Sabbath 101

As I’ve shared here before, Sabbath observance is something that is near and dear to my heart. But what does it mean for us as 21st century Christians who are no longer tied to the old Law?


First, some background…

At the beginning of the book of Exodus, we find the Israelites enslaved in Egypt under an evil Pharaoh. They had been under Egyptian rule for over four hundred years when God hears the cries of his people. He sends Moses to “let my people go” (insert way-to-catchy children’s tune) and the exodus occurs – God leads his people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea into the wilderness. He calls them there and gives them a set of instructions, commandments, to abide by as he makes his covenant with them and they in-turn commit to following Yahweh alone.

And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.”
– Exodus 31:12

The Sabbath was given as a way of setting aside Israel, marking them as God’s own people. They were told to work for six days but on the seventh day (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), Israel was to cease from work, to rest, to trust God to provide for them. I think it’s great that even thousands of years ago, before email on our cell phones and endless work days, God had to caution his people against overworking, relying on their own ability to produce and provide instead of trusting the God of Creation.

“More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel.”
– Popular Jewish saying

Weekly Sabbath observance was a way of setting a part Israel as God’s chosen people. It was a way for Israel to pause, to cease from working, and to trust their God would provide daily bread, one day at a time.

While we don’t practice Sabbath as stringently as the Old Testament commandments, A and I firmly believe that we as a society are way to busy. It is too tempting to constantly be working, checking email, and updating social media – stressed that if I don’t “do enough” then I’m never going to “be enough”. Sabbath is a way of forcing ourselves to slow down, to pause, to proclaim our trust verbally (even if we struggle with in internally) that the same God who created the heavens and the earth is more than capable to keep the world spinning if we take a day off. These are days where we take it slow – we cook a big breakfast, go for a walk, take a nap, hang out with friends and family that encourage us and fill us up. We watch a movie or catch up on a TV show, play card games, or read a book for fun. They are days where very little “productive” happens and days without a to do list. But at the end of a full, crammed week, my soul craves this kind of day. And it feels so good to know that my God cares enough to offer that rest and peace not just one day a week (though sometimes one practical day a week is easier to tangibly wrap our heads around), but every moment and day.

// What energizes you or gives you rest? If you had a whole day free of commitments, what would you chose to do?


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