What Does the Sabbath Mean To You?

Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shavot which means to rest.  

For me personally, it is a day that I don’t do laundry.  For my parents, it was a day that the whole family was expected to take an afternoon nap, even if we weren’t tired.  For my teenage son, it is a day that he doesn’t mow the yard.   

Sabbath is an ongoing theme in the Bible that starts with the story of Creation in Genesis. The second chapter of Genesis begins with the Sabbath.  God practiced Sabbath. He rested from all his work of creation. (Genesis 2:3)   He wasn’t tired. He rested to enjoy his work. Sabbath rest started before sin came into the world. It is God’s ideal. When we enjoy God, his creation, and the fruits of our labor, we are tasting a bit of perfection from the Garden of Eden.  

The idea of the Sabbath is very unusual when you think about it. Most religious rituals are about doing. The Sabbath is about not doing, not striving, not earning, not harvesting. The Sabbath is a day not to do but to be.   A day to enjoy creation and appreciate your blessings from God.  

When God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert between Egypt and the Promised land, the people were to collect the manna for six days but on the seventh day; they were supposed to rest and not gather the manna.

Taking a break is nice, right?  The people of Israel could kick back in their tents and enjoy the break from gathering manna. But they didn’t.  Many people went out to gather the manna on the seventh day. They didn’t trust that God had provided all that they needed.  They didn’t understand the gift that God had given them. Not only did they have the food they needed, but by resting and enjoying what they already had, they were receiving a tangible taste of grace.

Like the Israelites who were used to working for everything they had, many of us struggle to enjoy rest.  Embracing the Sabbath requires humility.  It requires admitting that we can’t do it all.  It changes our focus from all that we have to do to hold it together to trusting God to take care of our needs, work, and family. Sabbath reaffirms the message of the Cross, just as our efforts could not save ourselves, it is by resting in God’s grace and accepting his work on the Cross that we are saved, through no effort of our own.   

Living the Sabbath is not easy.  Most of us don’t know how to rest and if we do, we have become so consumed by our leisure activities that they have become as much of an idol as our work.  As Pastor Rudolph pointed out, work and rest are good things, but we often create idols when we make good things our ultimate things.

Work is a gift. God worked and it was celebrated. As Psalm 92:5 celebrates, “How great are Your works, O LORD, how deep are Your thoughts!”  There are seasons in our lives that just require more work.  In ancient times, seasons of planting and harvesting required long hours and the entire community coming together. But after the harvest was over, God instituted weeklong sabbath festivals to celebrate God’s blessings and to enjoy the harvest.  We also have seasons that require sleepless nights and long hours. But these challenging times should be seasons, not our identity.

The antidote to unbridled work and unbounded free time is worship. Pausing for a day of rest every week, taking vacations, and enjoying God’s gifts is an act of worship. Psalm 92 provides a model for worship on the Sabbath. Focusing on God’s goodness, love, and his ability to overcome our foes will reset our minds every week.  Pausing to see his work all around us (vs. 4), to celebrate His faithfulness (vs. 2), and his justice (vs. 9) will allow us to look forward to the future (vs. 14)with hope.  Hitting the reset button by observing a day of rest every week gives our minds a chance to be renewed and refreshed.

~ Penny Noyes, M.Ed. just released her fourth book Seeing Value A Biblical Perspective on Intrinsic Value on Amazon. She also writes for Christianity.com, GracefullyTruthful.com and her blog.   She is a wife to Tom, mom to Chris and John, Step-mom to Hillary and Jeremy (son in Law) and a Mimi to the cutest grandkids ever. 

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