Day 21: The Gift of Sabbath
Sunday, February 27. 2022
On our final day of prayer and fasting, we will look at one last habit we would be wise to adopt into our lives. In a way, it encompasses all the habits we have witnessed in Jesus’ life over the past 21 days. While God’s people have practiced it for three millennia, it is still largely misunderstood, even ignored in our church culture today. This is the discipline of Sabbath.
Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat,” which literally means to stop. Pastor Comer writes, “The Sabbath is simply a day to stop: stop working, stop worrying, stop wanting, just stop.” The purpose is to stop activity one day a week to delight in and reflect on God. Sabbath is more than just a day; it is a way of being in the world. It is how we cultivate restfulness in our lives. That one day helps us live the rest of the week differently.
In Jesus’ day, the purpose of the Sabbath had become lost. After centuries of failing to live up to God’s commandments, the Pharisees zealously followed the Old Testament law, going so far as to add additional requirements to it. Over time, many had lost sight of genuine devotion to God in the name of obeying those man-made rules. This was especially true with laws regarding the Sabbath, dictating specific details of what was permissible on the Sabbath. We see several instances when Jesus deliberately breaks the religious leaders’ rules regarding the Sabbath to show them how they were missing the point. Let’s read one such example.
“One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.’
Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!’”
Jesus makes it clear the Sabbath is for us. It’s a time once a week to do all we’ve learned about for the past three weeks: silence, stillness, solitude, simplicity, and slowing down. A rhythm of having a Sabbath is a reminder to keep practicing these habits Jesus modeled. It’s not an additional requirement. It’s part of Jesus’ easy yoke; it is His gift to us.
It’s important to note that Sabbath and a day off are not the same. We all need a day to run errands, do laundry, get groceries, etc. Sometimes, days off are more work than workdays. Sabbath means intentionally clearing your work schedule to make space for time with God, family, and loved ones. It’s like a holiday once a week, only without the stress. Who wouldn’t sign up for that? That’s why it is God’s gift to us!
Think about how you can incorporate the rhythm of Sabbath—to stop each week, focus on time with God, and restore your inner world. If you can’t commit to an entire day, commit to part of a day. What will you do during that time to put your focus on God? Read Colossians 3:17; whatever you do can be done as a representative of Jesus. It doesn’t all have to be outwardly spiritual. Go for a walk or car ride with no set plan. Have a long, unhurried conversation with a loved one. Enjoy a good book. Most of all, spend time with the Lord.
Make a plan for how you and your family can begin incorporating elements of a weekly Sabbath into your routine. It’s okay to take it in baby steps. Pray about it. Ask God to show you where you should begin. Commit to incorporating all the habits we have identified over the past 21 days into your life going forward.
Prayer: “Jesus, I seek to be like you in all things. I don’t just want to follow what you say. I want to live as you lived. You have given me Sabbath as a gift. Help me to accept it and implement it into my life. Help me to slow down, worry less, and keep from being overwhelmed. Help me develop a godly inner world where I meet with you each day to be with you and be like you. Empower my prayer life as you work in and through me. I give you all of me. In your name I pray, amen.”
By Dave Mann
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