November 28, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’S holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
It’s easy for Christians to think of the Sabbath as a legalistic burden that the Jews are required to carry. Yet this is not how the Lord speaks of the day of rest. In Isaiah 58 he tells his people to “call the Sabbath a delight,” not a burden (58:13). Those who honor the Sabbath will also delight in the Lord, who promises the blessings of honor and an inheritance. Now that’s a different view of Sabbath than the Christian norm!
Unfortunately, throughout church history, Christians who have sought to honor the Sabbath have often turned it into a series of strict, joyless laws. I remember reading one Christian author who claimed that it was inappropriate to take a nap on the Sabbath because that wouldn’t be worshipful. Napping on the day of rest! Imagine! How scandalous!
We are right to avoid legalistic approaches to the Sabbath. But, at the same time, it’s clear that God wants his people—including Christians—to experience the refreshment of weekly rest. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it. Our relationships need it. Once we realize that regular rest isn’t one more burden, but rather a gift of God for our well-being, then we’re free to enjoy and delight in it. Moreover, we’ll learn new ways to find joy in the Lord.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you think and feel about the idea of Sabbath?
Do you set aside time each week for rest, for relationships, and for enjoying God’s presence?
When have you delighted in the Lord? What helps you to do this?
Gracious God, I must admit that the idea of Sabbath as a delight is uncommon to me. For so much of my life, I considered the Sabbath to be a heavy burden, one I was glad not to have to carry. But, by your grace, I have come to see how your Word commends regular rest. Sabbath is your gift to humankind… even me! Thank you!
Help me, Lord, to know how to receive this gift with freedom. It is so easy for me to turn the Sabbath into a set of binding rules, rather than a time set apart for you and the rest you want to give me. Teach me, Lord, so that I might honor you by honoring your Sabbath, doing so in a way that is grace-filled and free. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Is a Weekly Sabbath Observance Expected of Christians?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.