February 20, 2010

Exo 31:12-17 [ESV] 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. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

Observing Sabbath was a top priority under the Law of Moses. God told Moses to instruct the people that “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths.” Apparently God saw some commands as more important, more fundamental than others. Observing the Sabbath was at the top of the list.

The scriptures have a lot to say about Sabbath.  Sabbath has layers of meaning.  Sometimes it is explained in relation to the deliverance from Egyptian slavery (Deut 5:15).  But in the above passage, God explains that Sabbath commemorates God’s rest after the six days of creation. That rest was precious to God. He told Moses that “on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” God gave to Israel that same precious experience with the Sabbath, as a sign to remind them that God sanctified them.

The Sabbath was a time, not only to remember, but also to participate in that rest. It was designed to be a delight and a source of joy and feasting on the blessings from God:

Isa 58:13-14 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

In the words of Jesus, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:27).  Sabbath was meant to be a blessing of rest.

Modern Christians need some of that rest. We live such cluttered lives. We dash from task to task.  We may be doing many good things, but in the process we are neglecting our own spiritual needs. When we do find spare moments, we tend to spend them in front of a television, or on the internet, in one way or another drinking the poisonous fare of popular culture into the deepest parts of our souls. And we wonder why we are stressed, frustrated, tense, apprehensive, impatient, short-tempered… Our souls are starved for Sabbath.

Many Christians are starving for periods of spiritual rest, for remembering that God sanctifies us. Our souls need a time, not for “doing as we please”, not for “speaking idle words,” but for spiritually nourishing rest, for meditation on God’s Word, and for remembering the blessings we have in Christ.

The Law of Moses set apart every seventh day for Sabbath rest. Perhaps we’re designed for that. Perhaps we need a day of rest every week, to thrive as God intended. After all, we are created in God’s image, and God rested on the seventh day. The Sabbath was made for man. Maybe we should accept the gift.

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