“God is love,” (1 John 4:16), and that’s why I keep the Sabbath.
In the perfect world he created before sin, God placed at the heart of the week a reminder of himself and his work. I don’t think it’s coincidence that this day fell immediately after he created humans and instituted marriage. It’s a day for people to celebrate their relationship with him, with each other, and with his creation.
We don’t have the privilege of walking side-by-side with God through the Sabbath as Adam and Eve did, but even in our fallen world, the Sabbath is a precious reminder of the perfect relationships God wants for us.
I like to think of Sabbath as my weekly “date” with God. Even though my husband and I see each other daily and talk to each other on a regular basis, a date night is still a special time for us to relax and focus on each other. Just as going on a date with my husband helps renew and strengthen our relationship, so the Sabbath helps renew and restore many of our relationships.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to God. No matter how hectic our week has been, the Sabbath offers us an opportunity to slow down and remember what is important. It redirects our focus to God as the center of our lives. It allows us to spend time relaxing and enjoying his presence in personal worship, corporate worship, and nature. Because we cannot work, we must depend on him and rest in his grace spiritually as well as physically. As we prepare to rest on Sabbath, God has a chance to enter the other days of our week as well, refocusing their priorities on what matters most to him.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to our loved ones.In addition to slowing down to spend time with God, the Sabbath gives us time to redirect our focus to those people nearest and most important to us: nuclear family, church family, friends. Nearly every Friday morning, my five-year-old son rejoices as I leave for work, “Mommy, tomorrow is Sabbath, and you can stay home with me ALL DAY!” Sabbath allows us the time to spend with our loved ones, and the prohibition on work means that we can devote full attention to them during those precious hours.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to our bodies and minds. In today’s fast-paced, modern world, the notion of taking a full day off sometimes seems quaint and unrealistic. But God knew that we would need rest, and he didn’t leave it up to chance for us to remember to take it. He scheduled it right into the week so that we would be able to rejuvenate our bodies and minds one out of every seven days, helping them work the way he designed them to. Even non-religious writers promote taking one day a week off as a way to restore health and balance.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to God’s creation. Spending the Sabbath hours enjoying nature gives us the chance to remember God’s power in creation, his care for the processes that make our planet run, and his attention to even the smallest creature that we can barely see. It reminds us of the stewardship God entrusted to Adam and all of us, to care for the things he made. In the Sabbath commandment, even the cows and donkeys are guaranteed a day of rest, reminding us not to overtax the natural resources God has provided for us.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to society. Sabbath reminds us that earning money, pursuing materialism, competing with others, and being entertained must take second place to resting in God and his grace. Sabbath returns our focus to eternal things, helping us to evaluate what is truly important in life.
The Sabbath restores our right relationship to the oppressed. An often overlooked blessing of the Sabbath is that it helps prevent exploitation. When the commandments are reiterated in Deuteronomy, God reminds the Israelites to keep the Sabbath because “you were slaves in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 5:15). Both Exodus and Deuteronomy prohibit us from making others work for us, even servants under our direct control. As such, the Sabbath is a powerful statement of social justice: remember that your forefathers were exploited for their labor, and don’t do that to others. Jesus also used the Sabbath as a time to do acts of mercy for the sick and oppressed, much to the dismay of those who felt that Sabbath should be a time for sitting very, very still.
So this week, as the Sabbath draws close, let us welcome it with the joy of an eagerly anticipated night out. Let us celebrate that the God of the universe wants to spend twenty-four hours focused on us. Let us bask in the beautiful creations and relationships he has provided for us, and let us help others to do the same.