Guidelines For Living
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. Exodus 20:9-10
Are you constantly busy? Did you know that God mandates rest for his people? It is a matter of physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Especially in times of global and economic crises, we crave stability. Many of us must move mountains to make ends meet. Any time not spent working can feel like falling a step behind. Perhaps you are scheduled to work more than 5 days a week and have to work during “off hours” to complete our tasks. Even younger people, like millennials, are in a constant state of burnout, resulting in chronic health issues. Occasional vacations no longer reset our energy. Breaking the cycle of constant busyness and crushing workloads requires a difficult lifestyle shift.
One of the first things God created in Genesis was a plan for rest. In the beginning, after crafting thunder clouds, parakeets, mangoes, and us, God recognized that he’d done good work. He “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). In Biblical language, that day is called a sabbath. The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew “shabat,” meaning rest. God calls sabbath holy, and holy means “sacred to God.” Rest is sacred.
Rest was an integral part of creation from the beginning. However, during the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt, their masters did not permit a day of rest and the tradition of the sabbath was lost. After their deliverance from Egypt, God gave 10 commandments to his people, reminding them of the day he had created for them to rest. The 4th commandment is to remember to observe the day of rest, because it is sacred (Exodus 20:8).
When God was reminding the Israelites to observe periodic rest He said, “the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:16-17). A perpetual covenant means that this practice was not set aside with the coming of Christ (who brought the new covenant) or by the ending of the imperfect first covenant (Hebrews 8). In other words, the sabbath remains a holy bond between God and us today, even after other ancient laws were changed.
Losing sight of rest is a byproduct of slavery. Work is good (and holy!) but too much work is slavery. Escaping from the slavery of too much work is a process and requires diligent planning. However, observing the sabbath does not need to be rigid and full of the many rules about how to rest in ancient times.
What does it mean that our sabbath should be “dedicated to God?” Hebrews tells Christ-followers not to give “up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another,” (Hebrews 10:24,25) but a sabbath practice is about your personal time with God. You need restful time of reflection on God and His Word and you need corporate worship, but they are not one and the same.
You and I can begin a Sabbath practice by writing DAY OFF on our calendars every week. When scheduling the rest of your tasks, you will be reminded not to touch that day of rest. When possible, make whichever day you choose be consistent and include quiet, which is the state in which we can best hear God’s voice.
To protect your day of rest, begin to create boundaries: “I am not available to schedule a meeting on Sunday, what about Monday?” Begin to set an expectation that you will not be checking your work email or take calls on your day off. To our flesh, resting may feel like laziness but rest helps us to heal and grow and honors our God who rescues us from slavery.