Two men worked each day cutting down trees. Each day they would work the same number of hours. The first man worked non-stop from nine until five with only a short break for lunch. The second man worked nine to five as well, but would stop fifteen minutes of each hour in addition to his short break for lunch. At the end of the day the first man was stunned that the second had always cut down more trees. After a while, he demanded from his friend to know what his secret was. How could the second man work so much less but accomplish so much more? The second man told him, "Don't you know? I stop each hour to sharpen my axe."
In Sabbath time we take our hand off the plow, and allow God and the earth to care for what is needed...If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath - our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us...Our unwillingness to practice Sabbath is really an unwillingness to live within the limits of our humanity, to honor our finiteness. We cling to some sense that we are indispensable and that the world cannot go on without us even for a day. Or we feel that certain activities are more significant than the delights that God is wanting to share with us. (Wayne Mueller, Sabbath)
Read: Isaiah 58: 13-14
13 If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and calling the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
As human beings, our bodies and souls respond to rhythms - night and day, three meals each day, the four seasons, and the seasons of life, for example. The Sabbath was given to people as a gift (Exodus 16:29). It's more than just taking a day off to rest. It's a way of ordering one's life around a pattern of living - six days to work, one day to rest. God himself gives us the model in Genesis 1-2. The Sabbath day was designed to be set apart for rest, worship, and delighting in God.
Sabbath honors our need for a sane rhythm of work and rest. It recognizes the body's need for rest and the spirit's need for replenishment. Charles Spurgeon wrote that people should care for themselves by "resting and taking a day off and opening ourselves to the healing powers that God has put in the world of nature."
Sabbath acknowledges that we are not God. We are creatures, God is the creator. He is the only one who is infinite. He can do anything. He can be all things to all people. He can be in two places at once. We can't. He never needs sleep. We do. So why do we live like we can and don't?
Sabbath is for our pleasure and for enjoying God. It allows our soul to delight in God for God's own sake. The heart of Sabbath is that we cease our work so that we can rest and delight in God and in God's good gifts. In biblical times it included gathering with God's people for worship and reading God's Word. It was a time set aside to enjoy fellowship and rest as a family. It was sacred communal space.
Think about the rhythms of your life. How do you balance the need for sharpening your axe with work, family and the demands of life? If you don't set aside a day for Sabbath each week, why don't you? What keeps you from it? What are you missing by not taking time for something so vital God himself modeled it?
Set aside a day for Sabbath rest (it doesn't have to be Sunday - for people in ministry that is not a restful day!). The way you spend the day will be as unique as you are. But some ideas to include:
- Activities that rest and replenish your body - a walk, nap, favorite foods.
- Activities that replenish your spirit and bring you joy - reading books, playing or listening to music, cooking, painting, artwork.
- Activities that allow you to connect more deeply with God. This is the deepest refreshment and the area that gets squeezed out most often during the week. It comes primarily through things like worship and quiet reflection. On your Sabbath, take extra time to be with God in an intentional way.