I had the blessing of attending a conference in Europe a couple weeks ago. While there, one of the things discussed was sabbathing. For someone like myself who does not know how to rest well and also lives in a high stress megacity, sabbathing is something I need to force myself into practicing. I wanted to share some thoughts that were brought up during this conference. Hopefully this will be the same kind, call to action I received.
Sabbath was established by God from the beginning of time. Before sin entered the world, God exemplified its significance by resting himself. Additionally, after the fall of man, God found it important enough to include in the 10 Commandments. One of the questions brought up in the conference was this; “If God put sabbathing in the same list as ‘do not murder’ and ‘do not use my name in vain,’ then do we grieve God’s heart when we do not sabbath?”
I think this is an important question to stop and reflect on. If we are so adamant about the other nine commandments, why do we not take the time to focus on this one? This commandment can give us the strength and energy needed to proceed when life gets hard. Exodus 31:12-17 says:
12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
God created sabbath as an eternal sign of His covenant with man. The original language here describes a “forever statement”, meaning it is timeless and to never end. It is holy and holy for us, to the point where God deemed the punishment of death to those who did not observe this day. These are clear words with clear consequences, developing the first people group to live out a different lifestyle from their neighbors.
Busyness is almost always an excuse for forgoing sabbath. However, the desire and need for busyness, is often a means to avoid slowing down and self-reflecting (feel free to fight me on this one, but I do know this is true for my own life). “When we take the time to slow down, we dive into the deeper. We are able to experience serenity, health, and peace in the presence of God.” Distractions are a part of the enemies plan. If we cave to the anxieties society places on us and focus too much on the needs to attend to, we miss out on the gift and blessing of sabbath and the growth that comes with it. There is always a reason we return from a retreat on a spiritual high. We have taken the time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness. What if we took that time every week? How would our lives look different?
Obviously, there is a need to not become legalistic in this endeavor, as we see the harm caused by taking anything too far. However, if God is the foundation of life (Ps. 36:10) and in him we find rest (Psalm 46:10), we can find peace in the trials. As we know, God does not promise to remove hardships from our life, but He promises to meet us and strengthen us in the midst of the trials (Psalm 138:3). I think it is important to note that sabbath and rest can and should look different between each person. For me personally, sabbath comes with solitude and being in nature. For others, it may look different. I know coworkers of mine would rather not be out in nature during this time and do not find it restful, and both are good!
For a little personal reflection: I have found that living in a megacity has been one of the hardest circumstances I have ever been in. With little to no nature for miles, in a city of roughly 25 million people (most likely closer to 30 million), I often find myself suffocated and unable to do much. Upon this, while in Europe, I realized how deeply rejuvenated I become by being in nature. So how do I sabbath, when the way I draw near to the Father is removed? I, unfortunately, do not have an answer at this moment, but I am working towards it. The inability to take a peaceful walk in the morning has been much harder than I anticipated. Yet, I know that He is good and will give me the strength I need. Hopefully, there will be a post in the future discussing how God meets me/us in the overwhelming chaos, but until then, this is a message of hope and steps to move forward into the unknown.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” - Psalm 46:10