by Ryan Mark Richardson
“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.”
The day of rest. It’s something I think we way undervalue today… In Exodus 31, God tells the nation of Israel to have anyone who doesn’t honor it to be put to death. It sounds kind of ridiculous honestly, justifying ending a life because they did a bit of work on a certain day. But, nevertheless, it is a big deal… so big that God writes in the Ten Commandments redux (ie, Deuteronomy 5) even says that an ox, donkey, or livestock should not do any work. So why is forcing yourself to slow down for one day a week such a big deal to God?
Part of the key obviously lies in the whole “on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed” and that points to a remembrance of creation, rest, and restoration. Almost a sort of communion if you will. The other part I think lies right in front of us, and might be the entire reason the Pharisees missed the entire point of the Sabbath.
“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.”
Because the Sabbath is more than just a day of rest. It is a day committed to identity. To who we once were (very past tense) and who we are now (very present tense.) Another sort of remembrance… and really the two ideas aren’t really all that far apart. Because only in the identity of a son (or daughter as the case may be) can you really view God in the right light to find that rest. Without that mindset the Bible becomes a clouded mess of things that you can’t really understand. For example, as some of us have been studying, the entire book of Proverbs isn’t really unlocked until you start to realize that every chapter begins with “Listen, my son…” and without that, the wisdom contained in Proverbs is lost. And with that in mind, the only way the rest and restoration you are even looking for cannot even be obtained outside of the identity that God has called you more than just fixed sinners, but His very sons and daughters.
And the people Jesus healed on various Sabbaths? They were restored by that encounter with Him, and through an act of Him pursuing God’s will, those people experience more rest on those days than they’d probably ever had or ever would have. And the strange irony of it? They found it while waiting. Not because they had much of a choice, but they were broken before God and had no other choice, but to wait.
So going back to the original question, why is slowing down such a big deal to God? Because we forget our identities, we don’t wait and when we do that we miss Him, much like the Pharisees at large did. So what’s the solution? Meditate, remember, wait on the Lord, read the Bible, pray, however you do that best. But it’s all kind of hard to do if you don’t take those moments to just seek God. Be it actually sitting, reading, and physically resting all day… a day spent in the canyon in worship of God for His creation… or a time spent running… remember what God did, and remember who he’s called you to be.