It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. Mark 15:25 NIV
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ). …And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
Matthew 27:46, 50 NIV
In six days God created the heavens and the earth. When He paused at the end of each day He saw that it was good.
In six hours on the cross our Lord finished the work necessary for His new creation. Through suffering He completed something so awesomely good that till today we can call it Good Friday!
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
As we pause and reflect on this first day …the Lord’s day may we remember His work and rest and worship with thankful hearts.
So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:28
This interesting story about Jesus and the disciples walking through the corn or wheat fields is recorded in three of the four gospels. Though we may have never once heard a message preached from these verses, Matthew, Mark and Luke each considered it so important that they included it among the highlights of Jesus’ teaching.
My personal belief is that our own ignorance of the Sabbath and the treasure that God intended it to be is one of the great losses of the present day church. God’s Sabbath came not only before the law, Sabbath came even before sin. Sabbath was built into the matrix of the universe. To put it into literary terms God’s Holy Sabbath was His denouement : “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” Without understanding Sabbath in fact we will never be able to fully understand God’s story.
When the Pharisees started cluck-clucking about the disciples rubbing some grain in their hands on the seventh day, Jesus had finally had enough of their cold analytical hypocrisy and proceeded to give them a Sabbath lesson. In that lesson, Jesus made it clear that the very central purpose of the Sabbath was for it to be a day of healing and blessing to man. God had not created man so the Sabbath could be observed, but He had created Sabbath to be a day of healing and blessing for man.
I fear we, the modern-day church, have gone far beyond just losing the gift of Sabbath; I believe we are losing even the last vestiges of memories of what it is. Sabbath is a precious gift and unless we battle to take back God’s Sabbath blessing
then we may one day run down like an unwound watch.
We once visited for several days a small village in Switzerland, On the Sunday morning of our stay, I left our hosts’ home and went for a long walk up through some of the most beautiful hill country I have ever seen. On my walk I found a wonderful ancient church and as I watched a man drove up, unlocked the door and went in to ring the bells. How lovely they sounded as they peeled over the valley. It was an almost perfect picture. But then as he finished his duties, he left the church, locked the doors and drove away.
That image still lingers in my memory. Is that what we have become? Do we just go about our duties, ring the bells and go home? Do we ring the bells and no one any longer hears? Do we remember vaguely that it is God’s day but barely pause long enough to catch our spiritual breath? There will be a price to forgetting God’s Sabbath because it remains a blessed part of the creation from before there was sin. The Sabbath is built into not only the universe, but also into who we are as men and women. Sabbath rest, worship and prayer are the breath, the life and the foundation and basis from which we go out to do all the work which God has called us to do.
If we will choose to remember then God has a promise that we will look into on the seventh and final day. Stay tuned!
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight… Isaiah 58:13
It was more than forty years ago and we had driven through the night out of Nevada, through Lake Tahoe and then gently descended into the area surrounding Sacramento California. Of all the new sights and sounds for this New England boy, the one that lasts till today was the aroma of the acacia trees. It was a fragrance I had never known and it stays with me as the unique and beautiful signature of that moment.
Peeking out from the sometimes grayness of our daily grind God has created a day that is meant to carry the very essence of His presence. His Sabbath is given to us, not as a dour demand but as a place of delight. On the Sabbath day there is a window open through which the sweet breeze of Heaven can blow. Once that fragrance fills our soul we will forever long for the day when it will never end.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God Hebrews 4:9
For some of us, when we hear about observing the Sabbath we conjure up a black and white photograph of people sitting around, dressed in suits and staring blankly off into space. But when God rested on His special day after finishing all of His amazing creation, it was something He delighted in. God was able to pause and enjoy the beauty of all His creation. There were cloud topped mountains to see and roaring waterfalls to hear, mighty rivers to splash in, and millions of stars to explore. But, most of all God delighted in the people who He had made in His own image. God came down in the cool of the day to enjoy time with Adam and Eve.
Nowhere in all this do we see anything dull or boring. In fact we find out that:
Mark 2:27 ….. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was meant as a gift to be shared between God and man. God wasn’t looking forward to see how much work that Adam and Eve could do. Instead, He set aside a special day to enjoy their relationship. It was almost like time to play. Play is about just enjoying time together. Our struggle with taking a day to rest is not that we forgot how to rest, but that we forgot how to enjoy God’s presence. So, how can we begin to think and act differently about doing what God created us to do? Here are just a few creative ideas.
Reserving a table: When you want to go to the best restaurants you can’t just walk in any time and expect to find a table. It pays to plan ahead and get your reservation. If you don’t then someone else will already be seated at that special table by the fireplace you were hoping for. It is the same with our time with God. Everyone wants our time. If they think it is okay to take it on Sunday they won’t at all think twice about it. My wife has taught me some lessons on that. Because I run a business we get calls at our home all the time. Should you be the one who decides that Sunday afternoon is a dandy time to call you will hear something like this, “You’ve got six other days to talk to my husband about work. This is our day for God and for time with our family. Thank you and have a great day!” Things that are rare have great value and you will begin to realize just how valuable that day is when you reserve it for God.
Slowing things down: Ever hear the old expression “Sunday driver” ? That meant someone who was just out to enjoy looking at the scenery and they were driving slowly. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing to try. Instead of zooming off after church to a day filled with activities, maybe take a long slow drive in the country. Go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take off your shoes and put your feet in a stream. Spend some non-organized time with the family away from all the pressures. We are wound so tightly that it almost seems like a sin to not be running off to some planned activity. Can you remember far enough back to that first day of Summer vacation when you were young? Thinking of all that time was like prying open a treasure chest that held all the delicious unscheduled days.
Listening: Elijah the prophet was a man of both action and faith. He had done more than any of the other prophets before him, but in his own eyes all that activity had ended in failure. He went out into the wilderness, sat under a tree and prayed for God to take his life. Instead of answering that prayer, God gave Elijah a time of rest. Elijah lay down and slept until God sent an angel who baked bread for him and brought Him a cup of cool water. Then instead of jumping right back into action, Elijah slept again till the angel woke him a second time to give him more. Finally after 40 days of silent traveling Elijah was ready to come and hear from the Lord. First God sent a hurricane force wind, but God was not in the wind. Then God sent a strong earthquake, but He wasn’t in the quake. Last God sent a fire, but God wasn’t even in the fire. Then finally God came and spoke with Elijah in a still small voice. Now Elijah was ready to listen.
That is what the Sabbath is all about. Reserving time to be with Jesus, slowing things down and allowing God to prepare us to listen. God wants to share His thoughts and heart with us. If it has been a while since you had the chance to really enjoy the day God made as a gift for us, then launch out and see what new things that God will begin to do for you. Just as we would never forget to open a Christmas present, so let’s tear off the wrapping paper and begin to experience the blessing of the Sabbath that God has made for us.
What ever happened to Sunday? Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, usually on a particularly pricey RV that says, “We are spending our children’s inheritance!” ? I have never cared for the concept behind that joke and on the spiritual level even less so.
I fondly remember the walks I once took with my Grandfather, who I called “Cap-Cap” as my four-year old attempt at Captain Detzer came out. He would hold my small hand and we would walk the two blocks to pick up his Sunday paper at the news store in town. It was always such an amazingly quiet morning. Hardly a car passed on the usually busy Main street of our New England town. All the other businesses were closed except for the drugstore/news stand where Cap-Cap bought his Sunday Times. There was a wonderful sense of awe and delight in the quiet pause it gave to life. No one’s affairs were so urgent that they couldn’t be put on a 24 hour hold. That made Sunday such a special time. After church there was always a lunch of pancakes and sausage that Gammy would make us and then a whole afternoon of doing nothing but playing quietly out in the back yard with my cousins.
In the book of Isaiah God talks about the Sabbath. Today I am afraid that even within the church we have lost the concept of Sabbath…
Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Isaiah 58:13
When God finished creating the world He paused, delighted in it and then He blessed that special day. Last of all God set aside the Sabbath and gave it to us as our inheritance. In most states in the U.S. we have a chain called 7/11. The store was so named because it had the amazing concept of being open for the extended hours of 7 AM to 11 PM. But, today the stores are open 24/7 and 365 days per year. The joke is that since it is always open, why do they have locks on the door?
The 23rd Psalm has in its verses the core of why God gave us a special day to remember to rest, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” In fact the Sabbath is God’s picture of His grace. Hebrews 4:10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.
God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was tired! God rested because He was finished. He paused and looked over everything. God took the day to enjoy everything. Then God rested. The world’s way of thinking is all about work – work – work, but God’s grace is all about pause, delight, and rest. Our lives need that moment when like the dove that Noah sent out from the ark, we find a place to rest and when we do we will be able to carry in our hearts the Olive branch of God’s amazing and wonderful peace! As Christians it is a precious part of our inheritance that we have the great privilege of passing on to our children. We need to be careful that we haven’t spent the treasure of God’s Holy day on ourselves. This inheritance from God is something rare and in danger of being abandoned and forgotten. In all our busyness God has a plan for rest and refreshment. When we finish the course God has laid out for our lives will our children and grandchildren have special memories that we have passed on to them?
Isaiah 58:14 Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”