Sabbatical Lesson 1

The Scriptures teach that God requires a Sabbath.

For some reason its easy to read over that God required the Sabbath to be kept in perpetuity. Now I get the massive theological and kingdom issues inside/outside/underneath/around Sabbath. But God made Sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath. Jesus said that.

We have a tendency to think (I really, maybe not so much we) that we can work, take a partial day off once a week for years on end and it not affect us. Not true.

There were times when I was working three jobs (church included in that). And, Sunday is not an off day for pastors. It’s the most busy and emotionally hard work days of the week.

We have done that for 16 years. I’ve only been “full-time” at TRC for three years. Jennifer and I rode to church last week together for the first time in 16 years. Shameful. But, unfortunately, necessary. Kids, stuff to do to make sure Sunday happens for hundreds of others. It has to happen.

I was tired inside and out. Other are currently tired inside and out. Others need a lengthy break. But I asked for it, and I’m a few days into it.

Tasks are still coming at me, but I’m pushing them back and to the correct people. I expect that’ll lessen in the next few days.

Here is a little lesson I’ve learned so far.

Sabbath is a “derivation of a Hebrew word which means ‘cease’ or ‘desist.’ The sabbath was a day (from Friday evening until Saturday evening in Jesus’ time) when all ordinary work stopped. The Scriptures relate that God gave his people the sabbath as an opportunity to serve him, and as a reminder of two great truths in the Bible—creation and redemption.”[1]

Ceasing from work was to teach that God is the big C Creator, and he is the big S Savior.

As image bearers we are sent to manage created order, and in doing so we get to create. We don’t make things from nothing as God did, but we do get to take his raw materials and produce things. This is an image of God gift we have. When we work, we are creating. As image bearers who are now sinners it is now easy to trip into idolatry. We can begin to think our creating, our labor is more vital than it is. God, knowing this, instituted the Sabbath as a gift to make us rest and to know that he is the big C Creator. They would cease work, and whatever did not get done God made up the slack. He made it last. The end result: God is great!

The Sabbath was a glorious reminder that God was necessary, and our labor secondary. Important, but secondary.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Sabbath also leads us to understand where our saving comes from. Again, as image bearers and sinners, we can tend to take our responsibilities too far. We think we can save ourselves by our law keeping. But we are reminded that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. We enter into Christ by faith and cease striving to please God because Jesus satisfies all righteousness for us, and shows us God’s pleasure in us as sons and daughters.

Sabbath forces us to cease striving to earn God’s favor and know God for who he is in Christ to adopt us as his kids. This one is not hard for me. The whole work / labor / rest thing is one of my little idols I like to keep hidden under a nice Christian t-shirt. J

I’m an activator. Ready, fire, aim is my motto. The truth in shooting is that one can’t site in any firearm without first putting a round down range and then adjusting based on optics and other factors. But one has to send a round down range. Fire, then dial it in. Ready, fire, aim.

Yes, I know that God also made other giftings that round that activator greatness out, but my point is that I  like to start things, get them moving, and guide them to mission success helping to maximize the other strengths around me. The dark side of that activator is that I can see myself as too necessary.

The truth of the Sabbath is that God is necessary, and I am loved and cared for, but I’m not necessary. I know that may sound harsh to some, but that is a tremendous and glorious load off of an activator’s shoulders.

One of my problems is that I can make stuff happen, and I can make it quite good. Problem? Where does what I can produce and what God desires to give through Sabbath part ways?

We are taught over and over again in Scripture to “wait on the LORD”. Activators don’t wait. We are “ready, fire, aim”. We get stuff done, but sometimes what we get done is only what we can get done. We work. Get stuff done. Make it happen, and I envision my Good Father letting me wear myself out, watching over me, and giving me that eye that says, “you ready for me to make up for what you can’t do and still have lots of strength left…there’s a better way kid.”

I’m learning that I have a role, and it is not God’s role.

Don’t misunderstand. I have never thought myself “God”. That’s dumb. However, as a chief idolater, I act like it. “If I don’t get it started or done, it won’t get started or done.” That’s shameful, but it’s sometimes what I think.

Truth is, I’m expendable, and that’s freeing!

I’m going to learn a bunch more, but that’s some of what I’ve been stewing on.

Don’t be lazy. Work like it matters for the Lord Jesus. But let’s learn to rest and trust God to make up slack, and while resting not be all tense and worried.


[1]Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Sabbath,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1874.

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