Pages Navigation Menu

Finding God in the Story of Your Life

Do I have to?

This month, we’re focusing on Sabbath. The question I’ve heard: Do I have to?

It sounds a lot like when you tell your kids to clean their room or do their homework or brush their teeth, and they whine, “Do I have to?”

I’ve had some interesting discussions with people who seem to lump the Sabbath command in with all the other Old Testament dietary and sacrifice laws (sort of ignoring the fact that resting one day a week is in the 10 commandments, not some obscure corner of Leviticus). And they point to New Testament verses that say we’re free from the law, we live under grace.

They’re right. You don’t “have to” take a day off.

You get to.

Sabbath is a gift. You can spurn it if you want to.

But like many of God’s laws, Sabbath makes sense. We all know what happens when we don’t get enough sleep: our concentration suffers, we get clumsy and ineffective. When we’ve not had enough sleep, we can quickly and accurately point to that deficit as the reason for our fuzziness.

The same is true if we never take a day off, some time to just rest.  While we are aware of the symptoms of sleep-deprivation, we are not always able to recognize the symptoms of rest-deprivation.
We don’t make the connection between the stress and anxiety, the anger simmering below the surface, the soul exhaustion–and its cause: lack of rest.

Jesus did not say, “Thou shalt keep the Sabbath.” But he did say, “Are you weary and burdened? Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

So, no, you don’t have to. You get to. Open the gift.

4 Comments

  1. I agree with you that physical, emotional, spiritual rest are all gifts from God, but is it found in Sabbath-keeping or is it found in Jesus? If found in Sabbath-keeping, is that by choosing a particular day to rest, whether Saturday or Sunday or some other day? Romans 14:5 is on my mind here, and in the following verses Paul speaks of food rules along with Sabbath-keeping. In all of it he says that the important thing is to realize that we belong to Jesus, not to set aside a day as holy to God.

    In fact, isn’t Sabbath actually a foreshadow of the rest we find in Jesus, the rest he invites us to come to him and enjoy? Colossians 2:16-17 suggest that Paul considers Sabbath to be a lot like the dietary laws in that regard. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath(Matthew 12), and I think we truly we engage in Sabbath when we rest in him. (Matthew 11:28-30, which you mentioned.)

    Don’t get me wrong. Rest is wonderful stuff and God knows how I love my nap time. But when we look at Old Covenant Sabbath instruction, it is clear that keeping the Sabbath holy (whether the Sabbath day or Sabbath year or the Jubilee) is based on the fact that God is holy and he wants his people to act the same. (Exodus 31:12-13.) Now, though, we have holiness in us through the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sabbath-keeping won’t improve our righteousness one whit, and Sabbath-breaking won’t diminish it by a whit either.

    Rest in Jesus? Check. Take time to rest in order to stay physically healthy? Check. Schedule regular time to rest physically and reflect on Jesus and the rest he gives us in him? Check. Sabbath-keeping? Not so sure on that one.

    Good job making me think hard this morning, Keri. I am not sure that all I have written is the only way to read these passages, but it’s what is making the most sense to me. Thanks for the thought-provoking!

    Tim

  2. Tim, good thoughts. Yes, you’re right, Sabbath-keeping won’t change our status with God (our righteousness in his eyes). I see it more as a spiritual practice, like prayer or solitude or study. They are all tools that bring us closer to Jesus, but are of course not a substitute for Jesus himself.
    The cool part is that we have great freedom in how we keep Sabbath. my book is all about letting go of the legalism, and embracing the freedom.
    I will say that no other practice has drawn me closer to Jesus than Sabbath keeping. It’s taught me what it really means to trust, it’s allowed me to experience his unconditional love in a new way. (but more on that when I post tomorrow).
    Yes, the OT laws are ways that God’s people were set apart (holy). But they were, for the most part, healthy ways to live, that reflect what our creator knows is best.
    In the book, I write about a study that was done with factory workers back in the WWII era. Some workers worked 21 days straight. Others worked 21 days, but they got every seventh day off. The productivity of the second group was double the first. God made our bodies and minds and souls to need one day off each week, and when we honor how God made us, he blesses us.

  3. Well Keri..when I think of Sabbath I think of resting in the arms of my Jesus! Can you just imagine sitting on his lap with His arms wrapped around you in total peacefulness? That is when I am in a Sabbath Rest! Thanks for making us remember! Julie

  4. I observed a Sabbath this past Monday. Started the day with some reading from a recent set of magazine articles on the subject (in Point Loma Nazarene’s “Viewpoint”), your “Deeper Into the Word – NT” entries on Sabbath and Rest, and, of course, my Bible. Spent some time reading and memorizing scripture, praying for my loved ones. Took a walk at a nearby lake a few minutes from home and tried to spot the nesting bald eagles (didn’t see them – will try again!). Napped, and made a simple dinner. For me, the important part of Sabbath was setting aside distractions (read: phone and internet) for some much-neglected contemplation time. I felt a bit isolated during the day and realized that when we took a long walk and looked at flowers with our neighbors the previous afternoon, that was Sabbath too. It was a wonderful gift to me, a way to take stock and receive a bit without pressuring myself to accomplish anything. Thanks, Keri!

Share your thoughts. Please stay on topic and polite!

%d bloggers like this: