A New Kind of Sabbath Rest

A New Kind of Sabbath Rest

by Cathee Poulsen

The surrounding air is redolent with lemony magnolia and gardenia blooms. It’s spring in Florida. Blue skies and golden sunshine abound and my heart prepares for a new season.

Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.

~Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Most of my Christian life, I’ve regarded “Sabbath” as something archaic and no longer relevant to following Jesus. I’ve admired the Jewish practice of Friday shabbat. Shabbat or Shabbos, or the Sabbath is Judaism’s day of rest and seventh day of the week based on God’s command in Genesis 2:

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. ESV

Or as one of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. NIV

Keeping Company with Jesus

My thoughts for this post do not lean so much towards theology as they do towards our need to make rest realistic in our everyday lives. More along the lines of these words of Jesus:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, MSG

Maybe you already know that according to Hebrews 4 there remains a rest for the people of God. And that in all reality, Jesus Himself is our rest. That’s the theology of it. But the practical side is that most of us are still tired of living with unrest in our souls. We’re lonely and hungry for something deeper and richer than we’ve yet experienced. This is the Sabbath I’m talking about.

Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation

Whatever Sabbath means, it includes space we create in our lives to be intentional about rest. God didn’t rest from His works because He was tired. He rested as an example for us to take time away from the weekly routine. Time for physical refreshment, time to be with those we love, time for stillness.

There is no specific technique for practicing Sabbath, but here are a few suggestions for assuring you have time to be still for an extended period in your week. A day, a few hours at least, to mark the hours differently than you do the rest of the week. Your Sabbath can be any day of the week. In the Bible it was Saturday.

  • Set aside time on Thursday or Friday to plan your food for the weekend. The goal is not to cook on whatever day you choose to practice your Sabbath. For us, it’s Sunday.
  • Drag out the Crock-Pot or Instant Pot for a one pot meal that’s ready for lunch and use paper plates. Skip the dishwashing. Or order pizza or takeout. No heavy cooking allowed so that you can make your meal about togetherness. Later in the evening you might want to create a simple dessert or sandwiches with your children. Often for us, it’s a fried egg sandwich.
  • Refrain from using your Sabbath to catch up on unfinished business, laundry or errands.
  • Take a nap. Bob and I have napped on Sunday almost all our married life. 56 years now. Everyone knows that is sacred for us on Sundays.
  • Get outside if at all possible. Set on your deck, or drive to water — a lake, the Gulf, the ocean, a stream — and drink in the peaceful sound of the water and wildlife. Let the cares of the week melt away. Stay put until you feel the tensions ease.
  • Your Sabbath can be as simple or as elaborate as you’ve planned in advance. Some weeks I have to accept that I’m too tired to plan for a special meal. Other times I’ve preset the table with napkins, silver, and a lovely centerpiece.
  • A. W. Tozer’s words embody the heart of this kind of celebration: “It is the spirit that gives significance to matter and apart from spirit nothing has any value at last.”

At the End of the Day

When you think about it, the only thing that lasts of this life are relationships. Our relationship with Jesus primarily, but because of that one, we are connected to so many other wonderful people. Sabbath is the time to practice the art of lingering, doing things together we don’t have time for in the week. Playing a game, reading a favorite story, watching a movie that depicts gladness and restoration.

Often in Jesus ministry He asked the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” In your moments apart from the ordinary schedule, this is a good time to talk to Him about that. If you’re tired and worn out, tell Him about it. If you’re heavy-hearted about a loved one, let Him know how you feel. Ask Him to enable you to commit to a weekly Sabbath rest that extracts you from your usual hours. A day just to enjoy God, your surroundings, your loved ones. And as you do this faithfully, I think you’ll find it spills over into other days so that you remember more often that He alone is your rest.

Each culture seems to have a word they use for toasting at a celebration. The Italian and Spanish word is Salud. If you’re Irish, it’s Sláinte.  In Hebrew, the language of the Bible, it’s L’Chaim. “To life!” 

Let’s raise a glass to this life of ours which is immeasurably more than we can think or imagine, and to the One who made it possible.

For further study on this topic:

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller

Spiritual Rhythms by Mark Buchanan

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Comments

  1. Ellis Naegele

    Perfect for me!
    Thank you Cathee
    xoxox
    I am going to see Hillsong tonight at the Hertz Arena. They are a very special group from Australia.

  2. Lynne Jones Lawler

    Oh how I needed this, Cathee!
    I’m afraid that I am still learning to really
    “rest”. The Sabbath is a precious gift from
    our loving Father-thank you for reminding
    me.
    Love & Hugs~
    Lynnie

  3. Really great words. Thanx for the reminder.

  4. Good one, Catwoman.

  5. Great reminder. Mondays are my sabbath and I guard that day carefully. Me and Jesus. That’s it.
    Love it.

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