Sabbath: Required Religious Duty?

I have the privilege of preaching this coming Sunday about the Sabbath. Our text is Mark 2:23-3:5. I love teaching, preaching and researching about the Sabbath – it is probably one of my favorite topics altogether (along with the Holy Spirit and End Times). I’m the guy who will read straight through Leviticus and love almost every minute – not because I enjoy loads of rules, but because I love the heart behind them.

The Sabbath is, perhaps, the most defining feature of Judaism – it is certainly the most regularly observed. Sabbath recounts all of the great stories of Jewish history; it reminisces creation, when God rested; it reminds them of the Passover and their exit from slavery; it remids them of the works of Power God did on their ancestor’s behalf; shoot, it even reminds them of their disobedience, exile into captivity and eventual return. No doubt about it, the Sabbath is a central part of the Jewish faith.

It is easy to see then, why the Pharisees get so upset with Jesus when He starts messing with their rules. But for all of their ritual observance, the Pharisees missed the whole point of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for human beings, to give us opportunities for rest, enjoyment, worship and fellowship.

I want to be absolutely clear on something – Sabbath observance is a required part of Judaism for it is part of the Law. However, as Christians, we have been freed from the Law. Therefore, we are no longer required to rest one day a week or tithe 10% of our income. That is all part of Moses’ Law and we are under Christ’s Law. We could develop that thought a lot further, but I want to get to the punchline: sabbath (rest) is an optional, but highly beneficial practice for us to adopt.

Since we are free from the Law of 6 days work and 1 day rest, well, I suppose we could rest all 7 days or work all 7. In Reality, I think we are called to do both.

You see, rest is an internal attitude of the heart as much as it is an external state of the body. Is it quite possible to be doing some task and still be at rest in one’s heart. I have a card in my office that reads “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” That is exactly the attitude of Sabbath that we should carry with us as messengers of God’s Kingdom.

Now, there is a time when actual Sabbath rest needs to be taken. For instance, it is beneficial for land to lie fallow for a year to regather nutrients. If the land is allowed this year of rest, then there will be a heavy harvest the following year. In fact, it was failure to observe the Sabbath that sent the Israelites into slavery, among other things (see 2 Chronicles 36:21). I think our businesses and lives would be far better off it we embraced the Sabbath experience – we would be far more happy, joyful, prodective and peaceful… all good things for the people of God to be.

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