Hope for Living: Sabbath command is invitation to rest and joy

Ethan Maple

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

— Genesis 2:2-3

By Ethan Maple

Rest has been built into the design of creation, implanted into the DNA of humanity; and yet Christ-followers struggle to balance God’s invitation to rest with the world’s insistence upon busyness.

We’ve been caught up in the current of society that invites us to adorn exhaustion and production like a badge of honor; after all there’s no rest for the weary. I’m not denying the importance of hard work, I’m simply suggesting the rat race we’ve come to accept as life is not the life God’s desires for us.

The Sabbath was conceived out of creation, but it was commanded out of necessity. It’s a command that is often lost amid “You shall not have any other God before me,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not make idols,” “You shall not commit adultery” and the like.

These Ten Commandments are not some buffet of rules where we are invited to take what we want and leave what we don’t, and yet often that’s exactly what we do. Or worse yet, we assume some are more important than others and our spirits default to some sinful ranking system.

We are commanded to Sabbath for a reason; to set aside a day to rest, to resist, to recall, and to repent. God’s command to his people was to keep the Sabbath day holy, sacred, and set apart as an offering to our Creator.

On this day we are invited to rest, to recover from the work of the previous six days and prepare ourselves for the work of the next six days. We are pushed to resist, to deny the world’s insistence that more is better. We are asked to recall, to remember the many ways in which God worked miracles in the lives of the faithful. We are encouraged to repent, to search our soul and recognize that our lives have not lived up to God’s expectations.

Often we believe the Sabbath is merely the day we go to church, and once we’ve checked that box we can move on. At times we get this image of the Sabbath being 24 hours of praying, worshiping and reading the Bible. The truth is, while the Sabbath may involve those things, it doesn’t have to. The Sabbath is this beautiful gift to humanity to remind us of His faithfulness.

God knew that our free will (our strong will) would get the best of us, that we would get so consumed by work we’d forget the importance of rest. And when we became exhausted and depleted, God knew that we were all the more vulnerable to be tempted by Satan.

Sabbathing is hard; it goes against everything our culture emphasizes. Our work is no longer defined by specific days and time. We’ve bought into a stigma of “lazy” that is attached to rest. We’ve assumed that our scraps of time are enough for God and tried to fit Him in whenever convenient. It doesn’t work; you can’t scam the system.

My encouragement is to embrace this command from God, realizing the gift it holds. I recognize that setting aside a day may be difficult for you, but try setting aside an hour and begin to work yourself up to a day.

Once you begin Sabbathing you’ll find that in some miraculous way you’re actually accomplishing more than before, you’re filled with a greater joy, and your relationship with God and others is healthier.

Honoring the Sabbath is not some command in which God is demanding control; it’s the way you were designed.

Ethan Maple is pastor of Mt. Comfort Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to [email protected].