“Blessed are all those who are careful to do this. Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong.” (Isaiah 56:2 NLT)
Thank God for a Sunday. After a busy week, it is wonderful to come away from the madding crowd to the quietness of home and the peace of the prayer closet. The world outside may go rushing by, but God has fixed a day of rest for us. Everything is slow today. A blessed calm hangs in the air. I have closed the wooden shutters of the little flat that I will occupy for a few more weeks. Outside undisturbed by weekday noises, I hear the happy singing of birds. Peace, perfect peace.
On Sundays, I feel grateful. God has marked out our days, the hours filled with work and then the sweetness of a day devoted to Him. His presence lingers gently in my flat and even as I chat with a friend who drops by, I am aware that He is near. I choose to withdraw from the pressures of life and refuse to think of work or deadlines or difficult people. If they come to mind, I say a prayer of blessing over their lives and move on. The Sunday is too brief to carry the burdens of the week. In the afternoon stillness, I hear the wind rushing through trees and lifting dry leaves off the ground outside.
I feel thankful to know the God who ordained a day of rest. On the Sabbath, He commanded us to stop working. “Six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest” (Exodus 34:21 NASB). “…on the seventh day, do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:21 NIV).
When people of other cultures or religions worked their animals and servants every day of the week, the Christian was commanded to ensure that all who depend on him also have a chance to rest. My grandfather kept his businesses closed and his farm workers rested each Sunday, because he was a man who feared God and saw Sabbath work as unjust gain. And unjust gain, we were taught, would eventually lead to terrible loss. On Sunday, we are reminded that we serve a just God. And a caring One.
The Sabbath is the church’s unique contribution to the world. While heathen cultures keep their establishments open as they seek to extract every penny from every hour, by stopping work on a Sunday, we acknowledge that it is the grace of God, not the work of our hands that provides and blesses us. Everywhere that Christians went, the poorest labourer was granted rest at the end of his week.
How wonderful to serve such a God. He cares for us and teaches us to care for others. He calls us to pause one day and absorb the peace of His creation and the joy of worship. In return for obeying this delightful rule, we are to be blessed. Our rest will be a productive and fruitful time for our souls and spirits, not a waste of time or energy.
“Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day.
Honour the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
Then the LORD will be your delight.
I will give you great honour
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Isaiah 58:13-14 NLT)