Often, as I drove through the many villages in Belize, I’d see people, sometimes, whole families, sitting in the shade of a huge tree out in their yard. My gut reaction to seeing them like that was always envy. How nice it must be to be able to rest like that in the heat of the day with people that you love. And then my judgmental brain would kick in and condemn them for being lazy, not having enough responsibilities in life that they could just lay out and talk and chill like that.
Rest was a foreign concept to me. However, any study of Genesis will show that God rested on the seventh day.
What does it mean to Sabbath? Is it possible to incorporate that kind of rest into your hectic life?
The ‘Who’ of Sabbath
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3 (ESV)
He looked at all He had created and said, “This is good. Now I’m going to rest.” Maybe we take for granted the fact that God rested on the 7th day because we have heard the story so much; but, not only did God rest, but He blessed the 7th day, and sanctified it.
In His divine plan it pleased Him to create the concept of REST, of putting down our labor for a day, and then He gave us an example of how to do it. Rest was a part of creation. Rest is so important that it shows up in the Bible within the first two chapters.
Centuries later, Jesus, Son of God, came to earth. Immanuel – God with us- rested regularly. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6: 31-32 ESV)
These words are an invitation to cease what you do on a regular basis, to step away, and to rest.
The ‘What’ of Sabbath
Sabbath is not a word that we think about often. It doesn’t come up in regular conversation, and if it does, it might sound super-spiritual. In Jewish culture there were so many rules attached to the Sabbath, so it now has that taint of hyper-spirituality.
Sabbath means rest. Rest for our bodies and minds, as discussed in the Ten Commandments.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… (Exodus 20: 8-10 ESV)
‘Holy’ means ‘set apart’, ‘different’, ’sacred’. In this case, the difference is that your Sabbath day is to look different from all your other days.
Of the Ten Commandments, this is the third one listed. It is the first one that comes after how we are to live out our relationship with God. The others that follow it tell us how to live with others. This is the commandment about self.
Of course, as man does, there was then an effort to regulate what a ‘holy’ Sabbath should look like. But Jesus clarified even that when He declared that we were not made to be subjected to the rules of what someone thinks Sabbath should look like, but instead, the Sabbath was made for us – which ties right into the fact that God rested on the 7th day.
The ‘what’ of Sabbath is spending time away from our normal duties.
The ‘Why’ of Sabbath
Why did God incorporate rest into our rhythms?
Pride of life makes us believe that the world needs us to keep going, that the people in our world need us to keep doing and pushing, keep performing. Often, we feel that our importance and identity are tied to doing, and our roles as parents, employees, bosses. When you choose to Sabbath, you’re declaring to yourself and others that the world and its expectations, can/will/do go on without you.
Once you start to Sabbath, you’ll notice that whenever you skip a week, you are less clear-headed, or motivated the following week. This will motivate you to stick to the plan and to keep Sabbath. Your body, mind, and spirit will wonder how you lived your entire life up until this point without this discipline.
If all of those reasons weren’t enough to get you to choose one day to rest, here is a verse that can remind you why you need to.
In it, you can almost hear the Father giving a plea to His children. It sounds as if God knows something that we don’t because of our limited physical vision; but that, if we were willing, we could get a peek into His heart towards us.
For this is what the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said: “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing,” (Isaiah 30:15 ESV)
The Ten Commandments are ten rules for living well. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The ‘when’ and the ‘where’ of Sabbath
You may think you can’t make Sabbath happen.
You are strong – strong for the people in your life; but are you strong for yourself? Once you recognize the need to Sabbath, it is my hope that you will be strong for yourself in taking back the Sabbath for yourself.
When you take a claim to ‘your’ Sabbath, and it will not be met with shouts of praise. Choosing to Sabbath is an act of obedience to God, but it is also an act of resistance against a culture that says our value is in our productivity.
As you figure it out, you will cross people who will wonder, sometimes out loud, why you are being so selfish. Many of you will have to fight others to be able to Sabbath; but once you get a rhythm going, the fight will get easier. When you meet resistance, you won’t feel guilty. You won’t hang your head as you say no because you feel that you aren’t meeting the expectations of others.
Every time you Sabbath, and you wake up refreshed and revived and ready for the coming week, you will understand more why God wrote the need for it into our DNA, and even gave us an example of how to do it, and you will grow stronger in your defense of it.
The ‘How’ of Sabbath
But how to get there? How to decide when and where to Sabbath? The answer is: prayerfully, because the world will not help you in this. It took me many years to get to this place where I am adamant about Sabbath, and that might be the case for you too.
It would be awesome if you could go somewhere every week, on your own, to enjoy the beauty of nature, and to just rest; but that is not realistic because of time and money costs, and because of our responsibilities at home and elsewhere.
How you Sabbath will also depend on your personality and what refreshes you. I am an introvert, so I mostly Sabbath at home; and these days, I do that on Saturdays. I make the Sabbath about me, because every other day of the week is about other people. Sometimes that means lounging in bed and watching TV for as long as I can stand it.
Or it might mean doing chores around the home. It could mean hiking, or going for a walk in a beautiful place. Whatever you choose to do has to be something that feeds you.
Sometimes on the Sabbath you will spend time in the Word and in worship, but sometimes you don’t. You worship God by resting, by allowing the things that feed you to feed you. Usually you will come to Sabbath exhausted and drained from the week you’ve had, and you use the day to rest my body, brain, and spirit.
The day that will work as Sabbath for you might be a different day of the week. That’s for you to figure out. God does not expect you to work seven days a week. He’s given clear instruction, and even a personal example, of how you should take one day of the week and make it look different from all the others, in that, on that day, you rest.
For those of you with children still at home, worrying about how this will impact them and their needs, let me give you some hope. Your children will learn by your example that Sabbath is important, and even if they kick and scream and rebel against this new decision of yours, they will respect it, and they will grow up to accept Sabbath as ‘a thing’ that they will incorporate into their own lives.
Also, it will teach them to be less selfish. Every time they have to allow you to Sabbath, they are learning to put someone’s needs before their wants. Talk to them about the process, and why you are trying this new thing. They might not like it now, but they will respect it, and it will affect how they themselves view grind culture.
To Sabbath is an act of obedience to God
To obey God’s command to rest one day of the week is better than sacrificing all seven days of every week working. I am inviting you to look at Sabbath as an act of obedience to God. He prefers our obedience to our sacrifices.
Will you follow our Lord’s command, and begin to keep your Sabbath holy? Will you choose a day as this season of your life allows, and make it a sacred day of rest for yourself?
Will you choose to obey God, and follow the beautiful example He set for us to Sabbath, or will you keep on sacrificing what He has not asked you to sacrifice? Will you choose to become familiar with the concept of resting?
Copyright © Debbie Mendoza October 2021