“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11
The Sabbath was so important to God that He included it in the Ten Commandments. Sandwiched between not taking the Lord’s name in vain and honoring our parents . . . in the same list that commands us not to murder, lie, or steal . . . we find the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We are commanded to both worship, for the Sabbath is the Lord’s, and rest. Worship and rest are not necessarily mutually inclusive. They are not two concepts typically paired together. We can worship without rest, and we can rest without worship. God could’ve created a day of worship that neither included nor excluded rest. He could’ve created a day of rest that neither included nor excluded worship, but instead He created a union between worship and rest and told us to keep it holy.
If you know me, you know I struggle with the “rest” part of the Sabbath. I struggle with rest in general. It seems as if there is always something to be done, and my list of “to-dos” is never complete. For me, keeping the Sabbath, like so many other things, is a work in progress. And I’m learning that keeping the Sabbath, honoring and worshipping and resting, is about far more than attending church each Sunday and sleeping the day away afterward. Before anyone comes at me, I believe that attending church is so important (“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . .” Hebrews 10:25), but worship is not exclusive to church. It’s not a guarantee that just because we’re showing up at church every Sunday, we’re actually worshipping. Likewise, resting isn’t always about that Sunday afternoon nap. Although, again, I’m not telling you not to nap. Jesus napped. Naps are good. Rest does not always equal naps, and naps don’t always equal rest.
There’s a quieting of both the mind and the body that comes with keeping the Sabbath. And there is a benefit, to us, in making the time and creating a space to honor this practice. In a world that never stops, it brings stillness. In a culture that, even within the church, says “go hard or go home”, it brings both quiet and peace. There is so much value, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, that comes from practicing the Sabbath.
Under the Levitical law the rules were incredibly strict regarding what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12, Jesus goes head to head with the Pharisees regarding the “rules” surrounding the Sabbath. The Pharisees had created, as humans are so apt to do, a legalistic, performance regarding the Sabbath. But they had missed the point altogether. It isn’t about not plucking heads of grain, as the disciples did in Matthew 12 or not washing a few dishes, as one might need to do nowadays if they happen to have a houseful of children. Jesus came not to abolish the law but fulfill it, and so there is much grace even in this. It’s not about checking the right boxes while avoiding all the wrong ones. It’s about worship and rest and Jesus.
Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the secret place (shelter) of the Most High shall abide (rest) under the shadow of the Almighty.”
There is value in taking a day of rest each week, but even in our busy-ness, in our day to day lives, there is value in having a Sabbath mindset every single day. Of dwelling in that secret place . . . daily coming to God and submitting to His leading and guiding and sometimes, correction, but also peace . . . because it’s in that place that we find rest. Even when the world and life are swirling around us at a pace with which it seem impossible to keep up, we can be totally at rest.
And that’s where I find myself. Allowing God to teach me and guide me toward resting and worshipping in such a way that I honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but also in allowing God to teach me to dwell in His secret place and abide under His shadow. Having said all this, I find myself striving in areas where I neither desire nor have a need to strive. And one of those areas is in this space. This past year, the number of people reading and sending messages and emails increased, and that’s great. But I never started writing to get more readers, and I never want to write to earn more followers. I write because I feel it’s an area where God has gifted me, and while I am not the most eloquent person when speaking aloud, I do a far better job conveying what I’m learning and walking in with the written word. However, there is wisdom in taking a Sabbath, even when it’s something we love. It gives peace, rest, and direction. All that to say, a little break is in order. Not forever but between now and Christmas, I won’t be writing here (and likely only sporadically on social media). I’ll continue to write, the old fashioned way, via pen and paper in my journal. But I’ll also take the time to ask God to guide me, to speak to and through me, and to rest and enjoy this Advent season, celebrating the birth of our Savior, with those I love the most.
I pray you’ll take the time to do the same. To embrace rest, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally and to live fully in the moment with those you love.
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