“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:3, NIV)
It seems like the Sabbath Day is misunderstood and misused by many Christians. We tend to invoke the Sabbath whenever there’s something we don’t want to do on a Sunday. “You know, I think we’re just going to head home after church for a day of rest. It’s our Sabbath.” Yet most Sundays we’re happy to fill the day with lots of not-resting activities that we enjoy.
Many of us are confused by the Sabbath. Is it Saturday or Sunday? Do we have to keep the Sabbath today, since it is part of the Ten Commandments and we obviously aren’t free to lie, steal, murder, dishonor our parents, commit adultery, covet, worship other gods, or use the Lord’s name in vain? Isn’t the point of the Sabbath our own health and well-being?
Many doctoral dissertations have been written about the Sabbath, but in short, the answers to the questions above are: (1) The Sabbath is Saturday because Saturday is the seventh day of the week. Even though we often think of Sunday as the last day of the week, technically it’s the first. (2) We are no longer bound by the Old Testament Sabbath law. Every one of the Ten Commandments is repeated for us to obey in the New Testament except the Sabbath. (3) There are likely several aspects to the meaning of the Sabbath, and our well-being probably factors in somewhere.
When I read Leviticus 23:3 this morning, the Lord asked me Do you trust Me? He brought to mind something Dr. Wong Loi Sing had said in one of my seminary classes at Moody.
“None of you are going to work on your papers this weekend because all of you are going to take a Sabbath rest, right? If you can’t knock off work for a day, you have control issues. The Sabbath isn’t just about being healthy, it’s about trusting God. Do you trust that He can manage things without you for a day? Guess what? God has been holding the Universe together for thousands of years without your help. He’ll be fine if you take a day to rest. When you leave Moody and become pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders in the marketplace, you have to trust that God is in control. Your church, your ministry, your business isn’t going to crumble because you take a day off.”
God reminded me this morning that there is more to life than work… and my tendency is to overwork! We may not be bound by the Sabbath laws like Old Testament Israel, but we can certainly benefit by demonstrating our trust in God and stepping back for a day. Whatever your work is, whether paid or unpaid, my prayer for the week is that you will find a day to rest.