Sabbath

DEVOTIONAL #1

READ

Genesis 1:27-2:15
Exodus 20:8-11
 

REFLECT and DISCUSS

In Genesis 1, God creates the world. He separates the waters from the land, fills it with creatures of every kind, places the sun and moon, grows the plants and vegetation. And after each day he looks over his handiwork and declares it good. Then for the grand finale, God makes man and woman. This time, however, he not only declares his creation good, but he blesses man and woman and sets them apart from the rest of creation by giving them a purpose.

After all the work of creation God chooses to rest. Not because he is tired and needs a break, but because he is marking the seventh day as a special day—his day.

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:3 

Just as God created man and woman, blessed them and set them apart from the rest of creation, God created the seventh day, blessed it and set it apart from the other days. Man’s purpose was to take care of creation. The Sabbath’s purpose, we learn throughout the rest of scripture, is to take care of man. The Sabbath is God’s good gift to us.

What do you think it means to celebrate the Sabbath? 

In what ways might celebrating Sabbath be a good thing for you? 

In Genesis 2 we see a beautiful picture of God’s original plan for creation: God and man working together—and on the seventh day, resting together—in his beautiful and abundant creation. But, of course, it didn’t last. Adam and Eve chose their own path and sin disrupted God’s rhythm for creation.

The Sabbath can help us reclaim that lost rhythm. A regular habit of Sabbath helps us remember God’s presence in our lives and his purpose for creation—unity with God, unity with each other and unity with creation. When we observe the Sabbath, we take a break from the broken rhythms of our culture and set aside time to enjoy his presence and to offer his presence to the world around us. We reorient our mind to prepare our hearts for whatever work God has waiting for us the other six days.

Think about a time in your life when you really enjoyed God’s presence. 

What are some activities that make you more aware of God’s presence?  

What is something intentional you can do on your Sabbath this week to build unity with God, with someone else or with creation? 

 

A PRAYER for SABBATH

Lord of Creation, create in us a new rhythm of life composed of hours that sustain rather than stress, of days that deliver rather than destroy, of time that trickles rather than tackles.

Lord of Liberation, by the rhythm of your truth, set us free from the bondage and baggage that break us, from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us, from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.

Lord of Resurrection, may we be raised into the rhythm of your new life, dead to deceitful calendars, dead to fleeting friend requests, dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.

To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!” To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, “Cease!” To our suffocating selves, Lord grant release.

Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes, we rest in you our lifeline. By your ever-restful grace, allow us to enter your Sabbath rest as your Sabbath rest enters into us. In the name of our Creator, our Liberator our Resurrection and life we pray. Amen.

From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radical 
by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro

 

IDEAS for YOUR NEXT SABBATH

Here are a few ideas of ways you can celebrate God’s presence, enjoy creation and build unity this week.

  • Read Psalm 19. Write a similar Psalm in your own words.
  • Take a hike, watch the sunset or look for shapes in the clouds.
  • Study a certain part of creation (animal, flower, etc.) that you are not very familiar with. Read about it, find videos, share what you’ve learned with others.
  • Turn off the lights, and use candles during dinner.
  • Play some board games with others.
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Read Psalm 136 as a call and response prayer with the family before dinner.
  • Use a breath prayer throughout the day. Below is an example from Psalm 121:2, but feel free to adapt any verse or short prayer you want. Inhale a deep breath, fill yourself completely. Then say: “My helps comes from the Lord,” Exhale slowly, releasing all the air, and say: “maker of heaven and earth.” Repeat several times.
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DEVOTIONAL #2

READ

Exodus 16:1-36
Isaiah 58:13-14
 

REFLECT and DISCUSS

“… we will recognize the great healing that can take place in our lives when we get into the rhythm of setting aside every seventh day all of our efforts to provide for ourselves and make our way in the world. The great benefit of Sabbath-keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us—not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.”

 from Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat, which means to cease. But what are we to cease from? Work is the obvious answer, but there are many things in our lives that we find difficult to set aside—our need to accomplish, our anxieties about the future, our attempts to control and our insatiable consumerism just to name a few. These are all symptoms of something deeper—a need that we are trying to meet.

In Exodus 16, God was teaching the Israelites that he alone would meet their needs. It was a lesson they struggled to learn. What did they do to try and meet their own needs? What do you do to try and meet yours?

When we regularly and intentionally set aside the things that keep us busy, tired and distracted, we open the door for God to show us where we’ve been striving without him. Sabbath is a weekly reminder that God alone can meet our needs. He is the one who gives us security and worth, purpose and direction, peace and rest. Without weekly Sabbath we run the risk of running ourselves ragged trying to meet our own needs—and miserably failing.

During Sabbath this week, remember that you are not simply ceasing from doing something. You are taking a step of faith by acknowledging that you are not God and that he will take care of you. You are also taking a step of repentance by turning away from trying to meet your own needs and turning toward God as your provider.

What do you find difficult to set aside? What need do you think you are trying to meet?  What do you consider “work” in your life? What preparation would you need to do to cease that work for a day?

 

A PRAYER for SABBATH

May the stresses of obligation, reputation and deadline here dissolve. May we find rest in the renewed certainty that we need not be feared or respected or popular or successful, or somehow perfect to be loved by you. There is no striving here at the end of our limits. Forgive our former strivings after our own righteousness, O Lord.”

From the prayer, “For Arriving at the Ocean” in the book Every Moment Holy
by Douglas Kaine McKelvey

 

IDEAS for YOUR NEXT SABBATH

Here are a few ideas of ways you can celebrate God’s presence, enjoy creation and build unity this week.

  • If you identified a need in the devotion above, find several Bible verses that address that need. Memorize one, or hang it where you will see it.
  • Write down several ways that God has taken care of you in the past. Share what you wrote with others.
  • Go for a walk. Pay attention to all the ways God cares for creation.
  • Keep some paper handy or start a list on your phone. Whenever things that you need to do, or anxiety about your circumstances crop up, write them down and say a short prayer as a way to release those things to God for the day.
  • Here’s a game to play with the kids. Hide cotton balls throughout the house and let the kids hunt for the “manna.” Talk about how God provides for us just like he did for the Israelites.
  • Use Psalm 139:23 as a breath prayer throughout the day. Inhale a deep breath, fill yourself completely. Then say: “My helps comes from the Lord,” Exhale slowly, releasing all the air, and say: “maker of heaven and earth.” Repeat several times.
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DEVOTIONAL #3

READ

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Luke 13:10-17
 

REFLECT and DISCUSS

The first time we see the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, the Sabbath points toward God as creator. Here in Deuteronomy, the Sabbath points toward God as rescuer. The Israelites were to keep the Sabbath as a day to remember that they were no longer slaves. God had set them free.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons Jesus was so fond of healing people on the Sabbath. He wanted everyone to know that, just like his Father, he was going to rescue them. We see one such rescue in Luke 13. A woman, stooped over and crippled for 18 years, had gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath. The Bible describes her as bent over and not able to fully straighten up.

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.” Luke 13:12-13

After Jesus rebukes the synagogue leaders for complaining, Jesus does something beautiful. He calls her “daughter of Abraham.” By doing so, he tells the woman—and the crowd—just how valuable she is.  She is a child of God, and she is worth rescuing.

Sabbath is not just a day of rest, it is a day of rescue.

The woman had a skewed vision of life. Remember that she was doubled over and couldn’t raise up.  She probably could only see the ground directly around her. When we immerse ourselves in our work and our culture without a break, we also get a skewed vision of life. Our priorities, our attitudes, our choices are all affected. We lose God’s perspective of the world and other people. Sabbath can set us free. How might your “vision” of life be skewed or limited right now?

Jesus called the woman to come close to him. In order to be healed the woman had to leave the crowd and stand next to Jesus. There are many things each week that we need to walk away from in order to be close to Jesus. Not necessarily bad things, but things that drain and distract us. If we don’t take rest, those things can enslave us. Sabbath can set us free. What is something from work or culture that you need to take a day away from?

The woman was reminded of her worth. The Bible doesn’t tell us the woman’s thoughts, but it’s not hard to imagine what the previous 18 years had done to her physically and emotionally. But Jesus reminds her that she is dearly loved. When we choose to constantly immerse ourselves in the ways of this world, it is easy for us to lose sight of what God has to say about us. It is easy for us to believe the lies that the world tells us about ourselves. Sabbath can set us free. What are some lies that you tend to believe about yourself?

The rulers responded to this miracle with indignation, but the woman responded with praise. Let’s do the same. During Sabbath this week, let’s praise God for all the ways he has rescued us.
 

A PRAYER for SABBATH

Lord Jesus, you are the Light of the world
You created and crafted this day of Sabbath Rest.
You bless it. You crown it with glory.
You call it holy.
Through it, you call us out of darkness into your love and light.
It is to be a day of refreshment and celebration.
It is a day of devotion and delight. Set apart since the beginning of time,
You alone release us from the bondage of duty and demand.
As your chosen people, we will embrace this day of Sabbath Rest.
In keeping it, we remember you as our Creator and Rescue Redeemer.
We do this now, with joy.

From A Sabbath Prayer at runhardrestwell.com

 

IDEAS for YOUR NEXT SABBATH

Here are a few ideas of ways you can celebrate God’s presence, enjoy creation and build unity this week.

  • God is always with us, but we are often distracted and unaware. As a way to help you be more aware of God’s presence say, “hello,” to God throughout your day. Say it aloud if you want, or in your heart. Welcome his presence.
  • Make a list of words and phrases that describe your worth to God. Here are a few scriptures to get you started: Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 3:12, 1 John 3:1.
  • Get together with family or friends. Spend some time praying for people who need healing.
  • Take a walk and imagine what heaven will be like with no more pain, sickness or tears.
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Write a note to someone telling them how much you value them.
  • Use Psalm 18:16 as a breath prayer throughout the day.Inhale a deep breath, fill yourself completely. Then say: “My helps comes from the Lord,” Exhale slowly, releasing all the air, and say: “maker of heaven and earth.” Repeat several times.
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DEVOTIONAL #4

READ

Genesis 2:1-25
Psalm 84
 

REFLECT and DISCUSS

“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Augustine

In the creation story, God shows us two different kinds of rest. After six days of creating the earth, God stops work for a day. The Hebrew word for this kind of rest is “shabbat.” It literally means to cease.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (shabbat) from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

But in Genesis 2:15-25 we see a picture of rest that comes, not from ceasing, but from being in God’s presence.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

We know that God didn’t put Adam and Eve in the garden and then leave. God lived in the garden with them. They go about their work, and their relationship, in God’s presence, and that is the source of the rest we see in Genesis 2:25.

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” 

There is no greater picture of rest than that. They were at perfect peace with God, with themselves and with each other. It is so far removed from our own experience that it can be difficult to even imagine what it would be like. But, Sabbath can show us.

Taking a break from all our striving is a good thing, but ceasing in and of itself isn’t the ultimate goal. We cease during Sabbath in order to make room for God’s presence, which is where we find true rest. And true rest reorients our hearts to be more attuned to his presence throughout the week.

Psalm 84 invites us into God’s presence.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.  Psalm 84:1-2

The Psalmist finds rest for the soul, heart and flesh by being with God.

How could you rest your soul?
What is something you enjoy that brings you life?

How could you rest your mind/heart?
Think about a time when your mind was at peace.

How could you rest your body?
What effect does overwork, stress and/or fatigue have on you? 

 

A PRAYER for SABBATH

Help us, Lord, to know ourselves in this Sabbath time. We often run away from the quiet, preferring the noise of our lives to your still, small voice. Our schedules are often so full that when we finally stop, we fall asleep; but even in our sleep we toss and turn. We are restless, Lord, and need to find our rest in you. Help us to know ourselves and draw close to you. We pray these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

adapted from Sabbath Worship Service by David G Miller
Baylor University, The Christian Reflection Project

 

IDEAS for YOUR NEXT SABBATH

Here are a few ideas of ways you can celebrate God’s presence, enjoy creation and build unity this week.

  • Read Matthew 11:28-30. What are a few practical things you can do to follow Jesus and learn from him today?
  • Consider memorizing a verse. When your mind gets stuck in anxiety or doubt, practice your verse to help get unstuck.
  • Throughout your day, take notice of the small things that we normally take for granted. Notice the sunlight angling through the window, the laugh lines around your friend’s eyes, the song of a robin in the backyard. Pay attention to the small details and marvel at life.
  • Write a poem or start a journal.
  • Think of a special dessert or treat to share with the kids only on Sabbath days.
  • Say only encouraging words to the people you are with. Get creative with the words you use to build them up.
  • Use Psalm 84:4 as a breath prayer throughout the day. Inhale a deep breath, fill yourself completely. Then say: “My helps comes from the Lord,” Exhale slowly, releasing all the air, and say: “maker of heaven and earth.” Repeat several times.
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DEVOTIONAL #5

READ

Luke 6:6-11
 

REFLECT and DISCUSS

“Deliberate intentionality with our actions communicates what we value. In our Sabbath practices, not only do we stop doing stuff, but we also engage in actions that imitate God. Enjoy a meal with the people you love; celebrate time spent together; practice spiritual disciplines. Although at times that may seem counterintuitive, living intentionally like this brings a fresh and lively character to life; it brings healing to our bodies and restores our souls.”

Excerpt from Sabbath Bible Study, from Calvin College.

Let’s take a moment and consider where we might see ourselves in the story of Luke 6:6-11.

Can you relate to the man with the withered hand? He needed healing on this Sabbath day. The words Jesus spoke to him must have sounded strange, “stretch out your hand.” How could he do that? His hand was shriveled and powerless. Yet, he obeyed and reached toward Jesus and was healed.

The idea of Sabbath rest is so contrary to our culture that it sounds strange to our ears. It feels counterintuitive and foreign. Yet Sabbath is designed for our healing. Are there places in your life that feel withered? Where are you powerless to make a change? Whether you are physically sick, emotionally worn out or just caught in a cycle of bad circumstances, Jesus is calling you to stretch out your hand toward him on the Sabbath.

But let’s not forget about the Pharisees and scribes, for we can find ourselves in their shoes as well. They had taken the rules to the extreme. They had lost sight of the fact that Sabbath was meant to be a blessing to the people of God—not a burden.

We often find ourselves on the same path as the Pharisees, just at the opposite extreme. Instead of too many boundaries and rules for the Sabbath, we have none. We shop, we catch up on housework, we squeeze in our errands, we go to soccer tournaments, we are busy and distracted. Sabbath is not meant to be a burden, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be like every other day of the week. It is a sacred time and is meant to be a blessing to the people of God.

So, how do we make that time sacred? We do it through imitation. We imitate God by setting aside our work for a day. We imitate Jesus by using the Sabbath to do what is good and what gives life. We are not bound by rules that dictate what our Sabbath should look like, be we are compelled by his love and grace to be intentional about how we spend that time.
 

A PRAYER for SABBATH

This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it. This is a day for peace and proclamation, for rest and reflection, for working at worship instead of worshiping work. The sabbath day is a holy day, consecrated by the Creator as a gift to creation. We are commanded to honor and preserve it.The sabbath day is a holy day, wherein we realize that all days are God’s days; a day of rest, wherein we realize that all work is God’s work; a day of peace wherein we can realize that God is our maker and our mender, too.

adapted from Sabbath Worship Service by David G Miller
Baylor University, The Christian Reflection Project

 

IDEAS for YOUR NEXT SABBATH

Here are a few ideas of ways you can cease and be with God this week.

  • Begin a new spiritual discipline for each Sabbath—perhaps a journal, prayer of examen, or memorizing a verse.
  • Go on a prayer walk. If you do this as a family, you can give the kids some questions to talk about as you walk: What can I thank God for? How does God show that he loves me? What are words that describe God? Who can I pray for on this walk?
  • Think of ways you can be more generous with your time, money or energy on this Sabbath?Sit on the back porch with friends and family and enjoy the spring weather.
  • Make it a goal to meet at least three new people at church on Sunday.
  • Spend the day looking for the sovereignty of God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is.
  • Use Psalm 63:1 as a breath prayer throughout the day. Inhale a deep breath, fill yourself completely. Then say: “My helps comes from the Lord,” Exhale slowly, releasing all the air, and say: “maker of heaven and earth.” Repeat several times
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DIG DEEPER

The following were used as a guide for these devotions. We encourage you to use them to dig even deeper into Sabbath.

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn

The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan

The Sabbath: a video from the Bible Project about the history of the Sabbath

7th Day Rest: A 14-episode podcast about Sabbath