Remembering the Sabbath

We have chosen to close on the day most widely recognized as a day of rest, in order to allow our employees and customers more time for worship and family. This has not been an easy decision for Hobby Lobby because we realize that this decision may cost us financially. Yet we also realize that there are things more important than profits. This is a matter of principle for our company owner and officers.
– Hobby Lobby’s response to the question, “Why are you closed on Sundays?

“People appreciate you being consistent with your faith. It’s a silent witness to the Lord when people go into shopping malls, and everyone is bustling, and you see that Chick-fil-A is closed.”
Quote from Chik-fil-A’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, about closing on Sundays.

It’s so easy in today’s busy culture to forget the Sabbath. Even for those of us who go to church on Sunday morning, we often spend the rest of the day tending to our worldly affairs, e.g. shopping, doing chores, catching up on work, etc.

The Lord’s fourth commandment tells us to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8; New International Version). The Holy Spirit has been convicting me over the last few months about my disregard for the Sabbath and how I treat it just like every other day of the week. In fact, I often look at Sunday afternoons as a time to work, clean the house, do laundry, go grocery shopping, etc. But in Exodus, the Lord commanded the Israelites to:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Examining the Hebrew meaning of the words in the fourth commandment helps me better understand what I’m to do on the Sabbath. For example, how am I to “remember” it? The word “remember” is the Hebrew zakhor and suggests calling to mind or “actively focusing the mind upon something in the present” (Hebrew for Christians). So the Sabbath is a day for pondering and meditating on the sacred work of God in my life and for reflecting on His holiness. Though celebrating God as Creator of the universe is not limited to the Sabbath, on this day in particular I enjoy all He has created just as on the seventh day the Lord enjoyed all He had created in the first six days of creation.

The word “Sabbath” is connected to the Hebrew shavat, a verb meaning “to cease, desist, rest”, as in God ceased (shavat) His creative activity on the seventh day of creation. Remembering the Sabbath helps us by requiring us to rest from the cares and concerns of this world and to take a break from worldly endeavors. When I don’t stop to take a day off from my “to do” list, I become tired, worn and irritable. On the other hand, it’s amazing how refreshed and rejuvenated I feel after observing just one day of rest!

In addition to remembering the Sabbath, we are tasked with keeping it “holy”. Just what does this mean, and how do we accomplish it? The word “holy” comes from the Hebrew kedushah and means set-apartness or sanctity. Therefore, the Sabbath is a day for the sacred. Appropriate activities include resting, reflecting, worshiping, Bible study, and fellowship with believers.

For further clarification as to acceptable Sabbath activity, we can look to Jesus. It’s clear from the gospels that Jesus observed the Sabbath, and that He advocated preaching on the holy day. Mark 1:21 tells us, “When the Sabbath came, Jesus went in to the synagogue and began to teach.” And again in Mark 6:2, “When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue and many who heard him were amazed”. In Luke 4:16, we learn that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath “as was his custom”. In other words, even our Savior regularly met with his fellows for the study of God’s word. Scripture also tells us that Jesus advocated acts of mercy (Matthew 12:1-8), healing and serving (Mark 3:1-6) as God-honoring ways to keep the Sabbath holy.

The Lord has instituted His commands for our own good. I so appreciate and love that about Him! He has to save us from ourselves because He knows we have a tendency to go astray and get ourselves in trouble. Americans are especially susceptible to burnout, sickness and stress. We barely allow ourselves 1-2 weeks of vacation per year. We can literally work ourselves to death!

So much about what the Bible teaches is about living counter-culture. Over the last six months or so, I’ve tried to remain mindful to observe the Sabbath. It’s been a challenge for me because I am always seeing and thinking of work that needs to be done! But I don’t clean, do laundry or work for my job on Sundays. I don’t run errands. I spend time with my family, and I try to rest and relax and/or do something that allows me to play. But I am so far from perfect in my practice of honoring the Sabbath! This last Sunday, for example, I completely forgot what day it was, and I went to the grocery store so I could get one of my Monday chores checked off my to-do list. There’s no room for legalism here, however, so I just ask God to help me take the Sabbath as a day to honor Him and to allow Him to restore and rejuvenate me.

Beloved Warriors, we owe it to the Lord and to ourselves to observe a day of rest and reflection. We will be so much more effective for the battle if we take this time each week. As the book of Isaiah tells us, God will honor our efforts to observe the Sabbath:

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

On the Sabbath and everyday, we remember that our help comes from Him! Enjoy this song by for King & Country.

References:

“Frequently Asked Questions.“ Hobby Lobby Homepage, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Web. 18 May 2015.
“The Fourth Commandment.” Hebrew for Christians. Parsons, John J., Web. 15 May 2015.
“The World According to Chik-fil-A Founder Truett Cathy.” The Washington Post, Ohlheiser, A., Web. 18 May 2015.

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