Sunday, February 1, 2009

We Still Need a Sabbath

~ "Sabbath" Part 1

31 days ago, we welcomed a new year with great hopes and expectations, and maybe a few good intentions to blaze new trails and begin new habits. How did it go for you? I can check off a few steps in the right direction; I am still looking down a dark tunnel to the light shining on others. By the end of January, reality usually sets in, doesn't it? God knew we would need a regular chance to hit our "reset" button, to stop and take inventory, to take a deep breath, and to remember Whose we are. He called it the Sabbath.

Now, I'm not Jewish, though there are physical characteristics in old family pictures that would make you wonder. But the principle of Sabbath, established for the nation of Israel, still has great value for the Gentiles of the 21st century. Of course we know that God set the pattern of regular rest when He Himself rested in Genesis on the 7th day of creation. It was a precedent with purpose.

Celebrating the Sabbath was meant to be a pattern that endured. "So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant," Ex. 31:16. Setting aside a day to intentionally rest, resisting our human instinct to keep doing the routine and seemingly urgent, a Sabbath helps us to remember the covenant with our God. For those of us who are under the New Covenant, this principle still brings great benefit in our hurried and over-full lives of 2009.

"For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy {day,} a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD," Ex. 31:15. Reserving a day to cease from the usual isn't meant just to carve out a day to waste. As much as I want an excuse to ignore my ironing mountain or refuse to listen to my dishes, its purpose is not so ordinary. Instead, for those who follow Jesus Christ, Sabbath offers us the space to remember Whose we are, to spend uncrowded time enjoying and listening to Him. In our busy world, we need regular reminders that we are the beloved of the God of the Universe; the One Who has redeemed us and planned our future. He knows our need to come away and rest, to have the chance to be with Him.

"It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute," Lev. 16:31 That's right. Put on the brakes from plowing ahead in my schedule, thinking that I am woman, so watch me multi-task! Slow down. Acknowledge my need. Remember Who sustains me. Stay in tune with my Lord.

I still need a Sabbath. The challenge is that the world around me doesn't always "do" a Sabbath, too. My immediate world of husband and children, of work and email, of mail delivery and trash pickup. It takes a little work to make a Sabbath happen, but the pause it provides is well worth it.

Tomorrow I'll share some things I've learned that have helped make Sabbaths happen in my life.

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