The Christian Sabbath is a day unlike the other six when work ceases and God’s people pause to worship together; a day designed to take us back to Eden and the perfect Creation while simultaneously launching us forward to taste Heavenly Rest. It is my belief that because of the popular positions held regarding the Sabbath (see yesterday’s post) we mostly miss out on the joyful intention of the Sabbath, a day of happiness and victory celebrating the day that Jesus burst forth from the grave, conquering death and bringing life and immortality to light.
It is easy to see its value as a day when the tired body, mind and soul find true rest from the demands and anxieties of work. When our worn-out minds can recuperate in the serenity of momentary escape to get off the treadmill and be refreshed in God. The wisdom of the Sabbath is seen in the design of the universe and the needs of its inhabitants. Even secular academics have agreed that a regular, predictable week (with a definite beginning and a definite ending) plays a major role in developing our civilization and we all know that ceaseless work is not good for us and the day of rest gives us physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
Historically there have been attempts to change the seven-day week in favor of a different length week One such attempt came in the late 1700s during the French Revolution which promised a new Age of Reason and an end to what they called “regressive religious superstitions.” A new “rational” week of ten days was devised and approved by the ruling Convention in 1793 where every tenth day was reserved for rest and celebration of various natural objects and abstract ideas. Churches were forced to close and allowed to open only on the tenth day. People were even forbidden to wear their good clothing on the traditional Sunday, with severe fines and even jail sentences given to violators. The result was that the experiment failed completely, the work force burned out as did the First Republic of France.
This wise, joyful, value-added design even predates human history as an ordinance established during the first week of Creation. With great condescension, He who needed no rest, sat down and rested from the work which he had creatively made, that by his example he might woo man to his needed rest.
Too often we bury ourselves in the busyness of following Jesus and serving others instead of relaxing and receiving uncomfortable grace from Him. Our hearts are often resistant to love that it poured out on us, a resistance that forces our bodies to tighten up inhibiting us from receiving. I think about the tender act of love bestowed on the disciples by Jesus as He washed their feet. How hard was it for the disciples to sit and receive that little act of grace? Yet an even bigger act of grace was to come as He went to the cross for them.
While Jesus certainly wants us to follow Him in doing acts of humble service and not to see ourselves as too good or too big to do little things, menial tasks and even costly, inconvenient acts; doing, for most of us, is easier than receiving! In fact we can bury ourselves in service while never having to sit and receive. Jesus asks us to first relax and receive from Him then expend ourselves generously toward others only to come back to Him to relax and receive again.