of a good night’s sleep that enables us to face each day’s challenge of life and living and how the breaking of our sleep pattern disturbs us. Sabbath perhaps is intended to be like the night of rest.
That the all powerful God has placed the seven days rhythm in our body and commanded us to rest on the seventh day of the cycle is far too loud and we dare not challenge Him!
The next question is which day to rest? Do I rest on the Jewish Sabbath, i.e., on Saturday or on the Christian Sunday? We know that Muslims rest from work to worship Allah on Friday, and many Church offices are closed on Monday because Sunday is a busy day for the Church workers. To me the rhythm of seventh day rest is important and not the particular day. As a Christian I believe Jesus Christ, the Son of God has fulfilled the ceremonial part of Sabbath’s strict observance, but my body system still requires the seventh day rest, assuming I have worked for the six days preceding it. In Christ I have an abiding rest, but a fuller rest, wherein there is no six days labor and seventh day rest is yet to come (Hebrews.4:9). It’s an ‘already and not yet’ experience of the Kingdom of God. So which day should I rest? Sunday, to worship God with my fellow Christians and to rest remembering His love and mighty deeds towards me, my family and everyone else in the human family and to also do works of necessity and of mercy.
What does this mean for Health professionals? On this day, health professionals should also rest by turning away from normal routine works, but should do works of necessity such as cooking and eating, works of mercy such as attending to medical emergency. We ought to give ourselves to the Lord and in his service join other Christians in worship. I believe the doctors and the nurses will dishonor God if they neglect their patients in any way on Sundays. However, planned operations should not be done, but emergency surgeries must be attended to. Delivering babies on Sundays is welcome, but elective Caesarian sections or any other non-emergency surgeries should be avoided on Sundays. I believe a doctor should do his/her morning and evening rounds. The nurses must nurse the patients like any other day. They can have their rest another day or at another hour. The Cleaners must sweep and clean the rooms. The Emergency services should be available 24x7 and manned properly on Sundays along with the pharmacy for patients in emergency situations. Above all, every staff should be ready to attend to any emergency. Medical Camps are often planned on Sundays because doctors are busy on the week days. I have experienced some beautiful moments when our whole team joined the host Village church worship service and tend to the sick after that. However, resting on Sundays is preferable. The Lord gives us liberty to decide if we should forgo our rest for a greater good sometimes. It also helps to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ placed a very high premium on works of Mercy, primarily those of healing and restoring functions to disabled body parts on Sabbath as on the other days.(Matthew.12:9-13; Mark 3:1-3; Luke 6: 6-10).And as far as possible family marketing should be done on other days than on the day of rest, even though marketing per se on Sundays should not be viewed as sin, for example picking a bundle of vegetable by the way side or a loaf of bread from the bakery or to stop to let the kids have ice cream etc on the way home from Church are not sinful activities. And it is not legally binding for anyone to go to Church to worship God or have fellowship with other Christians on Sundays. It is not sinful to rest at home on Sundays, but the whole meaning of Sunday is to honor our Lord and derive as much spiritual benefits as possible on Sundays. I like Robertson McQuilkin’s comment that says “The only way the careful observance of the rest day commandment would displease our Lord would be if a person looked to that obedience as a means of earning merit or as a way of salvation” because our salvation is by faith in the Lord and not on any deeds of merit.
Can I impose my rest day on others? For me it is a resounding ‘No’. A doctor of another faith can have a hospital and keep it in full functioning on my day of rest, and rest on his own day of rest. And while I can request someone working for me to rest on my day of rest, I cannot compel him or her to do so if he is someone whose rhythm of rest and worship is not on Sunday by a religious conviction. Not hiring someone, of another conviction regarding the day of rest, to work with me should not be viewed as wrong or discriminatory because I have aright to choose the one who will work well in my system. On the contrary, I cannot look down upon another Christian who rests and worships on Saturday like the Christians in Nepal because that is the only day permitted by the government to turn away from routine works. The Seventh Day Adventists also rest and worship on the Jewish Sabbath day. That’s all alright for me, if it is not viewed as superior to my Sunday rest. Also I learned that Christians hold their Church services on Fridays in some Muslim countries. In India, my fellow Christians and I can rest from our routine works on Sundays and glorify God and refrain from any activity that is understood to be dishonoring God, but we don’t impose it on people of other faiths to do the same. Very interestingly, I have a hard working friend who is often found, on Sunday mornings and evenings clipping and nibbling plants and flowers outside his quarters with his scissors and cutters because that relaxes him. He senses God in tending to those beautiful plants and found it spiritually enriching. Can I dare judge him? He is a better Christian than I am in every way. I think our God has a much bigger heart than we think and He has not put us in a tin box and says “there you are, do not move”. We rest and worship Him on Sunday, obey His commandments because it honors Him and because it is good for us and not because we may earn any merit from it. In fact, with the Holy Spirit living in us we are en-lawed with His laws in our hearts to conduct our life in a Godly manner as a fulfillment of the prophetic utterance of Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33). We will know how to behave in any given moment in any given culture.
- The Bible, NKJV
- New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology
- An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by Robert McQuilkin
- The Amazing 7-Day Cycle by Kenneth Westby
- The Biological Shabbat Clock by Dr. Amie Gotflyd
- Seven-day human biological rhythms: An expedition in search of their origin, synchronization, functional advantage, adaptive value and clinical relevance by Alain E. Reinberg, Laurence Dejardin et all.
Dr. Viu Meru is a medical practitioner and currently works as the Deputy Director (Admins), CIHSR, Dimapur.
This is the third article of the Sabbath/ Sunday Series, an initiative of Oriental Theological Seminary.