How to Keep the Sabbath in a World That Never Rests

The command to observe the Sabbath is the fourth among The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 31:15. At a recent Leadership Conference, I was challenged to consider the importance of this day set aside by God.

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 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 ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. (Deut. 5:6-21)

This is a commandment with by far the most instruction but, even within Christian circles, it seems to be dismissed as optional by our busy society.

The word “Sabbath” simply means “rest.” <<Click to Tweet

In our overscheduled, workaholic culture, taking time to rest seems counter-productive. But in reality, the opposite is true. Not taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life can actually reduce our ability to be creative and diminish the quality of our productivity, not to mention make us grumpy.

As Pete Scazzaro, the conference leader, said, “BEING with God precedes DOING for God.” The purpose of Sabbath is to rest and BE with God. 

Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” (Mk. 2:27). With this He essentially pointed out the difference between the legalism of the Pharisees and the sacred rhythm of life that God prefers for us. Biblical Sabbath-keeping is not about rules, but is an opportunity to step aside from the rip-tide currents of activity for a weekly mini-vacation.

Sabbath sounds pretty tempting, doesn’t it? Why not give it a try. <<Click to Tweet

Here are Four Core Elements of a Biblical Sabbath:

1. STOP – Stop the things that constitute regular work. Stop so you can do something you enjoy, that refreshes you.

2. REST – Exhale. Trust that God will keep your world spinning. Prioritze self-care. Self-care isn’t selfishness. It’s taking care to rejuvenate and recharge, which benefits both you and those around you. Only then can you be fully effective in your work, activities, and in your relationships.

3. DELIGHT – Delighting is intrinsically a part of Sabbath. No delighting = no Sabbath. Take the day to connect with God and delight in Him. Jesus was for Sabbath, but against the legalistic requirements imposed by men to observe it. If you do nothing one day a week just for the sake of checking it off your to do (or don’t) list, and you don’t intentionally delight in God, then Sabbath has lost its meaning. So you won’t reap the full benefits intended.

4. CONTEMPLATE – Take time to reflect on the love of God. Slow down to practice gratitude. Seize the opportunity to see the invisible in the visible.

The Sabbath isn’t just for Sunday. Friends of mine who faithfully observe the Sabbath do so on Fridays because of their work schedule. If needed, they work late into the wee hours on Thursday finishing up household tasks. Then Friday is spent resting, reading, eating, playing games, or doing other enjoyable activities. These friends have as many demands on them as any family I know, but their intentional Sabbath observance is the highlight of their week.

Here Are a Few Important Sabbath Reminders:

  • We “GET” to keep Sabbath, not we “HAVE” to keep Sabbath. It is a privilege offered to God’s people.
  • Legalism/Perfectionism kills Sabbath-keeping. It’s a day of FREEDOM. When God included it as part of the Ten Commandments, He specified Remember that you were slaves in Egypt ... (Deut. 5:15) One of the speakers at the Leadership Conference said, “There’s a Pharaoh inside all of us urging us to work.”
  • Start somewhere. A little bit of progress makes a big difference. If, in the beginning, it’s too difficult to set aside an entire day, you can start with a half day or even a few hours every week.

Our Father in Heaven created us. He knows what our bodies and souls need to thrive. Over and over in scripture God confirms that rest is one of those needs. I know it may be difficult, but I encourage all of us to trust Him and honor His plan by taking time to observe the Sabbath. 

Check out these resources on Sabbath-keeping:

Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest by Lynne Baab

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzaro

And here’s another Circles of Faith article on Discovering the Many Benefits of Rest by Sharon Gamble

Susan Panzica is a Jewish Jersey girl who loves Jesus, her family, the ocean, and mangos. Her passion is to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters through writing, speaking, teaching, and coffee dates. A quasi-emptynester who works with her chiropractor husband, she thoroughly enjoys when her college age children are home, with or without all their friends. Susan is a speaker, women and children’s Bible teacher, and writer of the devotional blog Eternity Café.

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photo credit: angelsánchez ph via photopin cc
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