Discovering Sabbath

As a kid, I always thought keeping the Sabbath was the boring commandment. It meant that on Sunday we got dressed up and went to church, had a big dinner, took a nap, spent time with family. Good stuff, all of it, but if you were going to pick out ten rules to live by, that one seemed a bit tame– or just downright out-of-place, stuck in there with respecting the name of the Almighty, telling the truth, and not murdering other people. Like maybe we got up to nine big ones, and reached for one more to make an even and memorable ten? But if we do believe that those Ten Commandments actually came from the hand of God Himself, written down as foundational for a nation under His rule, then somehow that guideline for Sabbath is vital, and there is something about a day set apart that God finds precious and necessary. At the very least it should spark our curiosity to understand His intention for Sabbath rest. Maybe it is not until we find ourselves overwhelmed by life…at the mercy of grief…exhausted by what it takes to keep our heads above water… that rest becomes a treasure to seek out, and we begin to understand how very vital it is to a soul’s well-being.

At its heart, Sabbath is a call to come home to the presence of God. It seems self-evident, like we would not need to set aside a whole day just for that purpose, but the very fact that He wanted to write it down for us underscores how easily we forget to simply come. In all our building of a life and pursuing relationships and seeking happiness, the hours of the day fill up fast, and we fall into bed at night exhausted with ourselves. Sabbath woos us to rest. It whispers to stop from all our striving and rest in the goodness of our Provider…to wash the dust of the week away and be refreshed. It gives us space to enjoy simple things like family and naps and long walks and ice cream… to be thankful. It is a kind of re-set for the spirit, a reminder that despite all our day-to-day efforts, the life that matters comes from our connection to Jesus, the Vine.

Sabbath reminds me who I am. It is time and space to pause everything I am doing and just Be. Be loved, be accepted, be forgiven, be fully present with Someone who knows me, and stay long enough to hear the song He is singing over me. In His presence my soul finds rest and healing from battering expectations and anxious thoughts and gnawing insecurities. And when I gather with other Christ-followers I can rest from running against the current of culture for awhile. We can join with like minds and speak the same language of worship and need. And the truth is, I need this breakaway time if I am going to keep on running the faith-race well for another week.

When I really understand Sabbath and its vital importance to my spirit, I know exactly why God wrote it in His Top Ten list. He knew that our weakness was the desire to be self-sufficient, to build a kingdom for self to rule, and how easily we accept the lie that we are enough in ourselves. So God writes it down for us: Set apart a day for Sabbath. In all your busy planning and building, take time to step back and remember that you are created– that you belong to Someone Else and are only one small part of His great big world. Take a day to rest, to be thankful for His provision, to acknowledge that you need His grace, to rejoice in His love for you. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between Me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

Exodus 31:13

The Sabbath is not part of a trendy self-help program. It is a part of heaven and a glimpse of God. Sabbath is not one day of vacation a week. It is part of the most solid and tangible time of life. The Sabbath balances the active parts of life with the holy parts. Jesus needed both to be fully human, and so do we.

24/6, Matthew Sleeth