The Invitation and Challenge of Sabbath Rest
July 4, 2011
this first one is long, but the coming devotionals will be shorter.)
There remains, for God’s people, a Sabbath rest…
Seasons are great; they are built into our wiring, our internal clocks. And summer is my favorite. We all switch into seasonal modes as the year rolls along. Be it Christmas, Summer Vacation, Fall, Thanksgiving… seasons evoke memories and feelings. Seasons have traditions meant to reinforce our cultural, familial and spiritual beliefs. The church calendar has seasons as well. These are times of purposeful, intentional focus.
During Advent, we remember the birth of Christ. We light candles, we sing carols with words that tell and re-tell the story of Christ’s birth. We decorate our homes, give gifts and we remember. The awareness and anticipation of celebrating Christ’s birth is all around us.
And then there is Lent. In this season, for the six weeks leading up to Easter, we often set aside something in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We intentionally call to mind the cross and its meaning in our lives of faith. During Lent we fast, we pray and we focus on this foundational event of our faith that culminates in the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
For us in the Concord Vineyard, Summer Sabbath is part of our seasonal rhythm. Life may not be much different day to day. We work, we meet deadlines, we cook, we drive children, we do the laundry, we interact with coworkers, friends and family… it is like any other season. But during Summer Sabbath, internally and spiritually we regroup, we remember, we admit our need for His rest. We remember God created the world in six days and then He rested. We remember that we are His created beings. We are made in His image. We are created to rest and work. Need for rest was actually built into creation from the very beginning. But the pace of life so often eliminates the time to rest. We can feel ruled by our work and just assume rest is out of the question. But during Summer Sabbath we can re-evaluate our pace of life. This is a time annually for us to remember in obedience that rest is not optional or occasional. Rest is part of our created order. Rest is part of our design and therefore, mandated by God. Daily. Weekly. Annually.
By the time of Jesus, Mosaic law that detailed Sabbath observance had become such a strict and cumbersome set of rules that people easily forgot the intended purpose of Sabbath rest, which was to help people by giving them rest, not to add burdens to them by forbidding things like healing. Jesus had to break through all that, as we see in the Gospels, but nowhere does the New Testament nor Jesus, deny that the principle set out in Genesis 1 remains important. In some ways not much has changed. Today, we don’t need Mosaic law to crowd out rest and restoration for our minds, body and soul. We allow the ‘demands’ of our life to tell us what we need to do. This effectively crowds out the rest, reflection and restoration we need as part of our life. This demanding inner voice is not God’s.
Some things to think about this week:
Remember you are created to require rest.
Humbly acknowledge that by His design you need rest and restoration.
Intentionally be aware of life’s pace trying to rob you of needed rest.
Remember those things that restore you physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Allow time to do those things.
Remember God Himself gives you permission NOT TO DO MORE THAN HE ASKS of you.
Use this time to reassess where your time is currently being spent and how.
Ask yourself if you are where He’s called you to be? Doing what He’s called you to do?
Do what restores your spirit.
Listen more. To God and to those who love you.
Be aware of God’s invitation to rest and just ‘be’ with Him.
Challenge yourself this week to find one thing you can do in obedience to this invitation.
By His grace, refocus your awareness on the rest you need everyday, every week, all year long, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Some questions to ponder this week:
1. What would a perfectly restful day be like for you?
2. What obstacles keep you from believing a balanced life of work and rest are achievable?
3. All of us face the challenge to trust God rather than to trust in our own concepts of what needs doing and when. What would help you keep the Lord’s mandate to find times to rest and to just ‘be’ with Him?
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength." Isaiah 30:15
May you find the grace to set aside your ideas of what is important to accomplish. And may you have grace to find God’s plan for your day and then to, by His grace, to do only that.