Today, in church, we talked about the importance of the Sabbath day. The discussion got me thinking.
The fourth commandment in the ten commandments God gave to Moses teaches us to set aside one day out of seven to “rest” from work and to focus on worshiping God.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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 daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20:8-11)
I actually believe that we are hard wired for a day of rest one time a week. We may have been created to work, be we were also created to rest… to recover. I have noticed that it isn’t just the religious community that endorses a day of rest. Many secular groups embrace the idea of taking a break and relaxing on a regular basis. Physical trainers recommend a day of rest. Non-Christian religions recommend a day of rest. Even some diets recommend a day of rest. I thin “rest” is a creation principle… maybe even embedded into our DNA.
As the discussion happened around me, I got hung up on the word “rest.” I had to look it up in the dictionary.
The first definition listed was “sleep,” or rather a bodily state characterized my minimal sleep. Our discussion included the traditional “Sunday nap” and the break from our daily work responsibilities. I may not get many “Sunday naps” but I do see the need to slow down and change my focus after a crazy week. That leads me to the second definition of “rest” that I found.
The next definition listed was – freedom from activity or labor; a state of motionlessness or inactivity. We keep the Sabbath day as we free ourselves from our regular activities, “be still, and know that [He] is God.” God gave us permission to take a break once a week by modeling rest Himself. Stillness allows us to truly worship. As we slow down, breath, ponder, and even, serve, we are able to draw closer to the Lord. The Sabbath allows us to take a mini-vacation from the rigors of daily life and gives us the opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal.
At first glance, it may look like Jesus was the ultimate Sabbath breaker. He kept working and serving on the Sabbath. Many Jewish leaders were angry with Him because He healed people on the Sabbath. Jesus was far from a Sabbath breaker. He was the ultimate Sabbath keeper. Like many today, the people in Jesus’ day misunderstood the Sabbath. They did not understand that the Sabbath was made for man, not for God.
A third definition listed was – peace of mind or spirit. I love this definition. It got me thinking about how, although the Sabbath is often filled with church callings, family activities, and service, it brings peace. This gift helps us to better understand the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. First we work, then we rest. The Sabbath is a bit of a metaphor. Because of Jesus’ work, we start each week with rest, in effect, mirroring an eternal Sabbath rest (peace) that waits all those who keep the Sabbath. I think that as we partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day, focusing on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we feel the peace offered by Christ.
A fourth definition in the dictionary was – a rhythmic silence in music; a brief pause. I love this definition as well. It reminds me of how a rest in music is as important as the notes in music. The Sabbath affords us a brief pause to give thanks for all that God has provided for us, through His Son, Jesus Christ, before returning to our regularly scheduled weekly activities.
Keeping the Sabbath day also shows us, and the world, that we belong to Him.
I realized today that I can approach this day of rest with anticipation, welcoming the chance to worship and to do things that feed my soul. I mean, I work at feeding my soul daily, but the Sabbath feast is different. Some days what feeds my soul is that “Sunday nap.” Sometimes what feeds my soul is a family dinner. Sometimes what feeds my soul is visiting the sick and those in need of a friend. Always, what feeds my soul is some time spent in church meetings, with my scriptures, and writing in my journal (blog).
I am gaining a better understanding that the Sabbath is a sign between God and me. It is no longer about a list of do’s and don’ts. I love how President Nelson taught, in April 2015 Conference, to ask the question “What sign do I want to give to God?” in regards to what I choose to do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath gives me the opportunity to renew covenants, attend church, partake of the sacrament, serve His people, and strengthen family ties. The Sabbath is a great time to teach gospel principles to family members or to make family connections through family history work and family time.
I find that my heart echos the words of Isaiah who called the Sabbath “a delight.” Not pursuing my own needs on the Sabbath is work. I find the Sabbath more of a delight when I don’t permit myself to treat the Sabbath as if it is any other day.