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By CFFM Staff

“On the seventh day God finished his work that he had made, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had made. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all his work that he had created and made.” Genesis 2:2-3 REV

Rest: just that word evokes a sense of calm and purpose. Here in Genesis, God introduces the concept of what is still referred to as shabbat: a Hebrew word for stopping, settling down, and ceasing our striving. In English, we often call it the Sabbath.

In the beginning of the world, God “worked” for six days straight, designing the universe that we live in. But then, instead of diving into His next project or creation, God chose to stop. To rest. To cease His labor for a time.

God blesses and sanctifies (makes holy) that seventh day in Genesis, and again institutes it with the Israelites when He gives Moses the Ten Commandments. When the subject comes up again in Moses’s exhortation to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 20, God reminds His people that the Sabbath is a time to remember His goodness and deliverance.

Trust in His Provision

It’s also a time to trust that God will take care of His kids. Both then and now, people often work seven days a week to pay the bills, fill the mouths of their family, and steward their property.

But God proved in a remarkable way regarding the Sabbath that when we honor Him, He will make sure that we are provided for.

When the Israelites had been freed from slavery under the Egyptians, but were still wandering in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, food was a precious commodity. They complained to Moses, who went straight to God, who replied that He would send bread from heaven (later God sends meat as well).

The Lord told Moses that He would send food every morning, enough so that everyone could gather what they needed to eat that day – no matter how much they needed to be filled (we all have met those teenagers that can scarf down three meals in one sitting, or people who seem full after half a salad!). No one had a surplus, and no one had a shortage of food, either.

However, if anyone tried to gather enough for two days in an effort to hoard away for themselves, that bread would be full of worms and stink in the morning. Except for the sixth day, that is.

On the day before the Sabbath, there would be enough bread and meat that everyone could gather what they needed to last two days. And in the morning, that bread did not stink or have any worms.

For the entire 40 years the Israelites were in the wilderness (why they were wandering for 40 years is another story entirely), that cycle continued. God was always faithful and true to his Word.

A Time of Delight

Even after the Israelites reached their Promised Land, and then lost it again, they continued to observe the Sabbath: meaning they continued to cease working every seventh day.

But what started as a way to honor God and remember His provision had turned into a day of regulation and oppression. There was an increasing amount of rules for what was considered work, and what the Israelites were or were not allowed to do.

Religious and social shame was often put upon those who had somehow misstepped on the labor they could or could not do. Even Jesus was given grief for healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath because that supposedly counted as work!

So, God speaks through his prophet Isaiah to say, in our modern vernacular, “hold up! You have missed the boat!” They were doing the act of the Sabbath, but had missed the heart behind it. God addresses both this and the same perversion that had happened with fasting in Isaiah 58.

“Why have we fasted, they say, and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and you take no notice?…Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul?” Isaiah 58:3-5 NKJV

Then God answers His own question, explaining what type of fast He does want – which has a lot more to do with taking care of people and shining as a light! Then He references the Sabbath and the heart behind that, too.

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways…then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.” Isaiah 58:13-14 NKJV

The point is honor and joy: stopping our labor, ceasing our striving, and instead, honoring God as the reason behind our labors (Colossians 3:23-24), and taking purposeful time to enjoy His presence.

Throughout His Word, God calls Himself our Father, and those who believe on Him and His son Jesus Christ, His children. God wants a relationship with us, and since the beginning of time, has designed a regular space for us to spend time with Him.

Let’s trust in the Lord’s provision, honor His heart, and enjoy His presence in our own Sabbath time this week. Below are some ideas for helping to enrich our time of Sabbath.

For more suggestions and a deeper dive into where the Bible discusses Sabbath, watch Christian Family Fellowship Pastor Ellen Fowler’s Sunday teaching Sabbath Rest.

How to be present in His presence:

  • Make a “Sabbath Box,” where you can put distractions such as your phone or items causing you stress and worry, while you spend time with the Lord
  • Design a musical playlist of worship and peace
  • Connect with nature
  • Use journaling or painting as a way of focusing in on the Lord
  • Play on purpose
  • Light a candle
  • Institute a “screen-free Sunday” or something similar
  • Breathe deeply!