Sabbath Rest

When most people think of the fourth commandment (honoring the Sabbath) they either think “let’s go back to Blue Laws”, “Yes, a day off”, or perhaps, “Didn’t Jesus do away with that one”. The last of these is the easiest to answer, no Jesus did not do away with honoring the Sabbath. Jesus never did away with any of the Ten Commandments, but like all the others he made us think about it and reorient our thinking about it (see Matt.5:17).

This in mind how do we then live out Exodus 20:8-11, “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.

In these verses most translation leave the Hebrew “Sabbath” untranslated, rather than using the English word “rest”. There is a reason for this, many would see the word “rest” and conclude that Sabbath is about taking a day off. But true Sabbath is about far more than a do-nothing day. We cannot simply pick a day, sit around vegetating and call it Sabbath. We must seek to live out the Sabbath of God.

The first part of living out the Sabbath involves recognizing that the Sabbath is built into the structure of creation. One of the purposes of the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-2:3 is to explain to us the rhythms of creation. God created the cosmos in a rhythm and Sabbath rest is about our attempts to recognize that rhythm and unite ourselves to the it, uniting ourselves to the movement which God has established for the world. We must realize that at first this might be very foreign to us and might cause a great deal of chaos in our lives, live two waves coming together there is interference. It takes time to grow in harmony with the pattern that God has created. Sabbath rest is meant to put our lives into harmony with God so that we see creation as God sees creation and we seek to “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28) as God would.

Principle 1 is then that keeping Sabbath is about uniting myself to the rhythm of God.

We ask ourselves what was God doing in the story of creation? God was orienting creation to be completed on the seventh day. God planned out the structure of the world so that work would be complete, and rest could begin on the seventh day. Likewise, God wants us to plan out our weeks so that rest can begin on the Sabbath. This means, at the start of every week we are thinking ahead to what needs to be done so that we may rest at the end of the week. This is why the Israelites were to gather twice the manna on Friday (Exodus 16:29), they were to make preparation for the Sabbath. They were to live their lives in such a way that the Sabbath governed their week. We are called to live lives where the Sabbath governs our week.

Principle 2 is that Sabbath is the focus of our lives.

But Sabbath is not simply singular, it is not only for me. God did not rest in isolation, and neither should we. Sabbath is about providing a rest for the community. I love the way Walter Brueggemann describes Sabbath (read Sabbath as Resistance), he describes Sabbath as a community activity, trying to reclaim the Garden of Eden by caring for one another and stepping outside of our consumerism of a day. There are two ways we can live, either in economic relationships where money rules or in humble service to one another where life is fostered. The first is where I bring you money and you serve me, this is consumerism. (No matter how nice you are to someone if you are using financial transactions you are participating in consumerism). The second, is to realize that God wants us to take care of each other in community and on this day, I will bring healing and restoration to my community. In forcing ourselves to participate in Sabbath we are trying to provide a day of rest for the entire community, indeed the entire creation. We have an obligation to see that everyone takes a day to cease economic gain and participate in God’s economy. This is the point of “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.” We are not honoring Sabbath if we take a day off only to force others to continue their daily grind. Some will argue that then some people will have less money to live on. Yes, but then we are living to build community and avoid needing money to live on; if we are truly living in Sabbath we are concerned with these people the other six days. We are concerned that their livelihood is not dependent on that seventh day. We help these people to work six days to provide for the seventh. We are to give of our wealth to those who do not have enough, we advocate for greater wages and a more equitable distribution of wealth. We recognize that God wants to see the entire earth living well not just a certain few.

Principle 3 is that keeping Sabbath is about building community

This is where most people will be saying, “What are we allowed to do on Sabbath?’ And that is precisely the wrong question. This is the question the Pharisees were asking Jesus in Mark 2:23-27 & 3:1-6. Jesus was not about breaking down do’s and don’ts, he looked at the Sabbath as an opportunity to heal and restore life, human life and creation as a whole. We must remember , “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). Rather than asking what I am and am not allowed to do Jesus wants us to ask am I bringing life to the world, am I allowing all people to live out what God intends for humanity or am I forcing them to continue in the 9 to 5 world of consumerism. Are you in your celebration of Sabbath restoring life and doing the most good you can, or are you treating the Sabbath as any other day?

Principle 4 is that Sabbath is about healing and restoration.

This is why early Christians began to celebrate Sabbath on Sunday’s, because they recognized that when Jesus rose from the grave that first Easter Sunday he was the embodiment of God’s promised rest. Every Sunday that we participate in Sabbath we are acknowledging that God wants desperately to bring rest and order to our world and we as God’s people are working with God to this end. This is the argument of Hebrews 4:1-10, Christ is the promised rest of God, in him we find our true identity, community, and purpose. It is in the remembrance and modeling of his life that we find rest. It is through him that the world is made right and finds harmony with God. If we are going to live the lives of true Christians we cannot forsake the Sabbath, we can move the celebration to the Lord’s Day (Sunday), but it is Christ who gives Sabbath rest its true meaning.,

Principle 5 life in Christ demands a Sabbath

When we help the world participate in Sabbath we are looking forward to God’s kingdom come on earth. And when we fail to bring Sabbath rest to ourselves and those around us we continue to mire the world in sin and despair. We as the Church, the people of God, must begin to live out Sabbath as a community, teaching our children that God:

Principle 1 is that keeping Sabbath is about uniting myself to the rhythm of God.

Principle 2 is that Sabbath is the focus of our lives.

Principle 3 is that keeping Sabbath is about building community

Principle 4 is that Sabbath is about healing and restoration.

Principle 5 life in Christ demands a Sabbath

 

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Allan R. Bevere

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Quincy Wheeler's Blog

Reflections on life

Jesus Monotheism: Digital

Reflections on life

The Biblical World

Reflections on life

Allan R. Bevere

Reflections on life

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