12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know I, the Lord, sanctify you.
Understanding the Purpose
For most of us, setting aside Sunday as a day in which we do not work is something which, if we are honest, is cultural at worst and an unintentional by-product of our faith at best. That is to say, we do not generally put much thought into the purpose of our Sabbath rest. But I would encourage you to take this time to think more about Sabbath rest and the benefit it can be towards you and your family.
We know first of all that Sabbath rest was something God initiated from the very beginning. He created the world in six days and then rested. But why did he rest? Isn’t the God we serve one who never tires and grows weary? Isn’t the God we serve the faithful God who never ceases and never slumbers? (Ps. 121:4) So, when God sets an example for us of resting on the Sabbath and instituting this day as one apart from the others, what exactly is he doing?
First we need to know that the word, Shabat or שַׁבָּת (Hebrew) means to both cease from your regular business that you do for the first six days and then to use this time as a celebration. But this begs the question, what are we celebrating?
For this, we turn our attention to the passage above in Exodus 31:12-13. Notice that God tells Moses that the Sabbaths are a sign between him and all the generations of Israel. This is covenant language. God is making a promise to the people that he is going to use Sabbath rest in a very specific way. On our end, this Sabbath rest is a means by which we are sanctified or being made Holy. God is using this Sabbath rest as a means of making us to be more of who he originally designed us to be.
You see, when sin entered this world, we didn’t suddenly become human. We actually became less than human. When we sin, we are choosing to live as less than God has designed us to live. To be human actually means to live in light of the promises of God and his faithfulness to us. God has made a promise to his people from the very beginning that at some point, we will enter his rest or his Sabbath. And in that time, we will spend all of eternity praising him with our lives. Our energy will no longer be split between the constraints of this world and being dragged down by the sin within it.
A Promised Realized
However, this promise could only be realized through the life of Jesus Christ our Savior and his work upon the cross. After all, Matthew 12:8 reminds us that Jesus is in fact, “Lord of the Sabbath”. It is in Jesus that we ultimately find our rest. So now, we do not observe the Sabbath because to not do so will bring judgement upon us as in the Old Testament. Jesus has fulfilled those laws (Mt. 5:17). We need not fear judgement and death, we have freedom in Christ. (1 Jn. 4:17) And for this, we ought to use our Sabbath to praise and glorify God.
So often, we use our Sundays as a means to accomplish all of the things we do not have time for during the rest of the week. We fill them with a little church, some grocery shopping, children’s activities, a sporting event and maybe an afternoon nap. None of these things are inherently wrong and we have the freedom to do these things if we so choose. But are these things allowing you to live as the human God has created you to be? Are you actually taking time to observe the Sabbath and glorify God for who he is or are you just seeking to rest in a way that your body feels recharged for the six days to come. Physical rest is important, but when it is done for our advancement alone, we cease from taking advantage of the full sense in which God intended the Sabbath to exist.
Remember, Sunday is not a day that we use as a way to get a jump start or catch up on the other six. It represents the culmination of all of creation. It is representative of what is to come one day when we enter our rest. Consider the impact that it might have on our family if you chose to guard that day as one set apart not for your purposes but to glorify God. This is not a suggestion towards legalism but instead an encouragement that you are free to use this day to glorify God in ways that the other six may not afford you. This is your chance to use Sunday as a means of celebrating the faithfulness of God and bringing Heaven to Earth, reflecting to yourself and to others what it will one day be like to glorify God for all of eternity.
May you and your family be blessed by Sabbath rest.