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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - The Gift of Rest

Jonathan Bernis - The Gift of Rest

Jonathan Bernis - The Gift of Rest
TOPICS: Sabbath

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome I'm Jonathan Bernis, and I'm joined once again by co-host, Ezra Benjamin. Well, all of us are aware of the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament. "Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not lie. Honor your mother and father," and so on. But there's one that you may not have given much thought to, and that's to keep the shabbat, the sabbath. Are we obligated to keep the Ten Commandments and specifically are we obligated to keep shabbat? That's a question we're gonna talk about today. And Ezra, this is something I've been wanting to talk about on the program for a while now.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, there is so much to unpack here. But Jonathan, before we even talk about the idea of the shabbat or the sabbath in English, shabbat in Hebrew, I think we have to zoom out to what you just mentioned, the idea of the Ten Commandments. And you know, you and I are asked so often by many of our Christian audience, are Christians, people without a Jewish background, obligated to keep the Ten Commandments? And the idea is, you know, some people go as extreme just to say, "Am I going to hell if I don't do this? Or am i, you know, am I disobeying God"? And I think, you know, when we start to go through 'em and say, "Well, should Christians not lie"? Yeah, of course. "Should Christians not steal"? Of course, we shouldn't steal. "Should we not commit adultery"? Of course. But then, when we get to that fourth commandment, keep the sabbath, right, honor the sabbath day and keep it holy, many Christians go, "Well, that's for the Jewish people. That's part of the law, I'm not under the law". So, we make this distinction, don't we, on this one of the Ten Commandments?

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, considering this is the fourth commandment and it's before "Honor your mother and father," it really is an important question to answer.

Ezra Benjamin: It is.

Jonathan Bernis: It's interesting though. It's so obvious we don't kill, of course. We don't lie. We honor our parents. We have no graven image.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But this one with shabbat somehow is distinct and has moved over to the law category which is done away with.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. And I think, you know, the spirit of the Ten Commandments if we look at it, goes back to what Jesus said is that most important commandment. And we see this, of course, in the Old Testament as well, right? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself". And so, all ten of the Ten Commandments, which came through Moses to Israel, but really are for all mankind in terms of how we relate to a holy God, fall into those two categories, right? How to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and how to love our neighbor as ourselves. And so, something about loving God with all our heart relates to this fourth commandment of resting.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. I think, Ezra, that there's a misconception.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: And I think this has a lot to do with it. And the misconception is that Jesus, by violating the shabbat according to the pharisees...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Did away with it. Removed the shabbat.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, we've heard that said so many times.

Jonathan Bernis: But in actuality, Jesus doesn't do away with the shabbat, he keeps shabbat, but he keeps it according to God's intent, original intent for shabbat.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: Which is that shabbat is created for man, not man for shabbat.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, that's what Yeshua, what Jesus says is kind of the moral of the story, right? He's saying, "David plucked heads of grain. He took bread from the temple on the shabbat". Why? Because he needed it to live. And Jesus says very clearly, "The sabbath, the shabbat day, this day of rest was made for man". It's God's blessing to man. It's not something that men are supposed to serve with heavy commandments.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. Well, let's go back and look how important is this to God? What significance? What weight does this carry in scripture? And we have to go back to Genesis 1 for that.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, it's important enough. I know you're gonna read the verse in a minute, Jonathan. It's important enough that we see it literally in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible.

Jonathan Bernis: It is.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, it's actually part of the creation story believe it or not. So, we're gonna put it on the screen so you can follow along. In Genesis 2, actually, God creates the world. He creates man. He blesses man. And I love this declaration, "God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God. He created them male and female". He blesses them. And then he looks at all that he has made and it was good and it was evening and morning, the sixth day thus the heavens and the earth, we'll put this up now. "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing. So on the seventh day he rested from all work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because he had rested from all the work of creating he had done".

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, so this is actually the first thing in creation that God calls holy. In Hebrew, "Kadosh". He sets apart the seventh day and says, "This is kadosh. This is set apart to me, it's holy". The first thing in all creation.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, it's amaz, I also, I'm always intrigued by the idea of God the Creator resting.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: Because in Jewish thought, certainly, God is always creating. He sustains life by creating. I remember I took a semester of ultra-orthodox called hasidic Philosophy. The hasidic movement was very devout, very religious, and if we, there was quite a focus on God resting because rest is an important part of the cycle of Jewish, the weekly cycle of Jewish life.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: And the idea was that God created the world by speaking. He was speaking. He was working by speaking. But on the seventh day, he created by thought. Kind of interesting idea, I'm not sure if it's accurate.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But simply, we're told in scripture that God, the Creator of all things, rested.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, and people may say, "Well, wait a minute. I thought, I know very clearly the scriptures say, 'he who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, right? God doesn't take a nap, so how is it that he stops"? And it's literally in Hebrew, the idea of shabbat is to cease. It's not to go to sleep, it's to cease. And it says, "He ceased from his creative work".

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, there's a lot of weight to this...

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: When you realize that it's this part of the creation story. And then of course, it's inserted in the Ten Commandments. It's the fourth commandment that we're actually to keep the sabbath. So, the question is, is this part of the law for Jewish people or does this somehow apply to all believers?

Ezra Benjamin: And again, Jonathan, I think we have to be careful in the whole idea of, we talk about this so often on the show, obligation versus invitation. Right? And I think Jesus speaks to that again, back to that passage. "The shabbat, the sabbath was made for man," Jesus is saying. We weren't made for it. It's meant to serve us somehow. And God is very clear in the Ten Commandments saying, "This is how you acknowledge my holiness is you set apart a day that's holy to me for your rest and to remember me". But you're not serving the day, it's an invitation into something.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I think this is where we have to separate the letter of the law from the intent, the heart, the kavanah. What is God's intent for mankind keeping shabbat or certainly the Jewish people, but I think everyone, and that is that this is beneficial in so many ways. God's heart is that we live a long healthy life and that we prosper in all we do. That's God's intent. That's God's heart. And I think shabbat is a reflection of that. That by resting, we actually, in the same way tithing is not obligatory but we do it out of a heart, a cheerful heart. We benefit from that, the 90% or the 80 %, or whatever we keep by giving to God goes further.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, and that's exactly the idea. Somebody said to me years ago, I'll never forget it, "We can do more in the Lord's strength in six days than we can do in our own strength in seven". Right? And I'm thinking of the scripture, "God knows our frame. He remembers that we're dust". He knows that how he made us. We get tired. We get worn down, and we need a rest. And so, he's inviting us, actually, commanding us. He makes us to lay down in green pastures. He's making us to cease once a week because he knows there's blessing.

Jonathan Bernis: I'm gonna, it's confession time for me, okay?

Ezra Benjamin: Go for it. I'm here, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bernis: Just, you're not watching, okay. Just, I'm gonna tell Ezra this. You can listen. I didn't get married 'till later in life, and I was a workaholic, and I justified it.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: I'm doing the work of the kingdom. The time is short. Louis kaplan, our founder, used to say that, "We have to work while it is yet day, for a night will come when no man can work". I did not keep shabbat...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra. I worked seven days a week, long days. And I really did get burned out.

Ezra Benjamin: And there was always more to do.

Jonathan Bernis: There was always more to do. And the shabbat message started to really grow in my heart when I got married and had kids.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: And I wanna tell you that I do take a shabbat now. And working and rest is more productive than being a workaholic.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: This is for some of you very specifically right now. Shabbat can change your life. While it's difficult for us to take a break from this conversation, I feel like we're just getting started, but Ezra and I will return in a few minutes to discuss whether you should be keeping shabbat as well. I think you know where we're headed. An important part of this ministry here at Jewish Voice is to teach you about your Jewish roots and why you should be standing with Israel. Now, when you support Jewish Voice, you're helping reach Jewish communities in Israel and around the world. Here's how you can help.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back to our discussion on shabbat. We appreciate you so much. I want you to know that. Your partnership with Jewish Voice means the world to us because we could not do it without you. So, thank you for your prayers and for your support of this ministry. Well, Ezra, we're talking about a topic that we should have been talking about a long time ago, actually.

Ezra Benjamin: Better late than never.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah.

Ezra Benjamin: Here we are. And Jonathan, first of all, I think we need to understand, in addition to remembering that God ceased from his creative work on the shabbat, as we were saying, we see that in Genesis, the very end of Genesis 1 into Genesis 2, and shabbat being the first thing God called kadosh or holy, set apart, there is something else that the Jewish people around the world are commanded to remember as we celebrate the shabbat every Friday night into Saturday every week, every year. And it's this idea that we were brought out of slavery in Egypt, and God's telling Israel, "Keep the shabbat in all your generations. This is an everlasting commandment for you, Israel, the Jewish people, because you need to remember that there was a time when you had to work seven days, you had no choice, and I with a mighty hand and outstretched arm brought you out of that situation and into freedom. And so, now you're taking one day a week to remember that you don't have to work every day of the week".

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, you know Ezra, I just, I wanna make it clear what we're not saying here, okay? It's just very important that you understand this clearly. We're not saying that you are obligated to keep the shabbat, which is the seventh day. We observe shabbat on Saturday. You may say, "I do keep the shabbat at Sunday". That's fine. We're not asserting Saturday is the shabbat and you need to keep it. We're trying to help you understand that God cares about rest. He cares about your rest.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And he created shabbat for you. And if you're not taking a day to rest, then you are being drained, and you will not be as productive and fruitful and ultimately as healthy as God wants you to be. And I was sharing a confession, Ezra, with you that for many years I didn't keep shabbat. I worked seven days. I just got burned out. And really, after I had a family, I realized this is important.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: I grew up with shabbat because I went to Hebrew school and I went to synagogue on shabbat for many years. But there was something about shabbat that needed to be restored in my life, and I realize this is a family anchor.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: There's something about the family being around the table and then together on shabbat. And I don't get on my cellphone. I don't get on my computer. I mean, I think the internet has invaded our space. There should just be one day where we just turn the thing off.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Right?

Ezra Benjamin: Right and...

Jonathan Bernis: I know I'm noodling now into your life.

Ezra Benjamin: No, in religious Jewish communities, in fact, it's forbidden to use your phone on shabbat or to get in the car and drive somewhere, certainly, to go to the store and shop. And you may say, "Well, that's very legalistic". And of course, that's things that specific Jewish communities do. We're not saying you have to do that. But the principle is a day to break away from the demands of life and to focus on the Lord. And remember, if he ceased from creation, we can cease from our creative work and abide in the beauty and the abundance that he has created. You know, I heard somebody say, "Just like the children of Israel were brought out of slavery in Egypt, on shabbat, on the sabbath day, all of us can remember that we're not slaves to our to do list. That actually, we don't belong to the demands of life. We belong to the Lord. He's bought us at a great price".

Jonathan Bernis: This is not about legalism. This is not about bondage. This is about freedom.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: This is about something that God gives us as a gift, and I just, I wanna talk for a minute about, just a few minutes, about how we observe shabbat. First of all, we break bread. We get together around the table. There is something about eating a meal together. And when you have teenage kids, they're running to and fro. Everybody's doing their own thing, off at a basketball game, whatever.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: Shabbat around the table, and we break bread together.

Ezra Benjamin: Everyone comes together.

Jonathan Bernis: This is a challah. This is delicious, by the way.

Ezra Benjamin: It is. It's delicious bread.

Jonathan Bernis: You have to find a place that has this if you want to try it. It's great. But we break bread together. There's just something about breaking bread. Jesus broke bread with his disciples, and it's important enough to mention over and over and over again. And there is a specific prayer. We bless the fruit of the vine, whether it's grape juice or wine. There is a specific prayer for that. The woman of the house begins by lighting the candles and differentiating this day of rest from all other days because God says, "This is set apart".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, we're setting it apart. And here is the part I love so much, we bless each other. This is so important. Do you bless your kids? I know there's a lot of grandparents and parents watching the program. We need to keep our family together in a society that's trying to push us apart. We pray over each other. The kids bless us. The kids pray for our health. The kids pray for our well-being. We teach them do that in their specific prayers. And then, as a mother and father, as grandparents, we're praying over the children. And you can pray over your children's children. And this is all part of the design of shabbat.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: It's a beautiful thing. It is an anchor for your family. I know I'm preaching now. And my goodness, we need family anchors in a society that's pulling the family apart.

Ezra Benjamin: We certainly do. I can't, some families, you know, you may be listening, saying, "I don't know the last time my family or my children, grandchildren came together around the same table to sit for two minutes, let alone break bread and pray over one another". But the idea of the sabbath, Jonathan, being a time to bless and to be blessed. Not just to be blessed in the Lord as we're resting and refreshed in his presence and on the day of stopping our work, but actually to bless one another and to be blessed by one another.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, I'm asked a lot by Christian leaders, by pastors, "How does the Jewish community, the traditional Jewish community keep such strong family ties"? And the answer is, the cycle of life, including shabbat, we're imparting to our children. That's what we're commanded to do. I think that Christians can learn so much from the traditional Jewish community, from the observant Jewish community, about impartation to the children, about keeping the family together with things like shabbat and the different appointed times of the Lord, which, by the way, point to the Messiah. They all have at their center, Yeshua, Jesus. This is so critical. I think that Christians have a lot to teach Jewish people because we know the Messiah. We know God's plan is salvation. Jewish people are blinded to that and we need to teach them. But we can also learn from them, and shabbat is a prefect example.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, amen. You know, Jonathan, I'm thinking of the passage where Jesus is saying, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden". You ever feel weary and heavy laden? I do sometimes. I bet you do too. And he says, "And I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon me, learn from me. I'll be your rabbi," Jesus says, "Because my yoke is easy and my burden is light". And the idea there in the Greek is this idea of the unforced rhythms of grace. And I think, Jonathan, the idea of a shabbat, a sabbath, is part of those unforced, remember, invitation not obligation, an unforced rhythm of grace. A cadence of life that involves rest and restoration and refreshment and blessing and being blessed. I certainly need it. I know you need it at home. We need those times. A time to bless, a time to rest, a time to be refreshed.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah for parents and grandparents that are watching, especially grandmothers and mothers, one memory that I'll carry the rest of my life is my youngest daughter who is now not so young, when she was three, four years old and shabbat was coming, she would with great excitement run over to draw where we kept the candlesticks, where we kept all of the different elements for shabbat and she would pull them all out and the prayer book and everything else, and she was just so excited about it and I have those memories. I'm tearing up as I talk about it. And you can play a role in that mothers, grandmothers to bring your family together in a deeper way. If they're scattered and you're worried about them, shabbat is a great way to bring your family together.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen. Amen. So important, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bernis: It really works. Ezra and I are going to pray for your needs in just a minute. But first, our announcer will share an incredible opportunity to partner with Jewish Voice medical outreach ministries all over the world, but especially in Israel. Please listen to how you can partner with us. We'll be right back to pray with you after this.

Jonathan Bernis: Our shabbat show would not be complete without praying for you and your needs. Shabbat is about divine provision. It's about rest. It's about well-being. And the Lord promises all those things through his word to those who love him and are called according to his purposes. He wants to turn all things for good. You may have been going through a very rough time. Well, we're standing with you. And so, trust the Lord right now. Let's agree together. Where two or three agree as touching anything it shall be done. So, Ezra, let's just agree together. We've received so many prayers this week, prayer requests. And Lord, we thank you that in Jesus there is divine provision.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: In Jesus, Yeshua, there is healing, there is wholeness, and there is rest. "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". I speak rest for the weary that are watching. I speak family restoration. I speak divine provision, healing, and health in the name above every name...

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: The name of Yeshua. The name of Jesus. Through his name and faith in his name, we agree. Amen.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: And amen. Well, our website offers greater information on the shabbat than we can cover right now. So, go to our newly redesigned site,, to find more resources. We also have a team here at Jewish Voice that's committed to reading your prayer request and praying for you by name. Why? Because we believe in the power of prayer and we care about you. And more importantly, God cares about you. As we close the program today, I wanna remind you to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper who love thee". So, please join with us for the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people this week. Until next time, this is Jonathan Bernis along with Ezra Benjamin saying shalom and God bless you.
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