Sabbath…. Let’s start with the basics. God’s people were commanded in the fourth commandment to honor the Lord as Holy by resting on the Sabbath from all work. Here’s the passage from Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.Exodus 20:8-11
The Sabbath was given to God’s people in the Old Testament as they made their way out of slavery in Egypt. One of the its functions was to mark God’s people as those who were brought out of slavery into freedom. As slaves in Egypt there was no rest from labor, there was only the receptive consistency burden of task-masters. But the Exodus served as a turning point for God’s people, they were to be forever marked as a redeemed people, as a free people. It is only a free people who have the luxury of enjoying a Sabbath rest from work.
And notice from the text how this particular peculiar law of God is rooted in God’s activity. It was God in creation who worked for six days and rested on the seventh. And so to identify with God we too work for six days and rest on the seventh. I am convinced that our modern church’s failure to obediently follow this simple command from God is the cause of so much strife in our life.
Christians should rest from their labor once a week. God’s people should always set aside one full day to rest from work, to intentionally worship God with their time, to draw close to their family, and to just enjoy rest – whatever that might look like for each person. For me – rest means spending a few hours in a great book, it means playing at the park with my children, it means long conversations with my best friend – my wife, it means resting from the tyranny of the urgent that seems to constantly strive for my attention. These are the things that refuel me and recenter me on Jesus, His Kingdom, and my identity in Him.
While I am diligent on my Sabbath to not check email and to not focus on work-related matters, I have noticed a new trend that hinders my Sabbath rest for me and my family – the News. I wouldn’t have spotted it had it not been for another Christian writer writing for World Magazine who identified the same issue in his own life. We live in a news-saturated culture. Headlines are instant and many. And as soon as the Headlines break the endless stream of opinions and editorials and commentary vie for your attention. I open my News App on my phone one minute to read twenty headlines, and only a few minutes later can read twenty entirely different headlines. The News has been keeping my mind constantly spinning and analyzing… and working.
Is it good and wise for Christians to meaningfully engage with the News through a thoughtful Christian worldview? Yes of course! As one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament reminds us that we ought to be, “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. (1 Chronicles 12:32).” But just as I learned before that I needed to discipline myself to not read my emails on my Sabbath, so I am convinced now that I must discipline myself to not read the news on my Sabbath.
Do you keep an intentional Sabbath day weekly? This kind of Sabbath rest does not happen accidentally. It is something we train ourselves for and discipline ourselves to keep. What keeps me from truly entering a Sabbath rest may be different from what keeps you from truly entering a Sabbath rest. But might I encourage you to pay attention to those things that distract you, to reflect enough to spot the things in your life that hinder you from lingering in dedicated devoted time with God and family. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.