You’ve probably heard of the ‘Sabbath day’ before or you’ve come across ‘Sabbath’ in the Bible. Most people associate Sabbath with some religious day-off or a ritual of rest. That’s a good start. The dictionary defines Sabbath as “a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jewish people from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.” Historically, Sabbath is a day blessed by God and set aside for rest and worship.
However, have you ever specifically stopped to think about the significance of Sabbath for you as a follower of Jesus and the practical difference it could make to your life today? It’s an important question to ask. Why? Because a quick dive into scripture suggests Sabbath is far more than an ancient religious ritual. It’s a relevant principle for life.
The word Sabbath likely derives from the Hebrew verb “sabat”, meaning to stop, cease or keep. It is, fundamentally, the art of slowing down regularly in order to regain true perspective on God and life. In today’s fast-paced and anxious world, it is hard to underestimate the importance of doing this.
Intentionally exploring Sabbath in the Bible is therefore a valuable activity. Studying Sabbath can reveal deep insights into how we can better live our lives sustainably, restfully and peacefully as Christians. Through prayer and application, we can integrate the divine principle of Sabbath into our busy lives, experiencing the life-giving refreshment that such a restful and worshipful habit can bring.
Consequently, here’s three reasons why studying Sabbath in the Bible could just change your life (along with some Bible verses on Sabbath to get you started).
1. Sabbath helps you see who God is
The God who rests
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” Genesis 2:3
Sabbath in the Bible is not just a good idea. It is something established by God Himself. Right from the beginning of scripture, our Heavenly Father demonstrates to us the importance of rest. He does it Himself! This fills me with joy and encouragement as a follower of Jesus. Our God values rest. He models it, practises it and loves it.
Serving a God who rests reassures us that we can rest too. We are not created to work 24/7. Read that again. No one (except maybe our boss) is asking us to do that. Every time we lift our heads above our culture and look to God, we are reminded of His nature. He is the God of peace, rest and joy. Sabbath is a divine principle. Consequently, it’s worth us pursuing. It’s how we were designed to live.
The God who provides rest
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
God does not only model rest to us. He goes further and offers to provide us with rest in Him. Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God, explicitly tells us that when we proactively “come to Him”, we will find rest. This is what Sabbath is all about. Our lives can become so hectic that we find it hard to stop and approach God in the midst of all our busy-ness. Sabbath is a weekly calendar reminder to carve out space to do just that.
God is our source of rest and refreshment. He is the fountain of life. We need to take time regularly to go to Him to experience what He has to offer. Sabbath provides a weekly opportunity to do just that. Find time to draw near to God in stillness this week. Encounter the rest in Christ that your soul craves.
2. Sabbath teaches you where you’ve come from and where you’re going
A reminder of the past
“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 … Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11
The rhythm of Sabbath has traditionally functioned as far more than just a day off. Rather, it has been a statement of identity for God’s people. Sabbath in the Bible is part of our spiritual heritage as Christians, practised by our ancestors as an act of worship for millennia. It is one of the ways we live distinctively from the world around us. By observing Sabbath, we choose to live counter-culturally and to position ourselves alongside the faithful men and women of God who have gone before us.
Since the creation of the world, God has established a rhythm for His people that balances work with rest. One of the markers of us as Christians should be that we honor that divine principle. It’s how we were created to live! Every time we carve out space for Sabbath, we remember who God is and align ourselves with our spiritual heritage. Resting once a week is a holy activity. It’s what the children of God do! That’s a reassuring thought – especially for people like me who often feel somehow guilty for resting.
A hope for the future
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Hebrews 4:9-10
Taking a Sabbath day not only reminds us to look backwards. Rather, Scripture tells us that Sabbath also points forwards. Sabbath, true Godly rest, is a glimpse of heaven on earth. It is an insight into the eternity of rest that awaits us as followers of Jesus in God’s final and perfected kingdom. Life on earth is often tiring and painful. We can all relate to that. And yet the hope that we have as Christians is that this is not how things will end. Rather, in Christ, we have an eternity of joy and refreshment to look forward to. As we cease from our work on the Sabbath day here on earth, we are reminded of the eternal Sabbath-rest that is to come in heaven. It is a great thing to remember.
3. Sabbath helps you to slow down and let go of control
You are not God
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
Studying Sabbath in the Bible firmly and progressively leads us to one simple but liberating conclusion: we are not God. It might seem an obvious point, but sometimes we live as if everything depends on us. We take the weight of the world on our shoulders. Everything is done in our own strength. This is one of the reasons why Jesus encourages us to ‘swap yokes’: to exchange the heavy yoke of the world for the easy yoke of Christ. With Christ’s yoke on, we remember that He is Lord and that we are not. He is in control and we are not. We are not responsible for making the world go round.
Sabbath helps to regularly remind us of this fact. It challenges our worldly idols of 24/7 working, constant entertainment, success and achievement and reminds us instead of the value of God, family, slowness and stillness. Sabbath is a rest from our need to achieve. It is a rest from the crushing burden of feeling like we constantly have to make something of ourselves. It is our weekly reminder that God is God, and we can trust in Him.
You can slow down
Then He [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28
Sabbath is not just some ethereal spiritual principle. Nor is it some religious ritual to bind us. Rather, as Jesus explains, it is a gift for our physical and spiritual refreshment. Consequently, the Sabbath was designed to help us. It is something tangible that we can do. Carving out a Sabbath day each week is a proactive choice to receive God’s gift of rest and to worship Him for who He is. It is a tool, placed in our hands, that can help us to slow our pace of life.
In a culture that continually says “do more”, Sabbath is a counter-cultural habit that gently whispers back “it’s ok to do less”. In fact, you may even discover more fruitfulness in the rest of your life, when you are better rested as a result of your Sabbath habit. Sabbath is so much more than religious ritual. It is a rhythm for life. It is permission to slow down and spend quality time with the people that you love.
Going deeper with Sabbath in the Bible
If you have been looking for a way to better centre God in your life and thoughts, then look no further than Sabbath. As you immerse yourself in Sabbath in the Bible, I believe you will find true rest for your souls as you discover Jesus in the midst of this spiritual habit.
Sabbath is a key for living a sustainable and joy-filled spiritual life with Christ. This blog has only scratched the surface of Sabbath. Therefore, try to find a moment to consider it further this week. Head over to the Glorify app for meditations, guided prayers and worship that can help you to slow down and enter this place of rest.