The first principle of Sabbath is rest. Genesis 2:1-3 states, “So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation” (NLT).
If you research any fitness routine or exercise regiment, you will quickly observe that they call for varying degrees of intensity. There are “heavy” days and “recovery” days. So when we read the word rest in the passage above, we naturally think of rest as recovery or recuperation after strenuous activity. The problem with that logic is that God didn’t rest on the seventh day because he was exhausted. The word for rest is menuah, which is a kind of rest that results from satisfaction, contentment, or completion. God rested because he was finished. Sabbath rest is the goal we are to move toward. But our cultural challenge to this principle is that we never finish anything. Let’s say as an example that you work hard at your job to finish a project. You are feeling satisfied and are pleased with your near success. The boss walks in and says, “Great job! You’re almost done! Here are two more projects for you to begin!” Think about the extra-curricular sports in our school systems. Before one season ends, another begins. We never finish anything. We just overlap new beginnings on top of things nearing the end. Some of this may be within our control. But ultimately, it is our insatiable appetite and unbridled desire for more that prevents us from achieving the menuah (rest from completion) of God that produces shalom (wholeness, completeness) in life.
The second principle of Sabbath observance is reflection. Genesis 1:31 reveals that “God looked over all that he had made.” When we pause to look around and reflect, we see the sanctity of God in everything. Purposeful reflection becomes the difference between the person who sees a beautiful sunset which blasts the sky with color and then reaches for a camera and the person who sees the same sunset only to report, “It’s getting dark outside.” When we reflect we are able to see God for who he is. It is not until we begin to see God for who his is that we can take steps toward discovering who we are, what we’re about, and why we’re here. When we reflect we see that what we have is not deserved or earned. Our lives and blessings alike are good and perfect gifts that come down from above (James 1:17).
Principle three of remembering the Sabbath is rejoicing. Genesis 1:31 informs that after God looked around, he “saw that it was very good!” Reflection should result in rejoicing. When we experience Sabbath, we should celebrate the provision of God with thankfulness. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day taught that on the day of judgment we will give an account for all the times we did not stop and celebrate the gifts of God.
Rest, reflection and rejoicing are the first three principles of Sabbath observance. Tomorrow I’ll finish this series by posting the final two companion principles.