What about investing in a ‘summer Sabbath’? Part 4: Justice
In this final part of the series, Simon considers the implications of Sabbath rest in the light of God’s kingdom priorities.
Sabbath helps to realign our priorities
It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that keeping the Sabbath is just a rule we adhere to in order to keep God happy. Related to this, I wonder if the word ‘Sabbath’ actually conjures up feelings of guilt, as the mention of it reminds you that you shouldn’t be working when you are, or should be resting when you aren’t? It might have connotations of strict childhood do’s and don’ts which regulated your Sunday behaviour and activity.
Well, if that is the case then, I’m afraid, we’ve missed the point! The Bible says more about what to do on the Sabbath rather than what not to do. It was the legalists who set up all the Sabbath rules. For God, the Sabbath was always about grace and freedom and an opportunity to realign our priorities with His.
Notice that Isaiah connects observing the Sabbath with doing the right thing:
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2 Blessed is the one who does this—
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”
Isaiah 56:1,2 (NIV)
Can you see how Isaiah links justice and righteousness as marks of keeping the Sabbath? Keeping the Sabbath is not simply a religious duty; it’s an indication of a godly life.
Reconnect and align with God’s heart
The Sabbath is about making God’s priorities central. The Sabbath is for resting from work. It is for taking time to invest in our relationships. But primarily it is about coming aside with the Father and allowing space and time to reconnect with His heart.
The Sabbath allows us to align our heart with His. And since God’s heart is filled with mercy and compassion, ours should be too. Since God’s priorities are justice and righteousness, ours should be too. It is in that place of Sabbath rest where we can be transformed. It is there where we ‘learn His heart’.
Observing the Sabbath is not simply about special activity on a particular day. It is a lifestyle. It is about living a life which glorifies God, one of mercy and compassion, justice and righteousness.
Last time I described the Sabbath Year, which took place every seven years. Well, Leviticus 25 goes on to describe another special year. After seven Sabbath years – so in the fiftieth year – the whole nation rested again and had another Sabbath year. Imagine the faith needed that God would provide for this year?!? But in this 50th year there were added blessings: slaves were set free, land was returned and the people rested. This was a Super-Sabbath Year called the Year of Jubilee. Not simply rest or ceasing from work but whole-scale redemption, restoration and freedom.
This is the centre of the Sabbath. God and His people resting together, celebrating His creation & salvation, and looking to ensure that His kingdom extends with the advance of justice and righteousness.
We are called Jubilee Church. God has called us to enjoy and declare His Jubilee, His freedom, His redemption, His good news.
Rest and fellowship. Creation and redemption. Faith and justice. Celebration and freedom.
All this can be experienced through the gracious gift of the Sabbath.
Why not invest in a ‘summer Sabbath’ with us this year?
Pause for thought:
Read Mark 3:1-6
1. What can you conclude about Jesus’ attitude towards the Sabbath from the passage in Mark above? Once you’ve had a think about this you might want to read Mark 2:23-28 for the context.
2. Why not determine now to set aside some Sabbath time to draw near to God and seek His heart? What is He saying about His kingdom priorities for you?
3. What does Sabbath rest look like for you? How are you going to spend the time?