February 19, 2016 @ 1:44 PM by: Jennifer Frank
by Pastor Abby Davidson
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. ~Isaiah 58:13-14
When I was a child I loved watching Little House on the Prairie. In one Sabbath-day episode, Laura and her family are sitting around quietly as they listen to Pa read from the Bible. There was no work or play allowed, only rest, reading and singing hymns. Most of us probably can’t imagine spending Sunday that way. We all know that we should keep the Sabbath yet so often what was once the Lord’s day has been reduced to the Lord’s hour and a half and then back to business as usual.
Why does God instruct his people first in Exodus 20 to remember the Sabbath and then in Deuteronomy 5 to observe the Sabbath? One author talks about how remembering and observing have to do with the ordering of time. The days following Sabbath are spent remembering it while the next three days of the week are spent preparing for the next one. The Jewish idea of Shabbat isn’t about have a ‘day off’ from a busy week. There’s a temptation to make Sabbath a landing point from the rest of the week when what it was meant to be is a day that all other days centre around.
If you take a look the lists of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament you’ll see that while most are summed up in one line, the fourth commandment is given a whole paragraph. Why did God take care to give so much attention that that one commandment? Exodus 20:11 says:
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.
There’s something about abstaining from creating that brings blessing. We’ve developed many ways to manipulate nature and control our environments. One author writes “When we cease interfering in the world, we are acknowledging that is it God’s world”. Sabbath is about ceasing from our regular rhythms to set apart a day for rest, worship and community. It’s about acknowledging that we ourselves have been created as we worship our Creator.
Practically how do we do we honour the Sabbath? It’s going to look different for everybody but here are a few steps to getting started.
Prepare. Use the days before to attend to any errands, chores or homework that needs to be done. Is it possible for you to cook your meals in advance? Use the evening before to pray for the Sunday service and quiet your mind.
Stop working. By taking a day off work (that includes checking work emails) we acknowledge that it is not all up to us. Ultimately God is the one who produces fruit from our labour.
Stop worrying. For me this means taking a break from my incessant desire to plan everything out for the next 2 years. Again, this is an acknowledgment that God is in control. When worries arise pray about them and ask God to push them from your mind.
Celebrate. As Jesus reminds us, the Sabbath was made for us. It was meant to be enjoyed, not dreaded. That celebration encompasses our gathering together with other believers to worship.
Honouring the Sabbath is something that takes practice and discipline. Remember that God designed it as a day for us and when we fail to honour it we are missing out the blessing he has for us.