Why the Sabbath?

Saturday, July 15                         

“In our faith and service, rest is as important as our work.” Amy Boucher Pye.  Daily Bread, 7/8/17.   She is talking about physical rest that God ordained, the Sabbath, years of jubilee, etc.  I’m glad she connected it with work because they go together.  Or maybe I should say they are mutually exclusive.  When you are working, you are not resting, and when you are resting, you are not working.  God gave the Israelites specific instructions about this before they ever entered the promised land.  Ex. 23:10-12.  They were to work six days and rest on the seventh.  Their slaves and hired hands were to get the same relief.  Even the fields were to get rest.  After six years of producing crops, they were to lie fallow for the seventh year.  The need for rest is illustrated by children who are bundles of energy for hours and suddenly go sound asleep to “charge their batteries.”  When in the sleep mode, there is virtually nothing that will wake them.  And they revert to irrepressible energy just as quickly.  But there’s another element to consider.  Gen. 2:2 says that God rested from his work.  This is different.  I don’t want to underestimate the enormous work God did in creating this universe, but all he did was speak and it was done.  I have a hard time thinking that the omnipotent God got tired and needed a break to recuperate.  In fact, the Bible reveals that God never “slumbers or sleeps.”  Ps. 121:4.  And by the way, the word “Sabbath” does not mean “Saturday.”  It is an Aramaic word meaning “to cease from work.”  The extra “b” in the word is to intensify the force.   It is to completely cease from all activity.  His “rest” was to stop creating.  The job was done.  When each part of creation was completed, he pronounced it good.  In human terms, that’s saying “I did a good job.”  It’s a moment to reflect with a note of satisfaction in a job well done.  I said that was from a human standpoint.  I doubt if that was the case with God.  But my point is that part of the reason for a Sabbath day was to reflect on what God had done.  It was a holy day, a day to worship God for his goodness.  Although the Israelites might have needed a break from the labor of the previous six days, they didn’t just sit around doing nothing on that day, nor spending the day sleeping—charging their batteries.  It was a time to acknowledge God’s goodness and to worship him.  It was a time to rejoice.  It was a celebration of a benevolent God.  It was not a burden, and it was not bondage.  But that’s not what the Sabbath was like in Jesus’ day!

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