Summary: Sabbath Keeping is a commandment that most of us break constantly. This is an introduction to the series and a call to keep the Sabbath.
Sabbath March 11, 2007
Which of these “Big Ten” do you think I am most likely to break on a regular basis?
Groups of 3-4 – Do you keep the Sabbath? Why, or why not? If you do, how do you keep it?
What kind of feeling/memory does the word “Sabbath” give you?
It’s a strange thing – breaking the Sabbath is probably the only commandment that we might brag about breaking – “I haven’t taken a day off in 4 years!”
I think that our strange relationship with the Sabbath stems partially from a strange relationship with work.
Studs Terkel wrote a book called “Working” where he interviewed hundreds of people about their work. He said that there was a common theme: “Most people…live somewhere between a grudging acceptance of their job and an active dislike of it.”
I think that most of us feel guilty if we are not working hard enough, and resentful if we think we are working too hard.
So, in the same way, we have this strange relationship with rest – we desire it, need it, and feel guilty taking it.
In God’s economy. Work is good, and rest is good.
For most of us, we don’t really want rest from work; we want escape. We dream of our next holiday, we dream of retirement, or even early retirement, or winning the lottery and joining the idle rich. But, as usual God does not offer escape, he offers rest.
In Isaiah 30, the people of Israel are going to be attacked by a much larger army – they want escape, but God’s plan is to carry them through.
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ’No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ’We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
In Psalm 23, the psalmist speaks of this rest grated by God in the midst of trouble:
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
The table is not prepared in the quiet green meadows, but in the midst of his enemies. His heart is so at rest, he so understands God’s protection and provision, that he can sit down and eat while his enemies stand around waiting for a fight.
Keeping the Sabbath can teach our hearts and minds that type of restfulness when we are surrounded by enemies, or deadlines, or bosses, or cranky children
Keeping the Sabbath is a way of stepping into God’s rest one day a week, and hopefully that one day will permeate the rest of the week, so that we can work from a place of rest rather than from a sense of guilt, obligation or feeling overwhelmed and trapped.
Sabbath keeping is a declaration of creation
Two steams in Christianity – creationists – who want to prove the genesis account of creation over evolution, and creation keepers who want to care for God’s creation. Both should keep the Sabbath, because Sabbath has its roots in the story of creation. God rested on the 7th day of creation, and he has called us to as well. He has done this, in part, as a reminder to us, and a declaration to the world, that he created all that there is!
If God rested on the seventh day, who are we to think that creation needs us more than it needs God?
Sabbath keeping is a declaration of provision
Some people feel the need to work 7 days a week, because if they didn’t they will not make enough to survive, or to support their lifestyle, or they feel they will lose market share. Others just think that the world, or their business or their house will fall apart if they are not on top of it 7 days a week
To take one day a week off, to not work is a declaration to yourself, to the world around you and to God, that you know that it is God who provides what you need in life – not your company, or your own ability to keep things in control.
Just as tithing, giving ten percent of your income to God is a declaration that God will provide enough for you, so is taking a Sabbath.
Even if you see your work as the work of the Lord, you still need to take a Sabbath. I remember hearing about one person chastising their pastor for taking a holiday: “The devil doesn’t take a holiday.” They warned. The pastor replied that he was trying not to live by the devil’s example.