Are you tired? Maybe you occasionally feel an ache in your chest–not because you’re sad but because you’re pushing yourself too much? Or maybe you don’t–yet–but either way, you feel like the proverbial hamster on a wheel, running and running and running, one day spilling over into the next. If this is you, stop for a minute and consider that, whether because of perceived necessity or engrained habit, you’re violating one of God’s primary principles and barring a change, will eventually pay.
“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 ʼs 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 in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob…” (Isaiah 58:13-14 NIV)
God has given His people the best gift, the gift above all gifts–forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus Christ! But He has also given us many other auxiliary gifts to help us as we navigate our existence here in these bodies on earth–one of the primary of which is a very practical and beautiful gift many of us miss, the Sabbath. And while there has been much discussion as to whether we should celebrate it on Saturday as the Old Testament people of God did, on Sunday as Christians traditionally have, or some other day, the point remains that Jesus never did away with the Sabbath. Remember what He said? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18 NIV)
Yet many Christians today have all but ignored God on this point, to their grave detriment. Granted, many faithfully attend church, “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV) And this is good and right, as it should be. But beyond that–what about the command to actually rest on the Sabbath? Do we do that? Or is Sunday the same as every other day, a blur of activity of one sort or another, whether for church, or entertainment and amusement, or even paid work? Let’s see what God actually says about the Sabbath, the day of rest.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested [a more accurate translation would be “ceased,” because He did not need to actually rest, as we do] from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3 NIV)
“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:3 NIV)
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11 NIV)
“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 NIV)
So. What are we to make of these verses? What is the Sabbath?
Well, for starters I think we can safely conclude it has NOT been done away with. Does it need to be one particular day rather than another? I am not prepared to argue this point, although I do believe a major element is habitual consistency. If you rest on Sunday, every Sunday must be set apart for rest and holy. If it is Saturday, each one must be. For many pastors, Saturday is the day they finalize preparations and Sunday is the busiest day, so frequently they rest on Monday. God, in His mercy towards us and wisdom about our physiology, has mandated a day of rest every seventh day, and every seventh day it must be.
But what about Jesus’ comment that man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man?
Jesus was not rejecting the Sabbath when He said this. The context of this comment was the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and He was explaining that we should help out and do good where there is a need–even on the Sabbath. So while our day of rest must remain a day of rest, if, for example, we see a person with a flat tire by the side of the road, we are not precluded from pulling over and helping. On the other hand, driving around looking for “good deeds” to do would clearly violate the entire point of resting on the Sabbath.
So, are you tired? Are you feeling your health giving way because you have ignored a clear mandate from your Creator and have not honored either Him or the obvious needs of your physical body by doing nothing every seven days? Stop. Examine your life. Find a day that works and DO NOTHING. Honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy. God will bless your obedience!
Dear Lord God,
Help me take Your Words very seriously. Help me honor the Sabbath and set it apart as holy in my own life, as You command. Amen.