Sabbath as an Immersive Learning Opportunity

Traditional Sabbath bread. Photo by Schwäbin. CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming e-book series on holidays.

Long before Moses and the Law, God created the seven-day week, and with very few exceptions, people from all cultures since the beginning of time have kept it. Our solar system moves in such a way that a seven-day week makes the most sense.

Within that week, God established a day of rest.

“By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3, NIV

The One who spoke the universe into existence did not need six days to do it. And he wasn’t worn out and needing a break when he finished. He created the seven-day week for us, for all humans, as a natural, immersive learning opportunity, to teach us how to live and how to die.

Instead of bringing everything into existence at once, God lived out a pattern of building one accomplishment upon another over time, sticking with a task to its completion, showing us how to pace our lives. Then he deliberately set apart one day, demonstrating the optimal ratio of work to rest, and reminding us that our days of creating on earth will end at the appointed time, and our creations will be left in the hands of others.

The New Testament grants us freedom to consider every day alike. But when we number our days, and yield to creation’s six-day work/one-day rest pattern (even if only sometimes), all of our senses participate in the demonstration that God made specifically for our benefit. It’s worth playing out, at least once.

A traditional Sabbath greeting is Shabbat shalom (pronounced shah-BAHT shah-LOHM). It means literally, “Sabbath peace.” I am convinced that the key to a peaceful Sabbath lies in working like crazy the first six days of the week. You might remember the scene in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, where Jewish villagers pack up to leave Russia by order of the czar. They reminisce about the home they are forced to leave, asking, where else but in Anatevka, where they were underfed and overworked, could Sabbath be so sweet?

I have spent many Friday afternoons scrambling to finish chores before sunset, already tired out from the week, and frustrated with the extra workload of the day. The smell of bread rising in the oven pushes me on, encouraging me to stick with it just a little bit longer, because the time for rest is nearing.

In the same way, during busy and difficult seasons of our lives, if we stop to reflect, the sweet aroma of heaven pushes us on, encouraging us to stay faithful just a little bit longer, because the time of eternal rest and rejoicing is nearer now than ever before.

“There remains, then, [an eternal] Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10, NIV

Do you observe one day above another, or do you consider every day alike? How do you find balance and peace in your life?


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