“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
It’s easy for Christians to think of the Sabbath as one more legalistic burden that the Jews are required to carry. Yet this is not how the Lord speaks of the day of rest. In Isaiah 58, he tells his people to “enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight.” Those who honor the Sabbath will also delight in the Lord, who promises the blessings of honor and an inheritance. Now that’s a different view of Sabbath than the Christian norm.
Unfortunately, throughout church history, Christians have often sought to honor the Sabbath by turning it into a series of strict laws. I remember reading one Christian author who claimed that it was inappropriate to take a nap on the Sabbath because that wouldn’t be worshipful. No nap on the day of rest! Imagine!
We are right to avoid legalistic approaches to the Sabbath. But, at the same time, it’s clear that God wants his people—including Christians—to experience the refreshment of weekly rest. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it. Our relationships need it. Once we realize that regular rest isn’t one more burden, but rather a gift of God for our well-being, then we’re free to enjoy and delight in it.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you think and feel about the idea of Sabbath? Do you set aside time each week for rest, for relationships, and for enjoying God’s presence?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must admit that the idea of Sabbath as a delight is a relatively new one for me. For so much of my life I considered the Sabbath to be a heavy burden, one I was glad not to have to carry. But, by your grace, I have come to see how your Word commends regular rest. Sabbath is your gift to humankind. Thank you!
Help me, Lord, to know how to receive this gift with freedom. It is so easy for me to turn the Sabbath into a set of rules, rather than a time set apart for you and the rest you want to give me. Teach me, Lord, so that I might honor you by honoring your Sabbath, doing so in a way that is grace-filled. Amen.