In the middle of all that has happened in our world, I wonder how we are doing with our Sabbath? When everything is “normal”, we find a rhythm and hopefully our sabbath rest becomes a part of that rhythm. We learn that we cannot go 24/7 and if we try, we collapse. We learn that God has given us a day to simply be. It is a day to worship, to relax, to fellowship, and to enjoy. It is not a day like any other. It is set aside. It has been set aside by God and our bodies crave it. We are not the same when we do not take the sabbath rest we need. But it seems like with all of the uncertainties, we can easily get out of rhythm. We lose sight of what day it is. We forget how important it is to worship. Our lives become jumbled and it is difficult to separate it all. Yet, this is exactly the time when sabbath rest becomes so important. This is the perfect time to be reminded that God does not need us to be “on” all the time and that we were created for rest. We were created to simply live in his existence.
I am sure that the children of Israel lost all sense of time and direction when they were in the wilderness. They were nomadic. They never had a sense of home or of rhythm. They were not in their normal life and were not doing the things they had done before. They were no longer slaves in Egypt but they were stuck in the “in between” time. They didn’t know what was next and the uncertainty loomed overhead. Would they reach the Promised Land? Could they actually get there and find a home? Would things ever get back to some sense of normality? It was during this time that God introduces the Sabbath.
Yes, it is part of the 10 commandments – which should mean there is no compromise of it. But we generally try to compromise everything or negotiate or rationalize. So why not this one too? I find visuals are helpful sometimes. Apparently God’s people needed visuals to really get it as well. So this visual comes to them to help them get a tangible understanding of how Sabbath works. Maybe it speaks to you as well.
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” 17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.” 27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29 See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
6 days they would get up and they would gather the food for the day. The first 5 days, they would get enough for just that day. The 6th day was the exception. They were to get enough for 2 days worth. Any other day, if they had tried this, it would have rotted and smelled up the place. But the 6th day was special. It was the day that they gathered enough for the Sabbath. They gathered enough so on the 7th day, they did not need to go out and get any food. They ate leftovers. They had what they collected the previous day. And that was enough.
Some even tried to test the commandment – there is always a few in every crowd. They went out on the 7thjust to see if it was there. And they found nothing – just as God said. Except, their lack of trust seems to have frustrated God. He had given them instructions for their good. The rest was for them. God didn’t need rest – they did…and we do. God knew what the people needed and he had provided it. They simply needed to trust in him. They needed to allow him to provide and to rest. Sounds simple enough…except it isn’t.
I remember growing up and my dad’s parents adhered to this commandment strictly. My grandmother cooked on Saturday so that Sunday’s lunch could be heated up. My grandfather made sure there was gas in the car so that none had to be bought on Sunday. He would walk to church before he would spend any money. Now…the church was just down the road, so it wasn’t that huge. But you get the point. He believed in keeping the Sabbath holy. He believed God had provided and this would be the way of life. I always thought he was so old school. If you needed gas, go get it. If you needed to run by the grocery store, just go. No big deal. If that was the only day you could wash the car, wash it. Just don’t let my Dad see you…or let my grandparents hear about it. But in their old school way, they were actually living out a rhythm that we may be missing. They may have been much wiser than I would have given them credit.
This really became apparent to me most recently. Life is so unusual. We are working from home more. We aren’t traveling as much. We aren’t going out to eat as much. In general, we are spending more time in our homes. So does that count as Sabbath? I don’t think so. It isn’t a special day set aside. It isn’t different. There isn’t anything unique about the Sabbath if we just collectively say that we have spent time at home more. We are missing the gift of Sabbath. We are missing what God has given us.
So what do we do? It seems so simple but it takes a lot of focus. We should make the Sabbath special. Maybe we commit to having a meal ready the day before. Maybe we make a conscious effort to spend time in worship to God. Maybe we take the time to see what God is up to right outside our doors. It might mean a slow stroll around our yard. It may look like sitting outside before the sun comes up – it’s hot right now. It may mean that we spend time focusing on what God has given us and to give thanks for it all. It always means a different rhythm – a different feeling – a different way of functioning. It always means resting in God and allowing him to care for us.
What are you missing in this chaotic world? What could be done away with on your Sabbath to make it special? What can we do without to remind us that we trust in God and not in the things around us? What is it that we are depending on instead of God?