1/9/2015 2:00:00 PM
If you have heard some of my initial messages of 2015, you’re familiar with the phrase “From Release to Rest.” It’s a phrase that God deposited in my spirit late last year. It’s a shorthand of sorts for the notion that God provided an open door for us in 2014, and that the results of that action will manifest this year.
“Rest” in this context doesn’t necessarily mean that the Body of Christ is supposed to take it easy in 2014 – far from it. Instead, it means that we are to be free from worry, free from anxiety and confident that God has provided all that we need.
But I’ve become more and more aware that on God’s calendar, this is a shmittah year coming before a year of jubilee. At our recent New Year’s Eve service I declared, “He (God) has never been more serious about Sabbath than in 2015.” The question I have for you is, are you
serious about Sabbath? Or don’t you prioritize obeying God?
It’s a shame that we live in a generation where almost none of the world and most of the Church doesn’t take a break, for anything, and treats its disregard of God’s law of the Sabbath as a badge of honor. At some workplaces, it’s considered an act of defiance to tell one’s co-workers that you won’t be available to take phone calls or answer emails on a Saturday, or on a vacation, or during a date with your spouse or in the middle of an outing with your children. It’s easy to suck people into the vortex of work because of laptop computers, smart phones and tablets, which allow us to take the office with us. It’s a far cry from the days when retail stores closed early Saturday evening and all day on Sunday.
God, however, modeled regular rest in the very first book of the Bible. He created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh – why? You don’t really think He was tired, do you? No, He stopped what He was doing intentionally, and we should do the same. In much the same way as a good graphic layout makes smart use of white space, we need to allow ourselves to take a Sabbath to rest and reflect on His goodness and His provision in our lives.
Drs. Steve and Mary Farrar, in their brilliant book Overcoming Overload
, note that the Sabbath was one of the ordinances God instituted in the process of creation – right along with marriage, child-bearing, the sanctity of life, work and man’s dominion over the animal kingdom. Do you see a common thread tying those ordinances together? The world is attacking all of them:
- God’s definition of marriage is under attack by same-sex marriage advocates, which increasingly include liberal Christian denominations.
- The sanctity of human life is considered an archaic concept in many quarters, again including nominally Christian congregations.
- Zero-population groups actively discourage married couples from having children.
- Animal-rights and environmental activists are increasingly militant in their insistence that mankind has no right to use animals or other elements of nature for food, clothing or shelter.
The attack on the Sabbath has been much more subtle, though, and perhaps that’s why almost all quarters of the Church have been sucked into chucking it. This despite God’s commandment to keep a Sabbath:
“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 son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.”
- Exodus 20:8-10, ESV
Did you get that? We are not only to keep the Sabbath for ourselves, but we are also to prevent anyone in our immediate circle of influence from violating it as well! But, all too often, we’d rather work.
The Farrars note that even this nation’s 19th century slave owners gave their slaves a day or rest on the Sabbath. It was even considered something of a code of honor among slave owners to offer the Sabbath; any who didn’t do so were ostracized, because it was considered inhumane. The Farrars conclude:
“We all thank God that slavery in our nation has gone with the wind. But isn’t it ironic that, since that time, many of us in the land of the free have become even more enslaved to our work, our activities and our ‘accomplishments?’ We have become so chained, so utterly preoccupied, that we simply can’t justify a day or rest. That, too, is inhuman. It’s inhumane to your spouse, to your children and to yourself.”
Today, we not only violate the Sabbath with impunity, we applaud the workaholics in our lives for having a “great work ethic.” Paul talked about those who violate God’s ordinances in his letter to the house churches in Rome:
“Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
- Romans 1:32, ESV
Sound convicting? If it does, let me assure you that I’m convicted as well.
God didn’t create us to go, go, go all the time, never stopping to appreciate Him or His creation or His blessings. He meant us to rest and recover from our work – to take a Sabbath. As we move from release to rest in 2015, I’m convinced He is very interested in how well we obey His command to rest.
- January 9, 2015