There is a growing population of Sabbath Day Observers in Nigeria, this is against the widely held belief that the major religious groups in Nigeria are Christians and Muslims, then of course animists or traditionalists.
I have decided to refer to this group as Sabbath Day Observers because it seems to be the only way to successfully put the different parts that make up this whole in one box, and you will understand this as you continue to read along.
Apart from the Seventh Day Adventist group who are aligned with Christians (and a few others), the larger body of Sabbath Day Observers do not consider themselves Christians in the main.
Another name the group I’m trying to describe is popularly called or go by is Sabbatarians, and I think for simplicity sake I’ll use that to generally mean those who worship their creator, or those whose day of worship is the Sabbath Day, which many people (save some troublesome ignoramuses) agree is Saturday.
Sabbatarians in Nigeria can fall into three major groups, namely:
* those who retain and use the Holy Names during worship,
* those who use the Holy Names, as well as those popularised by Christianity and
* those who do not use the Holy Names at all in worship.
The Holy Names I am referring to are the names of the Most High YAHWEH and His Son, YAHSHUA. The first group as listed above in using these names intend to answer the question posed by the wise man in the book of Proverbs Chapter 30 Verse 4:
”Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is HIS name, and what is HIS Son’s name, if thou canst tell?”
Some of the Nigerian Sabbatarians that fall into this group practice Jewish Orthodoxy, and though they may not be found using the names Jesus, God, Lord or Jehovah, they also rever the Holy Names- YAHWEH and Yahshua so highly that they are mentioned only on special days, while they make do with the word “HASHEM” meaning ‘The Name’ in keeping with the tradition in which the Tetragrammatons’ – YHWH was kept from people over many years to avoid it’s defilement.
Another group of Sabbatarians consider the action of the above in keeping with a contributory factor to the loss of the Holy Name in the first place, and think that by proclaiming it they will perpetuate it over time. They counter the argument that one needs to be Holy enough to call upon the Name of the Almighty by saying Holiness is a worthy price to pay to pronounce The Name.
The ones who like Christians recognize that a Saviour has already come and died for the sins of mankind, like members of “The Assemblies of YAHWEH”, generally refer to themselves as “Messianic Jews”, and form a larger group than the orthodox or ultra-orthodox Jewish groups of which many do not recognize a Saviour, or are still expecting him on the last day.
The second group include those who had been Christians but the pastor became convinced of the teachings of Jewry, and decided to convert members of his church or mission. Others include churches that had hitherto recognised Saturday to be the Sabbath Day but where not initially intimated of the Names. In what I think may be an attempt to introduce The Names without causing rancour and division in the assemblies like it happened with “Riches Of Christ” in the 1990’s where a split occurred following the acceptance of The Names. You will find this mix also amongst congregations such as “The Community of YAHWEH”.
Then finally, you have the several Sabbath Missions where the Holy Names aren’t used at all. Most of these Sabbath Missions wear white garments unlike the Adventists (who also do not use the Holy Names) and believe strongly in performing sacrifices, incorporating lots of traditional beliefs that you may find with the animists in their faith.
Membership in these places is fluidy as most members belong to other churches but come to receive succour from the many spiritual and physical challenges they may be facing at the time, but quickly return to their previous churches once their burden has been relieved them.
Now, that I’ve mentioned apparels, I wish to dwell briefly on that. Most members of Messianic Jewry aren’t particular about dressing and you may dress as you like to service, but the women do not wear trousers (what is considered male attire) and they must cover their hair with scarves. Members aren’t allowed to “bling up” while in the premises of the mission, and except for very few places of worship, especially of the orthodox Jewish stock, footwear isn’t allowed inside the worship hall.
The orthodox, ultra-orthodox and some of the Messianic Jew stock most times dress in full Jewish regalia on Sabbath day complete with a “Talit” which they hang about their neck, mostly striped white and black cotton material. They also wear a skull cap or “Kipal”, and may also hold a prayer bead, like Muslims or Catholics.
Amongst the Messianic Jew Stock, and those who do a mixture of the Holy Name with those familiar with Christendom, you will find those who wear the “White Garment”.
The mode of worship, or the way a particular Sabbatarian group presents itself is usually determined by what they were before they were converted, or at least what the leader of the mission was before his/her conversion. So, if they were Adventists, Anglicans or members of the Assemblies of God church, they’d be like nominal Christians though proclaiming the Sabbath and the holy names like the Messianic Jews you would find in the Assemblies of YAHWEH.
If they’d been with African traditional churches, Cherubim and Seraphim or even Celestial Church of Christ, they will tend to be with the white garment wearing group, and perform similar operations as you will find in those places, like widespread use of Holy Water, Oil, Swords, Altars, Use of Pigeons, Hens and Goats for sacrifices, and lay much emphasis on prophesies and the likes.
One thing all of these have in common, is the recognition of the superiority of “The Laws of YAHWEH” over all else, especially the Sabbath Day. They, unlike the Christians do not believe that the laws have been nailed to the cross by a Christ. The Messianic Jews however are of the view that the “Sacrificial Laws” have been done away with, following the death of the Saviour, while the Ultra- and Orthodox Jews await a temple in Jerusalem to resume sacrifices, which is already widespread amongst the white garment types and other groups.
You will find many of these Sabbatarians to be made up mainly of Nigerians of South-Eastern origin or Igbos, then followed by Yorubas, the several tribes of the Niger Delta are also included, then once a while some other Nigerians of other tribes can be scantily found.
In recent years, the Igbos have even begun to see themselves as the lost tribe Israel, and you would see their homes and cars adorned with the Israeli “Megan Dawid” Flag, but that will be a topic for another day.