For some of us the word “Sabbath” or the practice of Sabbath sounds far off, legalistic, something we’ve have heard of from the Old Testament, but not something we do. Understanding and practicing Sabbath is something that we as Christians should lean into as what it points to is biblical, good for our soul, and a helpful discipline. It is also the third Commandment given to us by the Lord.
For many of us, we don’t ask the questions of why and how do we do this, which usually leads to not doing it. So let’s go to the basics to understand this important spiritual discipline.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath, Shabbat, literally meaning “to cease” or “stop”. Another word that is synonymous is “rest”.
What do you already know about a seventh day rest? The creation story! “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 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” (Gen. 2:2-3). The very first Sabbath was practiced by God himself, the most powerful being was not tired, but yet he rested. It is also important to note that man was created on the sixth day and was present to enjoy this rest with the Lord in perfect union before the fall, free of sin. However, as we know, shortly after sin entered the world through man which brought an end to rest and union with God.
Fast forward a bit to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and their Exodus from Egypt. In the wilderness God calls them to initiate a new practice that is designed to point back to the original, yet now marred rest that God modeled and point towards a future restoration of this rest. God tells the people to cease from all work on the seventh day of the week and take time to reflect, remember, and realign their wandering hearts back to God, their Savior from the Egyptians and Lord (Deut. 5:12-15).
We see that Sabbath is designed to help us remember and reflect while also looking forward. But like all of the Ten Commandments, the Israelites and even us today just can’t seem to keep and uphold them perfectly. The Law creates a standard that is too lofty for us to perfectly follow.
So what hope do we have in practicing it anyway? The answer is Jesus! Notice how and when Jesus teaches about the Sabbath by proclaiming that the ultimate seventh day rest would come though him as the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:1-8). Jesus shows us that through His perfect life, death, and resurrection:
- He is better than the Law itself.
- He is better than something that points to perfect relationship with God.
- He has a perfect relationship with God.
- Through Him, He allows us to join into rest and relationship with God.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
This side of the cross there is freedom and grace in how we practice Sabbath because we know that it is not through the practice that we earn any merit or right standing before God. Jesus has already done that for us! So what this looks like is up to you, but the principle remains the same—the practice is a way to rest in Jesus our Savior from sin and Lord of our lives. We reflect, remember, and realign our wandering hearts back to God through Him in practicing humility in Sabbath rest.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.
Amalee Bingham currently lives in central Texas with her husband, Marshall, who is in the military. She is ever thankful to the Lord for those who have come alongside her to share not only the gospel, but their lives as well. In whatever context the military takes her, she desires to do the same for those around her. Amalee also enjoys writing, studying the bible, baking, and loving on her chocolate lab pup! Connect with Amalee: Instagram