Keeping the Sabbath in Africa
by Bishop Howard T. Ngwira Mum
"You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, Even hidden things, and you did not know them" (Isaiah 48:6)
I am grateful to God that He used a single tape of Sid Roth (President of Messianic Vision) to change our situation from worshiping on Sunday to Saturday as a Sabbath.
How it Began
In 1998, I received an audio tape of Sid Roth through Hands for Christ. There were many tapes that I received from different authors but God caused my heart to listen to this one tape with keen interest and desires. The message was so inspiring and new. He spoke about "Israel" and "Jerusalem." The following Scriptures were quoted: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces'" (Ps 122:6,7)
To be honest, I had never heard about praying for the peace of Jerusalem nor that those who pray thus will prosper. So I developed a keen interest to learn more about this new revelation. He also spoke about Abraham, the father of our faith; that all people shall be blessed through him.
Then the Lord said to Abraham, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen: 12:2-3)
What a great promise. "I will bless those who bless you" echoed unto my ears and sunk unto my heart. This was my turning point. I read the book of Romans more and more and understood that it was my responsibility to pray for the salvation of the Jews (Rom. 10:1). I learned that I as a gentile believer found mercy through the Jews in that God purposely hardened their hearts so that in return the Gentiles may have mercy through them (Rom. 11:28-32)
So I wrote to Sid Roth (1998) about starting a Messianic Vision Congregation ( I did not know whether Messianic Vision was a congregation or not) but my desire was to pursue what I had learned in his one single tape.
On 18th January 1999, Sid replied to my letter. I quote: "I believe if your congregation celebrates Jewish biblical festivals and prays for the peace of Jerusalem that is as good as starting a Messianic Jewish Congregation." Further, he asked me if I could be the Area Coordinator for prayer for Messianic Vision in Malawi.
With his approval I established the Messianic Vision Malawi as an Interdenominational prayer ministry. This ministry has continued its operations up to now. It has conducted conferences, city wide monthly prayer meetings and marriage seminars. I also began a Messianic Congregation in Mzuzu, northern part of Malawi under the name of Church of the First-born. In August 1999, we moved to Lilongwe and started the Temple Bible Church. By December, 1999 we had three congregations. By December 2001 we had 7 congregations. By 2006, we had more than 28 Assemblies in Malawi and Mozambique. We have also established a Messianic Vision Orphanage with 10 orphans as a result of Sid and Joyce's visit last year (2006). Our desire is to increase the number to 20.
As we continued holding our services on Sundays, my heart was troubled. Each time I read certain Scriptures I became more and more confused and troubled. I decided to seek guidance from Sid Roth about Sabbath. Sid replied, "Many churches that meet on Sunday have a Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) service. Some make it a prayer meeting and pray all night. Follow the unique leading of God for your area." So I was to follow the unique leading of God. Yes, we continued meeting on Sundays. Over the years, Sid has sent me materials. We had now a clear understanding about the One New Man. -- Gentile and Jew one in Messiah.
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace" (Ephesians 2:14-15).
"For you are all sons of God through faith in [Messiah] Jesus.For as many of you as were baptized into [Messiah] have put on Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in [Messiah] Jesus.And if you are [Messiah's] , then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:26-29).
With this context in mind Exodus 31:16 troubled me so much over the past years. "Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant."
"Throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant" is an everlasting covenant to all children of Israel. Since believers in Messiah are Abraham's seed, this promise belongs to Gentle believers as well though we are now saved by Grace. Yes, Sabbath means rest but on this resting day the Israelites worshipped their God as well.
The past week, I had intensive prayers seeking God's will and desire for what He wants of me about this Sabbath issue. In my whole life I have been a Sunday worshipper but I decided to follow God's unique leading as Sid has mentioned in his letter.
On Sunday the 4th of February, 2007 God gave me a heart to teach a sermon on "Sabbath." In my mind, I was just to teach as I had done many times. To my surprise, as I was teaching I saw many "Amens," clapping of hands and some whispering, "We need to obey God now." At the end of the sermon, people agreed to start observing Sabbath by worshipping God on Shabbat (Saturday).
I had no right to say no. I said, "Amen. You have said so. Let us obey God." This is indeed God's dealings and miracle.
Since it is only our Lilongwe congregation that has started having services on Shabbat (Saturday), our main task will be to visit our other congregations in Malawi and Mozambique to teach them the same. We cannot dictate or impose Sabbath observance on them. We will leave it to God to speak to their hearts about Shabbat observance. We pray that God will open up their eyes to see this truth as He has opened up ours; and to cause their ears to hear this Shabbat truth as God intended it to be kept holy.
If you have been touched by reading this article by Brother Howard, please take a moment to pray for this work and that all of Africa would be saved and come into the place of being blessed by God as these dear folks are.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.