Keeping or Celebrating?

Answering the Objection that We Cannot "Keep" the Appointed Times in Our Day

By David M Rogers

Published: August 2012

Table of Contents

Will Elohim Hold Us Accountable for Not Doing What We Cannot Do?

What Does It Mean to "Keep" the Sabbath Day?

Concluding Remarks

In the course of proclaiming the Everlasting Gospel, I have noticed that some speakers are mincing their words when it comes to claiming that we who embrace our Hebraic Roots can "keep" the Sabbath Day or "keep" the annual appointed times and festivals.  Our Torah rejecting, antinomian opponents are quick to point the accusing finger at us as they remind us that we cannot observe all the laws and right-rulings of the Sabbath day and those attached to the appointed times and seasons.

The Torah does, indeed, require of Israel to offer certain offerings and sacrifices for each Sabbath Day.  And the Torah requires other offerings and sacrifices on each of the appointed days.  We cannot do these things now because we have no temple in Jerusalem and no Levitical priests in operation.  Neither are we going up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals as the Torah requires.  And so, we feel a tinge of guilt about being unable to offer these offerings and for not going up to Jerusalem as instructed. Thus, we have been convinced that we are not really "keeping" those holy days of Yehovah's calendar according to the Instructions given.

In his first letter to to the elect scattered all over the world, Peter offers this advice:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Messiah may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Truly, the accusation made against us that we are not really keeping Elohim's holy days is a false accusation.  To this accusation, I offer this defense of my faith and the way I practice my faith.  I will do so by asking and then answering two pertinent questions.  First, "Will Elohim hold us accountable for not doing what we cannot do?"  And second, "What does it mean to 'keep' the Sabbath day and all the appointed days?"

Will Elohim Hold Us Accountable for Not Doing What We Cannot Do?

Surely, Yehovah our Elohim is a just Elohim.  He can do no wrong.  We know from the Torah, the Psalms, the Prophets and from the New Testament that his judgment is fitting and appropriate whether his judgment results in vindication or condemnation.  He is righteous in all his ways.

First, what will we be held responsible for?  Moses tells us that obeying the commandments of the Torah can be done.  It is not too difficult for us nor too far away from us to do:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.  See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love Yehovah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and Yehovah your Elohim will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:11-16)

The commandments are given to us to obey.  And they are not too difficult to obey.  Those who love Yehovah with all their heart, mind and strength are quite able to keep his commandments.

But what about those things that are now not possible to do, such as the offerings at the temple?  Would it be fair and just for him to hold anyone accountable for not doing something they were unable to do?  Of course not.  Yehovah will not rebuke or condemn us for something impossible for us to do.  After all, it is Yehovah himself who put the temple and the temple service and the work of the Levitical priesthood aside, for the time being.

Even going up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals is not required of us today.  How can I say that when the Torah clearly commands it?  First, when you consider the reason that all Israel was required to go up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals, it becomes clear that it is not for us today. 

Three times a year all your men are to appear before Adonai Yehovah, the Elohim of Yisrael.  I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before Yehovah your Elohim. (Shemot 34:23-24)


No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Shemot 34:20)

The reason everyone is to go up to Jerusalem is to appear before Yehovah and with something to offer.  But since the Shekinah (presence) of Yehovah is no longer in Jerusalem, even if we go up we would not be appearing before him to offer up our praises and offerings.  He is simply not there.

Support for this view comes from Yeshua himself in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.  In response to a question about where the proper place to worship is, Yeshua responded:

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Yerushalayim....  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (4th Gospel 4:21-23)

So, with the destruction of the temple, there is no need to go up to worship Yehovah at the three appointed times because Yehovah is NOT THERE.  Just as Yeshua said, now is the time when we are NOT worshipping the Father at Jerusalem.  We are to worship him in spirit and in truth wherever we are.

What Does It Mean to Keep the Sabbath Day?

Since we are no longer required to perform the temple service acts in our day, can we still be legitimately keeping the Sabbath and the annual appointed days?  The answer to this question will be found when we more clearly understand the terminology of the Hebrew language Scriptures and the meaning of the word "keep."

We find this commandment in Deuteronomy 5:12.  This is my translation.

Keep the Sabbath day to maintain its holiness, as Yehovah your Elohim has commanded you.

Actually, a more literal rendering of that Hebrew text would say,

Guard the Sabbath day by separating it, as Yehovah your Elohim has commanded you.

The word translated here "keep" or "guard" is from the Hebrew shamar.  The BDB Hebrew Lexicon tells us this word means to keep, watch, guard, preserve, to keep watch, be in trust of.  This word refers to providing security for something, or to protect something or someone.

The English word "keep" can mean several different things and can be used in ways unrelated to its meaning in Hebrew.  But in certain contexts, it still has the same meaning as shamar.  When we speak of a "keep" or a place to secure our money and valuables, such as a safe or safely deposit box, we are using the word with the same meaning as shamar.

We find this word in the Aaronic Blessing.  Yevarechecha Yehovah vayishmerecha.  "May Yehovah bless you and keep watch over you."  Or, "protect you", or even, "keep you safe."  This blessing requests that Yehovah hover over you to keep you from all harm.

When we take this primary meaning to our text about the Sabbath, its telling us to "guard the Sabbath by sanctifying it."  Deuteronomy 5:12 is telling us to guard the Sabbath day, but it also tells us how we are to do that.  We do this by "keeping it holy" or in other words, separating this day from the others.

Elohim separated the seventh day in creation by resting on the seventh day.  This is how he "made it holy."  He worked six days and then established a different purpose for the seventh day.  It is a day of rest.  We are later commanded to "guard" the purpose of the Sabbath day by separating it as Elohim separated it.  We are essentially instructed to maintain the specialness of the seventh day by resting as Elohim rested and thereby fulfilling the unique purpose of the seventh day.

The holiness of the Sabbath day is further revealed in Scripture by the positive command found in Leviticus 23.  We are to have a "miqra kodesh" or "a set-apart assembly" on the Sabbath day.  This miqra kodesh is what we are to proclaim in our keeping of this day.  It is the message of the Eternal Gospel that we are to proclaim on each of the annual appointment days and on every Sabbath.  This is an important part of the Sabbath day, which was given to us so that we may focus our attention on our Creator and his great love for us.

So, when we set apart the Sabbath day as Elohim commands, we are literally "guarding" or "keeping" the day as Elohim intended.  We don't have to back down our choice of words when we testify to others that we are keeping the Sabbath and keeping the appointed times as commanded.  We don't have to "soften" our language, nor do we need to be ashamed of those things that we cannot do.  We can be confident in our witness before others that we truly are fulfilling the commandment to "keep" the Sabbath day and to "keep" the annual appointed times.

Concluding Remarks

When we understand what the commandment of Yehovah is, and we are obedient to his instruction as far as we are able to, we don't have to fear the malicious accusations of our detractors.  We can confidently give an answer to those who accuse us of breaking the commandment to keep the Sabbath and the appointed times.  Those who resist and despise the Laws of Elohim will be ashamed when they realize that they have falsely maligned our good behavior in Messiah and have falsely accused us of transgression.  So, let's make every effort to know the Word of Elohim and to be ready to give a reasonable, biblical answer to those who ask us about the hope we have.