SABBATH: SUCH A GIFT - WHO COULD REFUSE?

September 23, 2023

SABBATH: SUCH A GIFT - WHO COULD REFUSE?

Such A Gift - Who Could Refuse?

by Michael J. Ledner

“…The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” - Jesus (Mark 2:27)

Dad was Jewish and mom was Catholic. I was brought up Catholic. Dad didn’t like religion. His parents kept Kosher and kept the Sabbath, and he had to go along with it until he married mom. Then, he was finished with religion. Never went to Synagogue. Ate ham sandwiches. He was OK with my mom raising us Catholic. Sundays, she dragged us 6 kids to Mass. It wasn’t really a Sabbath; it was: go to Church and then go out and play.

In the early 70’s, at the age of 19, I left New York for a California adventure. I also left religion. I wanted something more. About 2 years into my adventure I found that something more. A friend introduced me to Jesus and when I put my faith in Him my life was wonderfully changed. I found life in a relationship - something I didn’t find in religion. I now knew and loved Jesus, loved all people (when I realized God did too...He "so loved the world..."), and cherished God’s Word, the Bible, and all that was in it.  Keeping the Sabbath - not working one day a week - was a commandment in the Bible that was always a little unsettling for me. I was now cautious of anything that appeared to be "too religious," and I was taught that us Christians are not “under the law,” - that we were free to either take a day off or not,  and that Jesus was now our Sabbath; that in Him we’ve entered into a continual Sabbath rest: "...So there remains a [full and complete] Sabbath rest for the people of God…” (Hebrews 4:9 Amplified). This is all true, but deep inside I knew there was something more to this Sabbath thing. It just wasn't on my radar...yet.

Fast forward 40 years; God brought this passage to my mind: “The Sabbath was made for man.” The word “made“ stuck out to me. When someone makes something for you, it is a gift. “I made you a cake,” or “I made you a garden bed.” Unless the gift is awful, there’s no reason to not receive it - with thanks! Especially if the giver is awesome and in love with you. I thought, “If God made the Sabbath for me, and therefore, it is a gift from God to me, why in the world would I refuse this wonderful gift?“ From then on, I decided to take a Sabbath and keep taking that gift - one day a week. What seems to be more important is not the actual day one takes off - be it a Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday - but that there would be one day a week for rest and no work. Being a pastor, and working on Sundays, Saturday was the day I chose to take off. Maybe it was the Jew in me that gravitated toward that particular day.

My Sabbath rest looks something like this: I turn down all the voices around me and inside me and begin to feel my body and soul slowing down, getting into a different groove, a restful one. It’s like I’m training the inner always-busy child in me to be the calm, confident, peaceful adult I truly am. I’ll engage in leisurely activities - things I wouldn’t ordinarily do (or if I did, I’d feel a little guilty...thinking, “I should be doing something more ‘productive’!”); things like playing the piano, taking a nap, reading God’s word, reading a good book, worshipping the Lord, praying, writing a letter, practicing solitude, having a relaxed time with my wife over coffee, discussing a book with her, going for a walk, doing something fun together, getting out into nature, creating something. 

I approach Sabbath with this understanding: for the last six days, my nerve endings are probably fried from a busy work week and from this very buzzed world (How could they not be?), so I will do my best to turn this world “off” (easier said than done), by avoiding social media and creating an atmosphere in which my soul can soak up His peace. This allows a certain healing into my body and soul that only peace, quiet and a slower pace can bring.  The process of "getting there" - to that place of rest - does not come naturally to me. It's a discipline, a choice. But as I press in I finally start "Sabbathing" and peace wins the day. Each person has to find their own way of slowing down and finding that place that awaits them one day a week. Dallas Willard suggested four ideas that can guide us into Sabbath rest: Relent. Rest. Rejoice. Reflect.

Yes, we are designed to work, but we’re also designed to rest as well. This is not a religious thing, it’s a human thing. What if God designed human beings to have a one-day-out-of-seven rest day for their body and soul (or body, soul and spirit if you’re a trichotomous). It would be foolish then for me to not only refuse this beautiful gift from God, but to find myself unwittingly fighting against my very design as a human being. I did not create myself. God created me, and tells me how my body and soul works most efficiently. I made the decision to listen to my Maker and it has paid off.

Have I done it perfectly? Nope. But with 10 years of practice under my belt I’m getting better and better at it. It truly is a gift, and I’m so thankful the Lord showed me to cash in on this one. And what a blessing it has been. How can I describe it:  It’s as if God borrows a day from the Millennial Kingdom and says to me, “Here - for one day a week you get to bask in a “Millennial day” with Me. Enjoy!”

It’s like a king going out into the town and inviting a commoner, one who works seven days a week, to come into his castle and just be with him; eat with him, talk with him, enjoy Him all the amenities of his castle for one day a week for the rest of his life - letting him know that he will take care of the wages he would’ve earned that day. Imagine that man or woman saying, “No thanks, I’m good…gotta be responsible, ya know.”

It’s like that, but we’re not just commoners to Him. We who have put our trust in Jesus are His sons and daughters. Our Heavenly Father made this day for us and gives us permission to stop all our “normal work activities” - things we do to earn a living, making money, house and yard maintenance and repair, attending to our finances…things like that - and take a full day to rest our bodies and souls. And what about that opportunity I would pass up to make some extra money? He has an answer for that. He tells me to simply seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and He will take care of my needs and not to worry about them (Matthew 6:33). It’s an opportunity to obey Him and then trust His word and watch Him provide.

There are a few exceptions, of course, that even Jesus spoke of. If there’s an emergency on the Sabbath, take care of it (i.e. your sheep falls in the ditch - get it out! Matt 12:11-14). Also, Jesus healed on the Sabbath and said it’s permissible to do good on the Sabbath. You want help someone out on the Sabbath, go for it. Also, I understand that some people have 10-day-on, 10-day-off shifts, or, in order to provide for yourself and/or your family, a person, from time to time may not have the option of taking a day off. God’s grace is always there for us - especially in those situations. I would, however, suggest seeking the Lord if that’s your situation. If you ask Him, I’m sure He would provide a job in which you could take one day a week off. If it’s that important to Him (and for you) He will make a way.

Someone may say, “This whole ‘keeping the Sabbath’ sounds like legalism, brother – we are free!” Yes, we are free. We can keep it, or not keep it. If you want to work on that seventh day go right ahead - you have liberty to do so. Paul said that one person sees one day as holy and the other sees all days as holy, and that we are not to judge each other in these matters (Colossians 2:16, 17). I always want to be connected to my Source - the One who provides the strength, the energy to do His will. Personally, I haven't found His strength, energy or support for me if I choose to work on my day off. If I yield to temptation to get some work done on the Sabbath, I'm aware that I'm probably tapping in to an energy source other than Him, and I can tell that following week that something is "off."  I confess, I do this occasionally, but less and less.

Again, this is such a wonderful gift! Why would I refuse it? How silly of me to ignore His loving voice that says: “Take that day off with Me, son, - it’s my gift to you.” Yeah, pretty dumb, huh?

 



1 Response

David Pifer
David Pifer

October 12, 2023

Thx for the word on sabbath rest brother Michael. Also thank you & Lylah for the invite to your family night burger dinner! Probably pass this time but nice to keep in contact! Love & blessings, David

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