Remember the Sabbath day

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Which of these have you heard, or said, in the last week?

‘I mustn’t waste time’

‘If only I had more time I could…’

‘The time has flown by!’

How God’s people spend their time is at the heart of the 4th commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
— Exodus 20v8-10

Sabbath means ‘to rest’ or ‘cease.’ This pattern of working 6 days and having 1 day off was unheard of in the ancient world, and reflected the goodness of Israel’s God. All they had known was slavery in Egypt, now God commanded them to have one day off a week, as well as festivals!

What does the Sabbath mean for Christians today?                                                              

The New Testament suggests some Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as a special day, while others regarded every day as the same (Romans 14v5). It seems for some Christians the Sabbath was a cause of tension and division. Colossians 2.16-17 states:

Therefore let no one pass judgment… with regard to the Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
— Colossians 2v16-17

If we want to know what Sabbath rest from work is all about, we have to look away from the shadow and to the substance, or reality. Christians are to look to Jesus. He has finished our work of salvation, and is sat down at the right hand of God our Father. From there he invites us to ‘come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11v28).

Christ is the end of working for salvation. Christ is the end of justifying our existence by what we do. Christ is the end of slavishly living for the approval of our peers or bosses. It is easy to overwork and idolise our jobs, trying to find in them our identity, worth, and satisfaction. It is easy to live for the weekend, the next holiday, or ‘me time’ without the pressures of work and family. But Christ offers us the life we were always made for. Our Creator and Redeemer invites us to come to him and find ‘rest for our souls.’

In our work and rest, may we discover more of what St. Augustine discovered so long ago: ‘You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in you.’

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