When our six year old had his last major heart surgery, he came out of surgery and was doing great. But all of the sudden, just after the surgeon left his bedside, he started to wake up, they wanted him to stay asleep for at least another 24 hours! But just minutes after he was out of surgery, he was waking up. It was causing his blood pressure to destabilize. It would spike and then drop and the nurses were working on him frantically. His eyes were terrified and all I could do was hold his hand and pray.
And finally, they pulled his breathing tube and he took a giant breath and his heart calmed down.
It was as if in that one breath the whole world stopped, but he lived.
Sabbath. In Hebrew it is Shabbat. It means to cease. To rest or desist. To give a little background around this word, it’s first important to realize that Shabbat is more than just having a day off from work. It begins with creation. God created everything in six days and on the seventh day he rested.
Now we know that God didn’t need rest. God isn’t human. God doesn’t get tired or exhausted in a physical way. God is omnipotent, or all powerful. So why did God rest? Scripture says he rested because he was done. It was complete.
So today, we are going to learn a little Hebrew. Qadash – holy or set apart. God set the Shabbat apart, it was different than every other day.
What made the Sabbath special was not that God was done with his work, but when he was done, he blessed the day. He took a moment and enjoyed his creation; he celebrated his creation by stopping. God made it holy when he stopped and simply experienced the day. Shabbat, in Hebrew is actually a verb. It was something God did. It’s like he exhaled. All of creation God inhaled or inspired, and then he exhaled. It was holy, because God simply rested in his own presence, simply enjoying his own work. Resting in the presence of God.
This concept of Sabbath grew over time. Today’s scripture comes after the exodus. While the Israelites were under Egyptian slavery, they were forced to work. They were slaves. So when God gives this commandment to Moses, to Israel, he is giving it to a community of people who had been forced to work for generations. They had no rest. So here, in the wilderness, God tells them to remember the Sabbath and rest. But, again, it’s not just about not working; it’s about resting in the presence of God. It’s about recognizing God’s provision and resting in the presence of God.
And it was for the whole family, all the animals, the servants, even the land was later included in the Sabbath system. There were times of rest put into all levels of society. Anything that could be worked or could work was asked to take a rest to remember the Sabbath. To remember that there is a holy space outside of our workings where we rest in the presence of God.
Today’s scripture is a command. Zakkor the Shabbat. Remember the Sabbath. Stop working and remember that there is a holy space where you must quiet yourself and rest in the presence of God.
Sabbath became a system to remember what God had done in creation. It was a system to remember what God had done in the exodus. It was a requirement by God for the people of God to rest in God’s presence.
Rest in the presence of God. What does Sabbath look like today? Sabbath was about taking time, set apart time to rest in the presence of God.
Sabbath in the Jewish world is Friday at sundown to Saturday at Sundown… It’s literally Saturday, the seventh day. Most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, because Sunday is the day that Jesus rose from the dead.
In ancient Jewish times and for many traditional Jews today, and even for many Orthodox Christians, on Sabbath you can’t drive, you can’t cook, you can’t watch tv… you can study scripture, you can pray, you can worship. Sabbath was extreme and it was taken very seriously.
But in the New Testament, we find that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. This was a problem for the traditional Jews, the Pharisees, because it was ‘work.’
But Jesus affirmed that the Sabbath was about wholeness, connecting with God, being in the presence of God.
It was about intentionally taking time to be in the presence of God. It was never meant to be a legalistic system, but an opportunity to connect with God.
So how do we connect with God? How do we rest in God’s presence?
Well one way is by coming here. We come here, we do this thing called worship to be in the presence of God. It’s not just about resting from work. It’s about resting in the presence of God. So when you come here, are you resting in God’s presence?
And when you go from here, are you taking time to rest in God’s presence? Remember, it’s not just about resting from work, but it’s really about intentionally taking time to breathe, be in rest with God.
We are going to take a moment, right now. I am going to invite you to rest with God. To be in God’s presence. To slow down. To be still. Just sit.
But Sabbath is also something that happens outside of this building. It is about your identity as a Christ-follower. So how do you continue on your Sunday? Do you continue to rest in the presence of God? And what does that even mean? There are always things to do, things to get done. But today, I want to challenge you. Take some time today, take the whole day if you feel like you can, and take some time rest in God’s presence. Breathe in the fall air. Share in some conversation with a friend. Take time to pray with your children or grandchildren, or maybe even your spouse.
Sabbath also has a witness component. It was intended to also set apart the followers of Yahweh, followers of God, by their intentional rest in God, every week.
And it doesn’t, and I would argue, shouldn’t stop with just the worship service. Our kids are going to Sunday school to learn. I want to challenge you to continue the learning, the resting in God by joining us for a time of learning after worship.
We will be starting in October the Bible Study for Normal People. We have intentionally selected a curriculum for our kids that have an adult component as well. We value learning for our kids, we should show them that Sabbath doesn’t just end when you are confirmed, but resting in God is something we all need.
We will be going through a Bible study that has taken the word of God and has put it into a very readable novel format. For the youngest ones, it’s a picture Bible and for each developmental stage, there is an age-appropriate book. But what’s really special is that each week the whole church, all of us, from 2 to 92 will be reading, studying and resting in the same section of the word of God. Continue your Sabbath by learning together. And then continue your Sabbath by reading the word of God. Continue your Sabbath so that you can begin to rest in the presence of God for more than just one hour each week.
When my son took that breath, the whole world stopped for me and all I could was call out to God. Give thanks to God. The rest that came, came literally, but it also came in the connection to God. I was reminded of God’s supernatural presence in the world and it reminded me that I need to take more time to rest.
Sabbath is about resting in the presence of God. It is about a whole day, one seventh of your life, set apart to rest in the presence of God.
Take a breath, and let the whole world stop, so that you may live in the presence of God.