READ Gen. 2:1-3; Deut. 5:12-15
Of all the gospel rhythms, establishing a regular Sabbath is probably the most difficult and countercultural of all. Yet, the gift of Sabbath may be the most important place for us to start in structuring the rhythm of our time around the gospel.
GOD’S RHYTHM OF SABBATH
The word Sabbath (Hebrew word for “stop”) first appears in the book of Genesis where we see God’s creative work as happening in a 6 + 1 pattern - 6 days of work and 1 day of rest. So. The foundation and starting point for our rhythm of Sabbath is God’s own rhythm of Sabbath established at creation. This pattern first shows us the importance of work. As we work hard, with creativity; bringing order and blessing into the world in our paid or unpaid work – we image God. Work is what most of our life is all about. But it’s not all our life is to be about. There is one whole day that is holy, different and set apart from the others. It’s a day to stop, rest & enjoy the good fruit of our labor like God did.
The Sabbath reappears next in the 10 Commandments (Exo. 20) as commandment number 4. It’s significant to note that taking a regular Sabbath is 1 of God’s top 10 priorities for the human race. Sabbath is a part of how we love God and neighbor. From this we see that Sabbath is both a part of God’s created order and His moral order for the universe – it’s a part of the way things are and ought to be.
OUR REFUSAL TO SABBATH
If a 6 +1 pattern is a part of God’s created & moral order and if Sabbath is a gift God has given to us, why do so many of us refuse it? In our culture, almost everyone would say - to some degree – their lives are often characterized by the 3 O’s: Overscheduled, overcommitted, overwhelmed. When asked, “How are you doing?”, our most common response is “Busy!”. We suffer from “hurry sickness” and often feel like we have no choice but to stay busy. But what’s driving this busyness syndrome?
In the modern world, where our identity and worth are largely individually constructed, the major place we look to derive our identity and worth is in our work and productivity. The more we work and accomplish, the more we feel worthy, the more we feel that we matter in the world; that we are somebody. It’s why, when we first meet someone, after asking their name we ask, “What do you?” The formula is who we are = what we do. In this environment, SO Sabbath sounds like a threat to our very identity & worth. We keep going because –we afraid of the void and vulnerability that awaits when we stop.
GOD’S REASONS FOR SABBATH
If we are ever going to stop refusing the gift of Sabbath, we need to see what we are refusing. Here are 4 reasons why God has given us this gift.
1. Rest – God has given us the Sabbath so that we would stop and rest. God wired the need for regular rest into our humanity so we would remember what we are - human beings not human doings. We are not what we do. Stopping to rest regularly give us space to accept and acknowledge two fundamental truths about the world: 1) We are human and have limits 2) Only God is sovereign and in control. These two fundamental theological truths are put into practice when we Sabbath.
2. Release – Deut. 5:15 shows us that the rhythm of Sabbath releases us from living in a slavery mindset. God is saying, “You were a slave (you couldn’t rest) NOW you’ve been released. Don’t live as a slave anymore to anything or anyone because I am your only Lord and Master. Under Pharaoh, it was never enough. You were only valued because of what you did and how well you produced. So I give you 1 day a week dedicated to remembering that I redeemed you because I value YOU – not because of what you have done.
3. Replenishment – What did God do on day 7? The text doesn’t say, but we can infer the answer from what is said about the other 6 days. God was savoring ll the good He made. It He didn’t do it alone but invited humanity to stop and savor the goodness of life and creation. Work – even the best work – depletes us; Sabbath savoring replenishes us.
4. Re-centering - The Sabbath is carving into our life regular intervals of time to remember the truth that we are not the center of the universe – God is. The 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord” (Exo 20:10, Deut. 5:14). It’s God’s day. It’s His weekly intrusion in our time to show us the world doesn’t revolve around us.
OUR RHTYHM OF SABBATH
How can we start or restore a regular rhythm of Sabbath to our lives? Is it even possible? Author Mark Buchannan in his book Rest of God says, “You can only enter the Sabbath day if you first have a Sabbath heart”. In Jesus’ time there were many who zealously observed the Sabbath day but never experienced its benefits. The reason they were so zealous about Sabbath rules is the same reason we are so zealous in our refusal to stop. What drove them is the same thing that drives us. Iit’s not about the work on the surface - it’s the work beneath the work. The work to prove ourselves, to perform, to build an identity, to prove our worth. They looked to external religious appearance and performance, we to achievements/productivity.
The gospel can bring us rest from the work beneath the work. There are 2 extremely significant moments in the Bible when God announced “It’s finished” – 1) Gen 2:1 “the heavens and the earth were finished”, 2) John 19: 28, “Jesus, knowing all was now finished said “I thirst”… when Jesus had received the sour wine he said, “it is finished”.
Because Jesus perfect work for us, we no longer have to work to prove our identity. We are loved by God despite our failures and sin. Because of Jesus’ perfect work for us, we don’t have to prove our worth. The cross shows us how much God values us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We can rest.
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. What is your initial reaction to the idea of a regular Sabbath? Are you drawn to this? Skeptical? Uninterested? What questions do you have?
3. How does understanding God’s Sabbath as the basis for ours help us
4. Bridget Shulte, author of Overwhelmed How to Work Love and Play when no one has the time says, “We’ve made busyness almost like the price of admission for modern life. We talk about it as a status symbol. If you’re not doing anything there’s something wrong with you, you’re a loser. So when people are not busy they create it to fit in… Our culture right now is gearing us all toward a crazy, insane lifestyle nobody wants.”
Do you resonate with this? How do you see this at work in your own life? How have you dealt with this powerful pull toward busyness and hurry in your life?
5. Which of the 4 reasons for Sabbath do you feel you most need in your life right now?
In Emotionally Healthy Leadership, Peter Scazzero writes, “Sabbath is the one day of the week I most believe and live out a fundamental truth of the gospel. I do nothing productive, and yet I am utterly loved.” How does the gospel free us to truly rest? Why is it so hard for us to rest in the reality that “it is finished”?