Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sabbath Contemplations

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:8-11

My family has never really kept the sabbath meticulously. Usually our Sunday schedule is as follows: we get up, rush around trying to get to church on time, go to church, come home, rush around to get Sunday lunch prepared, stuff ourselves, then laze about the whole afternoon napping or perhaps watching a movie. We eat a light snack for dinner (or nothing at all) I might do some homework that is due the next day and then we go to bed.

In the Jewish culture, the sabbath begins at sundown Friday evening. Friday afternoon is a time to prepare for the sabbath, which is the next day. All the work is hurriedly completed, the cooking done ahead of time and the house cleaned. When the sabbath begins, no work is allowed, and in the strictest of orthodox families, you can only take a certain number of steps. Only holy books are read and the family stays home all day.

Back in the 1800s, everyone went to church (which lasted about half the day). When the family arrived at home, a cold lunch was eaten and everyone (including the children) was expected to sit quietly and read their prayerbook. Sometimes the father would read aloud from a book of sermons. Most children who lived back then hated Sundays (understandably).

Though I think many of these traditions are rather legalistic, I believe the principle behind them is well-meant. For most families today, Sunday is just another Saturday for sleeping in, doing some extra shopping, going out to eat, and finishing the work that has been put off all week. Though it was meant to be a day of rest, we have forgotten what true rest is!

Rest: "Refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor...Relief or freedom from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs...Mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity."

That is what a true sabbath is supposed to be. "Relief or freedom"! How often do we spend our Sundays worrying about the week ahead--the homework that's due, the things we have to accomplish, the places we'll go? That is not what God meant the sabbath to be! He meant it to be a time of refreshment where we can seek His face and prepare ourselves for the week ahead.

The Lord has been convicting me about keeping my sabbath holy for some time. Therefore, I have resolved to try my own "sabbath experiment". For four consecutive Sundays, I will make an effort to keep the sabbath holy by...
Not watching movies or TV
Not doing homework (I will need to plan ahead and complete all homework the day before)
Not wasting my time on the computer
Staying at home
Only reading spiritual or uplifting books
And keeping all "work" to a minimum. Perhaps some small knitting or stitching projects to occupy my hands.

I realize this will be exceedingly hard and will require a lot of self-control so if you would pray for me during this time I'd appreciate it. At the end of the four weeks I hope to feel more rested, less harried, and closer to God.

I would encourage you to make an effort to keep your sabbath holy. Perhaps there is something you need to give up (or something you need to take up). Pray about it--seek the Lord. And make an effort with me to "keep the sabbath holy".


Denise said...

Very convicting. Seems I do well for a while, and then forget and slide into old habits. It's so good to start afresh with a desire to BE WITH God on His Day! Instead of just using the day to "catch up."

Prairie Princess said...

Scrolled down after I commented above, and saw this original post on the Sabbath topic. I posted a blog nearly a year ago when I felt God pulling my heart towards spending more Sabbath time with Him... maybe you'd like to read it??

I think in it's best state, observing Sabbath is about "date" time with the Lord. And that is what makes it uplifting and refreshing! :)