March 19, 2021
“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.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
Jesus 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)
In Exodus 20, the Sabbath commandment is fourth on the top ten list. It follows the top three concerning the holiness of God, but comes before honoring parents, murder, stealing, covetousness, etc. It is obviously very important, even with capital punishment imposed in the Old Testament for non-compliance. But why has the Sabbath been so differently understood and even proved divisive over the centuries? In my opinion, the Sabbath represents the juxtaposition between love and legalism. The original purpose of the Sabbath was to provide rest for God and for us, his creation. Science has confirmed the importance of rest for the human body to function correctly. No doubt we have all experienced the effects of insufficient rest. God created the Sabbath as an act of love; however, many focus on the legalism of the command’s compliance, completely missing the original objective.
Humans like rules and regulations; many religions prescribe in detail how to live and what to do for every stage of life. When I lived in Belgium, my Flemish teacher was an ex-Catholic who had converted to Islam and was in the process of moving to Egypt to join a hareem. Despite many discussions, the only agreement we reached was that Islam is a religion of rules whereas Christianity is a religion of a relationship. She saw her path as following the rules and regulations and could not accept the undeserved love of Jesus who died on a cross for us.
So, how should we practice the Sabbath as Christians in today’s world? If the purpose is for rest, adoration, and worship of God, then in my opinion today’s Sabbath is more a mindset than a rule. Rather than focusing on just one specific day, we are called to Sabbath rest and worship throughout the day in the same way that we are instructed to rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). For me this means to avoid being choked by the weeds of life and taking time daily for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. A little and often is more important than once a week and forget about it. As my music teacher used to say, “Inch by inch is a cinch; yard by yard, that’s hard.” Christian growth, including practicing the Sabbath, can often seem like inch by inch.
Father, thank you for creating such a wonderful world and for sending Jesus to restore my relationship with you. Help me to “sabbath” daily in rest and adoration, and to experience your intimate presence throughout this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.