The Jews have a word for rest: SABBATH. God commands us in Ex. 20:8 – 11: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work, But the seventh day is a sabbath day of the LORD your God; in it you shall not work…. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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.”
For the Jews, sabbath was and is a pulling away from daily life and withdrawing into the refuge of God to spend time with Him, Who is our real home. When refreshed and rested, they are then prepared to go back out into world. The Sabbath is a time for sacred rest.
When the Israelites were taken to Babylon, sabbath became even more important because there was no longer a temple in which to worship. Ancient rabbis taught that when the Scriptures say God rested on the seventh day, it really was saying that God created “menuha” – rest, tranquility, peace, a healing stillness. The rabbis’ ideas may not be accurate, but those words DO describe time spent alone with Jesus.
As one writer stated, the sabbath is “a time to remember who we are [in terms of WHOSE we are], remember what we know, and to taste the gift of the Spirit and eternity.” We might take note of the traditional Jewish sabbath in order to approach our quiet times in a fresh way.
- The Sabbath begins at a set time (sundown) – there is no waiting until everything is “done.” It is one day, but ours could be any unit of time we choose. Sabbath is a time for us to surrender to the Lord, to give ourselves anew to Him.
- Deposit all electronic stuff, keys, list of all the things undone, etc., in a Sabbath box to turn off the world; God will hold these things until the end of Sabbath. In prayer, give God everything that we normally “hold” – our loved ones, our jobs, our responsibilities – so we are free to be with Him.
- Light a candle – begin to let the world go. Maybe really light a candle to declare that the next moments will be different from the ordinary. For many years, until God had done some deep healing in me, I could NOT just enter into quiet with God – too distracted in mind but also guilt present. However, I COULD sing praises to Him long enough for my eyes to be turned from me to all He is. Then a grateful heart replaced the guilt, and I could read the Bible and pray.
One author writes: Our willingness to rest depends on what we believe we will find there. At rest, we MEET HIM. So in rest, we find God – but we can also be reluctant to quiet ourselves for fear of meeting the darkness within or of meeting a demanding God. We can have a fear of quiet – that if we stop and listen, we will hear our emptiness or suffering or sadness, so we keep moving.
- If you are a parent, lay hands on each child to pray blessing on them. We can do the same in prayer.
- Share a meal in thanksgiving. Focus on our abundance in God and not on our lack.
- Read Scripture and let it work on you/pray/sing/walk outside in silence. We can do the same. The key = to listen for His voice.
- Sabbath ends at sunset when three stars are visible. The Sabbath-ending ceremony = Havdalah.
- Sit around Havdalah candle
- Be silent for a bit
- Each shares the best part of their Sabbath and what they look forward to
- Pass cup of spices, representing the delicious Sabbath meal as well as remembering that as we re-enter the world, we are taking along the fragrance of God
As we prepare to leave our Sabbath rest with God, thank Him for how He’s touched us and for His promise to keep changing us until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1: 6)
As He changes us, we can become a kind of sabbath for others – a safe place, where they can meet God and find His rest, the rest of acceptance and peace.