Yesterday we were thanking God for the wonderful gift that He gave mankind when He instituted the Sabbath. It’s a word that means cessation or ‘rest’. The Lord, who created us, knew that once mankind had left Eden, they were going to have to ‘toil’ in order to eat ‘all the days of their lives’, Genesis 3:17-19. The fourth commandment gave mankind permission to have a day to rest from their labours. It was a day when they could be refreshed and rested and also when they could spend time with God. It was a day to set aside the curse of ‘toil’ that was theirs when they left Eden. Working seven days a week would also have been something that they were familiar with after 400 years of slavery. That is why it was such a blessing and a gift to them as they travelled through the wilderness.
We were talking yesterday about the fact that this is a gift to us, it is not ‘law’ and for many of us, because of our work, it is now necessary to take a different day off from the one on which church services take place, our Sunday. In the past in ‘Christian’ England, as the Sabbath was in Israel, that day off was observed, in some measure, by the whole nation, and so having a day of rest was, relatively speaking, an easy thing to do. Now when society never sleeps and our week runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day, it means that taking a Sabbath day off can be a great challenge.
In addition some of us have taken note of the words that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees that ‘the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath’. So, not wishing to become legalistic about the matter, we have neglected it, not realising what a gift it is to us, and how important it is to our wellbeing, and the health of our society.
Since there is not one special day set aside for us all to stop working, many of us have had to choose an alternative day. However any day that we choose to have as our day off can be interrupted or disturbed by others for whom it is a normal working day. Any day of rest that we choose can also be interrupted by modern technology. For example we have our phones by us all the time, and the expectation is that we will be available to friends and family, even work colleagues at the drop of a hat.
I believe that thanksgiving can help us to take hold of this blessing of ‘rest’ in several ways. Firstly as we thank the Lord for His wisdom, in instituting a day of rest for His people, it will help us to value what He has ordained and given us. Our thanksgiving will make us mindful of the value of rest and relaxation, of being able to ‘switch off’ for twenty four hours from the pressures of this world. Secondly it will help us to enter into a partnership with Him over how we can best incorporate this blessing into our own lives. The enemy would like to turn even this into just another pressure.
Thirdly our gratitude for this ‘day off’ will give us the courage to turn off our phones and computers when we need to, and to put those boundaries in place to guard our day of rest. Fourthly, as we said yesterday, thanksgiving will give us the faith to leave some things undone, the faith to resist the driveness of our world, and to discern what is needed and what isn’t. And finally, as we thank the Lord for this blessing and become aware of its benefits, we will model something good to those around us, and bring more of the Lord’s wisdom into our world.