Recently, our small group study looked at the idea of Sabbath rest. In the same way that our bodies need a break from the physical demands of running, we each need a break from the demands of life. But even if most of us have heard of the term 'Sabbath,' many of us aren't quite sure about why or how we should consider Sabbath rest today. And is it just about rest, or is there more?
The following is taken from some commentary around the Sabbath study. Enjoy, and may we each consider how rest plays into our holiday season and the year ahead.
Small Group Spiritual Disciplines: Sabbath – “Unplug!”
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” – Psalm 31:1
Blessing or Burden? That’s the real question we face when thinking about the Sabbath. And our answer is often an indication of our understanding and/or appreciation for the Sabbath. So let’s look at what we know about the Sabbath.
There is little doubt that the model put in place on the seventh day of creation was used to help the Israelites, the early believers, and even those of us today, better appreciate God’s call to regular rest and worship. However, it is not the creation model that God first commanded his people to obey the Sabbath. We first find the call to Sabbath in Exodus 16:22-26:
“Tomorrow (7th day) is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (Ex. 16:23).
And here is a great example of why context is so critical to our understanding. Taken by itself, we read verse 23 and we again look to the emphasis on rest. But when we look at the full passage of Scripture we see that the primary message is not rest, but reliance and worship. Notice in the earlier verses that God provides manna for the Israelites. Each morning he provides enough to meet their needs for that day. Then on the sixth day God provides enough for them to collect for both day 6 and 7, for “tomorrow is a day of solemn rest.” Think about what this means:
- We can trust in God’s provisions. Even when we think the world will stop spinning (or we won’t be able to survive the day if we don’t collect more manna), God asks us to stop and trust him.
- We are thankful for God’s provisions. He supplies us daily, gets us through another week, blesses us with his goodness. So we stop and acknowledge that he has met our needs.
- It is God who provides. The Sabbath is a day to stop, worship, praise, and give thanks to God. It is also a day to reflect on the fact that we are dependent on him.
Of course, when we stop regularly to acknowledge God through a Sabbath, we do also experience the blessing of rest. And more than ever, rest would do all of us good. So what does that look like?
This is a good place to insert a note on compliance to Sabbath. There is sometimes debate on the requirement of Sabbath outside of the Old Testament. We know that it’s the Fourth Commandment and that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law (Mt.5:17), but we also see in Mark 2:27 that the practice of Sabbath had become overly legalistic and Jesus reminded his followers that the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” So perhaps the real question is if we view the Sabbath as a blessing, a day made for man, one that provides rest and allows us to worship God in an intentional way, what is keeping us from observing it? Whether we are still commanded to or not, why would we not want to? If we view the Sabbath as a burden, why?}
Possible Sabbath applications:
* Unplug – Commit to unplugging from social media, texting, emails for a Sabbath period. This might be Sunday for many of us. Rest in the assurance that the world will keep spinning and you will be better able to take on that world come Monday morning fully recharged and more reliant on God’s grace. Unplug the “work brain”, the to-do list, the NOISE! Unplug and find refuge.
* If Sunday is not a day for you to Sabbath, that’s ok; contrary to popular opinion, Sabbath is not the Hebrew word for Sunday or Saturday, but it is the word for “ceasing, coming to an end, to a rest.” Your Sabbath is that point in the week that allows for a regular time of worship and relaxation.
* Rest and relaxation does not always mean lazy-boy time either. A regular Sabbath of mental and emotional rest might include worshipping God out in is creation, along the trail, a back porch rocking chair, a purposeful day out with family.
* During this next week, in the spirit of Sabbath, express let’s express our gratitude for God’s provisions through our time of personal devotional and with our small groups.