There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. 10 of those commandments are what we call the top 10 list, the 10 Commandments from God. The first three of the Commandments address our relationship with God. The last six of the Commandments address our relationship with each other. The fourth commandment is the one that stands in between our relationship with God and our relationship with others. The fourth commandment is the longest of all the Commandments. It addresses the Sabbath.
It reads, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20: 8- 11.
On the Sabbath man was told to cease, stop, keep it holy. What we find is that we have become a 24/7 society. Think back to your growing up days. What do you remember most about Sunday? Was it spending time with family? Going to church together? Eating a big Sunday meal together? Taking a nap in the afternoon, yes? Having time to do something fun together? It seems that the things that we loved the most in growing up no longer exist, especially in our Sunday schedules.
What is missing from our life can really matter. What really is missing? What is missing is the Sabbath. There is one commandment that gets repeated over and over again in the Old Testament. That commandment is to remember the Sabbath. God’s parting words to Moses as he was leaving the mountaintop from the presence of God himself, where he had written on tablets of stone the 10 Commandments, was to not forget the Sabbath.
You see, the fourth commandment is a bridge between us and God. And it is the only one of the 10 Commandments that God himself kept. When we rest we come into sync with the maker of the universe. When you remember the Sabbath, you will over your lifetime have spent an entire decade with the Lord, by devoting one in seven days to the Lord.
What happens when you take away the rest; depression and anxiety set in? One out of nine to one out of ten people in America are currently being treated for clinical depression. Trends are pushing us toward a busier and busier society. Our leisure time is down 30% in the last 30 years. During that same time our time devoted to work is up 15%.
Pauses make the difference. We live in a society that does not make time for pauses. It is not doing more that we need; it is more pauses that we need. We are a revved up society. Only the Japanese work more hours a week than Americans do on average. God meant for us to have pauses in our life. I think the answer is for us to maximize our time by living a 24/6 lifestyle rather than a 24/7 lifestyle.
Let’s just say, you decide to do this. What is rest? Rest is the opposite of what you do all week long. So the key, is to figure out what work is for you and don’t do it. Or do the opposite of what work is for you. And as you figure this out, beware of legalism or concrete thinking. Jesus comes along and he deals with concrete thinkers who miss the point of the entire principal. They were devoted to trying to find ways around the Sabbath rest. Jesus wants us to find ways to engage in, enjoy, and be blessed by the Sabbath rest. In fact, Jesus is actually the Lord of the Sabbath, He is the Sabbath, He is the rest.
The intent of this longest commandment is to heal us. Choose the day that works best for you. For me, Sunday is not my best Sabbath day, because Sunday for me is a day of work. So I choose another day of the week as my Sabbath to rest or do things that renew me rather than drain me. I would encourage you, to even keep a gratitude journal to especially be used on your Sabbath day. We don’t really need more wonder, what we need is more wonder meant.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “As we keep or break the Sabbath day, we nobly save or meanly loose the last and the best hope by which mankind arises.”
So as we begin a new year, is there any better principle or practice for us to devote ourselves to and incorporating into our lifestyles than the Sabbath principle. I’m not talking about specifically the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath principle of rest and renewal and relaxation and devotion and focus on God. I’m talking about doing the opposite of what we do the other six days of the week.
While away during the Christmas break I attended Southland Christian Church in Lexington Kentucky. On that day Matthew Sleeth was the guest speaker. Dr. Sleeth has just completed a book called 24/6. The book is a prescription for a healthier, happier life. I would highly recommend it. In fact, I don’t know of a better book to begin the New Year reading, focusing on, and applying to your life. I would also give Dr. Sleeth recognition for many of the thoughts contained within this blog post.
May you come to know and enjoy a healthier, happier New Year and life.