When you hear it, what do you think of? Old Testament? Old Law? Legalistic? Irrelevant? Do thoughts of the mean legalistic Pharisees come to mind? It’s a word that often invokes a certain sub-conscious aversion. Often, when we hear of rules in the Bible it is easy to become legalistic. There is a certain comfort and safety in following rules and being able to check off the box that “I did it! I’m good for now!”. Or if we don’t like a rule or find it inconvenient to our lifestyle, we simply discard it as “irrelevant” to my life today, and perhaps “that’s in the Bible for back then, but we don’t need it today” or even try to reinterpret it to accommodate our culture today. But when we make the Bible a checklist for our lives or a “guidelines” from which we can pick and choose, we loose touch with the Heart of God and why he gave us these principles and “rules” to begin with. Sabbath, or hereafter Shabbat, is an excellent example of fear of legalism or inconvenience can keep us from understanding God’s heart. To Him the principle of Shabbat is simply an invitation for us to Love God and Love others in a practical and relational way.
Through the Shabbat, God is inviting us to spend time with Him and each other. Do we really believe this is not what Jesus wanted? Time is our best way we show others we love them (besides laying down our life for another). I truly believe that the modern western believer has bought the lie that the Shabbat is an Old Testament irrelevant burden, and the potential of the fullness of the relationships we could have with each and with our creator have thereby been throttled and cut short. And it’s to our loss.
Whether Shabbat is simply spending time together as a family, or if it includes some of the more traditional “Hebraic” ways to celebrate the Shabbat, the common denominators are time together as family in worship and celebration of our creator. For in six days God created the Heavens and the Earth and on the seventh day He rested. (Exodus 20:11) That may look different for many of you. Perhaps you don’t have custody of the kids over the weekend? Perhaps you can’t get out of the house due to health or other variable. Again, this is not a legalistic checklist. It’s an invitation for quality time. For sanctified time. For time we set apart as reserved. What does that look like for you? Remember, Jesus said that the Greatest commandment was to love God and second was to love others. The remaining laws in scripture hang on these two.
The Shabbat is God’s invitation to us to take a break and rest our minds from the burdens of this world. In our family and home, like many of you, the work and toil is never done. There’s always laundry piled high either to wash or to fold (and often both!). There are always dishes to wash, spills to clean up, toys to organize and food to prepare. But when Erev Shabbat (Friday Night dinner) comes around it is a meal and day we look forward to. Even when we are exhausted, and we may simplify the tradition, we look forward to our time to be together, share a meal with a stranger or just the family, to stop, not look at the work around us and the burdens of life and to lift our eyes to the one who created us and gave us life. (Psalm 121).
Shabbat is an opportunity to rest with our God and each other. When we look at the root of the word shabbat, we see that it is the same Hebrew root for Sit (Shevet). To sit is a restful act. But theres another word for rest in Hebrew, Noah. It connotes more of a recreational rest or napping rest. So why Shevet and not Noah? I have a theory (although I’m not a Hebrew Scholar). What do we do when we sit? We eat. We drink a cup of tea or coffee to wake up or savor the afternoon slump and ward off slumber. We read. We watch (all too often TV) but also we watch our kids playing or the glory of God in a sunset. We engage in conversation. We enjoy a view. We learn. We think. We listen. We rest with an active mind and heart to refresh the body and soul. We savor when we stop and sit. That is God’s invitation to us when he “commands” us to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The phrase to “Keep it Holy” is to “set apart” —Sanctify. First, it’s an active process to set that time apart. It’s intentional. We have to actively and intentionally guard that time against distractions and against this and that “one little thing” which inevitably transitions to other “little things” which end up consuming our energy and time.
Think about how we spend our most valuable resources? Our time and money. It’s generally accepted that believers should tithe 10% of financial income. So with our time God has asked us to set aside a day of the week to spend with him. When we think that 1/3 of that day is used in sleep already, that’s really barely 2/3 of a day which ends up being about 10% of your week. I find it a fun bit of information that God is asking us to set aside a tithe of our time and finances a like.
I heard in a father’s day sermon that kids spell LOVE with the letters “T-I-M-E.” As adults, we are no different. Time is how we often interpret someones love for us. The more time spent together, often the more love. And so if we say we love God, then our love is often relative to the time we spend with him… So let’s write it on our calendars. Let’s set that day aside. Let’s take God up on his invitation to go on a date with him each week. Let’s keep that date, dare say our shabbat, and make it important, valued, prioritized, sacred… holy!