The roots of breaking bread with family began when God commanded the Israelites, “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” (Ex 20:8). The sabbath day was a prophetic sign of God’s Mosaic covenant with them. God rested from creation on the seventh day and He pronounced it a day of rest for Israel. “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Ex 31:16-17 KJV).
We can learn much about the significance of breaking bread with our families from this Mosaic covenant. Unlike our Sunday gatherings, Israelites celebrated the sabbath with their family in their own homes. God commanded the men of His people Israel to go to the Temple only three times a year (Ex 23:14–17, Ex 34:18-23, Deut 16:16). They worshiped at home.
Sabbath [Shabbat] is Judaism’s day of rest and seventh day of the week, on which religious Jews remember the Biblical creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and the Exodus of the Hebrews, and look forward to a future Messianic Age. Shabbat observance entails refraining from work activities, often with great rigor, and engaging in restful activities to honor the day. Wikipedia
Sabbath began every Friday night and ended Saturday at sundown.
The sabbath supper was filled with blessing and thanking God. It began with lighting two candles and speaking a blessing.
“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the Shabbat candles.” wikipedia
After the candles were lit, the parents blessed the children.
They placed both hands on the head of each individual child and spoke this blessing.
On sons: “May God make you as Ephraim and Menasseh.”
On daughters: “May God make you as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.”
Since the children were raised in the heritage of Israel, they understood the God given identity of those blessings. Abraham and Sarah were in such an advanced age it was very doubtful they could have a child. Yet, God told them they would and they did (Gen 17:19). God gave them Isaac, from whom Jacob [Israel] and his descendants came (Isaiah 51:2). Ephraim and Menasseh were the sons of Joseph that his father Jacob blessed saying: “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as E’phraim and as Manas’seh‘” (Gen 48:20 RSV). “Then Israel [Jacob] said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and will bring you again to the land of your fathers‘” (Gen 48:21). Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah are the four Matriarchs of Jewish history.
After individually blessing each child, the parents speak forth the Aaronic blessing.
- The LORD bless you and keep you:
- The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
- The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 RSV
When I was growing up, our pastor concluded each worship service lifting his hands toward us and pronouncing that blessing. It always blessed me.
The Jews observed the sabbath to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8).
- Honoring Shabbat (kavod Shabbat): on Shabbat, wearing festive clothing and refraining from unpleasant conversation. It is customary to avoid talk about money or business matters on Shabbat.
- Recitation of kiddush over a cup of wine at the beginning of Shabbat meals. (see the list of Jewish prayers and blessings).
- Eating three festive meals. Meals begin with a blessing over two loaves of bread (lechem mishneh, “double bread”), usually of braided challah, which is symbolic of the double portion of manna that fell for the Jewish people on the day before Sabbath during their 40 years in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. It is customary to serve meat or fish, and sometimes both, for Shabbat evening and morning meals. Seudah Shlishit (literally, “third meal”), generally a light meal that may be pareve or dairy, is eaten late Shabbat afternoon.
- Enjoying Shabbat (oneg Shabbat): Engaging in pleasurable activities such as eating, singing, spending time with the family and marital relations
- Recitation of havdalah. Wikipedia
All Israel identified as the people, community and nation of the LORD. Sabbaths, Feasts and chaburahs taught, commemorated and reinforced His way with His people through one another interaction. Unlike their heathen neighbors who hand made their Gods, they shared one God, the creator. God’s law shaped their culture and held them together as His people with a common heritage. As we have seen in this article, they also shared a common language—Hebrew.
Embracing the promise of entering God’s rest
Celebrating the sabbath reinforced the blessings of God’s people Israel and helped them look forward to blessings to come. Yet, when the promised Messiah came, not many believed in Jesus Christ. Thus, although they rested from their labors on the sabbath as God commanded (Exodus 35:2), they never embraced the promise of entering his rest.
1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. Hebrews 4 RSV
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. Hebrews 4:9 KJV
The Sabbath rest points back to God’s original rest, and marks the ideal rest—the rest of perfect adjustment of all things to God, such as ensued upon the completion of his creative work, when he pronounced all things good. This falls in with the ground-thought of the Epistle, the restoration of all things to God’s archetype. The sin and unbelief of Israel were incompatible with that rest. It must remain unappropriated until harmony with God is restored. The Sabbath-rest is the consummation of the new creation in Christ, through whose priestly mediation reconciliation with God will come to pass. Vincent’s Word Studies
Just as we are saved and will be saved, we rest and will rest. The fulfillment of the rest for the people of God is life in the world to come (Rev 21-22) after the regeneration (Mt 19:28). The people of the Israel of the old covenant will not be left out, nor will those who believe in Jesus Christ (Heb 8:10-13).
One of my favorite portions of God’s Word given to God’s old covenant people has immense implications about how we should relate as we gather together.
You said, “It’s so disappointing to serve God. What did we get whenever we did what He wanted and walked in mourning before the LORD of armies? According to our experience people are happier if they forget about God, more successful if they do wrong. Yes, you can challenge God and get away with it.”
Then those who respected the LORD talked to one another. And the LORD was interested and listened. And a record was kept to remind Him of those who respect the LORD and think highly of His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of armies, “on that day when I act they will be My precious possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then you will again see the difference between a righteous person and a wicked person, one who serves God and one who doesn’t.”
“You see, the day will come, burning like a furnace, ad all who defy God and all who do wrong will be straw. The coming day will burn them” says the LORD of armies, “leaving no root or branch of them.”
“But for you who respect My name there will rise the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. You will go out and frolic like calves let out of their barn.” Malachi 3:14-4:2 AAT
We can learn much about the breaking of bread with our families from this sabbath sign of the Mosaic covenant.
- Honoring God by talking about Him with one another as we eat together.
- Spending enjoyable time with our family.
- Blessing our children.
- Blessing our spouse.
- One another participation in ministry.
- Resting from our labors.
- Embracing the promise of entering God’s rest by our faith in Jesus.
- Celebrating salvation.
- Putting out the best silverware, dishes and tablecloth for celebration.
- Remembering we are God’s children
- Remembering we are children of Sarah (1 Peter 3:6).
- Remembering we are children of Abraham (Ro 4:16).