Is the Sabbath a defunct rule, or is it evidence of God’s favor? I had lots of time to mull this over as I slept off a mono diagnosis the past two weeks.
Instead of feeling sad because of a wasted week, I chose to think of my convalescence as an extended Sabbath. After clearing my calendar, I sank into a peaceful rest, knowing it was the only way to beat the virus.
Why is it so weird in our society to take time off from the usual workload? It felt as un-American as the current GOP circus election season to just do nothing for the whole week.
Doing nothing, aka resting, doesn’t come easily in our culture. We often define our worth with the amount we can accomplish.
Keeping the Sabbath has become the socially acceptable commandment to break. We are so busy finding our self worth in our accomplishments, that we blow off God’s command to rest. (I’m looking at myself here.)
Even if we love what we do, and it seems more like play than work, we still need time for our bodies and hearts to cease labor and rejuvenate.
I used to think that God allowed the Babylonians to take the Israelites captive because they committed the same horrendous acts their Canaanite counterparts did. They worshiped Baal and Molech in the high places—an act which required them to throw their first-born children into the fire. God’s chosen people willingly suffered the screams of babies engrossed in flames to secure fertility for their crops and ensure prosperity. That reason alone is enough justification for any judgment on a nation, but it isn’t the reason scripture gives.
God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to haul His chosen people off in chains was because they had not given their land a seventh-year sabbatical rest for 430 years (70 Sabbaths). Instead of trusting God to provide during the seventh year, they planted crops and harvested them like usual. (Ezekiel 4:1-6) They would remain in captivity exactly 70 years before the nation of Israel would begin their trek back to their homeland. (Jeremiah 25:8-12)
God is as serious about the fourth commandment as He is the seventh. (Exodus20:1-17) But God didn’t give Moses heavy stone tablets to carry around in the desert for 40 years so that we could be weighed down with the command to take a rest.
He knows our propensity to base our worth on achievement, so He gives us the command to stop and rest so that we can regain proper perspective. He wants us to remember our worth comes from being His creation.
Isn’t keeping the Sabbath just following another legalistic rule?
Easy answer—it can be. But then, so can any command. I observe by far the opposite in our culture today. We neglect the fourth commandment to serve at the altar of busyness. Ironic that most of our busyness consists of “good” things we’re lauded for doing every day. Here are three things Jesus said about the Sabbath.
- Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
- Our day of rest isn’t an excuse not to help someone with an urgent need. (Matthew 11:12-13)
- God’s voice is our best guide for Sabbath observance, as Jesus demonstrated when He healed the man with the 38-year illness on a Saturday. (John 5:1-18)
Great news for ER workers, police officers, and church staff:
The New Testament doesn’t dictate which day you observe the Sabbath. It may even be a different day each week if work schedules aren’t permanent. (Col. 2:16, Romans 14:5-6)
Like the rest of the commandments, keeping the Sabbath is for our good. It’s the day we can take our eyes off toiling and recommit to abiding. It’s the day we rejuvenate our bodies and spirits so that we can be better prepared to live out our purpose. It’s the day we breathe, free from the shackles of our own striving.
God gave us each of the commandments because we’re his priceless treasures. He doesn’t want to squash our fun or constrain our liveliness; He wants to protect us from harm. His commandments demonstrated a passionate, fierce love for His people when they roamed in the desert, and they still do today.
What are your thoughts on observing the Sabbath? If it’s hard to get a break in your schedule, what ways do you get a rest each week?
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