I have been a Christian now for twelve years but, to be honest, it was only three years ago, when I started dating my husband, that the idea of a true sabbath ever entered my life. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments – the fourth to be exact. In Exodus 20:8-11, God says
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.
The same is commanded in Deuteronomy 5:12-15. The question with the commandments for many Christians is “But those were from thousands of years ago, are we really still meant to obey those, or just the ones that make sense in our day and age?” I am guilty of thinking this myself from time to time. However, as I have delved deeper and deeper into the study of the Bible and of theology, I have come to believe in my heart and my mind, that the Commandments must still be kept. The Bible is a living document. God’s Word is relevant at all times, in all places, in all situations. Consequently, while we do read His Word from a very different place and time than it was written, it is still very much relevant to us. You can see, if you look around you, that not following God’s Commandments in our secular society, has been to the detriment of His Creation.
All this said, what about the Sabbath. Isn’t the Sabbath a Jewish thing? The Sabbath was talked about in the Old Testament, the Jewish Torah, so if we are living in Christ, in the New Covenant, why are we still following what to many seem Jewish traditions?
The Sabbath is indeed a Jewish tradition. However, as Judaism is the foundation of Christianity, and since the Torah is our Christian Old Testament, whether we are living in Christ or not, God’s Commandments still apply to us. Jesus Himself said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus has spoken but many questions remain – are we not freed from the Law, through Christ? Do we not live a Sabbath, as believers in Christ, holding the peace and rest that is belief in Him in our hearts? Do we not have eternal Sabbath after death, through Him? These are questions that I, myself, wrestled with until I read this previous passage of Scripture. Yes, we are freed from the Law. It is not our works and our following the Law that gets us to Heaven. In Jesus, and our belief in Him as our Saviour, our sins have been forgiven – we do not have to DO anything to get to Heaven, other than believe in Him and take Him into our hearts. Then, the Holy Spirit may help us to become more like Him. Our lives will be spent TRYING to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding, TRYING to become more like Him, but the Ten Commandments will remain to guide us when we falter,”…until heaven and earth pass away…” These truths to me shout Sabbath! They shout freedom!
So, while the Sabbath has taken on a different dimension, observation of it during the week, has not become obsolete. And while the Sabbath appears to be a command, because it comes from the Lord, it is actually a gracious offering, a gift of love. God is asking us, begging us, to take some time off. To rest. If you struggle with “but I have so much to do and only a couple of days off a week”, think about this – God created the entire UNIVERSE from its beginning to its end with all the physical manifestations of that, the relationships of millions and millions of people over thousands of years, the conversations, the emotions…EVERYTHING in six days. He gave Himself a day of rest…He did not say, “Well maybe I’ll just work on Sunday morning…just a few more hours and it will look better.” NO! He rested. So if He gifts you with a day of rest, do you not think that all that other busy stuff can wait. Do you not trust God to take care of it?
To be honest with you, I never really paid attention to the Sabbath until I met my husband. His family has always strictly observed the Sabbath and he was not about to change. It has been a tricky transition for us, I have to admit. However, I do find myself really looking forward to Sunday now. What a gift to have a day spent with God at church, a day resting, and a day thinking about Him – reading, journaling. While it is still not what I would like it to be, it is a start. I would like very much to incorporate a more family-centred time of worship during the day but maybe that will come with time and God’s help. The important thing right now, is that we are taking a break from the world and thinking about the gift we have in Him, one day a week. Why don’t you too?
The room is quiet. You’re not feeling tired enough to sleep or energetic enough to go out. For the moment there is nowhere else you’d rather go, no one else you’d rather be. You feel at home in your body. You feel at peace in your mind. For no particular reason, you let the palms of your hands come together and close your eyes. Sometimes it is only when you happen to taste a crumb of it that you dimly realize what it is that you’re so hungry for you can hardly bear it.”
Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner