Sabbath: For Real this Time

I have posted about the importance of Sabbath, a day of rest, at least a dozen times in the last few years. Truth is I haven’t been very good about taking my own advice. I suppose compared to most I do pretty well, but I know I’ve fallen short of what God commanded.

Switch on Sabbath © Stuart Miles |

The last three Sundays I have done very well at “resting from my labours”. I have spent plenty of time working in the garden, but that is very healing for me, and I avoid strenuous tasks. I have spent time playing with by bride – in all kinds of ways ;-) . I have spent time with friends. I have chased down articles I have wanted to read but hadn’t read because I was too busy.

Why am I doing this now? Is it because I finally have the time to do it? Hardly! I am as busy as ever, and I have a significant end of the month deadline looming. I could easily justify not having the time – as I have done for years. Thing is, I have seen the hints of impending burnout, and I don’t want that (nor do I have the time for it!). So, seeing something ugly ahead if I didn’t, I decided to follow God’s “suggestion”.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been very happy with the results. I’m much more relaxed, and I find I have greater focus and energy during the week. Aside from feeling better, I’ve been more productive since I started resting on Sunday. I know doing things God’s way sometimes often usually always works out better, so why have I fought this so long? Whatever my reason, I can’t see myself going back now!

One of the things that helped me move this direction is a book (which I will discuss shortly) that has a lot to say about a day of rest. The author included a story from another book:

The story is told of a wagon train on its way from St. Louis to Oregon. Its members were devout Christians, so the whole group observed the habit of stopping for the Sabbath day. Winter was approaching quickly, however, and some among the group began to panic in fear that they wouldn’t reach their destination before the heavy snows. Consequently, several members proposed to the rest of the group that they should quit their practice of stopping for the Sabbath. Finally it was suggested that the wagon train should split into two groups – those who wanted to observe the Sabbath and those who preferred to travel on that day. The proposal was accepted, and both groups set out and traveled together until the next Sabbath day, when one group continued while the other remained at rest. Guess which group got to Oregon first? You’re right. The ones who kept the Sabbath reached their destination first. Both the people and the horses were so rested by their Sabbath observance that they could travel much more vigorously and effectively the other six days of the week.” (From Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting by Marva Dawn pp 65)

The God who made us knows how our bodies and minds function. He knows we need to sleep roughly a third of each day, and rest one day in seven to function properly. Failing to do either of these is like often running a car engine in the red, and it will result in problems!

By the way, any day can be your day of rest. Sunday happens to work well for me, but it will not work well for all. If you’re a pastor Sunday isn’t going to be a day of rest!

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9 Comments on “Sabbath: For Real this Time

  1. I would argue that God set aside a specific day for Sabbath, and it does matter which day.  Nothing I read in the Bible tells me we are allowed to move the solemnity of the day around the week.  God said He blessed one specific day, and that is the day we now call Saturday, actually, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. 
    But, we humans have felt, since the fall, that we know better than God and can pick and chose how to interpret God’s commands, and now its been altered for so long, that no one thinks about it, and not many are willing to take the time to study what God actually says about Sabbath.  Instead, we see mental gymnastics and theological acrobats to rationalize our collective disobedience.  I think the Catholic church is the only one who steps up and admits they have “overruled” God:
    In the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, we read:
    Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
    A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
    Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
    A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday….
    Q. Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
    A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.
    Q. By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
    A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her! —Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), p. 50.
    In An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine,
    Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days?
    A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.
    Q. How prove you that?
    A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest [of the feasts] by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power. –Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. (R.C.), (1833), page 58.
    In A Doctrinal Catechism,
    Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
    A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her. She could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority. –Rev. Stephen Keenan, (1851), p. 174.
    Sadly, that same church has slaughtered millions over the centuries for attempting to worship on Sabbath instead of Sunday. 
    Jesus said that those who love him will keep (hold, remember, as holy) his commandments.  But we’ve changed the fourth one from “the seventh” to “a seventh” day, not a display of love, or submission, but rather dominance and disobedience.
    /end of rant
    Respectfully, JD

  2. I also propose that there is an extra blessing in keeping the 7th day.  I’m no Adventist, however, I have studied a lot on my own and I’m convinced that it’s a good thing to keep it from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.  
    I too have noticed in the 20 or so years I have kept it that I am more calm, rested, and it’s like a holiday every week!  I feel way more productive.  I love the feeling I get when I realize it’s Sabbath, like the same feeling when you learned that school was cancelled because of bad weather, ha! Wonderful! :)  
    Thanks for posting this!  It’s really important, and something that people are missing in their lives.

  3. We know that ceremonial and civil laws from the OT no longer apply under the new covenant. There’s is still a creation mandate to work and then rest, but when we start and end the week seems to be an individual decision. If you want to be literal about it, each “first day” is whatever day they were born on. If you really want to rigidly apply the doctrine of the Sabbath, we should all be observing different sabbaths–clearly we don’t.
    We do see in the NT though that Jesus advocates flexibility with how the Sabbath is applied, as seen in his choice to perform miracles on the Sabbath.
    A bigger question for me is whether or not the Western norm of a 2-day weekend is legitimate. I know a number of churches who insist that their staff work 6-day weeks… I see those staff member’s burning out quickly. The reality is that the way that our work and life and family are set up these days, is different that the agrarian and herdsmen culture of the OT, and think there needs to be room for contextualizing to our society now. For example, work (in a field of with the animals) used to be a family affair–a father was able to work all day 6 days/week and still father appropriately, because much of the time his children would have been with him in the field. Now days, if a man spent 8-12 hours, 6-days a week at the office, we would see him as a poor father and a workaholic.  Ultimately, it comes down to what we see as “work.” Is ministry “work?” Is parenting “work?” Is home repair and stewardship “work?” I think we need to broaden our definition of work to include more than just “time at the office.”
    I think the best formulation is one that I originally heard of from John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist: Every day has 3 blocks of useful waking time. In a given week, we need to be using 7-10 blocks time for non-work, and at least 3 of those blocks must be back to back. But, when and how we take those blocks of rest depends on the needs of our family.

  4. SexWithinMarriage If someone feels called to that, fine. It is, as you point out, sundown to sundown, so if one want to follow it to the letter that is what the need to do. Where I live that can be as early as 3:58 PM and as late as 8:52 PM.
    That said, I see that Jesus clarified the situation when He said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:27 ESV]
    God knows we need a Sabbath, and I think He made the Sabbath for us, not us for the Sabbath. That means to me that the principle is more important than the letter of the law. The Hebrew word comes from a root that means “to cease, desist, rest” – and this is the primary point. Sabbath is often one day of the week, but it can be a special day set aside, or a longer period of time.
    I think Romans 14:5-6 specifically addresses this:
    “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”
    The principle of a day of rest is my concern here. Even secular doctors see the value of a rest day. How someone wants to structure that I don’t care – let each be convinced in their own mind – as long as we all understand why we need it and what happens if we don’t get it.

  5. Jon0621 A big part of the problem is we have so much to do that even when we are not “at work” we tend to be working hard.
    Before we had electric lights one could do very little real work after sundown. Work slowed as the sun set, and quickly came to a halt. Now we can make our environment bright as day, inside or out, and just keep going – to our detriment!
    What you quote from John Piper seems far better than what most of us have, and not a bad plan.

  6. TheGenerousHusband I totally agree about doing “work” when not at work. And that’s my point–you may put in a strict 40 hours and no more at the office, but then come home and work another 30 or 40 and find that you never rested. Conversely, you may be employed by a ministry that says that 50-60 hours or more is normative and then still have to do your “non work” work at home. The result is that the ministry that employees you and say it loves and supports you, necessitate your inability to Sabbath.
    This problem is huge for many pastors. If you add up sermon prep, mid week class, counseling, visiting with people who are sick, networking with other local ministries, staff meetings, content creations (videos, blogs, books), small group, etc, you can easily get to a place where your congregation, your fellow staff and even yourself expect 70 or 80 hours or more/week. The end result is that you neglect your health, your family and all of the “work” you have to do that is still legitimate but not connected to your livelihood.
    In light of that, considering that most people only think “employment” when they think “work,” I’m very wary of talking about the Biblical model of 6-days of work, because the “work” included is so much more than employment. There are many seeking to be faithful to scripture that think that the 5-day work week that we have in western society is too generous or even lazy, but that’s only because they fail to see all that “work” encompasses from a Biblical perspective.

  7. Jon0621 TheGenerousHusband Church staff in general, and pastors in particular, are among the most over worked and under appreciated folks around.
    I know many think being a pastor is an easy gig, but this is far from the truth. The stress level is high, burn out is common, and it is very hard on marriage and family.
    Sad how we treat these folks who are trying to server God!

  8. Good practice, it may no longer be a law, but it is a good principle for us to follow.
    Reminds me of the stuff I have learned about running marathons – some of the best middle of the pack runners are those who walk 1 minute per mile.  I have a friend who is running from LA to NY to raise money for “Water for Africa” he does about 35 miles a day and walks 1 minute each mile.  Rest is important!

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