The sabbath is kind of a big deal to God.
At least so it seems if you read Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Part of the reason the Hebrew people got bumped into exile was their failure to take the sabbath seriously. Yes – there was injustice and idolatry and they seem like the real biggies, but this morning as I was reading Ezekiel 20 I couldn’t help but notice the significance of the sabbath as a source of rebellion against God.
Of course we are no longer ‘under the law’ so Sabbath no longer matters to us… kind of… For every ‘temporary’ law it seems there is a timeless principle that we do well to observe and use as a guide to life.
In this case the Sabbath is about 3 things (possibly more) – rest, worship and trust.
God commanded the sabbath both for people and the land so that they could all rest and recover. Rest is good and necessary. It is ok to rest…
God commanded a sabbath as a day of worship – of recognising who he is and what he has done. He felt we needed at least one day a week to refocus and get our bearings again. To realign our lives with him.
And because God commanded a sabbath in practicing it we learn to trust – that he will provide – that if we don’t work that extra day we will still have enough. The classic example is of the Hebrew people in the wilderness who were told to collect just enough for each day and then on the eve of the sabbath to get enough for two days.
Its all very 700 BC, and yet at the same time its also all very 21st C AD. For the record I don’t believe we need to keep a literal sabbath. (SDA friends can argue with me now…) But I do believe there is a timeless principle in there that we can observe and benefit from.
It seems that we are now working longer hours than ever and we are more enabled to do so by virtue of technology. We can work from home, work in the car, work kinda anywhere. Finding time for work isn’t difficult – but finding time to stop is much harder.
I’m convinced we need to know ‘how to sabbath’ and I believe its more a way of life than a specific day or format. I used to practice a solid day of no work whatsoever, but more recently I have tried to live at a pace that is sustainable with regular breaks built in rather than just one solid day. I find this works pretty well.
I do have a practice of not taking calls on a Sunday for anything business related and I have been able to keep to that reasonably well. There are the odd occasion when you just need to help someone out – and therein is the ‘principle’ rather than a hard law.
A sustainable pace of life definitely facilitates worship moreso than a busy life. I’m not that good at sitting with God and listening – meditating and all that stuff – I’m better at cracking on and getting stuff done. But I know I need the stillness stuff to enable me to connect with him and to tune in. I’ve actually gone ‘analogue’ more recently with a paper Bible and pen and paper journal. Something about the digital experience just wasn’t working for me. Possibly the distraction factor – but possibly that I associate my tablet with work and entertainment so picking up my 30 year old NIV is more of an effort and also more intentional.
And then there’s the trust factor. This was hard for me initially when I was building a business. Any time the phone would ring I would feel anxiety over not returning the call immediately. I have worked out that in retic you usually have 2-4 hrs to get back in touch before someone else gets the job. So when the phone rings on a Sunday it’s almost certain I am going to miss out. But that’s where the trust factor kicks in and I have to believe that if there is a good God – who sees me – cares for me – and knows what I need then he is able to provide for my needs in one way or another.
Rest – worship – trust – all part of a Godly life and yet all deemed ‘desirable but not essential’ in our culture. Part of discipleship in this current world is to teach people these things again – to rest – because God rested and he calls us to ‘rest’ in every sense. Then to worship – to see someone as greater than ourselves and worthy of our heart’s affection. A self obsessed world doesn’t do this easily. And then to trust – to believe that if I rest all will still be ok… God has my life under control.
It’s pretty simple – but simple is always different to easy.
In a world of massive mortgages more working hours = more $$ and more chance of ‘getting ahead’ (at least until we upsize to a bigger mortgage yet again.) And as such rest is optional – nice if you can manage it – but often considered time wasted – time that could be spent earning. When life is lived in that vein its not hard to see what is being worshiped – and it isn’t Jesus… Our devotion to wealth and pleasure usually far outweighs our devotion to Jesus. And when we find ourselves ‘getting ahead’, its hard not to believe that we actually ‘pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps – nice work me!’
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Want to follow Jesus and live a counter cultural life? Then work hard, but then rest – worship – trust – repeat. Simple really – but simple is different to easy.
I reckon if you just do those 3 three things you will be well ahead of the curve.