This is the 4th in a 5 part blog on Sabbath. So far I have tried to develop why we need Sabbath so badly. With this blog we take a step toward the practical. What should Sabbath look like?
Perhaps a good place to start is to consider what Sabbath has looked like. For Israel, the Sabbath was a day when no work was to be done. Not only could you not work, but your servants and animals could not work either. You could not have another person work for you.
Days were calculated from sunset to sunset, so all the work for the week had to be done by sunset on Friday. This included meals to be eaten during the Sabbath. Everything was ready for the Sabbath to start. This also included the candles and readings for family celebrations on the Sabbath. The day normally included family meals and trip to the temple if you were nearby.
In our lifetimes, Sabbath was more of a social construct. Do you remember when nothing was open on Sunday? There were laws that said businesses could not be open. You could not go out to eat because nothing was open. And you did not dare mow your grass on a Sunday.
The challenge with these Sabbath styles is that they have a tendency to be contrary to the true idea of Sabbath. If Sabbath is a bunch of rules then you inevitably end up working to follow the rules. It is hard to rest in that kind of system.
The reality is that we barely do anything like Sabbath anymore. Sure, we go to church if we don’t have something else to do, but the rest of our Sundays are slammed with activities and projects.
Why don’t we Sabbath anymore? Maybe we are just so busy. Maybe we don’t see the need for Sabbath. Maybe we don’t know how. And the way we have experienced Sabbath is legalistic and does not lead to true rest.
If we are going to develop a Sabbath, it has to start with a clear sense of why we are doing it. It will need structure, but not an overbearing one. Perhaps it will not be on Sunday. Perhaps we won’t be able to do a 24 hour period. Perhaps it won’t be Sunday.
Here is my big point: a Sabbath of true rest has to be based on grace. It can’t be based in shame or in rules.