Posted by: Philip Rushton | July 29, 2013

Sabbath and Freedom

In my sermon yesterday, I made reference to the idea that the purpose of Sabbath is to experience freedom. This connection is made for us in the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:12-15 where it says,

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy . . . 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.”

It is significant that the command to observe Sabbath includes specific instructions to remember that God is our deliverer. This is what makes rest possible. Our ability to cease striving is predicated on the belief that God is in control. If God is our deliverer and sustainer, then maybe we do not have to work ourselves so hard!

Timothy Keller applies this idea to our situation writing:

“God ties the Sabbath to freedom from slavery. . . Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave—to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest. Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.”(1)

Klaus Blockmuel makes a similar point when he writes, “The Sabbath frees us from the relentless demands of careerism and the choking grip of fear.”

As Christians, I think it is important for us to recognize that Jesus does not do away with Sabbath. Sometimes we are uncertain about this because he often gets in trouble for breaking the Sabbath in the gospels. However, I believe that Jesus gets in trouble for trying to recover the spirit of Sabbath. Jesus heals on the Sabbath and provides food for his disciples on the Sabbath because the day is supposed to be about healing, refreshment, and deliverance.

As a follow up to yesterday’s sermon I thought I’d throw out a couple of questions for you to think about.

1. What makes it most difficult for you to practice Sabbath?
2. What would you have to do to create a real Sabbath in your life?
3. What counts as time off?
4. How might the practice of Sabbath be beneficial in your life and relationships?

Victoria sent me a great quote about Sabbath yesterday. Wayne Muller, in his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, writes, “The world aches for the generosity of well-rested people.” This suggests that Sabbath is not only beneficial for us but also for those we interact with!

(1) The Timothy Keller quote is taken from a great article titled “Wisdom and Sabbath Rest.” If you want to explore this theme in more depth I’d encourage you to check out the whole article by clicking here.

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Responses

  1. Just curious.. if you believe that Scripture tells you to keep the Sabbath, and Christ kept the Sabbath (albeit differently than the Pharisees), then do you keep the seventh-day Sabbath as directed in the commandments, and as Jesus did?

    • The move from Saturday to Sunday, in regards to the day of worship, has both biblical and historical support. Check out http://www.catholic.com/tracts/sabbath-or-sunday or http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/f/sundayworship.htm for an interesting overview of these biblical texts.

      At the end of the day I find that the New Testament writers were not overly concerned about the day on which things happened. Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6, for example, “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.”

      He makes a similar point in Galatians 2:16, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

      • If our Creator set aside the seventh-day for rest, renewal, worship, why not keep that day? Why change it to the first day of the week?

  2. I respect the opinion of those who find Saturday to be an important day to celebrate the Sabbath. To get overly hung up on this issue, however, seems to be an example of the type of legalism surrounding the Sabbath that Jesus tends to confront over and over in the gospel. The goal of Sabbath is to provide rest and renewal. This goal does not seem compromised if it is practiced on a different day.

    The benefit of having a day that all people practice Sabbath on is that it provides social support in this challenging practice. In that case, if the majority of believers are practicing on a specific day it can reinforce the practice. For the majority of Christians this day has become Sunday, and so the social aspect of Sabbath may be more helpful on that day.

    I actually practice Sabbath on Friday because as a pastor Sunday is a heavy work day for me.


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