Summary: 1. Sabbath is a principle. 2. Sabbath means losing control. 3. Sabbath means modeling the life of God.
I’m a fan of the television show "24". It has more fast-moving action packed into an hour than any show I have ever seen. The lead character, special agent Jack Bauer, is on the run practically the entire show. He has no sooner solved one crisis than another rises. The title "24" is taken from the 24 hours in a day, and each episode is one hour in the day. I believe this last week was supposed to occur between 1:00 am and 2:00 am. Jack is always under enormous stress. About the only respite he got was when he was being tortured by the Chinese for several months. He never sleeps, eats or takes care of any of the other of his body’s necessities. Any normal person would have a complete emotional and physical breakdown after just a few episodes. But my life, as I am sure your life does, comes way too close to Jack Bauer’s — at least as far as being constantly on the run with more to do than I can ever accomplish. Too little time for rest and fun.
I recently read of a woman who wanted to go to jail. Maria Brunner is tired of her “lazy” husband and “demanding” children. Her husband is unemployed, so she supports their three young children by cleaning people’s houses. Even though Brunner’s husband is unemployed, he has managed to run up several unpaid parking tickets. In fact, the bill is almost $5,000. Mr. Brunner kept the tickets a secret from his wife, but as the owner of the vehicle, she is responsible. She will spend three months behind bars in her town of Poing, Germany if she doesn’t come up with the money. But Maria says, “I’ve had enough of scraping a living for the family. . . As long as I get food and a hot shower every day, I don’t mind being sent to jail. I can finally get some rest and relaxation.” The police said that when they went to arrest Maria, “she seemed really happy to see us. . . and repeatedly thanked us for arresting her.” The article stated that while most people taken into custody cover their heads in shame, Maria “smiled and waved as she was driven off to jail.”
Stress. Rest. Noise. Peace. Pressure. Relaxation. Crushing schedules. A place to escape. All of this has to do with our need for Sabbath. In thinking about the Sabbath today, I would like for us to first consider the fact that: Sabbath is a principle. I don’t think anyone here believes that this is a rule to be followed literally. If we did, we would never work on Saturday. That’s right. The Sabbath is the seventh day of week, which is Saturday. The Lord rested on the seventh day, after six days of creation, and called it the Sabbath. We worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, because that is the day that Christ rose from the dead. Sunday is not the Sabbath.
What is interesting to me is that for all our hollering about keeping the Ten Commandments, and pounding our fist while saying that they are not the Ten Suggestions, not only could most of us not name all ten, but many Christians obviously have no intention of keeping this commandment — either as a rule or a principle. Here is what the fourth commandment actually says: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The commandment concerning the Sabbath is not a rule, it is a principle. In the New Testament, the religious leaders tried to make Sabbath a rule — several rules, in fact. There were laws for every aspect of what you could and could not do on the Sabbath — how much you could lift, how far you could walk, what was work and what was not. The rules were suffocating, but they just kept piling on more and more. Those of you who are older may have had parents who would not allow you to play on Sundays, make noise, or run. Sitting and playing cards was also forbidden. It was very boring and depressing. Blue laws made sure that stores stayed closed. The idea of Sabbath became a law instead of a principle, and they even had the wrong day.