Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Returning to Rest - Part 2

(If you haven't read Part 1, check it out here)

I left my last post hanging a bit, with the idea that God needs to rest. In fact, He ordained rest and sanctioned it as one of the 10 Commandments! Remember the sabbath, to keep it holy. (Work for six days, and take the last day off, is what we are told.) It is this law that I am currently challenged with - what does it mean for me today?

So is God taking a nap? (And if He does take a nap, I'd love to jump on His "King-sized" bed sometime!) Okay, really, I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but I do really want to understand what it means for God Almighty, All-Powerful, to rest!

The Hebrew word, rest, in the Exodus 20 passage, is: shabath, which can mean "ceased" and also "refreshed." Although scripture clearly shows us that God does not get tired (Isaiah 40:28 and Psalm 121:3,4) I think it is also important to recognize that the very first sabbath occurred the day after God created Adam and Eve. It seems that His intent was to show a habit and pattern to them, for them to emulate.

I wonder if the first sabbath involved Adam and Eve spending quality time with God, talking and walking with Him in the garden? I imagine they also spent a lot of quality time together, enjoying each other's company. This was a day like no other - a day sanctioned for rest and refreshment. A day to cease from creating, fixing, making - working. It was a time to enjoy the fruit of one's efforts. For God, it seemed to be a time to delight in His creation. For Adam, it was a time to enjoy the garden that God gave him to keep, and the wife God had blessed him with. (For Eve, it was a time to be fed peeled grapes and relax on a flower-strewn hillside...)

This principle exists in cycles we see all over our world. Even back in the Roman era, 2000 years ago, they had developed a strategy of crop rotation that involved the soil having periods of rest. By allowing the field to lay fallow, it could replete the nutrients needed to grow healthy, plentiful crops, along with allowing a time for the weeds, pests and disease to be dealt with. Those who tried to grow continuously found that the crop yields declined.

When you are training physically, (as I am doing in running,) your schedule must allow for days of rest. If you try to train continuously without a break for your body to recover and for muscles to repair and strengthen, you are far more prone to injury, and you actually impede your ability to improve.

Even on a more grand spectrum, with our seasons, there is a definite cycle of renewal and growth, followed by rest and slumber. I know I feel like hibernating in the winter with the blanket of snow covering the ground, and the absence of fresh green leaves. This cycle is quite obvious in the climate where I live, but even in the tropics, you see that trees bear fruit for a season, then rest for a season.

We need rest.

I've seen my share of "work-a-holics" in my lifetime, and it is fairly obvious to me that they often miss out on what really matters in life. Often their spouse, children and relationship with God is left on the wayside. Their priorities are slanted to a work ethic that could be reaching for significance, fortune or they may even just trying to make ends meet, but life has a way of speeding up and they end up missing many of the important moments and memory making opportunities.

It was never my intention to dictate a legalistic plan for observing "the Lord's day" once I studied it's significance. Instead my hope was to instigate thought and introspection regarding your current recognition of a sabbath day.

I feel a conviction to change the way I approach my sabbath day. (Whether it be on Saturday, or Sunday, I believe this is more an issue of heart than rules and regulations.) To be honest, I have been living my life without any sense of sabbath at all! Yes, I do attend church on Sunday, putting God at the beginning of my week - but that's pretty much where my "rest" and rejuvenation ends.

What if sabbath became a day where you set aside distractions so you can connect with God and with others? Jesus clearly stated that the most important rule was to love God first, then love others. (Luke 10:27) His life showed this in perfect balance. When the Pharisees were condemning him for his actions on the sabbath (healing people was one of the common complaints they had), I think we can be assured that Jesus was observing the sabbath. He wasn't breaking God's law, but his actions were objectionable when compared to man's laws and ideas of holiness.

If cutting out most of my "work" helps me to focus on what is really important and make this day of the week special, then that is something I will be working on. If I cut out the work, but don't bother to invest in my relationship with God and others, then I've become hypocritical and just like the Pharisees.

According to the New Testament, meeting with other believers is required. Acts 2:46 tells us how they met together daily to pray and eat together. This doesn't seem to give a specific clue as to how we are to treat our sabbath - but talks about the group of believers... a.k.a. the New Testament Church - as something that you are involved with on a daily basis. So, to me then, the sabbath involves others, but unless you spend your whole Sunday (or Saturday) with your church, how you celebrate sabbath is subject to interpretation.

It looks like it would be a good idea to not work on your sabbath day. If you do work on Sunday, I would suggest you take a look at your week to see if you can fit in a day of rest and refreshment at another time. The only concern I would have is that you may not be able to be in fellowship with your family and others the way God intended. Perhaps that is why the idea of sabbath was so ingrained into our society. If everyone knew that a specific day was THE day of rest, then it would be far easier to interact, love and care for each other without the typical work day's distractions.

I think for me, the word distraction is what sums it up. By dedicating one day to my relationship with God and my godly relationship with others, I can fulfill his mandate to rest and refresh and encourage others to do likewise. I must cut out the distractions in order to do this. If cooking a fancy meal, grocery shopping and doing the laundry is going to distract me and take away from this sacred time, then I ought to cut these things out - or at least cut them down as much as possible. I'll still have to take care of my kids, change diapers and feed them - but I don't necessarily have to make sure that all the toys are picked up and the dishes get done right away. Instead of vacuuming crumbs up off the floor, it might be a day to say "No, that doesn't matter right now, but spending quality time with my family does matter."

When you set this time aside, creating a habit of quality connection, I believe it will breed godly discussion. It will be an opportunity to teach what really matters. It will give you the chance to exhort one another and encourage, to build up and create deeper bonds.

In all of this, remember to keep it "holy." This isn't the time to sit down and watch "Terminator" as a family or spend your time in front of technology. This is subject to interpretation of course, as you may feel that a games time on Sunday is of great benefit to your family culture, and brings you closer together. But above all, seek to honor God on this day. Are you doing things as an individual (or family) that show delight in what He has created and given to you? - because those are the the things that give Him delight.

I hope that my post does not come across as sacrilegious, or belittling to your current interpretation of sabbath. I pray that you will see my heart in this, and my desire for you to be closer to the Father; growing more in love with Him every day, and that you would also better learn to love others.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I think you have hit on the true heart of sabbath. Great post!