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Observe the Sabbath and Keep It Holy

January 13, 2010

A friend recently posted a status update about needing a day to rest, which, naturally, led to a conversation about Sabbath days.

The general feeling being espoused was that yes, God signed us up for a day of rest, but who really has the time? Wink, wink. Back to work. Comments included:

do tell me what such days are like…

you both know how that Sabbath changes when you’re employed by the church :-)

I’m sure this sentiment is not exclusive to women, but it seems like maybe it’s a bigger problem among women. It’s also especially difficult for bi-vocational ministers. I remember simply considering it optional, and that it didn’t apply to certain people. Until I started to get really tired … I mean really tired.

The truth is, the God who created you knows what you’re capable of and where the line between “work ethic” and “unhealthy” really is. The six-day work week was His idea and it’s really not okay – whether you feel it right now or not – to ignore that.

‘Cause there are seasons when we can do it. We’re really into our ministry, things are going well, and great ideas seem to fall like manna from heaven. But it’s in the season of bread-from-the-sky that God ordained the Sabbath in the first place. The first time the word appears in scripture is Exodus 16 when He tells Moses to have people gather extra on the sixth day and rest the seventh.

Even in Exodus 16 you had the Sabbath-ignoring workaholics who went out on the seventh day to get even more, and God didn’t secretly pat them on the back for working harder than everyone else. He got a little peeved.

Several chapters later, as He’s laying it all out there, He gives sentence for anyone who breaks the Sabbath. Bonus points in heaven? Extra blessing on your ministry? Supernatural spiritual gifts? No, no and no. Death. He says it twice in chapter 31 and again in 35. Your pastor probably won’t order you put to death for not taking a Sabbath, but the point is this:

God is serious about it.

He doesn’t want you to wear yourself out. He doesn’t want you to be all work and no play. He doesn’t want you to never spend time with your spouse or your children. He doesn’t want you to work for Him so much you forget to work with Him.

Later, as Isaiah and Ezekiel are lodging God’s complaints against Israel, they both mention that the people have not honored God’s Sabbath. (Isaiah 58, Ezekiel 22) It bothers God when He gives us good things and we reject them.

It doesn’t have to be Sunday – if you work in ministry and your services are on Sundays it really can’t be. It doesn’t have to be Saturday. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for you, not vise versa. But the Sabbath was made. Pick a day that works for you and make sure you’re not working.

No ministry.
No house work.
No homework.

Read a book. Write a song. Sleep in. Go on a date with your spouse or your kids. Go to a matinee. Pray.

You might feel lazy at first. Someone might call you a bum. It may actually be difficult and you may have to defend your decision. But we do it for so many other aspects of our faith, why not with observing the Sabbath? How did we make the easiest of God’s commandments the hardest? Deep breath. Stay in your pajamas. Relax.

I had to start with a half-day just to get in the habit of it (honestly, I’m still kind of at a half day most weeks). I started with Saturday mornings. What about you? When’s your Sabbath?

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