May 30, 2020

#sabbathslowdown: A Busy Sabbath Is Not the Same as a Full Sabbath

, Mid-America Union Conference Outlook

We all know the Creation story. If you believe in Creation, that is, you’ve probably heard it multiple times. God created light, sky, land, plants, sun, moon, stars, birds, fish, animals, and then humans. For so many years, I’ve heard the story again and again. To be honest, like many Bible stories, the more I heard it, the less I heard of it.

The great thing about studying the Bible, though, is that you can often learn something new if you’re willing to listen to God. You can also learn something new if you’re willing to listen to someone else who was willing to listen to God.

I experienced this recently while listening to a presentation by Ty Gibson about Creation. For the first time I realized just how God created. He followed a plan. More specifically, God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost spent Creation week creating spaces and then filling them. You see this in Scripture:

God created light on day one, and then He filled the light with things that make light and things that need the light.

He created the atmosphere—a space filled with perfect gas and perfect pressure—and then He filled it.

He created dry land and then filled the land with plants.

He created the air and the water, then placed fish, octopus, squids, and anemones in the waters, and birds and flying things of all kinds in the skies.

He created the land and then filled the land with roaming beasts.

Throughout the Creation story, God created space after space and then filled each of them.

When the work was finished, He didn’t just take a rest. He didn’t take a break and wipe His brow and move on. God created a space of time for rest. Just as He created each day for six days, God created the Sabbath, then He filled it with holiness, with sanctity, and with pleasure. God didn’t take an ordinary day and make it a holiday. He created a day specifically for that purpose, and then He filled it.

What Did God Put in the Sabbath?

According to rabbi and philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Sabbath is best described as a sanctuary in time. Instead of thinking of the Sabbath as simply a day, a 24-hour period like any other, you can think of it as you would a chapel. What is the church filled with? God’s spirit! God’s people! It’s filled with worship and joy. God’s church is filled with peace and love. It’s filled with relationships.

This is exactly what God intended when He finished the Creation week with the creation of a new space in time. He made it, and then He filled it with blessings and sanctification—and relationship! 

Genesis 2 tells us that God created the Sabbath and blessed it and rested. Mark 2 says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (see verse 27).

It doesn’t say anything in here about the Sabbath space being filled with rules, legalism, and stress. Rather, Jesus lives out the Sabbath by filling it with healing, helping, serving, and caring.

Should we carry the Sabbath blessing through the week with us? Yes. Should we stress over work and finances on the Sabbath? We probably should avoid that.

Think of it like this: imagine seven vases, one for each day of the week, on your mantel, but only six have flowers in them. You toiled in the garden and pruned and tilled, and each day you have a reward. You cut one beautiful bloom for each day’s vase on your mantel. On the seventh day, you don’t work in the garden in observance of Sabbath, but you also don’t cut your flower for your mantel. It stresses you to think about going to the garden. It makes you wonder who will see you out there. It makes you wonder how much work is too much, and whether you’ll see something on your rose bush that needs a trim.

Instead, you walk past your mantel, smiling at the six vases that are filled with flowers, and then your face falls as you pass the seventh one, empty. That stresses you too!

I like to imagine that if Jesus Himself were present, He’d march right out there and bring in a whole bouquet for your Sabbath vase. He’d kiss your brow to take away the stress. He’d sit down and wipe your tears as you turn from strain to happiness.

It may be just a silly illustration, but the restrictions and legalism we place on such a beautiful gift as the Sabbath all too often steal the joy.

The next time something you do or don’t do fills your Sabbath with stress, remember the vases and the flowers. Take a minute and think about Jesus. If it were just you and Him, what would you do for yourself, your family, and your Sabbath?

The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook.