Rest and relaxation are not optional. Rest was never meant to be a luxury, but a necessity for growth, maturity, and health. Rest is so important that God included it in the Ten Commandments. We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it. The Sabbath was made for man because God knows that our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being demands periodic breaks. The old proverb is true, “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart.”
The Sabbath reminds us that life has a rhythm. When you listen to an orchestra, all the parts work together in harmony. The music has balance and rhythm. Without rhythm, the music is awkward and out of sync. It just doesn’t flow right.
Have you ever felt as if your life isn’t flowing right, as if you’ve lost the rhythm? To have rhythm in your life, four ingredients are necessary: rest, worship, play, and work. Too many of us change and reverse these ingredients and end up with work, work, work, and perhaps a little play. Gordon Dahl wrote, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.” Or to keep with our metaphor, their lifestyles resemble a song in dire need of rhythm.
The Sabbath renews our reverence of God. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8 NIV). “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen. 2:3 NIV). The Sabbath is a holy day because it is God’s.
This usually raises some questions like these: “Does that mean it’s all right to watch television on Sunday? Is it all right to go to a ballgame on Sunday? Can we eat out, read the newspaper, play softball, or go grocery shopping on Sunday?” Those are good questions. The only thing wrong with them is that you have asked the wrong person. It’s not my day. It’s the Lord’s Day. Ask him, “Lord, how can I honor you on this day?
The word holy literally means set apart. Let me encourage you to set apart one day a week as a Sabbath to reverence God and rest your bodies. When you do, you not only gain a physical and emotional benefit, but a spiritual benefit as well.
The Sabbath renews our reliance on God. The Sabbath is a testimony of trust. Perhaps one reason we hurry so much, has little to do with poor time management or economic necessity, as much as it does with faith in God. Perhaps we simply do not believe that God will be true to his word. Perhaps we are not confident that God will take care of our needs.
There’s the story of the two birds perched high above a busy city watching all the people busily scurrying from one activity to another. The Robin said to the Sparrow, “Why do those humans scurry to and fro?” “Perhaps,” said the Sparrow, “they do not realize they have a heavenly Father like ours that cares for them so.”
The Sabbath restores our souls. Do you remember snow days? As a child, when it snowed, you would get up in the morning and immediately turn on the radio to see if school was going to be closed, and when it was canceled, you rejoiced. You had a free day, completely unplanned, in which you could do anything you wanted. It was a gift.
We need to create our own snow days, or at least some snow time. We need blocks of time on a regular basis to recharge our souls, or as the Africans would say, to let our souls catch up with our bodies, in order to remain free of burnout and breakdown. That time, that snow day, is the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is a day of remembrance. The Sabbath is more than simply resting our bodies. It’s greater than merely restoring our souls. It’s higher than recharging our minds. The Sabbath is foremost a day of remembering God’s role in our lives. Remembering, worshipping, and resting are acts of contemplation. Yet in the midst of our busyness, we are starved for contemplation. We need that time to remember what God has done for us in our lives. First and foremost, the price he paid for our salvation, and then every good and perfect gift that comes from the Father. Let’s remember him.
Rest is not just a psychological convenience; it is a spiritual and biological necessity. “Remember the Sabbath” is more than simply a lifestyle suggestion. It is a commandment, an ethical precept as serious as prohibitions against killing, stealing, and lying. To forget it is dangerous—personally, morally, and socially.