The Foundation of Sabbath
In Genesis, after God rested, we read, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
Did you pick up on those two words? Blessed and holy.
The word bless is ‘barak’ in Hebrew. A barak, or a blessing, in the creation story is a life-giving ability to procreate, to make more life.
First, God blessed the animal kingdom, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”
Then, He blessed human, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”
And then he “blessed the seventh day.”
So, he blesses the living creatures.
Then he blesses human.
Then he blesses, a day!
Next, we read that God made the Sabbath holy. Usually this word is used for God. God is qadosh. He’s holy.
The rabbis make a big deal about the “principle of first mention,” which simply means the first time you read a word in the Scriptures it’s kind of like a definition. It sets the stage for how you read the word all the way through.
Did you know that the first time you read the word qadosh in the Bible is right here?
What does God make holy? Time.
God isn’t found in the world of space, a temple, top of a mountain, a statue, shrine or a monument. He’s found in the world of time.
God doesn’t have a holy space like every other religion – Islam has Mecca, Hindus has Ganges River, or Pagans have Stonehenge. God has a holy time, the Sabbath.
With that concept of time, not all moments are created equal. Some moments are much better than others.
It’s like you’re about to have a very hectic day and then there’s a brief moment, say 15 minutes or so, where you can slow everything down and make that 15 minutes feel like 15 hours.
The Sabbath is like that. It’s a day where your goal is to savor every second because it’s holy.
Sabbath is holy
Sadly, a lot of us think of holiness in the negative, what we don’t do. Don’t get drunk, don’t swear, don’t watch R-rated movies. This is all one-sided. Holiness has a positive side, it’s about what we do.
In Exodus, there’s a story about Moses and Israel out in the wilderness. They are starving so God sends this strange food called manna. It literally falls from the sky every morning, and all they have to do is go out and pick it up.
With one exception, on the sixth day twice as much falls from the sky. On the seventh day, the Sabbath, the sky is empty.
On day 6, Moses says, “Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So, bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.”
A holy Sabbath to the Lord.
This language of holy to the Lord is used all through the Scriptures. It can also be translated “dedicated to the Lord.”
So then, the Sabbath is an entire day that is holy, set aside, dedicated to the Lord.
Sabbath is the 4th Commandment from God
When Israel is at the base of Mount Sinai, God comes down on top of the mountain in a cloud of fire and smoke and lightning.
God speaks the Ten Commandments over his people. His vision for humanness is shrunk down to ten commands, so few a child can count them on their fingers.
Guess what the longest command is? The Sabbath!
God starts off by saying, “Remember the Sabbath day.”
So, the Sabbath is something that’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get sucked into this 24/7, go-go-go, that we call the modern world. We’re to remember the Sabbath.
How? By “keeping it holy.”
The Sabbath is holy, and it’s something we have to keep holy. It’s easy to profane, to desecrate. It’s easy for it to just become another day. Another day to fall into the pattern — work, buy, sell, repeat.
We’re to keep it holy — to guard it, watch over it.
God ends his longest commandment with the answer, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
For God, his Sabbath commandment is grounded in the creation story itself.
Lots of people argue that we’re “free” from the Sabbath because it was a part of the Torah, or Law. As if it was a legalistic rule we were stuck with until Jesus. What a tragic misunderstanding!
It is true that we’re no longer under the Torah, and it’s also true that the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament. But even so, the Sabbath still stands as wisdom.
There isn’t a command in the New Testament to eat food or drink water or sleep eight hours a night. That’s just wisdom, how the Creator set up the human body and the world itself.
You can skip the Sabbath, it’s not a sin. It’s just stupid. You know that your body is not created to grind 24/7.
You can stay awake for days at a time. Go ahead. God’s not mad at you. But if you do that long enough, you’ll die.
Fatigue. Burnout. Anxiety. Depression. Busyness. Starved relationships. Worn-down immune systems. Low energy levels. Anger. Tension. Confusion. Emptiness. These are the signs of a life without rest.
The Creator God is inviting us to join him in this rhythm of work and rest.
When we don’t accept his invitation, we reap the consequences.