November 27, 2018
Yesterday another Sabbath came and went. At the end of the day I realized that I hadn’t been purposeful with my Sabbath at all. Just two weeks ago I discussed with my husband what Sabbath should be used for and how we could make the most of it. Then yesterday I hardly registered the sacredness of the day until it was done. This pattern has gone on for several years. I will read something or hear something that will stir in my soul a longing to make the Sabbath the life giving day it is supposed to be. Then life will go on, routine will set in, and the intentionality of Sabbath will be lost again.
I think the concept of Sabbath keeps coming around in my life because I haven’t “got it” yet. Oh, I understand that setting apart a day of the week is one of the Ten Commandments. I am sure that observing the Sabbath in a God honoring way will bring life to the rest of my week. It will make me a better mom, wife and friend. I know these things in my head, but my heart is a different story.
What exactly makes the Sabbath God honoring anyway? I understand not doing any work on the Sabbath. After all, that’s what the fourth commandment says:
Exodus 20:8-10a – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work … (HCSB)
But what does that look like when your main job is MOM? It’s not like I can take a day off from being a mom to my kids. Maybe it is just not doing the mundane work like dishes and laundry. Perhaps it is cooking on Saturday so that nothing much needs to be done on Sunday. A good friend of mine said that she read a book that talked about intentionally preparing for Sabbath.
I like that idea of intentionally preparing for a day of rest. That’s actually what God commanded the Israelites to do in the wilderness when they gathered manna (Exodus 16). God told the Israelites to go out each day and gather manna for that day and not leave any for the next day, but on the sixth day they were to gather twice as much manna. It’s interesting to me that God chose this as a way to test the Israelites and see if they would follow His word.
Exodus 16:4-5 – Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” (HCSB)
Later in the chapter God gets angry with some of the Israelites for not following His instructions carefully. Perhaps a big part of choosing a God honoring Sabbath is trusting God and His word… trusting that He doesn’t need us to keep the world turning around… trusting that He will provide the resources needed for our day of rest. Perhaps in my life as mom, it is trusting that letting the dishes and laundry go for a day wont collapse my Monday morning. Maybe it is preparing extra food on Saturday for Sunday and trusting that the extra preparation wont consume my Saturday afternoon.
As I think through what I shouldn’t be doing on Sabbath, legalism starts to rise up within me. I want to make a list of dos and don’ts. That’s exactly what the Israelites did. By the time that Jesus came into the world they had added to the forth commandment a whole list of what was not allowed on the Sabbath including how far you could walk on the Sabbath and that you could not carry the mat you slept on. I’m sure the regulations the Jews lived with started out by trying to honor God’s commandment, but somewhere along the way they became twisted and burdensome. I do not want that to be the case with me.
On the other side of legalism stands permissiveness. Sometimes I’ve interpreted a day of rest to mean that it should be a day where I can do whatever I want… where I can indulge in some much needed “me” time. A month or so ago I had the following two verses in mind when I sat out to plan what I was going to do on the Sabbath.
Mark 2:27-28 – Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (HCSB)
Exodus 35:2a – For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord. (HCSB)
I spent the day doing whatever I wanted to do… things that I thought would be relaxing. I played some video games, watched a couple movies, and basically just bummed around the house. At the end of the day I asked myself if I felt any more rested or refreshed and was shocked when the I realized that the opposite was true. Indulging in some “me” time did not make my soul feel any more rested.
So where do I go from here? To be honest, I’m not sure. How can I honor God by setting aside a day to rest in Him? What should that day look like? What makes my soul truly at rest? I’m still working it all out, but here’s a list of dos and don’ts that I think may help (unlike the dos and don’ts of rules I mentioned earlier).
DO choose to set apart a day to God for the purpose of rest.
DO be intentional about the Sabbath by thinking about it ahead of time and make preparations to set apart the day to God.
DO trust that the way God asks me to honor the Sabbath will bring life to the rest of the week and not make me feel behind on the things I must get done.
DON’T make what can or can’t happen on the Sabbath a rigid set of rules that must be followed.
DO continue to ask God to reveal to me what activities bring rest to my soul.
DO look for ways to make the Sabbath a delight to myself and my family. Isaiah 58:13-14 says that we should call the Sabbath a delight.
DON’T overindulge on the Sabbath for that will never bring rest.
DO find time for quiet reflection on the Sabbath. I know from experience that quietness does bring rest to my soul.
DO find verses that talk about the Sabbath and rest and reflect on them to keep this concept alive and awake in my heart.
Along with that last do, I discovered (or rediscovered since it was already highlighted in my Bible) some verses in Isaiah that talk about the Sabbath.
Isaiah 58:13-14 – “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want 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, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; then you will delight yourself in the Lord, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (HCSB)
If I had remembered this verse I never would have thought that a day doing whatever I wanted was a good way to honor the Sabbath. The part that talks about talking too much gives me pause. I know other Bible versions say idle talking there. Another thing to ponder about and ask God to reveal His heart on the matter.
I still have not arrived. I still don’t completely “get” the Sabbath. However, I feel closer than I ever have. Continue to reveal Your heart to me, Lord, so that I can fully know what it means to rest in You and honor you with all my days.
P.S. Those of you that know me, know how intentional I am with my words, so I do want to mention two things that may be misconstrued in this post. 1) In no way is this blog post meant to imply that I believe that everyone should set aside a specific day for Sabbath. Many Christians believe that Sabbath was set apart for the Jews and does not apply to non-Jews. Seek God’s heart on that and do what He is calling you to do in the area of Sabbath. Romans 14 clearly states that we are not to judge one another on our view of or participation in the Sabbath. For me personally, though, I am convinced that God is calling me to set apart a day of the week to Him. 2) I am aware that Sabbath for the Jews was on the last day of the week, Saturday. I believe as a result of the culture and environment we now live in, the Sabbath can be any day of the week. For me it makes the most sense, at this time in my life, for that day to be Sunday. If God is calling you to a Sabbath, ask Him what day that should be for you. It may even be a part of a day… follow God’s heart for you in this matter. May God continue to bless you and me as we walk out our our salvation.