Mark 2:27 (HCSB)
Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
There is indeed life in the red letters. I didn’t exactly think of it that way, even a few short months ago, but the pursuit Christ undertakes of me is often unexpected and relentless; demanding of me my attention and obedience beyond what I would have even considered possible.
First off, I don’t bring anything to this particular table.
Reading this verse, I’m immediately struck by the reality that man needed Sabbath, that I need Sabbath. If I didn’t, then Sabbath wouldn’t have been created for me, for all of us.
I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to shade this topic in light of the humility this statement from Jesus brings upon me. Among many, many other things I’m insufficient and undeserving of, Sunday was given to me as a grace-filled recognition of my inadequacy and inability to worship the Creator of the universe the way He deserves. Even my worship is pathetic and requires Gods help.
Before I say anything else, let’s just get some context established to understand what exactly I’m talking about when I say Sabbath.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the Lord your God has commanded you. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the foreigner who lives within your gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
noun Sab·bath \ˈsa-bəth\
1a : the seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians
1b : Sunday observed among Christians as a day of rest and worship
2 : a time of rest
As mentioned in the sermon today, of all the Commandments provided to the nation of Israel, this is the longest and with the most explanation surrounding it. In light of the length, I suppose it’s ironic that of the commandments, it’s also the one I feel most free to compromise on, or manipulate, or dismiss all together.
I could talk all about the weighty comparisons to be made with this command being next to others like “Do not murder” (Ex. 20:13, HCSB) or “Do not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14, HCSB). Perhaps further reading might even slam home a realization that along with the Sabbath command, God also commands me to do all of my work the other six days, not build into my week a sixth day of selfishness once the Monday-Friday grind of work/school is complete; as if God somehow needed my help because Sunday was insufficient. But, that isn’t what I read here…for the most part. No, mostly I read a massive, weighty seriousness and overwhelming realization of His love for me.
Yes, God takes His commands seriously. But don’t take my word for it…
At that time I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in stores of grain and loading them on donkeys, along with wine, grapes, and figs. All kinds of goods were being brought to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them against selling food on that day. The Tyrians living there were importing fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah in Jerusalem.
I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them: “What is this evil you are doing—profaning the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same, so that our God brought all this disaster on us and on this city? And now you are rekindling His anger against Israel by profaning the Sabbath!”
When shadows began to fall on the gates of Jerusalem just before the Sabbath, I gave orders that the gates be closed and not opened until after the Sabbath. I posted some of my men at the gates, so that no goods could enter during the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and those who sell all kinds of goods camped outside Jerusalem, but I warned them, “Why are you camping in front of the wall? If you do it again, I’ll use force against you.” After that they did not come again on the Sabbath. Then I instructed the Levites to purify themselves and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Remember me for this also, my God, and look on me with compassion in keeping with Your abundant, faithful love.
…seriously indeed. Woe to me, a sinner, taking the Lord’s day in vain. Forgive me God this trespass.
Then there was love. Not the #LoveWins kind of lame love, vengeful and arrogant and conceited. No, the kind of love which surpasses all human understanding. The love that seeks and accomplishes what is best for me. The same love that rebukes and disciplines as well as comforts and protects. God does all of this for me in his command of the Sabbath.
What does this all look like in application? I’m glad you asked! For my family, we generally start Sabbath on Saturday evening. At either dinner or sunset, some form of recognition takes place that for the next 24 hours, we rest and rely upon the Lord, in all things.
Let me take a quick aside here and define rest as it pertains to our family. By rest, I mostly mean being unproductive. A second part of that is appreciation. Combine a lack of traditional human productivity with appreciation in and of Christ, and for me and mine, that’s Sabbath, that’s worship.
In a lot of ways, Sabbath is the beginning of my week. God finished his work on the seventh day, but mankind first started on this earth on the sixth. That makes the seventh day the first sunrise mankind ever saw. Basically, I’m not God, so I don’t try and model my week with a smug belief in my ability to do the same things as Him.
Leading up to the start of our week, the sixth day is our “preparation” day. From Monday through Friday I’m generally bogged down in work and school, as is my wife and kids. Saturday, we take as the day to complete homework, yard work, outstanding tasks, outings, etc. Above all, Saturday is the day we begin preparing for our rest. Crockpot dinners, breakfast that doesn’t need cooked or obtained in some fashion, lunches ready to whip out and consume, things like that. I’ve also noticed a pretty incredible side effect of this preparation: in making sure we are ready to rest and worship God on Sunday, our “supplies” for the remainder of the week are also taken into account. Why go to the store and only get enough food for Sunday, when while you’re there you can also meal plan for the rest of the week, or ensure you have your homework done for Monday morning class? You get the point.
Being intentional about preparation leads to an elimination of excuses and crushing of procrastination
(something I’m sure I’ll write about in the future and to which I’m very accustomed to and comfortable with, sadly).
Honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy is perhaps the hardest spiritual thing I’ve done in my life so far. I can’t even begin to express to you the things my brain thinks of when I have “nothing to do” except worship God. In a lot of ways its like a fast…you don’t think about the food you’re not eating (you don’t think about the ‘productivity’ you’re not engaging in) until you are no longer eating it. That God is continually reminding me of my need for repentance, each and every time I find myself even having the desire to do some kind of work/research/prep/etc for the upcoming week, is a reminder of how amazing His grace is to me in those hours, minutes, moments. I am inadequate. I am incapable. I cannot possibly account for everything the next six days of my life will bring. That’s God’s job. His provision is all I require. The trust and love he extends to me in those moments is exactly what I need, because I am most certainly in need, and He most certainly fulfills my needs…better than I could have ever conceived, even to the point of His Son’s death. Whoa…talk about humbling.
How does your Sabbath look? How do you lend your affections to the Lord and rest in His mercy and provision? Is He calling on you to set aside your pride and trust in His ability to sustain you for the upcoming calamity that is life? My prayer for all reading this is a definite, strong affirmative.