[On Sabbath] The End of the Tour

Bible with Lily's 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate on navy blue placemat

Today’s Chocolate: Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageExodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15 and related passages

Welcome, everyone, to the conclusion of our survey of the Sabbath in the Bible. Before we tie a bow on this one, I wanted to step back and take a look at everywhere we’ve been, ask, “What’s the takeaway from here?” How are we going to live our lives differently as a result of the things we’ve learned? Despite my advocacy for community, I am still an individual, and I can’t speak for you. But here is a rundown of where I’m at with my understanding of Sabbath practice, as a result of what I’ve been reading:

  • Keeping the Sabbath simply means ceasing from work on the seventh day of the week with the people you live with, and also your work animals. It recalls God’s rest after creating the universe and Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, and it stands against any social system that would demand unceasing seven-day work from its populace. (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
  • The Sabbath is serious business–to the extent that in ancient Israel, the penalty for failure to keep the Sabbath was death. It’s not merely a day of rest for the community; it’s meant to be kept as holy before God, and it was a sign by which God’s chosen people distinguished themselves. It’s important enough that it’s one of the Ten Commandments! (Exodus 31:12-17, 34:21, 35:2-3,  Numbers 15:27-41)
  • It is absolutely permissible to take care of genuine emergencies on the Sabbath. (2 Kings 11:1-9)
  • Commerce constitutes work, and greed gets in the way of Sabbath rest. (Nehemiah 9:13-15, 10:31 -33, 13:15-22)
  • Do good and be generous all seven days of the week, especially to the powerless in your world. It’s good for people to keep Sabbath together, and the Sabbath is intended for our benefit–so do good on it! (Isaiah 1:11-17,  56:1-7, Mark 2:27, 3:4)
  • But the Sabbath isn’t just for you to chill out and do anything you want to, lie around on the couch watching Netflix or whatever. Enjoy spending time with God on the Sabbath, ask him how he wants you to spend it, and remember that Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath. (Isaiah 58:13-14, Mark 2:28)
  • Keeping the Sabbath doesn’t save you from your sin. If you don’t currently keep the Sabbath, if you keep it on a different day of the week besides Saturday, if you keep it irregularly, don’t worry! Nobody rests and works exactly as God wants us to, and he loves us anyway. Trust God, seek his will, and let him lead you in how he wants you to work and rest throughout your week. That’s faith, and it’s through faith that we are saved. (Colossians 2:8-19)
  • The Sabbath to End All Sabbaths is coming for those who have faith in God. Be diligent in your faith, because it is going to be the best rest ever. (Hebrews 4)

That’s a lot to take away! I know that I myself will benefit from kicking off my Sabbath with other people at Friday sundown, in a way that’s mindful of God’s presence among us. I don’t know exactly how to do that, but I want to take steps in that direction, talk to like-minded people inclined to keep the Sabbath. Also, I’m not entirely sure how best to approach commerce on the Sabbath in a society where everyone’s taking their days off on different days, and where it’s easy to to save yourself the labor of fixing food by eating out and paying someone else to do the work. So let’s throw out a Question of the Day here: What have you learned as a result of reading more about the Sabbath? Are you planning to change your practices of weekly work and rest as a result?

Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance has been instrumental in developing my thoughts on the subject, and if you’re looking for some good thoughts on the significance of the Sabbath for modern culture, I strongly recommend it. Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms is also a valuable resource for practicing and developing spiritual disciplines such as seventh-day rest, and its insights into Sabbath have shaped my own thinking.  I’ve also started reading Sabbath by Dan B. Allender, which looks like it’s going to be a useful read.

Tomorrow I’ll be getting back to usual business around here. However, I’ve had a request to start reading through Isaiah and tackle that for my next study. What would you like to see? Would you prefer a return to the Psalms where we left off, or would you like to see me start Isaiah? Drop a comment and let me know!

2 thoughts on “[On Sabbath] The End of the Tour

  1. Thank you. I have not studied Sabbath from cover to cover before. Great wrap-up.
    I would like you to tackle Isaiah next because I’m studying it now. But the Psalms study was so good that I hope you will come back to it at some point.
    I also recommend Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms.


    1. Glad to provide. I’ve never looked at the Sabbath like this before, and I think it was an insightful exercise. Sacred Rhythms was a good book–when two people recommend a book to you independently of each other, God may well be trying to tell you something.

      We’ve got two votes for Isaiah now, and none for an immediate return for the Psalms. I think I know what I’m reading tomorrow.


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