Holy Symbol by Jim Baker
It appears that we have forgotten the nature and definition of Sabbath, though it is a pattern written by God into the very core of our beings. While Sabbath can refer to a single day, as in the Jewish tradition, it can also serve as a larger metaphor for cultivating the qualities, customs, and practices of Sabbath keeping found in the wholistic definition of Sabbath.
The metaphor of a diamond captures two key points I wish to make about Sabbath. First, like a diamond, Sabbath truly shines only when it is polished regularly. To fully experience the benefits of Sabbath, it must be practiced regularly. Certainly on the first day of the week, as for most Christians, but I also propose Sabbath can be observed as a Sabbath morning, a Sabbath afternoon, a Sabbath hour, a Sabbath walk, or even a Sabbath moment.
Secondly, like a diamond Sabbath has many facets. I want to explore four of those facets, or definitions of Sabbath found in the Bible – Ceasing, Resting, Reflecting, and Delighting.
So, let us explore the Sabbath, not in a legalistic sense, but in a way that is practical and accessible to everyone. I hope and pray that you will integrate some of these practices into your own lifestyle and discover your own unique pathway for observing and enjoying Sabbath.
The Sabbath Diamond: Ceasing, Resting, Reflecting, and Delighting
The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant as a sign between me [the Lord] and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he ceased and was refreshed. Exodus 31:16-17
Our word, Sabbath, comes from the Hebrew verb, Shabbat, which primarily means “to cease, desist, or stop.”
Sabbath Ceasing Examples: Cease from……….
- Working, producing, achieving, and accomplishing
- Buying, selling, collecting, possessing, and accumulating
- Anxiety, worry, and tension
- Activities that feel like work
- Trying to fix things (trying to be God)
Sabbath Ceasing Practices:
- Find a place at work where you can be alone for a few minutes
- Take a day off
- Take a vacation
- Take a soul care retreat
- Take off your watch
- Don’t look at your calendar for a day
- Don’t make a to do list for a day
- Prepare a Sabbath Box and put in it your watch, phone, keys, wallet, eye glasses
- Fast from a food, an appliance, device, email, social media
- Prune, thin, give away something that has become unnecessary
- Don’t watch or read the news
- PURPOSE: TO CEASE SO THAT YOU CAN BE MORE IN TUNE WITH GOD
There are six days when you may work, but the seventh is a Sabbath of rest……..Leviticus 23:3
But during the seventh year, you must let the land rest [have a Sabbath].—Leviticus 25:4
Another meaning of the Hebrew verb, Shabbat, is that of rest.
Sabbath Resting examples: Rest our………….
- Bodies (physical rest)
- Emotions (psychological rest)
- Minds (intellectual rest)
- Souls (spiritual rest)
- Relationships (social rest)
Sabbath Resting Practices:
- Sleep late
- Wake up but don’t get up
- Take an afternoon nap
- Watch a movie
- Read something easy that doesn’t stimulate your mind
- Enjoy a hobby
- Stay inside all day
- Sit by a fire
- Porch sit
- PURPOSE: TO REST SO YOU WILL BE RENEWED
I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.—Psalm 77:12
I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways.—Psalm 119:15
Sabbath is not just ceasing and resting but also meditating and reflecting.
Sabbath Reflecting examples: Reflect upon………
- God’s Word
- Prayers (scripture prayers, reading prayers of others aloud, writing out prayers)
- Your natural rhythms (when do I have energy and focus and when do I not?)
- Intentionality (where do I need to be more purposeful?)
- Giving (what can I give? How can I give?)
- Time (how am I using my time?)
- Others (who do I need to invest in? Who do I need to invest in me?)
- The world (what is God calling me to do to impact my world?)
- Confession and Repentance (where is there sin in my life that I need to confess and repent?)
- Forgiveness (who do I need to forgive? Who do I need to ask forgiveness from?)
- His Plans (What is God’s good and perfect and pleasing will; where have I seen His hand?)
- Fruits of the Spirit (when did I demonstrate fruits and when did I not?)
Sabbath Reflecting Practices:
- Silence and Solitude (prerequisites to reflection)
- Reflect on God’s Word (in various ways – silently, read aloud, meditate on different translations or passages, such as the Sermon on the Mount)
- Read and reflect on other spiritual writings (get outside your norm)
- Reflective Prayer (what do I need to pray about, who do I need to pray for?)
- Physical and Symbolic Cleansing (what do I need to cleanse my heart, mind, and body of?)
- Minister to someone that God places on your heart (listen!)
- Reflect on what you can give away
- Story telling (sharing when and where God showed up)
- Take Communion
- Schedule Sabbath moments after work meetings to reflect on what transpired and next steps
- Ask: Where have I seen God working? What is He teaching me?
- PURPOSE: TO REFLECT SO YOU CAN HEAR THAT STILL QUIET VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
“If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy and delight, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there – Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!” Isaiah 58:13-14
Sabbath keeping involves not only ceasing, resting and reflecting but also delighting (The word delight is found 110 times in scripture).
EXAMPLES: Delight in………..
- God’s Word
- God’s Beauty
- God’s Creation
- Reverence and Awe
Sabbath Delighting Practices:
- Read an entire book in one sitting
- Read scripture, a hymn book, or liturgy
- Worship – somewhere unfamiliar
- Listen to, sing, write music
- Enjoy beauty – the arts, museums, and galleries
- Enjoy Nature – walks, hikes, gardens, parks, the zoo
- Bless someone – write a note – make a visit
- Cook your favorite meal or go to your favorite restaurant
- Enjoy a hobby
- Take a sightseeing trip
- Schedule a date night with your spouse
- PURPOSE: DELIGHT SO YOU WILL BE REMINDED TO BE THANKFUL FOR GOD’S BLESSINGS
In 1801 William Wilberforce, a member of the English Parliament and leader of the anti-slavery movement, encountered a severe spiritual crisis. The core issue was political ambition. The struggles began with the election of a new prime minister, Henry Addington. The rumor mill had Wilberforce on the A-list for possible cabinet members. Wilberforce later described himself as “intoxicated with rising ambition.”
It was on a Sunday when he finally confronted his ambition. At the end of a day of worship, solitude, and reflection Wilberforce wrote, “Blessed be to God for the day of rest and religious occupation wherein earthly things assume their true size. Ambition is stunted!”
In this brief comment Wilberforce references the great secret of his personal life: his commitment to withdraw from the demands of public life so that he could engage with God. Like Wilberforce, Sabbath keeping can become our greatest spiritual resource by creating an oasis of sacred time and a refuge for our souls within the relentless busyness of our modern lives.