I read a book by Lauren F. Winner called Mudhouse Sabbath. Lauren converted from Judaism to Christianity and this wonderful little book is about the traditions from Judaism that she believes would enrich the Christian faith in tangible, day-to-day ways. What she said about the Sabbath caught my attention in a big way…
“I remember that, for Jews, the Sabbath shapes all the rhythms of calendar and time; the entire week points toward Shabbat. The rabbis, who are always interested in the subtleties of Torah prose, puzzled over the two different versions of the Sabbath commandment. Why, in Exodus, does God tell us to remember the Sabbath, whereas in Deuteronomy He instructs observance of the Sabbath? One story the rabbis tell about the difference between remembrance and observance has to do with ordering time. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are caught up in remembering the preceding Shabbat, while Wednesday through Friday are devoted to preparing for the next Shabbat.”¹
In this remembering and preparing for a day wholly consecrated to Him, our calendar is centered around God instead of our own agendas.
I’ve written before about the Sabbath… wondering how to keep it holy as we are commanded. It’s so easy to fall into the usual pattern ~ rushing to church, taking the afternoon for grocery shopping, getting everything prepared for Monday’s rush. Every time I read Scripture about this day of the week, I feel a pang of longing. Without getting caught up in legalistic ‘can’and ‘cannot’, I simply want to be obedient… I want to rest in the Father, giving Him time and space to fill my heart. I want to be able to honor Him on this one day that He asks of us, knowing that every day belongs to Him…
The Sabbath is not the only day in which God can give us His strength and a refreshment of our spirit. But it must be for a reason that He commands us to keep it holy, as unto the Lord. I have a feeling it is for our good. I have a feeling that He knows how we need a day free of distractions to truly rest and have communion with Him…
But what does it really mean, making the Sabbath holy and ‘to’the Lord?
It makes wonderful sense to me when I remember that holy means set apart… set apart from our other days. From the work that occupies our brains, preoccupation with our own selves, the chores that keep our hands moving, the striving to ‘get things done’.
We set apart this time apart and offer our hearts, minds, and bodies to the Lord.
If I am to do this, preparation is necessary… I will have to make an effort so that my time can be presented as an offering to Him… and as I make those adjustments to finish up the laundry, lay out church clothes, prepare backpacks and all of those things… won’t my mind already begin to focus on Him? I believe that if we make more of an effort to prepare and spend grateful time in remembering the Sabbath, we will be more likely to consciously invite Him into every single day of our lives. It is a process of acknowledging that our time belongs to Him… He is the center and essence of our lives.
So I am challenging myself to slow down this weekend, to pay attention to how I am spending my minutes so that my Sabbath may honor Him.
What, exactly, should this look like?
Perhaps it is about paying attention… entering the House of Worship with our hearts already adoring and our minds already on Him. If we have asked His help in being free of the usual distractions, we will be present ~ fully engaged in worship, fully open to the Word of God. Perhaps setting the Sabbath apart from normal routines will mean more time with our families, taking the opportunity to really talk to each other. Maybe it is opening up the dinner table to those who are hungry for food or for compassion… maybe it is leaving the email in-box unopened… really listening to a beautiful piece of music… taking a walk and rejoicing in the beauty of this marvelously spinning earth instead of sitting in front of the television.
Maybe it is allowing ourselves to slow down… to quiet down… eradicating the noise that drives our week so that we may hear the still, small voice of the Lord.
I believe that if we ask Him, He will help us to live this day unto Him… and I know that our obedience will be blessed. Isaiah 56 says that all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant ~ these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.
So will you join me in setting apart this day and offering it to the Lord? May we rejoice in His abiding presence and surrender our time so that He can direct our paths… may we remember and observe all that the Lord has commanded.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. ~Isaiah 40:31 (MSG)
Happy weekend, friends!
¹Excerpt from Winner, Lauren F. (2009-05-27) Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (Pocket Classics) (pp. 8-9). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.