An Offer We Shouldn’t Refuse
“Take a day off!” These words evoke a blissful state. Especially during long stretches of workaday life or a busy retirement, a day off begins to take on mythical, wistful, almost dreamy proportions.
Consider this: the ancient Israelites worked for 400 years as slaves under Pharaohs in Egypt, and Pharaohs didn’t give days off. Because Israelites made bricks for their building projects, and their building projects were their legacy, taskmasters drove them every day, day after day after day.
So imagine Israel’s joy when God rescued them from Egypt, led them out to Mount Sinai, and shouted, “My people, take a day off!” The fourth commandment begins, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days, you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You shall not do any work.” Four hundred years of weekend-less work and God interrupts it with Sabbath.
That Top Ten in Exodus 20 is famous. Some judges want to nail them to courtroom walls, because they’ve guided lives well for millennia. But when I consider the lives of the people who first received them, I imagine Sabbath may have been the only commandment of the Ten that actually drew applause. All the others are important. This one is an invitation to something deeply pleasant.
Our culture celebrates freedom. The U.S. was founded on the principle of liberty for all, and we celebrate an Emancipation Proclamation that hoped to make that liberty universal among us. But over the last half-century, you and I have quietly, gradually, almost unwittingly, voluntarily submitted to a ruthless taskmaster called “24/7.” We have chosen to build a stress-abounding world of 24-hour cable, seven-day-a-week commerce, and a break-neck pace of life that is unrivaled in human history.
As we sprint our fast-paced lives and jam-packed schedules, God shouts to us from Mount Sinai: “Take the day off! Let’s get some time together. Let’s get you some rest. Come on over to Sabbath Town!” How shall we respond? We could ignore the invitation, noses to the grindstone, and soldier on? Or we could cheer in blissful gratitude and shout back, “OK…But how?!”
This Fall, as pace quickens leading to the holidays, with culture pressing us to say “Yes!” to more and more demands and Type A drivers pushing us like lemmings to the sea, you and I can shout our resolute “Yawp!” When we say “No!” to the next schedule-stuffing demand, we leave room to say “Yes!” to our creator – to pause, to live more intentionally, to make Sabbath a way of life. Every week, God invites us to Sabbath rest. What will be your RSVP?