I’ve been convicted to keep the Sabbath. Not a ritual or a specific day, but a rhythm of life and rest. Many Christians today don’t observe Sabbath rest. They rationalise the 4th of the 10 commandments away as an obsolete ceremonial law. Other so-called “more important” things take priority over rest: work, ministry, errands, household matters.
I think many of us have misunderstood the Sabbath. The Sabbath is holy, is worship, is good, and is freedom, for us.
The irony is, in busy Singapore, many people treat resting and ceasing from work as if it is wrong! On the contrary, I think to say no to rest is sin. Because it makes idolatry of work; it says no to God’s grace of restoring us; it says no to communion with God.
Sabbath is holy. When God created the world, He rested from creation on the 7th day and blessed it holy (Gen 2:3). Therefore God patterned and commanded that Israel also rest on the 7th day and keep it holy (Exod 20:8; Lev 23:3).
For the early Church, they considered not the 7th day but the 1st day as holy because Jesus rose on the 1st day, which marked the New Creation.
What makes the Sabbath holy? Because the world works, and drives their slaves to work, everyday. But we are not the world. We say no to the world because we are not slaves. We have been redeemed from slavery (Deut 5:15). That is a witness, a sign (Exod 31:13), to the world that we are not self-dependent but dependent on a mighty provider God.
Sabbath is good. I felt almost burnt out last year. Then God showed me Christian leaders who had been burnt out. Their lesson was: have Sabbath rhythms of ceasing, resting, feasting and embracing. God “blessed” the Sabbath day, making it a day of blessing. God said the Sabbath is to be a day of “delight” (Isa 58:12). One who keeps the Sabbath “would ride upon the heights of the earth” (Isa 58:13). Jesus said that Sabbath is for Man’s good (Mk 2:27).
I’d been missing out on blessing, delight, joy and goodness by failing to rest! God instituted rhythms in the world to keep an order which is “very good” (Gen 1:31). Even in Singapore, we need natural rhythms: e.g. too much of a dry season portents low water levels. So we too need rhythms in our lives that are for our good.
Sabbath is worship. God declared that if people honoured the Sabbath, they’d “delight in the Lord” (Isa 58:13). Jesus also declared that the Sabbath is a mercy to us to do good and exercise mercy (kindness), which God desires (Matt 12:7,12). So keeping the Sabbath is an act of worship.
It is an act of faith: a declaration that we need not labour to get ahead; we trust God enough and needn’t fear that we lose out by doing good.
Sabbath is freedom. Sabbath was meant for our good but the Jews and Jewish believers complicated it by rigidly insisting its enforcement on one particular day. Paul rejects this (Col 2:16-17; Rom 14:5). Instead, it’s a matter of freedom as to how you wish to keep it.
Rhythms of Sabbath. There is no fixed way or day to Sabbath. Find rhythms of life and rest that work for you. Do not be rigid about it, but do not be so flexible it becomes practically non-existent. Here’s my suggestion. Sabbath rhythms should have: resting, devotion to God (with other believers and by yourself), feasting, and loving (doing good, showing mercy, quality time with people and loved ones). This rhythm should happen at least 1 every 7 days. If it happens everyday, that would be even better.
I strongly urge you to keep the Sabbath rhythms and thus enjoy the great blessings of holiness, goodness, worship and freedom.
By Ronald Wong, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin 4&5 March 2017)