In today’s culture we often struggle to find rest for our souls. And yet too many of us neglect one of the greatest gifts God has given to help us do exactly this – the Sabbath.
The Gift of the Sabbath
The Sabbath was made to help us release our burdens to God and stay in rhythm with His plans for our lives. When some of the Israelites tried to ignore it, God said to Moses:
‘They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you.’’ (Ex 16:29 NLT)
Similarly, Jesus said ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’ We often focus on the second half of this sentence, that it shouldn’t be a burden. But we forget to apply the first half and ask God: how can this gift actually meet my needs?
In truth, God designed us with the Sabbath in mind. It is not an afterthought, but something integral to living as God intended.
Why Set a Whole Day Apart?
Firstly, so we can come back to ourselves and to Him each week. We find rest for our body, soul, and spirit. And we release burdens to him. We invite him to be central to our lives and give him access to our hearts.
In fact, we stop as an act of faith. Not because we have finished, but because we put everything back into His hands. And this teaches us to trust Him more, recognising that He holds everything together, not us.
The Sabbath is God’s antidote to stress and prescription for a healthy life.
Secondly, the Sabbath provides a course correction for our lives. It ensures that we remember and give time to relationships with those closest to us and to the plans that God has for us. We give ourselves wholeheartedly to be present with those around us. We stop our ‘ordinary work’ and remember the whybehind what we do.
The Sabbath helps us to create stronger families and communities as we intentionally give time to loving others and building relationships.
52 Sabbaths in a Year
Using this day as God intended will change your outlook on life. As Walter Bruggerman said, “Those who live the Sabbath differently also live the other six days differently”. In other words, what God teaches us through the Sabbath also impacts every other area of our lives.
The traditional Jewish greeting on the Sabbath is ‘Shabbat Shalom!’. Shabbat is the Hebrew word for the Sabbath. And the word shalom means peace, but also wholeness and well-being. You can read more about it here.
For us to experience this fuller sense of God’s shalom through the Sabbath, we need to both understand and apply its principles to our lives. As Jesus said we are blessed when we both hear and do, putting the keys He teaches us into practice. Here are some examples.
Diving Deeper into the Day of Rest
Connect: the Sabbath is not just about stopping, but it is a time to tune in to God’s heart and see the world through His eyes. It reminds us of our humanity and the ways in which God weaves His presence into every area of life.
Love: the Sabbath is a weekly lesson on love – how to love God, ourselves, and others. God told the Israelites to take time on this day, just as He had rested after his creation and taken time to delight in it. It reminds us that we are made in His image.
He gives us a window to rest in His love as we listen to His voice and our own hearts. It’s space to enjoy life and to practically make time for our family and friends. The Sabbath is actually a joyful holiday!
Remember: God also told the children of Israel to use the Sabbath rest as a reminder of what He did for them in bringing them out of Egypt. He led them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The Sabbath reminded them that they were a free people and living in God’s promises, purely because of what He had done for them.
Refocusing on the Sabbath
The same is true for us. The Sabbath helps us remember what God has done in the past, engage with what He is doing now, and look forward to where He is leading us.
In fact, the rabbis consider the Sabbath a taste of the Messiah’s kingdom to come. For us who are followers of Jesus, we know we can experience this here and now, with all the blessings that implies. Unwrapping the gift of the Sabbath helps us step into a deeper experience of that amazing kingdom being birthed on earth. Just as Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come!”
In short, the Sabbath can help us to live as God intended, even in the midst of our hectic modern world.
And when you apply the principles of the Sabbath, the blessings cannot help but spill over into the rest of your life. You start experiencing them in your personal and family life, and in every area of your daily living, including your ‘ordinary work’.
Many of us strive for daily Bible reading and consistent prayer time, and it is easy to feel condemned when we miss the mark. But this God-given schedule is different. It brings us back to the very centre of who we are and what our lives are about every week.
In today’s digitally immersed and information saturated world, we need the lessons of the Sabbath more than ever.
Sign up for the Free Sabbath series!
I want to invite you to experience how this day of rest can help you live a blessed and fruitful life today by signing up for my new series, 52 Sabbaths.
This weekly email unwraps the gift of the Sabbath one week at a time. Each Friday you receive a reflection on a different aspect, to help guide you on the journey.
Over the course of a year this free resource will help you experience the power of the Sabbath in your life, just as God intended.
David Hoffbrand / firmisrael.org