A TIme for Sabbath
This study was originally written and published on GracefullyTruthful.com. For further studies like this, check out their website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I curled up in my chair with my coffee steaming beside me and opened my book.
The title beckoned, calling to my weary soul . . .
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.
My breathing slows and deepens; I need this.
“Just before sunset on Friday, we finish up all our to-do lists and homework and grocery shopping and responsibilities, power down all our devices (we literally put them all in a box and stow it in a closet), and gather around the table as a family. We open a bottle of wine, light some candles, read a psalm, pray. Then we feast, and we basically don’t stop feasting for the next twenty-four hours. It’s the Comer way! And, I might add, the Jesus way. We sleep in Saturday morning. Drink coffee. Read our Bibles. Pray more. Spend time together. Talk. Laugh. In summer, we walk to the park. In winter, make a fire. Get lost in good novels on the couch. Cuddle. Nap.”
As I read this paragraph in John Mark Comer’s book, I recalled some of the sweetest moments in my life …
A quiet afternoon reading and drinking hot cocoa in a ski lodge …
Napping on my couch as I listen to rain falling outside …
Slow, meandering walks with my girls …
Card games and family dinners around my uncle’s kitchen table …
Sunday drives in the middle of nowhere …
But for me, these times typically only happen during vacation or holidays; John Mark Comer’s family shares peace-filled days weekly!
I wanted that.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
But that’s ancient history, isn’t it?
Or maybe it kinda-sorta applies to us, but we keep it holy by going to church… right?
To find our answer, let’s look back to Scripture. There’s a second component to this commandment:
“You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.”
(Exodus 20:9-11, emphasis mine)
First part: Keep the day holy. Remember God.
Second part: Don’t work. Rest.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ human-days took the second part of this commandment to the extreme. In fact, even today, Orthodox Jews strictly prohibit 39 categories of activities on the Sabbath (or Shabbat); these include the size food can be cut into, the texture of dough that can be made, and much more.
In Mark 2, Jesus abolished this legalistic mindset, reminding them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), meaning the Sabbath was created to help people, not burden them.
Contrastingly, we have the majority of the Church today, gathering on Sunday (our Sabbath) to worship, then catching up or getting a head start on the busyness coming at us in the week ahead: last minute projects and homework, cleaning the house, meal prepping, laundry. We don’t actually rest.
The Sabbath was never meant to be a catching-up day.
John Mark Comer, and other pivotal leaders in the evangelical church are on a quest to practice the Sabbath in all its intended goodness and beauty. When planning an activity on their Sabbath (sidenote: often not a Sunday, as many are involved in full-time ministry), they ask:
I’ve been delving into the world of practicing Sabbath because the calm and stillness and remembrance of this gift are so inviting. While I could write heaps, I want to share a few points to consider, then encourage you to read, research, and practice on your own …
God knew we couldn’t do it.
But God loves us more than we can understand, so He gives us these commandments to lead us to His best for us. Yet we, in our rebellious sin, fight against His words, treating them as a burden, rather than a gift . . . and He knew we would.
Into this tension stepped Jesus and His death and resurrection. Even THIS commandment to honor the Sabbath points to Jesus, our sinful nature, and our great need for a Redeemer.
“Girls! It’s almost Sabbath! Help me get the dishes put away!” I call, and my three little loves rush into the kitchen to sort silverware and stack their bowls and plates. It is 5pm and almost time for our Sabbath. I’ve already deleted the social media apps from my phone, and spent the day preparing by wrapping up work.
As we settle onto my bed with our nontraditional, but weekly, Shabbat meal of chicken nuggets, french fries, and broccoli, I remind the girls why we take the time to remember God and what He has done.
“How have you seen God this week?” I ask my girls.
One of my twins says she saw Him in the beautiful flowers she smelled.
The other shares how she saw Him when she jumped in the pool and her entire head went under water.
My three-year old tells me she saw Him “everywhere.”
We’re still learning. We’re still practicing. But we’re taking time to breathe in deeply and worship the Lord while completely resting our weary souls.
For further Sabbath study, check out these resources:
“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer
“The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Annie F Downs’ highlight on Sabbath
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