Monday, March 28, 2011


So I've decided that God likes themes...or maybe He just knows that's the only way He can get my attention long enough for me to pay attention.

And the theme lately has been "Sabbath-keeping."

As in #4: ""Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).

It's actually one of the commandments God gave to Moses for the benefit of the people He had just delivered from 400 years of slavery. (I often have to remind myself that God never called them merely suggestions.)

If you look closely at Exodus 20, where God's "Top 10" are recorded, it's almost as if He knew we'd have trouble with this thing called Sabbath--just look how many words He used for this command compared to the others. He even tells us the "why"--"For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day" (11).

So, why is it that, all my life, I've found so many reasons to disobey this command, which God felt so strongly about that He originally carved it in stone with His own finger?

I could list one reason after another after another. But, bottom line, they all boil down to a lack of trust in me, and me making too much of myself and not enough of my Creator and his preordained rhythms for my life.

So, for the remainder of this Lent, I'm going to be intentional about keeping Sabbath. It will require planning and (at the risk of repeating myself) intentionality. More than that, it will require trusting that He will help me "finish" what needs finishing--if there is such a thing--and let go of the "unfinished".

Here are some words God has used in His Sabbath "theme" in my life lately, and some questions He's made me ask myself:
"The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went 400 years without a vacation (5:15). Never a day off. The consequence--they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God, but equipment for making brick & building pyramids. Humanity was defaced." (Eugene Peterson)

1. How does my lack of Sabbath-keeping "deface" my made-in-the-image-of-God self?
2. What effect does this have on my relationship with God, with myself, with others?

"Sabbath-keeping is meant to be an expression of the truth that you are not a 'doing machine' but a deeply loved daughter or son of God. God is not interested in simply using you to get work done; He delights in you. And He provides free time once a week so that you might relish (His releasing you) from oppression and slavery." (Pete Scazzero, "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)

3. How could I begin to see Sabbath as a time to delight in God? And to embrace the truth (and therefore to begin to feel) Him--the Creator of the universe--delighting in me?

"Sabbath is the stranger you've always known. It's the place of homecoming you've rarely or never visited, but which you've been missing forever....It's the song you never sang but, hearing it now, you know...its words and melody, its harmonies, its rhythm...It's been asleep in you all this time, waiting for the right kiss to wake it. Life is meant to be much different--fuller, richer, deeper, slower--from what it is.You know this. You've always known it. You've just been missing it your whole life." (Mark Buchanan, "The Rest of God")

4. How do these words make you feel about Sabbath?

FYI: In "The Rest of God," Buchanan is quick to point out that, besides busyness, the worst enemy of Sabbath-keeping is legalism. So, he adds:
"The law of Sabbath is not legalistic. It's a command given to save us from ourselves. If anything, the Sabbath command breaks us out of the prison of our own selfishness; it undoes our legalistic bent to go our own way...(In Judaism), the 'rest' of God got lost amid a maze of man-made rules. To recover Sabbath, returning to more rules is hardly an option.
Students of the Sabbath have long noted that God's command for it implicitly forbids creating. God created for six days, but on the seventh day He rested. So too with us: we can create (for) six days of the week. But the seventh day is when we stop trying to make anything and instead let the things we've made bless and serve us. Stop creating is the sum of it.
What is also implicit in the Sabbath command is our need for restoration....We need to be re-created after all our creating....Creating, as invigorating as it can be sometimes...wears us threadbare. Sabbath is not for more creating. It is for re-creating....Choose the re-creative (restorative) thing on Sabbath.
Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life. These two things, taken together, make up Sabbath's golden rule: "Cease from what is necessary, and embrace that which gives life."

5. How is legalism an enemy of Sabbath?

6. Why do you think God "rested" on the 7th day? How do you think God "rested"?

7. What would it look like if, this Sabbath, you "ceased from what is necessary, and embraced that which gives life"?

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it."
(Isaiah 30:15, NIV)

"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'
making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.'
Yes! God says so!"
(Isaiah 58:13-14, The Message)

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