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  • Amber

Keeping the Sabbath

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word, “שָׁבַת”, or “šòḇaṯ”, which means ‘to rest’. It’s easy to see the correlation as the Sabbath originated from the creation story where God takes a day of rest. It was then listed in the ten commandments to “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.” (Exodus 10.8 CEB)


I have often heard the Sabbath being simplified as ‘not doing any work’, and I think that definition carries as the basic understanding for most people. There are certainly people still today that take this practice to heart, and that did seem to be the widely accepting meaning in Jesus’ time, given how the pharisees would complain when Jesus ‘worked’ on the Sabbath. It was such a prevalent discussion that it appears in every Gospel. (Mathhew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-17, Luke 6:1-11, John 5:1-18)


This was one of the cases where the pharisees held so tightly to the strict interpretations they had of the codes and laws of the Old Testament that they failed to see the spirit of the laws. Jesus clearly states that there is plenty of room for doing good on the Sabbath, or that there obviously is work done on that day, regardless of their laws.


There were people then, and now, that did not have the luxury of taking a full day of rest. There were animals to care for, food to make, fields to tend, livelihoods at stake. Not to mention any emergencies that could arise.


Nowadays, “keeping the Sabbath” seems a little antiquated, at least in the society we live in, despite it being one of the ten commandments. Most stores are open seven days a week, requiring those employees to work on Sundays (or Saturdays). There are plenty of people that wouldn’t even know what to do with themselves if they could truly do no labor for a full day, they’re so used to being busy.


Thankfully, Jesus offers an alternative. In Matthew 11.28 he says: “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (CEB)


As opposed to a day of rest, Jesus offers himself. We should honor the rest that he gives us. We should take an opportunity to set aside a time, a day, to focus on him and what he has given us. Going to church, praying, turning your thoughts to him as you labor because you must. Do not worry that you cannot “honor the Sabbath” by not working, know that you can still honor it by honoring Jesus himself.


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