A year ago I was in New York listening to Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, talk about how much keeping the Sabbath has transformed his life. He went so far as to say it has transformed his preaching, his understanding of God’s Word and His purpose, his marriage and even his health – mental and physical.
As I pondered this idea of “keeping the Sabbath” I experienced a growing uneasiness and a troubling awareness of just how much I – we – you? have completely and totally ignored this commandment from God. Did you know this Sabbath Commandment is the most repeated commandment in all of the Holy Scriptures – by far?
So, it must be important to God. And therefore, as with all your loving Heavenly Father’s commandments, it must be important for us.
I began to see we were not just ignoring it, we were violating it, and apparently missing a huge gift.
But I had not a clue what to do about this.
How does one keep the Sabbath? Am I to go back to the Dark Ages? As I started to dig into this I felt like a noose was tightening around my neck. You will, too.
Rob Bell gave me some very good advice: “Before teaching on anything live it out for a few weeks or even months.”
So I have. For the past 12 weeks I have been seeking to keep the Sabbath holy, and what an adventure it has been! I hope you will join me as we explore this most repeated, most misunderstood, and most violated commandment.
Where to begin?
At the beginning, with God’s heart … his intention behind this commandment. I know you’d like to just skip to the, “What can I do and what can I not do on the Sabbath?” – and we will explore those questions later. But if we take that route first we are following the Pharisees into legalism.
Jesus never taught about the Sabbath. But as he promised in the Sermon on the Mount, he lived it out … he fulfilled it: “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.” Matthew 5:17
So instead of bringing us yet another list of do’s and don’t’s, he showed us the Sabbath is about our hearts, not about legalistic do’s and don’t’s. Which takes us back to God’s heart.
Is God for you? Is he about protecting you or prohibiting you? Is everything he asks and commands you to do good news?
Yes, he is for you, and yes he is always about protecting you, and yes, his commandments are always good news. Even when they might not appear to be.
God is always for you. He is always with you. He is always out before you. He is always about protecting you from bad ideas, bad decisions and bad actions – and missing wa’s truly important. He is never about prohibiting you from having fun, or “living the life.”
If we absorb this most holy truth, and only until we have, we can then take the next step in our journey to understanding the Sabbath: it is a gift from God. And we will begin to see keeping the Sabbath holy is a refuge, not a restriction. Then that noose will begin to loosen, and eventually disappear.
To be replaced by a sense of joy and security: a refuge, not a restriction.
Jesus fulfilled this when he set the legalists straight: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
Did you get that? “For man” … as a gift for man … not againstman.
The Sabbath, it seems, is the key to living the life … “the life that is truly life.”
After 12 Sabbaths I have only scratched the surface. But I’ve gone from totally blind, to beginning to glimpse this Sabbath refuge, and the gift God intends it to be.
So here is a roadmap for how we will approach our journey together, because we must do this together:
God – Holy
Gift – Good
Guardrail – Protection
Remember – Not a ritual
Rhythm – Balance
Rest – Retreat outwardly
Refresh – Restore inwardly
Reverence – God
Each week I will give you a few scriptures to read. It’s up to you to do so. But I will remind you once more, the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy is the most repeated commandment of all.
It must be important. To Him. For you.
Scriptures if you want a little more:
Exodus 31:13 ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will bea sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.
Ezekiel 20:20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lordyour God.”
Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Isaiah 58:12 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
The Message: “If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there— Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all. I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.” Yes! Godsays so