The Unique Sabbath – Day Five – Keeping Sabbath

Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.  Exodus 31:16

Keep / Shamar – To hedge about (as with thorns) to guard; gen. to protect… Strong’s Hebrew/Aramaic Dictionary


I remember clearly my grandmother’s small front yard. There, around the edges of that bit of grass and pressing out ever so slightly into the sidewalk was a short hedge or barberry bushes. How I hated those tiny shrubs! Whenever I would brush my leg a bit too closely or if I ran my hands ever so gently over the tops, the small, almost invisible thorns would reach out and quickly grab hold of a bit of skin. Rarely could the barb be found and usually a few days needed to go by before my skin would somehow push out the invader and become whole again.

Grandmother planted those tiny guardians of the front yard to protect her grass area from becoming a shortcut for any of us as we headed around her corner on the way to the elementary school down the street. She was wise. She knew that neither signs, nor verbal warnings would do any more than stimulate childish retaliation. Her secret defense was the guard of thorns.

God has chosen to create one day out of seven in order to be a garden of rest for us, His children. The day was uniquely created as a gift. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man…” Mark 2:27. Before there was law and even before there was sin – there was Sabbath.

Sabbath is a gift but it is a fragile one. God has woven into the DNA of our bodies, minds and spirits, the need to delight in a Sabbath rest. This gift can be so easily trampled by the world around us, by the hustle of events and even by our own busy thoughts. Keeping Sabbath is not about pointing to rules or yelling at the neighbors to turn down their hip-hop music. Keeping Sabbath is about planting an internal hedge of thorns to slow down the buffalo stampede of our own minds, hearts and desires. On that day we are given a free choice. Just as God Himself rested on the Sabbath, so we can choose to join Him in that rest, Sabbath is a trusting pause between knowing that while there is  always important work to be done, God’s will includes a rest to guard and keep as we find a rest for our soul.

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