On a bright Sunday morning, I awoke to the soft sounds of silence, the gentle rhythm of my wife sleeping peacefully and the distant rumble of vehicles headed to their early morning destinations. As I scanned the pages of my digital collection of devotionals, sports scores and general foolishness, a message arrived that said, “Get Up, Get Dressed, and Get to Church.” Now I subscribe to the notion of value in fellowship of community, promoting worship if not actually leading it, and training children in the way they should go, but when it feels like simply an obligation, church can lose its luster. I have been told that it’s not just what you receive from church but what you can offer to it.
Sabbath, or the Hebrew “sabbat”, is believed to be derived from the verb “sabat”, meaning to stop or cease. It is traditionally a representation of the seventh day of creation when God rested.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11
Jewish tradition sets the Sabbath day on Saturday. The ancient laws were such that if you did work that day, breaking of the Sabbath was punishable by death. Yet Jesus challenged this.
“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” Luke 13:10-16
“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28
Jesus showed that the Sabbath was a time for rest, not out of obligation to a law, but as instruction from God to slow down, don’t work so hard, and enjoy the gifts that this life offers. Take time to cease, to enjoy, to rest.
Christians traditionally observe Sundays as Sabbath. Yet too many consider their “obligation” to spend one hour, dressed in our “Sunday Best”, sitting in uncomfortable pews, trying to stay awake during a sermon, mumbling through a few songs, shaking the pastor’s hand and heading out to a Sunday lunch.
Two extremes that have completely missed the point.
The time of rest is “a sabbath to the Lord” and the Lord “made it holy”. If “The Sabbath was made for man” and it is holy, why should it be limited to a Saturday, or an hour on Sunday? If the word “Sabbath” was based on a verb, then it is less a certain day or time, and more of an action. A prayer, a hug, a deep breath when you are in need of some Godly strength. These are truly moments of Sabbath.
When I peer off into the distance, my wife will ask what is going on inside my head. At times, it is a million things, other times it is just nothing. To take a walk, a chance to breathe in fresh air or a momentary change of venue. To offer a silent prayer to a random person as they pass by. A smile, acknowledging God’s sense of humor of something He sends my way. To put pen to paper as I listen for gentle Heavenly whispers. A chance to love for the sake of love itself. That is how I observe Sabbath.
Observing Sabbath in every day moments.
And Blessed in Great Measure