Read Time: 5 1/2 minutes
“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… 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. (Gen. 20:8-11)
Recently, my wife and I got to visit friends we had not seen in two years. In the course of our talk we shared about our pandemic experiences. I mentioned that I had actually very much enjoyed the initial lockdown. The first three months of the pandemic were a total blessing in my life. I slept in and went to bed late. Home all day, I read reread 37 novels that I had loved most when I was younger! I wasn’t forced to do anything I didn’t want to do. I was in heaven. However, I felt a bit guilty because others seemed to suffer a great deal.
Later that evening, I revisited the conversation and wondered why I had loved that lockdown so much when others had hated it! To me it was a government order to “honour the Sabbath”! In a world where it has become a badge of honour to be “busy”, overwhelmed and exhausted on our way up the ladder of success, we now seem to have to be given a reason to rest. “Rest is for retirement” is the thinking of too many in our culture.
There was a good reason God told the ancient Israelites to keep the Sabbath. The Israelites embraced the 24-hour time of rest that made the Sabbath different from every other day, and different from the lives they had lived as slaves in Egypt. The Sabbath reminded them they were no longer slaves that could never choose to stop working. The Lord is ever the “restful” God and designed creation for both work and rest. The Sabbath reminded people they couldn’t constantly be on the go. We are finite beings. There is a limit to our strength and energy. Keeping the Sabbath honours our human limits, by honouring the infinite God, who Himself worked and rested.
But, in 2022 many of us have forgotten how to truly rest, especially on Sunday. Now Sunday is a day in which we do everything else for which there was no time in our frantic week. Too many of us have become slaves to the clock, the schedule, 24/7 accessibility to work, email, and stores, sports practices and events that fill up the Sabbath day, so we never stop. Our perpetual exhaustion ought to be telling us something. The command to keep the Sabbath is God’s way of saying, “Stop. Notice your limits. Don’t burn out. There is more to life than work!”
It’s a day he gives us to remember what matters most. Sunday hands us hours for loving and being loved, and reminds us when we gather for worship that we belong to the worldwide family of the body of Christ. We’re citizens of a kingdom not ruled by the clock. Our faith is about a relationship with Christ and others; it is not about being successful in the world’s corporate systems.
How about changing your schedule to include a day of rest? Begin your Sabbath on Saturday evening. Light some candles. Invite the presence of Christ to guide you through your Sabbath. Eat with family and friends. Enter into sleep as an act of worship. Let go of your compulsion to be indispensable. Drop your anxieties into the Father’s arms. Relax and rest in God. When you wake up, thank God for your life and the gift of the day before you. Get up slowly and attend to your desire to encounter God and be refreshed today.
Attending to your body and soul, and the ones you love will bear great fruit. You might not make money, but you might find the love that drives you to try to be “successful”, however you define “success. The love you seek is that of God, because God is love, and has given you your friends and family in which love develops and blossoms. Take some Sabbath time and rediscover what it means to rest “in God” and be refreshed. Amen.