Sabbath Rest Theological Musings

Sabbath as Missional: Following God’s Example

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day….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

Genesis 1:31 and 2:3

Sabbath is the practice of abstaining from work one day out of the week. The practice reminds us of when God created the universe. Once He declared the world to be good, He reserved time for rest and declared the practice to be holy. God’s work was completed, and yet most days it seems like our work never ends.

Everyone enjoys the weekend when they don’t have to go into the office or attend zoom meetings. For myself the weekend is usually reserved for catching up on my to-do list and grocery shopping. The to-do list is rarely finished and the thought of spending an entire day resting at times can seem absurd and wasteful. So why bother practicing Sabbath at all?

God’s Motive for Creating Sabbath

The mantra of self-care has gained traction over the years because all the research shows that for those who don’t prioritize rest, the dangers of burnout are very real. We need rest to function well. A lack of sleep specifically can negatively impact our emotions, thoughts, and productivity. We may become short tempered with someone or make dangerous mistakes. All the research supports Jesus’ claim that the Sabbath was made for our benefit.

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath

Mark 2:27

When God created the world he set the template for a work/rest cycle. He demonstrated it through His actions, but He even went one step further. He included this cycle as one of the original ten commands (Exodus 20:9). The practice of working for six days and resting for one is not a suggestion, it is a requirement.

God wants us to flourish and He knows that a healthy balance of work and rest can help us flourish. Similar to a parent who knows that naps are good for toddlers, even if the child hates nap time and goes down kicking and screaming. Taking a nap is not optional for most toddlers because without their nap they get cranky and everyone is worse off for it.

God created the Sabbath for our benefit because He knows we need it.

A Call to Imitate God

In order to be effective ambassadors of God, we must learn how to represent God’s character. One way to understand His character is to learn from His actions and imitate them. He modeled Sabbath when He finished creating the world and He calls us to do the same.

We can set a model for following the command to work six days and rest for one. It is to our benefit and it is also to the benefit of others. Nobody likes the boss or supervisor that expects someone to be on call 24 hours 7 days a week. It’s unhealthy, toxic, and a misuse of power. We are in the position to break the toxic cycle if we in fact practice Sabbath.

So I encourage you to set aside one day of your week for rest and fun. Do it for yourself because you need it; Model it for those under your supervision and care; and Advocate on behalf of others who also need it.

References and External Links

NIV Study Bible (2011) Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.

Varughese, Alex (Editor), Discovering the Old Testament (2003), Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO.

Why Sabbath is a Gift from God from Gospel Taboo

What is Sabbath? Why did God Command a Day of Rest from Christainity.com

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