Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you.Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, Common English Bible)
We are taught that after God created, God rested. As such, we should do the same. But this command goes beyond what we have been taught in Sunday School. The Christian tradition of Sabbath included closed businesses and attending worship. Many of the people in our pews remember the days when Sabbath was more than just a “church” thing. It was the cultural norm.
However, today, it is not. In our age, it seems that it is more difficult to carve out Sabbath. While it is difficult, it is necessary. To “remember,” as the commandment says, is more than a Lumosity exercise. To remember the Sabbath requires action. The observation of the Sabbath is an active one. It is something we do for our health as well as to honor our God.
Built into creation is sabbath. Just like the air we breathe, sabbath is apart of God’s creation. The level of which we keep sabbath will not determine the level of salvation we receive. No, sabbath is apart of creation. Scholar Terence Fretheim writes that “the divine rest ‘finished’ the creation,” and as such, “Only when that rhythm is honored by all is the creation what God intended it to be.”
On the seventh day, God rested. On the seventh day (which ever day that is for you), we rest to admire God’s creation. We rest in honor of God’s creation. We rest in respect of God’s creation.
Sabbath – holy rest – is as one scholar has written, “a sanctuary of time.” The Gospel of Mark gives something to ponder when it comes to Sabbath:
The sabbath was made for human beings, not human beings for the sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
The context of this statement by Jesus is when Jesus picks grain on the sabbath and he is called to task for it. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Jesus is called out for doing something on the sabbath. Jesus places the emphasis on human need. If there was a person dying from hunger on the sabbath, you wouldn’t ignore them, would you? John Wesley, in his Notes on the New Testament, wrote that sabbath law “must give way to man’s necessity” because the sabbath was created for humanity in the first place.
A strict following of the sabbath is not rest either. The Pharisees who call Jesus out for working on the sabbath, are themselves working on the sabbath. They are the keepers of the law – it is their vocation and occupation – it is their job to uphold the law. And like so many of us today, they added more work to their plate by interpreting the law with “If . . .then . . .” situations. We could dare say that they missed the point.
But it is something we have to be intentional about. Sabbath may have been made for humanity, but it is a gift that has to be opened.
How do you remember the Sabbath?