A gift left ‘unopened’ is of no value! Sabbath is a gift and when we fail to ‘keep it’—we neglect the gift that was generously given to us by God himself.
One of the most liberating passages of Scripture is found as a preamble to the ten commandments. “And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:1–2).
Sabbath-keeping is the commandment that most Jesus followers fail to keep. Those who reject the importance of sabbath-keeping rationalize rejecting sabbath by saying; “It’s an Old Testament idea and part of the Jewish Law. Jesus came and fulfilled the Law, so sabbath-keeping is no longer in-play.”
A Quick Response to this Reasoning
Jesus kept the Sabbath and uncovered the spirit of Sabbath-keeping when he said ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). Jesus was encouraging his followers to not view Sabbath as Law, but as a gift. A day filled with opportunity to add vibrancy and brilliance to life (a little more about this a little later).
In Exodus 20:1–2, God reminds us that his commandments were given to liberate us – not to enslave us. When the Israelites were in Egypt, they worked 7 days per week; without a break. They were slaves! No unions, no labor laws; just brutal slavery! Sabbath is an opportunity to stop our work and learn the rhythm of life modelled for us by the Creator by resting, replenishing and experiencing renewal. The creation order precedes the Law (just sayin’).
3 Benefits of Sabbath-Keeping:
In the work/rest rhythm that God established in Genesis 1, we are reminded that human beings are not machines. We are frail and need refuelling. Our bodies breakdown when not fed properly or rested appropriately. This rest is physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. In our digital world, many people do ‘mind work’ to earn a living. Many of our mental health challenges are accentuated when we fail to give our minds a break.
It’s been said people in western Canada “work to live,” while people in eastern Canada “live to work.” Not sure either is entirely true, or healthy. When we are time-starved and relentlessly driven to the point where we are empty inside and have lost the capacity to ‘enjoy’ life—something is wrong! Sabbath helps us reset and explore hobbies and develop interests.
God is at the center of our sabbath-keeping. We honour him by gathering for worship. Our spiritual and relational well-being requires that we ‘stop’ from time to time and take inventory. Finding a quiet place and learning to listen to your deepest longings and the God who meets you there is an important part of living a spiritually formed life. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday at sunset, it was a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy a meal together. A commemoration that God is our Deliverer and that he has liberated us! An opportunity to tell the salvation story again, and again.
Sabbath is the first day of the week for Christians! It occurs on resurrection Sunday! Work happens out of rest and renewal.
A gift unopened is of no value! As we head into the summer months, I hope you will be even more diligent in honouring the God who has given us the tremendous gift of Sabbath. He has given you the permission to stop. I hope you will take him up on the offer, it’s a gift worth opening!
If you’re interested in a short read this summer. Check out Lauren Winner’s book; Mudhouse Sabbath. It is a short and insightful book with plenty of Jewish insight into the importance of Sabbath.