Friday, February 3, 2012
Keeping the Sabbath - Our Shabbat Meal
I do not think that all this busyness is what God had in mind when in Exodus 16:23 [He said to them, "This is what the Lord commanded: "Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord..."]. This is the first mention of the word Sabbath but certainly not the last. God felt this was so important that he included it in the ten commandments in Exodus 20:8-11 "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. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." I highlight the word holy because God could have just said the word Sabbath or day of rest but in both these cases he used the word holy just has he did back in Exodus 3:5 when he told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. My Bible notes point out that piece of ground was not ordinarily holy but it was made so by the presence of God and that holiness involves being consecrated to the Lord's service and is to be separated from the commonplace. Well so is the Sabbath, it is to be consecrated to the Lord's service and separated from the commonplace. I was feeling that we were not making our Sabbath a special separate time to revel in God's rest.
A passage in Isaiah also really spoke to me. "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the Lord has spoken." Isaiah 58:13-14 How beautiful is that!!
Hebrews 4:9 compares the Sabbath rest to God's rest that we may enter through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, and goes on in verse 10 to say "for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his." Honoring the Sabbath to me is a symbol and a representation of the rest we have in Jesus.
Some may say that the laws regarding the Sabbath was in the Old Testament and and not applicable to us. In Matthew 17 Jesus clearly states that he did not come to "abolish the law or the Prophets: ..... but to fulfill them." The notes in my Bible say "Jesus fulfilled the Law in the sense that he gave it its full meaning. He emphasized its deep underlying principles and total commitment to it rather than mere external acknowledgment and obedience." Jesus never disputed the importance of the Sabbath, in fact in Matthew 12 he declares the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath and that it was "lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
So when going through all of this and deciding to make some changes in our family regarding the Sabbath I was trying to figure out what it would look like for us. The Jewish people celebrate and bring in the day with a Shabbat meal and while we are not Jewish and do not follow some of the same rituals they do on the Sabbath I thought a meal would be a great idea for us to recognize and give a sign to ourselves and to the Lord that we are taking this seriously and we are setting apart this day for him. Last week was our first one and I did not make a real fancy meal with lots of dishes because it is just the four of us and we are pretty simple but I did make some good Challah bread, potato kugel, and baked chicken. In addition to starting the Sabbath with a special meal I have personally chosen not to turn on the computer on the Sabbath and not to fill my day with busyness and housework, not to go grocery shopping but for us as a family to really spend some quality time together in the Lord and His rest.
A book I recently read on the Sabbath called Sabbath Keeping by Lynne M. Baab. When picturing what changes to make in myself and my family I enjoyed this excerpt from the book. "When people talk to me about what they enjoy on the Sabbath, they describe bike rides and board games and outings to parks. They talk about skiing and gardening for hours and long walks with close friends. They discuss leisurely candle lit meals with stimulating conversation and laughter. They talk about relaxed recreation that feels open ended and luxurious, that enables them to do the things I've mentioned - breathe deeply, engage their senses, enjoy nature - and experience joy and fun as gifts from God." Later in the chapter she says " One rabbi reports that his congregation wanted specifics about what they should and shouldn't do on the Sabbath. He used three questions to determine whether an activity was suitable
1. Does it promote rest and/or relaxation?
2. Does it bring delight and enjoyment?
3. Does it give you a sense of holiness and sanctity? In other words does it add to your sense of Sabbath?"
Honoring the Sabbath is going to be different for different people and different families. Just as it is important to honor the Sabbath it is important not to get caught up in the details of following the Sabbath. It is not about following a list of rules but about resting in God's presence and focusing on him and activities that promote resting in God.