Sabbath Now!

Readings for this week July 31 – August 4
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – The Sabbath: A Reminder

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:1-17

God’s command to observe the Sabbath stemmed directly from the events of the Israelites’ recent past. It sprang from their direct experience of slavery and imprisonment; it came from the time they spent as slaves, the time when they were unable to rest, when respite from work was impossible – when rest was only given to the dead.

The Israelites were slaves, forced to work under harsh, tortuous conditions, driven by slave masters whipping them along, with no rest and no respite from their labours. Their existence was harsh, and as time went on, Pharaoh made it harsher and harsher, increasing the workload at the same time as handicapping their ability to complete it. The Israelites cried out to God for deliverance and he answered their cries and freed them.

God gave the Israelites rest, a rest that mirrored his rest on the seventh day of creation. This was not just to give them a break, but to give them a reminder of what God had done in rescuing them and an opportunity to worship him. The Sabbath was a reminder of what God had done for them, a reminder of the greatness of God and the promises he had made to his people. In their time of greatest need and greatest sorrow, God rescued them from oppression and slavery, and brought them out into a new land. The Sabbath is a commemoration of that rescue and a time set aside to remember and honour the God who made it possible.

Questions to Consider
What does the Sabbath mean to you? What does a typical Sabbath mean for you? How is it a time of remembrance of God’s goodness?

Prayer
Lord God, help me take your Sabbath seriously. Help me experience it as a key part of my life, the way you meant it to be, a day of rest and reconnection with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Different Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Nehemiah 13:15-22

The Israelites were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. It was meant to be a day of rest, in remembrance of God’s creation and of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. God’s expectation was that all of his people would honour the Sabbath – everyone, all Jews, all servants, all foreigners in the land; even farm animals working in the fields were expected to be given rest on the Sabbath.

But the Israelites were violating the Sabbath, and not just a little violation either. They were effectively ignoring the commandment entirely, and spending the time when they should have been resting and honouring God, working, running their businesses, trading with foreigners and working the fields. Nehemiah acted to get the people to observe the Sabbath; he shut the doors to the city and put men on the gates to tell the traders and merchants attempting to bring their goods in to come back another day.

The mark of God’s people was the Sabbath, their Sabbath observance. To stop one day out of every week, to cease from all work and to rest in honour of their God, was something that would have made the Israelites stand out from the peoples around them. Observing the Sabbath showed the world that honouring and worshiping God was more important than work and money and toil and labour – and was in fact the very thing that gave work and money and toil and labour their full meaning and put them in true perspective. God’s people are called to Sabbath observance, something that – both then and now – makes us stand out from the world around us.

Question to Consider
How does observing the Sabbath mark us out from the culture around us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I be loyal to you and to the ways you have called us to live for you, no matter what the consequences. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Brick After Brick After Brick

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 1:1-14

Time is money. We hear this a lot in our modern, integrated, capitalist economy. More than hearing it, many of us live it, some willingly, many unwillingly, simply because the circumstances of life seem to offer them no choice. There is no time to stop, no time to rest and seek enjoyment outside of the relentless grip of a market that only knows how to squeeze us and squeeze us and then squeeze some more.

It seems as if there isn’t a single aspect of our existence that hasn’t been quantified and commodified. Every facet of our lives has been commodified and sold to anyone willing to buy; our time has had a value put on it; people have been priced, their qualities, characteristics and skills given a market value, and people’s worth calculated accordingly. When is there time to stop? Where is freedom?

The Sabbath is God’s “No!” to this type of life, to these pressures and to the culture that creates and perpetuates this endless cycle of work without rest, the system that forces us to make brick after brick after brick. The Sabbath is a way of resisting the anxiety that comes from the pressure to conform to the world around us, a way of combating the coercive nature of a system that doesn’t know God or acknowledge his ways. The Sabbath is a vitally important and necessary tool in our resistance against a society that wants us to give in to its utilitarian view of humanity. But God has given us a way to resist, a way to fight back – a way that shows people there is another, better way to live, and a better, more loving God to serve.

Question to Consider
How does the Sabbath help you resist the world’s moulding of you?

Prayer
Lord God, help me be “transformed by the renewing of my mind” for your glory and for the benefit of others oppressed by this world’s ways. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Sabbath as Resistance

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 5:12-15

The Sabbath is a sign of resistance, an invitation to enter into a rhythm of life that is in direct opposition to the economic worldview and lifestyle that prevails around us. When we observe the Sabbath, when we hold it sacred and honour it and the God who established it, we show that we will not be bound by the economic structures of our world. We actively, publicly show that we follow a God who believes in our freedom to rest from our labours, a God who understands that we are not defined by or ruled by our work, but that our work, whatever it is, is one facet of who we are. It is one way in which we honour God by joining our labours to his, and those of others, in partnership.

But the importance of the Sabbath and what it stands for is especially pertinent when it comes to the exploitation of tens of millions of people around the world forced into virtual or actual slave labour.

The Sabbath stands as a rebuke to those who would exploit – whether directly with whip in hand or indirectly with an open wallet – the life, labour and dignity of their God-created fellow humans. The Sabbath is an invitation to rest for the weary, a promise of welcome and acceptance for the poor and oppressed, and a call to action to those who want to honour God in all that they do.

Question to Consider
How is your work and Sabbath observance joined to God’s work and love for his world?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me assimilate the rhythm of the Sabbath and the meaning of the Sabbath into my everyday life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Resisting on Behalf of Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 John 3:17-18 

We, as followers of Jesus, have a duty to actively resist on behalf of those who cannot. How we act on the Sabbath is important, but so is how we act on the other six days of the week.

Jesus calls us to put others first, to speak up on behalf of the voiceless, to put our bodies and lives on the line for those in need in the same way that he did for us. The Sabbath may be a day of rest, but that does not mean that we rest from shining the light of Jesus into the dark corners of his world. If what we do and say during the week does not match up with what we do on the Sabbath, then we have missed the point and others will continue to suffer for as long as we get it wrong.

Our Sabbath is not just lived on the Sabbath. It is lived every day. What happens on the Sabbath does not – or should not – stay on the Sabbath. It makes no sense if we celebrate and honour God’s desire for communion with us and rest for us one day, and yet through our actions (and inactions) contribute to the oppression and sorrow of our fellow human beings on the next. Sabbath resistance spreads across the rest of the week, as we fight to give others the rest and rights of enjoyment of God’s good creation that we ourselves have.

Question to Consider
How are you resisting on behalf of others?

Prayer
Almighty God, help me see the Sabbath as more than just holy rest, but as a way to begin cultivating holy unrest at the fallen state of the world. Help me see how to live my life as part of the resistance on behalf of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)