Read His Words Before Ours!
Sitting on top of a mountain in Colorado for a week, disconnected from life and the rest of the world, brings a rest to the soul that is hard to describe. That time of silence and solitude made my husband and I realize we weren’t doing enough to observe a time of dedicated rest, or sabbath, in our lives. We were good at disconnecting from work and obligation, rest didn’t feel life-giving. With four teenagers, a full-time ministry position for my husband, a dog, a full-time job for me, a weekly community group, friends, school and much more…the idea of true rest often felt like a cruel joke. Yet, what we began to grasp was the truth that, if we were willing, we could enjoy the kind of rest God desired. Intentional decisions and planning were required, but it wasn’t out of reach.
To understand why we were committed to making adjustments in our lives, you first have to understand how sabbath rest serves to distinguish, focus, and remind.
God himself established the idea of sabbath rest on the final seventh day of creation. (Genesis 2:1-3) He took a step back, considered the work He had done, saw what was good, rested, and declared the day holy. He effectively distinguished the seventh day from the other six. God then asked His people to observe the same pattern of work, labor, and gather for six days; rest, remain, and trust in Him for the seventh. (Exodus 16:22-30, Exodus 20:8-11)
Simple, right? Not so much…
In our pride, we think we know better.
In our greed, we think we need more.
In our need to be the best, we think we need to do more.
In our need to be important, we think we must been seen.
None of those beliefs lend themselves to rest and pulling back.
Sabbath is admittedly counter-intuitive to our current cultural way of life. But God’s desire is that as His children, we distinguish between the common and the holy. Six days are common and we work just like everyone else; but then, there is one day where we are to declare how we are different (Ezekiel 22:23-26).
When we ignore the Sabbath, it ends up looking like any other day.
We’ve declared the common to be enough!
“Sabbath is that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing.” —Eugene Peterson
Setting aside the cares, burdens, and work of the world opens the ability to reflect on and think about the God of the universe. Throughout scripture, we see God time and again instruct us to remember. With the Sabbath, we are to remember a couple of specific things: God’s work AROUND US through His creation (Exodus 20:11) and God’s work IN US as He sanctifies us (Exodus 31:13), making us more like Christ.
Not only are we given the Sabbath to focus on our relationship with God, the time also allows us to focus on the earthly relationships that matter most. We are called to observe the Sabbath with anyone within the walls of our home at the time – family, friend, co-worker, or someone just passing through. (Exodus 20:10)
Perhaps my favorite benefit of observing the Sabbath is its purposeful reminder that I am no longer a slave, but have been set free (Deuteronomy 5:15). Regularly reflecting on what my life was like without Christ, realizing all God has done to rescue me, and acknowledging that I could not do that on my own, has a profound effect.
God receives the credit.
I remember how imperfect I am.
I am aware of my desperate need for salvation.
Realizing our need for salvation isn’t just a one-time thing.
Sabbath reminds me there is freedom available.
Sabbath reminds me there is a God willing to rescue.
Sabbath reminds me I cannot do this on my own.
Sabbath Isn’t Easy
Coming home from our time in the mountains, we had a strong commitment to adjust how we would intentionally observe the Sabbath; but reality has proven it difficult to remain consistent. Resting well requires us to work well.
To enter into our sabbath time with the ability to remember, focus and be aware of God and His work, we must do the prep work to allow these to happen. When we do that, we experience the life-giving, empowering and rejuvenating joy God gives as a result.
And then there are the questions….
What’s the right way to do this?
Am I allowed to….?
Is it ok if we….?
Can I go and….?
We can quickly get caught up in the “rules and regulations” of what is or isn’t “Sabbath” to the point that it’s no longer restful. Mark Buchanan, in his book The Rest of God, provides two principles that characterize a healthy Sabbath: DO NOT DO what is necessary; DO what is life-giving. Those have become our Sabbath filter. The simplicity has helped us let go of questions and concerns about doing it the “right” way. Our Sabbath doesn’t look like others, but it honors the expectations that God has put in place for us. We can follow the command to keep the observance (Hebrews 4:9), yet we have freedom in how that takes shape (Colossians 2:16) through the gifts gained in Christ.
Focus on God.
Remember His work.
The fight for Sabbath is worth it!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!