We saw yesterday how God rested, and set out a rhythm for work and rest. Here we see God giving some of the reasons why it’s important for us to rest, and how it’s still God’s gift for all creation even though many years have passed.
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ESV)
He wants the Israelites to practice it, and to share it with those in their employ. Even their animals are included. But it’s more than that. It has to do with showing who their God is. God reminds them they were once slaves. The day of rest, the Sabbath, is a weekly emancipation from slavery.
They were being reminded by God, weekly, that they were created human beings, not pyramid building resources. Sabbath was part of their freedom – they belong to God, not pharaoh.
This is so important today. We can live in self-imposed slavery to career, money. Or fear. Or a form of slavery to work can be imposed by an exploitative company, a sex trafficker, a manipulative boss, etc.
Sabbath is a way for people who spend all week working to announce they are not just money making machines, they are God’s beloved children, and so they are free.
Yes, this is a limitation on work – it limits profits and production. And it wasn’t just weekly, the idea of Sabbath rest also applies to every seven years – when no fields could be worked. Imagine the statement of a nation that planned ahead like that, and took a year of rest to focus on other kinds of work. It would be very risky, but it was a way to show their trust in God, not themselves or their own risk management efforts. They may have been less productive, but they were free.
Question: How do you break free from the sense you are a slave to work? How can you show colleagues that there are more dimensions to your life than work?
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If you ask people how they are doing, how often do they include the word “busy” in their reply? We often feel we need to justify ourselves that way – I’m busy. I’m not lazy. I’m productive!
This isn’t untrue, we usually are busy! But it’s not always a good form of busyness. Negative busyness comes from a cycle of slavery to work, defining ourselves by our work, or becoming consumed by worry and guilt about work.
One inner way to combat this is with satisfaction. It starts with satisfaction in Christ – I am not God, I am not in charge of universe. God is.
I rebelled against him, but Jesus has done something incredible, in his death on cross, for me. He’s accomplished what matters most in life – he’s freed me from having to prove my worth. I don’t need to accomplish anything to know God for eternity. He’s accomplished it for me.
This can be remembered with Sabbath rest every week. Rest is an opportunity to look back and celebrate what’s been done by God, and by you. You might journal, and pray to thank God for the successes, say sorry for the failures, and acknowledge that what’s done is done.
Then you can look forward to the new week ahead, now in perspective.
Challenge: Divide a piece of paper into four columns, and think about the last work week. In the first column, write your worries, then your guilts, then your unfinished business. Now in the fourth column, write some words that represent who you are, and want to be. Where are the disconnects between this column and the others?
Just in time for summer's blend of work and rest, Redeem the Commute is starting a new series of daily challenges to help busy people restore life to the commuting lifestyle. This seven week series will look at the meaning and purpose of work, rest, and ancient practices that have helped followers of Jesus to keep the two in perspective and balance for centuries.