We are about to hit the month of July. The neighborhood pools are open, the kids are out of school, and vacation plans are in full swing. Summer is typically considered a time to recharge, to take a break (however brief) from our normal rhythms and simply enjoy life. It is a time for our bodies and minds to recover from all the strain and stress we face on a daily basis.
It’s easy for us to think of rest in terms of physical relaxation. It is often difficult for us, however, to think of rest as a form of spiritual discipline. God models the concept of Sabbath rest in Genesis 2, when He rests from His creative labors on the seventh day, and He calls on His people to honor the Sabbath day in Exodus 20. Jesus honors the Sabbath as well, while challenging religious leaders to examine their motivation and their hearts, as He so often does.
For me, the concept of honoring the Sabbath has always been a difficult one to grasp, or at least to implement. When I was in school, Sunday was a day for cramming for tests or finishing up homework. As an adult, Sunday is one the few days to “get stuff done” - chores, yard work, or the dozens of errands that never seem to get completed during the week. The weekend is also filled with parties, events, meetings, sporting events for the kids, and a seemingly endless supply of calendar obligations. So for many of us, Sunday (the Sabbath) simply becomes an opportunity to catch up - there is no rest for the weary!
But Scripture, both Old and New Testament, calls us to honor the Sabbath. Without going down the dangerous road of legalism, and without the unrealistic option of simply dropping all of our earthly commitments, how can we possibly honor the Sabbath within a modern context? Here are a few suggestions that I believe are both biblical and practical.
Plan ahead. This may sound overly simplistic, but the Lord calls His people in Exodus to remember the Sabbath. We are quick to defend certain parts of our calendars: sporting events, PTA meetings, doctor’s appointments. If we hold the Sabbath in the reverence God intends, we would do a better job of fencing off that part of our week as well. Christians may not like it, but they’re used to hearing sermons about being good stewards of our finances; the same principles can and should be applied to the Sabbath. Will we always be perfect in this attempt? Of course not. But we should want to make our best effort at the things that please God.
Learn what the Bible means by “rest.” Is the Sabbath a call to laziness? Is rest merely the exhausted pauses we use to catch our breath before diving back into our chaotic schedules? The Bible views rest differently. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge God’s provision and sufficiency (Isaiah 26:3). When we give God a place of prominence in our lives, the Sabbath becomes not so much a “break in the action,” but rather a celebration of God’s providential hand in our lives. Our work, while important, is nothing compared to the joy of following and serving Jesus. If we can live our lives with this mentality, then we begin to adopt a Sabbath mentality that carries beyond Sunday and into the rest of the week.
Don’t do the Sabbath alone. When God gives the Ten Commandments, he calls on not only the Israelites to observe the Sabbath, but their families, servants and even foreign visitors as well. As we observe the Sabbath in a practical and Biblical way, let’s not forget to join in fellowship with our families and our local church. Engage in corporate worship, have family and friends over for a meal, or participate in a family Bible study.