THIS SERIES: ENJOYING SABBATH REST
we get a real sense of joy and delight. This wasn’t a gloomy day or period characterised by solemnity and a list of prohibitions, but a time of celebration of all the Lord’s handiwork. And it was in this atmosphere that Adam and Eve were created. They were called to a specific task and purpose, but their first day was this day of rest.
Our view of rest tends to focus on it as the reward for finished work. The problem with this is that many of us never ‘finish’ so we never truly rest. Adam rested not in his work (for he hadn’t done any yet) but in all that the Lord had done - and that is the foundation for all true rest.
Because we see Sabbath rest here, right at the beginning, before the Fall, and long before the Law was ever given, it seems that rather than a religious requirement, Sabbath rest was meant to be a life-giving contribution to man’s health and well-being.
It may seem strange talking about our need for rest when the leisure industry has grown massively in the last half-century, and makes billions from our thirst for recreation. However, although true Sabbath may include leisure or recreational activities, it is much bigger than those aspects of our lives.
So how do we do 'Sabbath' in our modern world?
SET TIME ASIDE.
Start with manageable amounts working towards one day a week. If the thought of more than half an hour, because ‘there’s so much to do’, makes you panicky, then start right there. This is not about obeying rules, but about a grace-filled life.
Make the decision to stop for a while. According to circumstances this will look different for different people; parents with a young family, a doctor on call or a single retiree will each express Sabbath in a unique way. This is about applying life-principles rather than religious laws. For some it will mean the discipline to put aside last week’s balance sheet, for others the refusal to stop ‘feeding’ mechanical ‘servants’, some may choose to ignore incoming emails or texts, while others will choose a day off from cooking……
ENJOY THE LORD
The number one thing about a true Sabbath rest-period is the Presence of the Lord. I have been taken aback at the number of books and articles I have read on this subject which don’t actually mention this! Although Genesis doesn’t say, it is reasonable to assume that when Adam became ‘conscious’ his senses were filled with the presence and glory of God. Sabbath is first of all about relationship. So in whatever period you have set aside, make Jesus the focus. At the start ask Him to come and fill it with Himself, and then look for a period of mutual enjoyment: the Lord enjoying you, you enjoying the Lord, and then revelling in the day together.
REFLECT ON THE WEEK GONE
Before we can really benefit from our sabbath-break, we have to deal with what has gone before - positve and negative. We read that at each stage of creation, God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. It is really beneficial to take time during our Sabbath rest-day to reflect on the week just gone; to lay before the Cross the negatives and disappointments, the failures and worries – and receive His forgiveness and release.
And then to remember all the joys, the small (and large) victories, the aspects which have gone well, the things we can be thankful for and celebrate. We like the Lord can then declare over the various elements of our week, 'This is good!'
SPEAK BLESSING OVER IT
Again, in the account of Creation, we read several times of the Lord blessing what He had made. The word blessing in this context means To cause to prosper. A blessing given in faith carries the spiritual power to effect change. In the Old Testament, parents blessed their offspring, kings blessed their citizens, and in particular, the priesthood was given the authority to pronounce blessing in the name of God. Now it is no longer the province of a few, for every child of the New Covenant is set apart as a priest with the responsibility and authority to release blessing [ 1 Peter 2:9 ].
So let’s take time during our 'Sabbath' to imitate the Lord and release blessing over the work of our hands from the previous week. In doing this we bring completion to our endeavours, and set ourselves in the right place for the next period.
By following these practices we counter the tendency for one week to tumble into the next, deal with things which sap our energies, build an expectation of fruitfulness, and rest starts to settle on us and our households.
On Monday I’ll continue looking at the health-giving power of Sabbath through
- Taking time to recalibrate
- Preparing for the week to come
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