It’s interesting to me that God has more to say about taking a day off than He does about either murder or adultery. It’s the longest of the Ten Commandments. And yet it is still the most misunderstood! It’s as if He’s saying, “I want you to take this serious, this is not a suggestion.
“Sabbath” means stop or rest
It’s like the guy who approached the stop sign as I do. He coasted slowly to look and then kept going. A police officer pulls him over and says, “You didn’t stop at that stop sign.” The guy says, “it was good enough, I slowed down.” They began to argue about this and it got tense, eventually, the police pulled the guy out of his car and began to beat his with his stick. The guy yells, “stop, stop!” The officer said, do you want me to slow down or stop?”
When God says we should stop our work, he means stop. Not slow down and bring home work and continue to to check emails. A day off means we should be off.
“Jesus said, `The Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
God says “I’m doing this for your benefit.” The purpose is to prevent burnout. Every seven days you need to get physically, emotionally, and spiritually recharged because your batteries run down each week.
When is it? Saturday or Sunday? It doesn’t matter. The answer is once a week. God doesn’t care when you do it as long as you do it once a week. The Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, and most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday. Through the Bible we see that there were many different SABBATHS and not all of them were on the 7th day of the week. Some started on the 15th day, some like an agricultural sabbath lasted a year.
How to observe the Sabbath is something the ancient Jews gave a lot of thought to. They took the Sabbath and put so much emphasis on not working that the day became a burden and not a blessing. They decided that there were 39 different categories of work and for each type there were hundreds of sub-categories.
No food could be cooked on the Sabbath. In fact the coals had to be removed from the oven preceding the Sabbath to help avoid the temptation to prepare a hot meal. One class of work which was forbidden was the carrying of a burden but what was a “burden?” Well, they conceded that a man could lift his child on the Sabbath but not if his child had a stone in his pocket because then he would indeed be bearing a burden. The Essenes, that very conservative sect of Jews who lived in the desert and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, would not go to the bathroom on the Sabbath. On the Sabbath, it was forbidden to tie a knot, to light a fire. to move a lamp. If a flea bit you on the Sabbath you couldn’t swat it because that would be fighting and fighting was forbidden on the Sabbath.
Before we rush into criticizing the Jewish nation let us examine the ways we have misunderstood and misinterpreted this text. I remember when stores were closed all day Sunday and then they started opening from 1PM-5PM so that people could still go to church but now they are open all day. Sunday has become a day just like any day a day to go to the mall, or to work in the yard, or to pack the stadium or catch up on yard work or any household chore that couldn’t be finished during the week. Our great grandfathers called Sunday the “Holy Sabbath.” Our grandfathers called it the “Sabbath.” Our fathers called it “Sunday.” And we call it the“Weekend.” Things have really changed when it comes to the way we think of this day. To many people, Sunday is just another day.
Now why would He make this law? this reminder — one of the ten commandments and list it right alongside laws forbidding murder or adultery? Why would our REST be such a big deal to God? As our Designer, God knows that rest is that important for us. He has built within us a need to stop and recoup in life. When we don’t rest, when we go non-stop day after day, week after week, things will begin to break down in our lives. The breakdown may be physical or emotional, spiritual or financial, or even marital. And God loves us too much to allow this to happen so He has given us this tender commandment.
How do I “keep it holy”?
Holy means “set apart”, different. On the seventh day, we’re to have a change of pace. Do things differently. Traditionally Christians used Sunday for church, rest and family time. That’s what it means — unique, reserved, special.
Why Take A Day Off?
My Body Needs Rest
It’s interesting to me that there are now more work saving devices than ever before yet people are working harder than ever before and longer hours. There’s more stress, pressure and burnout. We need to take a day off and rest. We can be consumed by our career. There are a lot of tempting things that pull us toward our work — more money, more recognition, more promotion, more sense of fulfillment, achievement and accomplishment. All the powerful forces that say “work more!” We can become addicted to our work. But our bodies were not built for non-stop work.
Studies have been done to where if you wear one pair of shoes every day it will last six months. But if you have two pairs and alternates wearing them every other day, both pairs will last two years. This is because the leather needs to rest and when it rests it lasts longer. I read this week that Bowling alleys have discovered that bowling pins last longer if they are given a rest. For this reason most alleys have two full sets of pins and every week they remove one set from service, place them on the shelf and use the other set. They have ascertained that if wooden pins don’t “rest” they lose their vitality and won’t bounce around as much when hit by a bowling ball. Even dirt needs to rest. If you have any farming in your background, then you know that farmers don’t plant the same things in the same fields year after year. They may plant corn one year, but the next year they’ll plant beans because corn takes certain nutrients out of the soil and beans will put them back in. In fact, if a farmer can afford it, he will let whole tracts of ground lie fallow for a year or more because the land needs to rest. After the rest it will yield a much more bountiful crop. This is apparently what the Lord had in mind when He commanded the Israelites to observe an agricultural Sabbath.
A study was done a few years ago by the U.S. Army in which they observed several soldiers in various conditions to determine at what stage these individuals achieved the maximum level of output. The Army discovered that after 7 consecutive days of hard work, each soldier’s performance dropped. But the most interesting discovery the army made was that….even though the soldiers’ performance level dropped, the soldiers themselves were unaware of it. They thought they were still operating at maximum level.
If we’re burning the candle at both ends we’re not as bright as we think we are. We can get so many irons in the fire that we put out the fire.
Maybe this is why so many of us think we don’t need to rest….that it is somehow lazy to take a break every once in a while. As we examine the life of Christ, we see that during His three year ministry the Son of God took 10 “vacations” or “retreats” and He always observed the Sabbath. Sabbath was mentioned 59 times in the NT, Jesus talking about it or observing it.
My Soul Needs Rest
Sunday is preeminently a day to worship, get a focus on God, a time to remember what’s important, a time to get a spiritual tune up.
My brother is taking flying lessons and is getting along pretty far. Those of you who are pilots know that on an airplane there is a gyro-compass and it’s very important to keep the plane balanced. Pilots know that thing has to be constantly recalibrated or it gets off. The body and your life has to be re-calibrated every seven days. We need to be focused again and that’s what worship does. It helps bring in to focus what’s really important.
The tragedy is many people take the day off. They use it to take care of their physical needs and they rest and their emotional needs, they have recreation and relationships, and they ignore their most important need , our spirit is empty and it needs to be refilled with God’s presence and power and love.
“He restores my soul” Psalm 23:3 Only God restores my soul. The lake or the mall can’t. So my day of rest always include worship.