May 2, 2021
When Callie and I were moving from Seattle to Dillon some 2.5 years or so ago, I think I had this idea that life would be slower and simpler in a small town, and that we’d be saying goodbye to the hustle and bustle of big city life. And in some ways, I think that’s been true. Gone are the days of sitting in traffic, there are fewer stores open on Sundays, and you rarely ever have to wait in line for anything here. I remember when Callie and I went to DMV for the first time here I wondered if we were in the right place because there was no line to wait in – I was used to the deli counter method where you take a number, sit for an hour and wait for your number to be called. And so, yes, in some ways things are slower and simpler here.
But yet, but yet, I think I also came in with this belief that people’s daily lives would be slower and simpler as well, that people would have more free time, more margin in their everyday life. And what I learned over time is that I could not have been more wrong. In fact, in my experience, I’ve found just the opposite. Here I’ve found some of the busiest, most jam packed scheduled people I’ve ever met, whether it be due to the demands and responsibilities of work and home or whatever else.
Now, I don’t share all this with the intent to critique or scold, but rather to simply set the stage for the importance of our message today. This morning, we’re going to be talking about the Sabbath, an often neglected biblical command and practice, where one day a week, we as God’s people are called to step away from our regular work and take a day of rest. And my hope is that over these next few minutes, you and I would see all over again, or maybe for the first time, the gift and blessing and necessity that the Sabbath really is.
We’re in between sermon series right now, next week we’ll start a new series on the life of King David, but before that we’ll have today’s message on the Sabbath, in part for the reasons just explained but also because if not, we would have found ourselves studying David and Goliath on Mother’s Day. And a story about two men fighting on Mother’s Day just doesn’t feel quite right ☺
Anyway, as for today, let’s talk about the Sabbath, and yet before we do, I want to acknowledge that one of the challenges with this topic is that it hits us in all sorts of different ways depending on where we’re at in life.
Some may be unemployed or underemployed, and so to talk about the Sabbath feels like a punch in the gut, because you’re thinking, “C’mon, I don’t need Sabbath, I need work.”
Some are retired, and so Sabbath may feel like something that was only relevant back in the days of working a full time job.
Some work in professions such as education or agriculture, professions where you just kind of have sprint through short and long seasons, whether it be in education, the clock is ticking and the papers don’t grade themselves or how in agriculture, the animals couldn’t care less what day it is, you still have to feed them.
Some are young parents, up all night, tired all day, thinking, “Sabbath, really? You know I’m still a parent over the weekend as well, right?”
The point is this: This topic hits everyone differently, some of things I’m about to say or suggest will be relevant and apply to you, others maybe not so much. And so, maybe just simply ask that the Holy Spirit helps you hear what you need to hear this morning.
Alright, side note over. First, let’s briefly set the framework. What is the Sabbath anyway, and why does it exist?
In short, throughout the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to take a Sabbath, where, one day a week, God’s people would step away from their regular work and take a day of rest. The Sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments and its origin goes back to the very beginning of the bible, where it was first modeled by God Himself when God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, in fact, that’s the very basis given for the Sabbath from the passage we read from in Exodus. That just as God worked six days and rested on the seventh, so too should we.
That, in a nutshell, is the Sabbath. Here you have maybe the simplest, most straightforward, easiest to obey of all the commands, and yet, so many people struggle to actually take one. Instead, we just keep on working, we just keep on doing. Doesn’t matter who you are, young or old, men or women, big city or small town, white collar or blue collar, so many of us struggle to actually heed God’s word and take a regular Sabbath. Now, what’s that all about?
Here, there are likely a number of reasons and some are rather simple. For example, sometimes we struggle to take a Sabbath, because there’s simply too much to do, and too little time. Others, have employers that demand too much of them. For others, it’s a time management problem, where we fail to steward our time effectively during the week and so it spills over into the weekend.
Sometimes the reasons are rather simple, but yet, other times our struggle to take the Sabbath is rooted in underlying heart issues lurking beneath the surface.
For some, it’s an identity thing. Work is all we know, and we don’t know who we are or what we would do without it.
For some, it’s a dependency thing, we love the feeling of being needed. The feeling of “the show must go on and the show won’t go on without me.”
For some, it’s to gain some kind of approval or praise. You know that if you put more hours in and work into the weekend your co-workers will notice and give you credit for a job well done or a job done faster. Personally, as a pastor and parent, I’ve noticed an interesting and scary tension at play in my own life. Where I love my kids and love being with them and yet I also have this at times unhealthy desire for praise and approval, where I want to chase what you might call that “thank you” feeling. And though I love my kids and I love being with them, my kids aren’t really all that capable of thanking me, but yet church members can. In fact, parenting is often thankless work. And sometimes, in an unhealthy and I would even say, in an idolatrous way, I try and chase that feeling through my work.
Friends, if you struggle to take a regular Sabbath, are you able to put your finger on why that is? That might be the most important part of today’s message. Are you able to identify the underlying heart issues as to why you struggle to take one? Oddly enough, and this is probably by God’s wonderful design, the way to address and chip away at those underlying heart issues is by obeying and taking the Sabbath itself.
So with that said, let’s discuss the how to’s, if you will, of the Sabbath.
Here’s the first step towards taking and enjoying the Sabbath:
Pray and Prioritize
If you’re feeling swamped and overwhelmed, ask this question. Is there anything you are currently doing that you can delegate or share with someone else so that you can keep the Sabbath and in doing so serve God, serve your family, and take care of yourself? Take that question to God in prayer. God, is there something I’m doing right now that I don’t have to be doing, and is there someone in my life that can carry this with me?
One of my biggest ah-ha moments in ministry came a few years ago at my previous church after I delegated a key project to a younger staff member. I knew that I didn’t have the time and energy to pull it off and I really believed that this person was better suited and gifted to take on the project. And as she was working on this project she said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said, “Thank you for trusting me with this project.” Pretty cool, right?
Now, to be clear, I don’t share this story with you to make myself look great, because here’s the kicker. She was better at it than me! She was better suited for the project than I was!!
And in the end, everybody won. I won as I let stuff go. She won as she was trusted and set up to take on a meaningful project. And the body of Christ won as God’s people bring their God given gifts to serve the church. Win, win, win.
Is there anything you are currently doing that you can delegate so that you can keep the Sabbath and in doing so serve God, serve your family, and take care of yourself?
One of the beautiful and humbling things about the Sabbath is that it runs against the “I need to be needed” dependency idol. Because what we find when we take a day off is that the earth keeps spinning, things keep moving, even while we rest. I had this reminder a couple weeks ago when Caleb was born, knowing that I’d be away for a week or so, and I thought to myself, “Oh gosh, will the church be okay without me?” All while each and every day I walk by a sign that says, “serving our community since 1888.” It’s as if God was saying to me, Daniel, this church has existed for 130+ years, it’ll be just fine without you for a week, thank you very much … “
Pray and prioritize. Let stuff go, let’s others carry the load with you, God will keep things moving while you rest. Pray and prioritize.
Now here’s the second.
Take a Sabbath
Moses, the author of both Exodus and Deuteronomy says, 8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
One of the primary uses of the word “holy” is set apart, distinct or different. That is, Sabbath should feel and be different than other six days, for while on the other six days we work, on this day, we rest.
As for the practical realities and exact details around the Sabbath day itself and how you spend it – here’s the big idea – “Do what brings you and others life and helps you connect with Jesus.”
So on the Sabbath, do what gives you life! For me, it’s hiking and jogging around the High Trails outside of town sometimes with Noah, sometimes by myself, while listening to a sports or ministry related podcast.
Do what gives you life. Play a video game. Journal. Read scripture. Make beautiful art. Be with your family. Make a homemade meal, follow a recipe. Read a book while your kids watch a movie. Give yourself the permission to be inefficient. Make an actual phone call. Stay away from your work email. Take a long walk. Take off your watch and forget about the time. Pray. Order takeout and don’t feel like you have to apologize for it.
Above all, do what brings you life and helps you connect with Jesus.
And for what it’s worth, it’s not really all that important which day of the week you take a Sabbath. Some will say it’s got to be Sunday, but yet so many people in our world today, and many in our church, work on Sundays, and understandably so. I think that Jesus would tell us that to get overly caught up in such technicalities is to miss the point.
And if you feel that you taking a whole day is impossible, then, at the very least, create Sabbath moments for yourself. Maybe it’s using the time in the car as a chance to pray or reflect. Maybe it’s finding an hour or two or four rather than a whole day. And if that’s where you need to start, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
After all, Jesus said, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is a gift from a good and gracious God for our benefit, a gift to be enjoyed, not a hoop for us to jump through or another accomplishment for us to check off our to do list.
Friends, take a Sabbath.
Give Sabbath Away
Notice one of the details given God gave the Israelites the Sabbath long ago, saying …
On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.
Now, while none of us have servants and only some of us have animals under our care, the principle remains – how can we ensure that others, whether employees, families, friends, neighbors, can experience Sabbath rest as well?
How can you give Sabbath to others? How can you create rest and Sabbath like moments for others?
For the record, you all do this in spades. For example, when you bring a meal over to our house as we adjust to life with a newborn, you are taking one more thing off our to do list and helping us get some Sabbath rest.
For what it’s worth, here are a few other examples …
Do you have a vacation home or guest house that could be a place of rest and a weekend away for someone who desperately needs it?
Can we offer yard work or basic home maintenance to our widows and older members, accomplishing tasks that are simple for some, but take more time and energy for others?
Married couples, if one of you is always at home, can you do stuff around the house so that your spouse can get time away from it?
Parents, can you help free up your students from some activity or responsibility that they don’t really need?
Give Sabbath Away.
Alright we’ll finish with this:
Resting in Christ
Ultimately, the Sabbath doesn’t simply serve the purpose of providing rest for our bodies, but also rest for our souls.
A spiritual training exercise that serves the purpose of identity formation by reminding us of who we are.
Our culture will tell you that “the quality and quantity of your work is the measure of your worth.” Let me say that again. “The quality and quantity of your work, your resume, your transcript is the measure of your worth.”
The Sabbath, a day where we accomplish very little if anything, is one of the means God uses to say, “No, it’s not.” The Sabbath is a bold statement to our culture, that says “No, it’s not.” The quality and quantity of our work is not the measure of our worth.”
Way back when, God’s people were slaves in Egypt, where they never had a Sabbath, where they worked day in day out, oppressed by Pharoah and the Egyptians, where their whole existence was based around how much they could get done, by how much they could accomplish.
And years later when God reminded them to keep the Sabbath, he gives them this reason as specified in Deuteronomy,
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
God is saying, you can rest because your identity is not found in what you have done. No, it’s found in what I have done for you.”
Yes, the Sabbath is rest for our bodies, but even more it’s rest for our heart and mind and soul.
And for us as followers of Jesus, the Sabbath is a day where we do no work because of the work Jesus did for us.
Where on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Where Jesus says, “You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough.” The Sabbath ought to remind us that the most important work of all has already been done when Jesus went to the Cross.
So First Pres …
Wherever you work, whether it be in an office or out on a farm, inside or outside, morning or night, for six days, work hard and on that 7th day rest, because the quality and quantity of your work is not the measure of your worth.
If you’re a stay at home parent, work hard. For six days, work hard, teach and raise your kids with everything you’ve got for the glory of God and on that 7th day rest, because the quality and quantity of your work is not the measure of your worth.
If you’re a kid or a student, work hard. For six days, work hard. Find things that you love learning about, give it your all out on the sports field, or in choir or drama, or whatever it is that you love to do, and then on that 7th day rest, do what brings you life because the quality and quantity of your work is not the measure of your worth.
And on Friday, when I take my weekly Sabbath, Noah and I will go for a hike, I’ll pray and read and take things slow, and maybe get a couple things done around the house but not much more because the quality and quantity of my work is not the measure of my worth.
Friends, whenever you find yourself wanting to bury yourself in your work fix your eyes upon what Christ did for us at the Cross. That’s the true measure of our worth.
You see, it’s not until we know that inside and out that we can truly rest and enjoy the Sabbath for what it is.