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 2:3
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day, he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
– Exodus 20:8-11
life felt very LOUD
Recently, my family and I started practicing the Sabbath. As a family of 5, we have very busy and active days. It can easily feel like we are running from one thing to the next, all day long. Screens seemed to invade our down time at the end of the day, so that even that time seemed unrestful. It almost felt impossible to find any rest amidst daily life. Amidst the business and never ending distractions, my mind and soul felt tired and drained, and there never seemed to be quiet enough to truly find inner rest. With all of this happening, I guess it isn’t a surprise that the concept of a “day of rest” was appealing and sounded like a cold cup of water on an active and hot day. Over and over in the scripture and spiritual writings, it is noted that God’s voice is a still small voice, found in the quiet, and life felt very LOUD.
A curiosity started brewing in me about this “day of rest”:
- Jesus said, “I am Lord of the Sabbath,” and
- “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
- God created a whole day for Sabbath and practiced Sabbath Himself.
- He established the Sabbath as one of only 10 Commandments.
It seemed that this concept of Sabbath was a core part of understanding, knowing and experiencing God.
From this curiosity, I re-read different passages of Scripture where it mentions Sabbath. I also ordered two books by incredible authors on The Sabbath. In knowing that Sabbath is a non-western practice and one that only the Jewish people TRULY know, I wanted to get a Jewish perspective on this day. I heard and read wonderful things by the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s teachings and life, so I ordered his book, “The Sabbath.” Then for a western perspective in how Sabbath relates to the culture I live in, I ordered Walter Brueggemann’s book, “Sabbath as Resistance.”
a holy day
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 2:3
The first thing in all creation that God made Holy was not a physical object, but a space in time – the Sabbath. He set it apart as a day of rest. He rested on this day after He created everything.
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. – Exodus 20:8-11
God gave ten commands to His people, and one of them was to keep the Sabbath. It is a practice that says, “Yes, we are set apart for You and our home is Yours.”
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath!” – Mark 2:27 a
Sabbath is made for mankind; it is a gift from God to us.
an experience of His Kingdom
So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” – Mark 2:27 b
If He is Lord of the Sabbath, His rule is rest. Sabbath is a day to experience His Lordship of rest. Because He finished the work.
a sign of things received and things to come
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. – Colossians 2:16
Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. – Hebrews 4:8-11
The Sabbath is a shadow / a taste of the eternal rest to come. We can practice Sabbath to remember and get a taste of the eternal peace with God to come.
Heschel’s book on the Sabbath was absolutely wonderful. There are so many incredible concepts that challenged the western bubble we live in and opened my eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding life. From his explanation of Sabbath as a taste of the eternal, to the Jewish understanding of time as something created by God that is circular, seasonal, meaningful and intentional. In contrast to the Western understanding of time as linear, unordered and something to beat. To his experience of Sabbath as a child and understanding it as something to welcome and love. Heschel’s experiential and cultural knowledge of Sabbath was divine. Many of this concepts ministered to my heart of how Sabbath enhances the understanding of Messiah, and this understanding is made richer and more profound in the practice. I truly could go on with all the connections and depths my eyes were opened to as I read this Jewish understanding and relationship with Sabbath.
In Walter Brueggemann's book, “Sabbath as Resistance.” He spoke of man’s culture of slavery to work. Yet, God is a Deliverer from slavery into rest. He offers us the Sabbath as a day to remember and practice His Exodus from the culture of man to the culture/way of God. Sabbath calls us out of and calls us into so many things:
From work as slavery to work as participation
From self-provision to thankful receiving
From identity of enslavement to an identity of freedom
From striving to rest
From taking to receiving
From asking to thanking
From seeking to finding
From poverty to richness
From lack to abundance
From “this is man’s world to dominate and take” to “this is God’s world to enjoy and receive”
From “I am the lord of my days" to “You are the Lord of my days”
From “time is a task master” to “time is a created gift”
Words fail to describe the full experience when we as a family make the physical decision to practice Sabbath rest; not only acknowledging, but responding to the structure of time God grants us to dwell in.
For me, I feel the freedom talked about in scripture during Sabbath. The freedom from the world of man and all the voices invading my mind during the week. I need a weekly retreat from these voices and tasks before they consume my whole identity. A washing from false identity and stepping into the identity that has been given.
I enjoy cleaning my house for Sabbath, preparing for the coming of Sabbath, the coming of God. Of course, He is already there all week, but this preparation of time spent with Him focused on Him, set aside for Him, a physical practice of saying “I/we are Yours.” I imagine that Jesus is on His way over and I am setting the table for our dinner together. And, in an incredible way, it is also a time I see as participating with Him as He is one that prepares the table for my family every week. He prepared and continues to prepare the best for us. Much thought goes into the meal, and we follow it with a yummy dessert to celebrate the generosity of our God. Now, for me, the Sabbath does not simply fall into place the day before the Sabbath. It takes up headspace throughout the week, begging questions such as what to buy for dinner, what do I need to do to protect that time and make it special.
While the Sabbath traditionally lasts from 4 pm on Friday to 4 pm on Saturday, my family’s schedule has it that we practice from 7 pm on Friday to 7 pm on Saturday.
So there are some practices we do as a family, and there are some things not all of us do. For example:
There is a physical tradition of showering before the dinner, a physical washing off of the week and preparing oneself for the coming of the Sabbath. When I showered for our first Sabbath, I questioned whether I should put make-up on and “look my best” for the dinner, but I chose to not touch my hair or face and to wear simple, nice clothing to remind myself that He sees and loves ME as I am. Not everyone in our family showers before the dinner, it truly is a day for the individual to choose what practice helps them set the day apart.
For the dinner, we as a family practice a basic liturgy (listed below). After the Liturgy is done, we usually sit at the table for a while in conversation and being together. Then, we get ready for bed, due to our late evening. We go to bed that night without technology, a difficult thing for us initially. But, it has become a relief. The next morning, we spend quality time together, enjoying the company of the family, away from the distractions of the world. Heschel spoke of the Sabbath day activities as not to be “anything that might dampen the spirit of joy.” It is interesting how the is a joy that goes missing amidst business and even the constant distraction of technology.
Some excerpts from my Sabbath studies that we refer to on Sabbath, also known as “the list”…
We receive this gift You extend to us – the rest and freedom You offer
This is a day for praise and thanks, not a day for petitions
A day of harmony & peace
peace between man & man
peace within man
peace with all things
Today there is no time for personal anxiety or care, for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy
Today is not a time to remember sins, confess, repent, or even pray for relief or anything we might need
The 7th day is a day of rest for man and animal
Rest as though all your work is done
Express glory in the presence of eternity by silence of abstaining from noisy acts
Our hands, tongue, and soul keep the Sabbath
Sabbath is an example of the world to come
All of life is a pilgrimage to the 7th day
Sabbath is a plea against man’s unconditional surrender to things
Today is an Exodus from tension – on “THIS DAY” you were freed
The reason Sabbath starts in the evening is the Hebrew/Jewish day begins in the evening. The Hebraic calendar is/was Lunar, and the days go from morning to evening.
“The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep, he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous and primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn.” – Eugene H. Peterson
Sabbath preparations – cleaning of home, shower, preparing for meal (all before 7 pm)
7 pm: Sabbath starts
- Sabbath Dinner Liturgy
- Lighting of Sabbath candle – remember 7th day creation & 7th day of eternity
- Prayer – one of us prays over the meal
- Remembering – I usually read a few items from the list reminding us what and why Sabbath
- Praise – we each praise God for one attribute experienced or needed that week
- Psalm – we read a Psalm together (usually Psalm 92 a traditional Sabbath Psalm)
- Give thanks – we each give thanks for something specific that week
- No tv, electronics, emails, work/homework, chores, etc
- Walks, phone calls, read, art, park, games, creativity (etc) and some good boredom
7pm: Sabbath ends