Thoughtful Christianity

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July 6, 2018 • Biblical Thinking

Why We Really Get a Sabbath

It’s a bold claim to say that you aren’t entitled to your day of rest when so many Americans think they are entitled to their weekends and vacations. It is bold, but it isn’t without reason or distinction. To understand this, we need to understand the historical reasons for the Sabbath and what Jesus has called us to with the Sabbath.

Key Biblical Texts for Understanding the Sabbath

If you want to read the article and reference them as I do, go ahead, it may save you 6 minutes.

Genesis 1:26–31 (ESV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2:8, 15 (ESV)
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (…) 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Exodus 20:8-11
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Romans 14:5-6 (ESV)
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.

1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

2 Thessalonians 3:12 (ESV)
12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

You Don’t Deserve a Sabbath, but You Do Need it

As Americans and Westerners, we have this notion that we deserve to have our weekend. That whatever work we do during the week is so important that we earn a weekend because of the time and sacrifice we had given that week; providing for our families or taking care of the house and household work. And yes, many of us truly work hard during the week. But the fact of work is that it is something we were created to do. There is a rhythm to life that God has created in us to work and rest. And our rest isn’t contingent upon our work. They both flow from the same God-ordained purpose of humanity.

God is the Original Craftsman, Working & Resting

In and just before Genesis 1:26–31 (ESV) (referenced above) we see the Trinitarian God creating the world and man. Check it out, it’s a few verses long. In it, we see that God created man to actually take charge (subdue) and manage (cultivate) the earth and all that is in it. That’s a big job. And it is with this purpose that we’ve been placed. There is something to the fact that we are sub-creators under God. He created all things physical that we see, and as image bearers (people made in His likeness), we have the pleasure to create from which He has already created.

Also, we read that:

Genesis 2:8, 15 (ESV)
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (…) 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Surely God created a good thing when He created a working man. He built an earth that needs some level of upkeep. At least, just enough to keep us busy. And God called His creation good. Work, good? It was.

Sin Touched Work

We don’t give it much thought. How work changed so dramatically after The Fall.

Typically if you think about the fall, terms and ideas pop into your mind. Original sin. Corruption of the body. Subjugation. Strife and toil. All sorts of present realities had become possible. Death, famine, disease, hatred, suffering: all new realities to Adam and Eve and now us. Land no longer was an easy resource for food. It had to be tamed and cultivated; year after year no less. Timid animals became monsters that man had to be wary of.

It all of a sudden became a struggle to survive. Work changed after that moment. It no longer was solely something to glorify God with, it added a dimension of survival to the mix. The Bible talks about how we as a people were subjugated to futility, in that we had to now work in order to live.

But God is good to us. It is still possible to work for His glory (and in my opinion, it’s the only way to work)!

Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 (ESV)

12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toilthis is God’s gift to man.

And on top of that, He is good because we’ve been allowed to rest. At a certain point in Redemptive History, Israel was mandated to observe the Sabbath. This was a societal and cultural law that benefited the people. Hard work for six days, God-centered rest for one. The mystery of this is that it is certainly foolish to lose one whole day’s worth of work. But this is something that is both good for humans and provides God an opportunity be seen as provider and sustainer.

Sabbath is Slightly Different for New Testament Christians

Most of the ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Jesus; the Sabbath being one. What carried on was the Wisdom of the Law and the Morality of the Law. Both of these things have remained and influence the Christian life. Paul had countless conversations regarding Christian Jews being able to eat whatever is healthy for a person. The old ceremonial laws forbade certain foods from being consumed. There wasn’t much wisdom or morality in that and other laws, but these ceremonial laws set the Jews starkly apart from any other nation. Now, contrast that with another Old Testament Law that did continue; Murder. It is unwise for general society to murder at random, and it is in fact against God’s moral guidelines for anyone to murder. The reason we get to eat certain foods but don’t get to murder is that one is ceremonial and the other is moral.

Same is true with the Sabbath. The ceremonial stuff dropped and what remained was the wisdom of it. It’s good that man rests. Again, we were created in God’s likeness and He ‘rested’ after He created and worked for a week. He didn’t need to rest; what He was doing there was setting up a divine precedent for His creation. They need to rest. It’s how He created our bodies, minds, and souls.

You Don’t Earn Sabbath; It is a God-Given Gift

Your ability to rest isn’t something that you earn. You can’t earn more rest than someone else by having better results in your week. That’s not how Sabbath rest works. It is an endowment that we receive simply because we are made in the likeness of God. Sinclair Ferguson puts my next two points rather succinctly:

He was not to work, but to rest. Externally, that meant ceasing from his ordinary tasks in order to meet with God. Internally, it involved ceasing from all self-sufficiency in order to rest in God’s grace.

Gift for Mind and Body

Our bodies can’t sustain constant and continuous work for years upon years. Some of us try to do so much work, cramming in tasks at every hour, getting down to 3-4 hours of sleep a night. We skip meals or have very bad ones, so we can manage a flexible schedule- on the go. And honestly, who here has taken a laptop to a kid’s recital? We work and sometimes we have no idea that we are overdoing what our bodies and minds can handle. So many marriages are skewered by unmanageable work schedules that it should be a nationally rotating PSA. Relationships slip. Bodies bloat. Chronic illness emerge.

Constant work isn’t good for you because we weren’t built to work around the clock.

Gift for Soul

Sabbath was a physical gift for Israel. They would not tend the fields every single day yet somehow their crops were alright. They didn’t tend to negotiations on certain days yet their businesses faired. They didn’t worry or stress about certain ills that could happen while they rested. The Sabbath, to them, was a promise.

For us, on this side of the cross, it works a bit the same but has more spiritual implications. Sabbath is no longer a ceremony that we make sure to observe every week. But the wisdom of resting the body and mind still carries. Christ is our Sabbath Rest.

This is theological but profoundly practical.

Sabbath Outline for Those that Skim

  • Work is a part of us as humans
    • God as the original craftsman
      • Original demonstration of rhythm, work and rest
    • Humans originally created with a job in mind
      • Follows the same rhythm of work and rest
    • Human’s work changed due to the entry of sin into the world
      • The rhythm of work and rest changed; work now also meant survival
    • Christians and Doctrine of Vocation
      • Work is a God-honoring thing. It is precisely what we were created for
  • You don’t deserve rest, you need it
    • Body and Mind can’t handle constant work
    • Soul was meant to find rest in God
  • Work is implied in the Christian life
    • everyone, no Christian is exempt so there is no grounds for boasting in the work that you do manage
      • If hard, sacrificing work is demanded and a joy of the Christian you don’t earn a sabbath, but you get one as a natural means to promote health and life balance that God has ordained.
        • Hard work
        • Sacrificing work
  • True nature of rest is centered around Jesus
    • More than just a day to rest the body, it’s a day of reflection and devotion
      • For many, that is why Sunday’s with church services are such an ideal time to have a Sabbath
      • .

Some Videos on the Sabbath – Humorous that both Thumbnails have them with their arms up. The things I notice.

Can you relate? Let me know what you think: