We will not be ground into dust by this life. We long to be continuously refreshed by Jesus, to pursue what makes us healthy, and to practice the spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, and sabbath rest.
Fun Fact: If you’re curious, you can find all seven of Grace’s values listed at www.gracechurch.us/beliefs
We are worried and anxious, the speed and pace of life is increasing, we don’t get nearly enough sleep, and we are being sabotaged all the time by our devices and technology and social media. No wonder we don’t know how to rest! But there is another way: the way of Sabbath.
SABBATH WAY OF LIFE
Sabbath, in its most basic form, is a day - the seventh day of the week - in which the Israelites were expected to rest. They were not allowed to work their fields or harvest food or travel. It was a day of total rest for the people.
But in Scripture the concept of Sabbath rest goes way beyond just a communal day off. What I want us to see is that the Bible is calling us to adopt a Sabbath way of life that can change everything for us, even now, in this hectic, anxious time.
Fun Fact: If you are interested in hearing a modern Jewish perspective on the Sabbath Day, I highly recommend the beautiful, poetic, philosophical book The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I try to read it every couple of years because it is so thought provoking!
In the narrative of the Bible, the Israelites are enslaved by the powerful Egyptians for hundreds of years. There they are being ground into dust by their work. But God rescues the people from slavery and calls them to be a unique people to demonstrate God’s intentions to the world.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.
The word “Sabbath,” shabbat in Hebrew, literally means “to stop.”
The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that God has rescued the Israelites and they are no longer in chains. But even when they are free, they can still find themselves in chains to work, profit, survival, etc, being ground into dust by this life.
The Sabbath is a protest against the forces of this world that would keep the people in chains.
Fun Fact: Exodus 20:8-11, the other place where we find the 10 commandments listed, gives a different reason why the Israelites are to observe Sabbath: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.” This goes well beyond the scope of this particular message, but there is an entirely different thread in Scripture of Sabbath being woven into the fabric of Creation itself. We rest because God rests!
A MATTER OF TRUST
We cannot literally observe Sabbath today because it requires the entire community to be bought in. So what do we do?
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life.”
Jesus is not inviting us to practice a day of Sabbath rest. He is inviting us to turn Sabbath rest into our lifestyle.
Jesus is inviting us into a Sabbath way of life.
Fun Fact: As I mention at the end of my message, I will be on sabbatical for 12 weeks starting in June. The thing I am most looking forward to is spending long, leisurely hours working in my garden. I can’t wait to spend time just hanging out with God and caring for my plants and creatures!
What is it that is grinding you into dust? Know your enemy.
Sabbath is a matter of trust. Trust in God
Sabbath means trusting that when you say “no” to the demands of this world, when you stop letting your enemy wrap you in chains - even just for a day - even just for a moment - that God is going to bless you for doing it.
Our job is to create space for God to move, to settle in to his presence, and he will give us rest. Settle in.
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Fun Fact: The Hebrew word “nuaḥ” (rest, settling in), is also a name. Noah receives that name because he was to be one who would “bring us relief (nuaḥ) from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29).