May 14

Sabbath Rest: The Importance Of Being Earnest


minute read

Sabbath Rest is still a serious business. God values the Sabbath highly, so we should too.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

(Exodus 20:8)

Sabbath Rest

Sabbath Rest Harks Back To September

Back in September, I wrote a post about the Sabbath.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to follow up on the subject when I led a short session in our online church meeting.

I started by asking the kids (and adults) to think about their favourite activity they do to rest and relax. It might be:

  • watching a movie.
  • playing with your friends.
  • making a cake.
  • anything else that helps you relax.

I then asked them to write down (or draw) how they could involve Jesus in that activity.

And we got some surprising results!

Binge TV Does NOT = Sabbath Rest

The exercise sparked some very interesting conversations.

Several people shared how they enjoyed things like binge watching Netflix. But they also shared how they felt those very things prevented them from meeting with God.

It turns out that God hasn’t finished with me (or with us), when it comes to the importance of Sabbath rest.

Sabbath Rest In The Body

Personally, the Lord’s been speaking to me through my body.

I realised that I go through cycles in my ministry which disturb my ability to find true rest. Let’s take the example of a speaking engagement:

  1. 1
    I start to get excited about what God is doing.
  2. 2
    I take steps towards that move of God and prepare for the talk.
  3. 3
    Excitement turns to stress and hidden anxiety on the day.
  4. 4
    I relax afterwards …and promptly get a migraine!

Recently, not only did I get a migraine but I also developed itchy skin rashes on my arms. And when I prayed, Father said he was trying to show me something more about the Sabbath.

Exodus And The Sabbath Rest Law

But how does that relate to the things we enjoy doing and the way we relax?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with watching Netflix or movies, or playing video games, per se.

In and of themselves, they are neutral territory: it’s what we choose to do with them - and sometimes how involved we get, that counts.

In re-reading the book of Exodus, I’m struck once more by all the mentions of the Sabbath: 13 verses in Exodus alone.

But it’s not only the number of mentions of Sabbath. It’s also the force with which God highlights and underlines the importance of Sabbath to his people.

He does this time and time again. Here are 3 examples:

‘On it [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


(Emphasis mine)

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.

‘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 his people.’

Sabbath Rest Bible Summary

From these verses we might conclude the following:

  • The Sabbath day is holy
  • We keep it because God did so, in the beginning
  • “Above all” means Sabbath has a very high priority
  • Sabbath is a “sign” between the Lord and us, that he sanctifies us (i.e. He makes us holy or perhaps, more holy)
  • Breaking the Sabbath leads to death and removal from his people!

Lastly, we may learn that:

  • We must not do any work on the Sabbath, and…
  • “No work” really does mean no work!

What, actually, is “work”?

In Rabbinical circles, there’s been constant debate about what constitutes “work” ever since the time of Moses. And that debate continues, even today.

One example of this is when I attended my cousins’ weddings some years ago. Driving was considered to be work, so it was seen as good manners to walk to the synagogue.

The upshot: family and friends from out of town parked a couple of streets away and walked from there. Nobody asked the Rabbi how he arrived…

What I Think About Sabbath Rest

From a straight reading of Exodus, we see that God cares deeply about his people. And he knows that they need to rest.

He designed the Sabbath to give his people rest and demonstrated its importance by his own actions: He rested after he created the universe, the Earth and everything in it.

As if that wasn’t enough, he gave his people laws to enforce the Sabbath, with strict penalties if they didn’t keep it.

“I believe God still keeps the Sabbath and is able to do that, even when he’s busy!”

The perils of frenzied activity

God knows it’s not good for us if we live in a constant state of frenzied activity. He knows we tend to fall into the trap of getting caught up in our work and losing perspective. So he made sure that it was spelt out clearly in his law.

I’m glad that we don’t stone people anymore for being false prophets and we don’t exclude people because they refuse to stop!

But in these days of instant access to internet TV and high-octane video games, the Sabbath command in Exodus gives us pause for thought.

And as Jesus said, Sabbath is made for man, not the other way around (Mark 2:27).

Sabbath Rest Is The Way To Shalom

The Sabbath is our path into Shalom. Shalom is a different state of being, the deep abiding peace that Jesus promises.

This shalom peace is complete and all-encompassing: it moulds and shapes our inner self but it also affects, changes, and transforms our relationships.

I believe that we are marked out as his people by being in a state of rest. That’s how we can become the peacemakers the bible speaks of.

If we want to be God’s witnesses in the new world we’ll soon be participants in, then we need to learn this lesson now, not later.

And if we can’t learn the Sabbath lesson while living under lockdown and social restriction, when will we ever?

Shelly Miller

“Pausing for prayerful listening, even for a few minutes, brings everything that is important back into focus.”

(Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World)

Your Turn

How do you keep the Sabbath and how effective is it for you?

Let Us Know Your Answer In The Comments Area, Below.


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