News and Views
Why Sabbath Rest?
One of the biggest changes occurring in the shift from a nominally Christian North America to the present post-Christian era is the loss of a common day of worship and rest. Now, the frenetic pace of entertainment and consumption knows no pause, a stark contrast to the closed shops of 60 years ago, or to a 100 years ago when my grandmother waited up Sunday nights until after midnight to do mending necessary for Monday morning. The change includes significant losses which are too seldom considered.
To understand what has been lost, it is necessary to remember the origin and reason for keeping a day of rest, to understand God’s purpose for it. The first chapter of Genesis is a summary account of creation, concluding with the creation of people made in God’s image for companionship with Him. In Genesis 2:3 we read, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (NIV) Later, the fourth of the Ten Commandments begins, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8 NIV) It continues, stating that no person or animal is to do any work on the Sabbath, not even servants and aliens living among them.
When thinking about it, considering the day as sunset to sunset made observance a little easier back then, as the Sabbath meal could be prepared during daylight to be eaten just after sunset. Similarly, animals could be cared for during the daylight before Sabbath, then just after sunset after the Sabbath. The Sabbath was also instituted in a part of the world where there is little seasonal change from the twelve hour day and twelve hour night at a time when artificial light at night was limited to the burning of fat or oil in simple lamps or torches, so people had ample opportunity for sleep. That noted, the New Testament does indicate some night time activity, such as fishing all night or bringing people to Jesus for healing after the Sabbath ended at sunset. The Sabbath was instituted long before the use of electricity or engines, at a time when communication was limited to the range of a voice or the speed of a letter or messenger on a horse or sailing ship, at a time when all work was manual. At such a time and place, God gave people the universal gift of a day of worship and rest.
Today, when artificial lights make it possible for all types of work to continue through the night, when communication is almost instantaneous all around the world, when motors do the heavy lifting, when we are constantly bombarded by little bites of information, when shift work destroys sleep patterns for many, when life is fast paced without pauses, there is a greater need than ever for a weekly day of worship and rest.
Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 NIV) The Sabbath is a gift for our good. There are indications in the New Testament (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) that the early church began meeting on the first day of the week in celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which developed into the Lord’s Day, the Christian day of worship and rest. The important thing is that we need a weekly day of worship and rest in order to be refreshed and maintain physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health.
We all enjoy spending time with the people we love, whether they be family, friends or the family of God. It is good to worship God in the company of our church family, but it is also good to remember that worship is simply spending time with God, time enjoying our loving relationship with Him. So worship includes those times when we seek to better know and understand Him through His written word, when we praise and thank Him in word or song, when we invite Him to guide our thoughts as we mull over a problem, when we question Him and argue with Him because we do not remember or understand the good He wants to bring out of painful events and circumstances. Especially in our world of overwhelmingly non-stop bites of disconnected information and propaganda, we need time to think deeply with God about how things connect and the basic assumptions behind what we see and hear. It is only through total commitment to God and by spending that deeply thoughtful time with God in His Word and His presence that we can form in ourselves the truly Christian worldview upon which we can base a truly Christian life. Clearly, the new Christians of the New Testament were called to live in a new way different from their pagan culture, and that call still applies to Christians today in our neo-pagan secular culture, but it takes time and thought to recognize the meaningful ways in which we must differ from our culture.
In the fast paced turmoil of today’s world, if we are to live wisely as Christians we need to take a day each week to connect with loved ones, to rest, and to think deeply with our magnificent God.
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