May 7, 2020
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.
Sabbath may well have been one of the most remarkable realities in the life of a former Hebrew slave. Every six days they would get one full day off from work. It was a day on which they were actually mandated by the God of the Universe to rest.
It is interesting how the Sabbath command actually mandates six days to work and one day to rest, and it does so for everyone: parents and children, employees, Israelite or not, even the animals are included—which says something remarkable about God in and of itself.
This is what Yahweh is like. He creates an entire 24-hour period of time where everything ceases. He declares it is a “sabbath to the Lord your God,” and yet it is not even for himself. Jesus said clearly, “People were not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for people.” Why did God do this? The first word of the command is “Remember,” while the last line is “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.” Did you ever consider that God made human beings on the sixth day of creation, and the first thing they did was res?
And here’s another operative principle of Sabbath-keeping: Sabbath rest is not functional or utilitarian rest. It is not resting from work, nor is it resting up for work. It is resting with and unto God. To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy means to enter into the rest of God, which is a completely different kind of time and space reality than anything else.
In my judgment, we have made at least three major errors over the millennia when it comes to Sabbath-keeping. First, we have considered it optional in light of the work of Jesus and the New Testament. Second, we have misconstrued to “keep it holy,” as meaning to keep it “religious” and otherwise painful. Third, despite incredible words like, “remember” and “blessed” and “holy,” all the energy has gone into rigorously and legalistically defining the meaning of the word “work.”
On it you shall not do any work,
What constitutes work? How far can a person walk on the Sabbath without it counting as work? Breaking off heads of grain to eat them was counted as work. To this day, in the city of Jerusalem, elevators in buildings are programmed to open on every floor—as pushing a button would count as “work.” Enormous legalisms have built up like barnacles over the command throughout the centuries—and this for Christian observance.
Many people in the Kingdom Prime season of life will remember many rules around their childhood about what they could and could not do on Sunday. Blue laws abounded. My grandfather told us stories about not being allowed to go swimming on Sunday.
One of my happiest memories of my young family life was Sabbath-keeping. Every Saturday night we would gather as a family around a small oil lamp which we only lit during Sabbath. Tiffani and I would gather our four small children, light the oil lamp and together say this rhyming prayer we composed for the occasion:”God give us your peace, and cause us to rest. We cease from our labor, we seek for your best. Embracing each other, we walk in your ways. We thank you for giving this new Sabbath day.”
For the next 24 hours we enjoyed a very different kind of day than the other six had been. We built the day around four key movements: ceasing (what the word shabbat actually means), resting, feasting, and embracing. We played games. We enjoyed sumptuous potluck meals with friends. We lingered after church. We took naps. We didn’t wash clothes or dishes or anything else on our six day to-do list during those 24 hours. It was glorious and it changed our lives and our family. I miss that so much these days.
I’m not sure there exists a more life-giving and holistic practice to sow and nourish the awakened life into a home (at any stage) than Sabbath-keeping. I want to get my Sabbath groove back. I’m wondering who out there might like to go that way with me?
Our Father, what a good, good Father you are. You created an entire world for us and when you were finished you rested, not because you needed rest, but because you wanted to create Sabbath rest. We pray with the Psalmist, “Teach us to order our days rightly that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Though it be fraught with pitfalls and misunderstanding, something about Sabbath seems so right, even perfect. Could you teach me this in the wilderness? In Jesus name, Amen.
What have been your experiences with Sabbath-keeping? What might a reboot look like?
For the Awakening,