Pondering the Sabbath

“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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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

Keep the sabbath day holy. It is one of the 10 commandments. Sounds simple. But what does it really mean practically? I think I have probably lived a lot of my life NOT keeping the sabbath day holy. In the Old Testament the Jews had very strict guidelines about what you could and could not do on the sabbath. But keeping the sabbath day holy became more about religiosity then anything else. Similarly Jesus himself was judged by the religious authorities for doing things on the sabbath that were considered “wrong”. This has made me ponder what it really means to take a sabbath.

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” Luke 13:10-17

In today’s modern Christianity the sabbath is traditionally considered Sunday’s. It is the day that most Christians do not work, go to church and spend time with family. There are even a couple of companies and store that observe the sabbath by closing on Sundays. This way there employees are able to observe the sabbath. But most stores and restaurants these days are open on Sundays. Sundays may even be the busiest day of the week. Similarly when I was working in the medical field I often worked on Sundays. Patients do not stop being sick because it is Sunday.

What I have come to terms with in my pondering the subject of the sabbath is that the sabbath is really meant to be a gift to humanity from God. God does not need to rest. He is God all the time. He does not grow tired or weary. But we humans absolutely need rest. When we do not rest there are significant consequences to of well-being. Having one day a week to take a break is essential for our wellbeing. God’s commandment to keep the sabbath day holy is meant to be a gift to us for our wellbeing, not a hinderance.

There have been many times in my life, particularly when I was in my medical education where finding a day to rest was challenging. I already did not have enough hours in the day to complete all the tasks needed. To set apart an entire day to rest, not study and not work meant I would have 24 hours less a week to accomplish already to many tasks. Let’s just say setting apart an entire day, once a week to not work, rest with God and observe the sabbath was challenging. It took me being intentional. But I found that God was incredibly faithful when I followed his command to keep the sabbath day holy despite my busyness. By observing the sabbath I was healthier, more productive and more joy filled rather than being over burdened.

What my sabbath day has looked like or what I consider a sabbath day as holy has changed at different seasons in my life. The sabbath day is meant to be a day that is set apart.

A day you stop laboring. A day you spend time with God. When I was working in the medical field my sabbath days were mostly filled with an online sermon, arts and crafts. Now that I working full time as an artist my sabbath days mean taking a step away from arts and crafts. Similarly my sabbath day is not always on Sundays. Many times it is but many times it is not. What does your sabbath look like? What does it mean to you to keep the sabbath day holy?

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