God gives us the Sabbath as command and a gift.
Picture giving your kids a super awesome present Christmas morning. You know they are going to love it. And then, to your complete surprise, they just leave the present unopened under the tree. I would be so disappointed because I love giving them good things and I would hate to see them miss out! (We all know that no kid in history would let this happen!)
God generously gives us gifts because of His unwavering love for us. The Sabbath is such a wonderful example of this.
“You shall keep my Sabbath, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you.” (Exodus 31:13-14)
If you have read the Old Testament it is pretty obvious that it was a very serious offense to do work on the Sabbath. Now, Christians don’t live under the law because of the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 5), but it does not at all change the awesomeness of this command for God’s people.
I tell my daughters to do things because I know what is best for them. Just as I know better than they do, God knows infinitely more about what is best for us. But God commanding us to rest one day a week is not like me telling my kids to eat their asparagus. It’s more like this: “Come over and give me a big hug right now! I love you!” Or this: “Get in the car; we are going for ice cream!”
“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” (Exodus 34:21)
God is a perfect Father. He knows what we need. We need rest especially when things are busiest. He tells us to take a day of rest to implement a rhythm for our life: work, then rest, then back to work. We can even see how God modeled it for us by resting on the seventh day in Genesis 2.
Here are some examples of a typical Sabbath (for our family).
It is not a one size fits all because we all enjoy different things and are in various life stages. It could be taking a long hike, enjoying a bubble bath, or playing games with friends.
After some experimenting we have found that for us it means a MUCH slower pace than the rest of the week and it is usually a day just the four of us. We observe the Sabbath on Saturday because it works best for our family, plus our hearts are ready for worship on Sunday morning with the gathered church. (After church I go back to my normal work.)
It won’t look the same for you, but here are some things we do each Sabbath: My husband and I sleep in! It’s glorious! Our daughters were trained at a young age not to come in our room on Saturday mornings but to play together quietly. We have extended Bible time where we read and discuss what we have been reading the previous week. True rest comes when our souls are connected with our Maker. I plan in advance to make light/easy meals, to prepare food the day before, or get take-out. I joyfully let the dishes sit in the sink. We almost always watch a movie, get ice cream, play games or do puzzles, go outside when it is nice, play music, and laugh a lot. Sometimes we ride bikes, bake cookies, wander around the bookstore, fish (my husband!), or take a long bath (me!). We do not clean, do school, wash dishes, make big meals, plan for the week, respond to work e-mails, etc. Your kids will like it as much as you do – no chores!!
It’s not about legalism.
I don’t observe the Sabbath to try to earn God’s love. The absolute best news is that His love is not based on my works; it is freely given (Romans 11:5-6). I don’t have to ignore the dirty dishes on Saturday night. I get to let them sit there. I get to rest for the day.
At first we thought that if we didn’t clean/work/fill our calendars for a day that we were just being lazy. Then God graciously began to show us that He is the one in control. He can manage things while we rest (Isaiah 41:13-14). Jesus tells us in Scripture that we are to give our burdens to Him and find rest for our souls.
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
The pressure of being productive and busy weighs so heavy. God is so good to give us a means for rest and enjoyment. Observing the Sabbath reminds me that I am dependent on Jesus, reunites my thinking with His, gives my family much joy in time together, and allows me to actually be much more productive on the other 6 days. When I see the pile of dirty dishes in my sink on Sunday I rejoice at the great day we had the day before. I spent way too many years feeling frustrated that I never got a break, but I now joyfully rest to the glory of God.
The Sabbath is a day to take joy in who we are in Christ. So, go ahead, open the gift. Do some planning and prep work for it. Then bask in the goodness of God as you rest and spend time with your Father.
“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 118:5-7)