Chapter 18: Sabbath
It is hard taking a day of rest. There is this driving fear that would keep us working, working, working. Bills need to be paid, food needs to be bought; there is just always something that needs to be taken care of.
It is why it is so difficult to understand on a human level God’s rhythm, and command even, to take a weekly sabbath.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
God, at the beginning of time, set into place a rhythm for our working and our resting. And while we do not any longer live under the law of the Old Testament, we do want to understand the principle behind this command; we want to know God’s heart and intention for us in this admonition to keep a sabbath.
In it’s simplest understanding a sabbath is a day of rest. It is one day a week that we dedicate to ceasing from our labours and the things that must always be taken care of.
It is a fasting of sorts and an act of trusting God for our work and our livelihoods; by taking a sabbath we act out our trust in God’s keeping of our lives. We may be tempted to believe that it is only the wealthy that can afford a day of rest, but in fact as we risk to enter into a day of rest we are then entered into the wealth of God.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV
I remember years ago when I first began keeping one day of rest a week. It was a fearful thing to do.
There was always work to be done, many things to be attended to, and yet I came to realize that these things would always be there. My work would never be done on this earth and I realized that it is faulty thinking to wait until our work is done before we take a day of rest.
Taking a sabbath is in many ways a simple act of obedience to our Lord. It truly is a way of saying, “I trust you Lord with my days and with my life.”
Then, as we grab hold of the courage to take a day of rest we welcome into our lives a greater movement of the Lord on our behalf.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5 ESV
Think of it this way. We can either continue trying to maintain our lives by our own hands and effort, or we can make space for the Lord in the keeping of our lives. A sabbath helps to make space for the Lord in our lives.
We intentionally step back from our own keeping, we take our hands off our own care so to speak, and in this space, as we take our hands off, God is invited to put his hands into the mix.
Taking a Sabbath makes space for more of God in our lives.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Taking a Sabbath comes out of our hearts of worship and trust in our Lord.
Unfortunately, the ancient church leaders had made the sabbath into a weighty and unholy thing for the people. They demanded and shamed and made the sabbath harder and harder to keep, with more and more rules and condemnation for any transgressions.
And so when Jesus arrived on the scene he modelled a healthy view of Sabbath keeping. For instance, we find him,
“On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them,“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.” Luke 6:6-10 ESV
He brought us back into balance that the sabbath is a gift to mankind. It is God’s rest for those who are living in his trust.
“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV
And so we must walk balanced in our practice of taking a day of rest. For those in Christian service, pastors and lay-leaders within the church, Sundays are generally not a day of rest. Rather, they are days of much preparation, teaching, and leading. For Pastors and Christian leaders and their wives, it is often therefore important to take another day of the week as your sabbath.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 ESV
If you are married it is as husband and wife you will want to decide together what day is going to be a sabbath for you, and you will also need to discern best how to make it a day of rest for both of you.
It is not okay for a man to announce to his wife that he will be resting on this or that day when she must remain cooking over a hot fire that same day. Men, you want to honour the Lord and honour your wife by making room and taking up the inconvenience of giving her a day of rest also.
How might you do this? Think creatively and be generous in your plans towards her. Perhaps she takes a different day as her sabbath and you take care of the home as she rests with the Lord. Perhaps you and your family fasts on the day decided as a sabbath, so that no cooking needs to be done. Or, perhaps you help her to prepare extra food the day before your sabbath and then everyone eats cold food on your day of rest.
Men, I can guarantee you that as you take a sabbath that both honours the Lord, and honours your wife, and teaches your children to do the same, your lives will be blessed and you will experience more of the Lord in all your earthly matters.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25 ESV
There is no end of the creativity that can be taken to keep a sabbath day holy unto the Lord. There is no right or wrong in any of this. Remember, God has made the sabbath to be a day of rest for his people.
It is a gift from God, and like all gifts the receivers must simply take the gift gratefully and make good use of it.
We do not make a sabbath into law for others, rather we take it as a day personally for ourselves and our family; we live it out in the spirit of a gift as God intended it to be for us.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” Hebrews 4:9 ESV
And finally, we must remember that the Sabbath is not an excuse to neglect people. It is not a day meant to make solid habits of laziness and disregard for responsibility. It is also not a day to make others work harder so that you may take it easy. The Spirit of a Sabbath is about generosity of time and of entering into the rest of the Lord.
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” Exodus 20:9-10 ESV
A rest is for everyone. Facilitate this in your life and the lives of those around you and receive good favour from our Lord. Taking a Sabbath brings us into the blessing of the Lord as children of God.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14 ESV
1. Sabbath is a healthy rhythm of work and rest for our lives.
2. A Sabbath is like a fast unto the Lord where we act out our trust in Him.
3. Taking a Sabbath is an act of obedience whereby we respond to the Lord’s leading.
4. A weekly habit of taking a Sabbath makes more space for God in our lives.
5. A Sabbath can be any day of the week on which we choose to rest in the Lord.
6. As married couples, come to agreement about the details of your Sabbath day of rest.
7. Men, use the Sabbath to minister to your wives and children.
8. Remember, to take the Sabbath as a gift for yourself, do not burden others with it.
As you walk with God and learn how to honour him and each other with a Sabbath I pray the Lord’s deep peace and joy upon you. May your lives take on a new richness as you trust in Him. Amen and Amen.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV
1. Sit down, together with your spouse, before the Lord and think and pray.
Make a plan for establishing a sabbath rest, each week, in your home. Try your plan. If it doesn’t completely work, then come back together and make a slightly different plan. Try that plan. Keep working the plans, shifting them and changing them as necessary, until you find a way for both yourself and your spouse to take a sabbath rest.
- Make it a joyful day in the Lord
- Do something that brings you rest and refreshment
- Trust the Lord for the work of your week
- Enjoy your sabbath rest with the Lord
2. For one month, keep a journal of your plans and sabbath days. (footnote below)
Record what you are trying and how it is going. Make note of your own struggles to rest. Write down what the Lord is showing you and teaching you through this time. Note: this exercise and your journal is part of your final grade for this course. Taking a sabbath is not just a nice thing to do, it is a command from the Lord. So let’s take it seriously.
Summary – sabbath
Taking a day of rest grows and proves our trust in the Lord. Isaiah 26:3-4
A Sabbath day is an act of worship. Isaiah 40:31
Give a sabbath to your household as a gift from the Lord. Hebrews 4:9
Stop, pause, and turn toward the Lord. Isaiah 58:13-14
When we are establishing something for the first time it takes great effort to make it happen. This will be the same with establishing a day of rest each week. Know that you will have to put extra focus at the beginning. This is okay and very normal.
One very important thing to keep in mind is to not speak too much about your plans. Please do not boast to your friend that you are going to take a sabbath day each week, for this is the surest way that your efforts will not succeed. The Bible is very clear that where we boast we usually fail.
I suggest, therefore, that you make your plans with your spouse and then just DO the plan. Do not talk too much about it. Your energy and focus is required to take the sabbath, do not use your energy and focus to talk about taking a sabbath. Can you see the difference? You want to take the sabbath, not talk about taking the sabbath.
So, as you go forward into your first month of seriously taking one day per week for rest, do this in humility and in a quiet way, so that you might be successful.