A note from Kelly King: Recently, I’ve been reminded that Sabbath should start our week, not end our week. If man was created on the sixth day, then his first full day of life was a day of rest! As Denise O’Donoghue encourages us today, let’s develop our lives to work in the rhythms God designed for our good.
The “work = value culture” we live in today has convinced us we don’t need a Sabbath rest. The more we work, the busier we stay and the more value we have. This can lead to feeling that resting is wasteful or extravagant. I would like to suggest that God modeled regular rhythms of work and rest in Sabbath.
Sabbath rest is meant to be a gift, not an obligation or duty. That is, it is meant to be freedom from our labors and a time of reconnecting with Jesus, not a set of rules to follow. As we think about reclaiming a Sabbath rest, a little refresher about what we can learn in Scripture on the matter of Sabbath may be helpful.
5 Important Truths About Sabbath Rest from the Old Testament
1. God established a model for physical rest (Gen. 2:2-3).
We see that the Creator of all things blessed the seventh day after working six and called this day holy, which means “set apart.”
2. Sabbath rest demonstrates we trust Him to provide (Ex. 16:23-30).
Before God gave the commandments to Moses, He ordered the newly freed Israelites to gather manna (work) for six days and to rest on the seventh day, trusting Him to provide their needs on that day.
3. It is given as a commandment (Ex. 20:8-11).
God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and when He gave him the fourth, He again referred to the fact that He did all of the work of creation in six days and then rested on the seventh, calling it blessed and holy.
4. Sabbath rest is a sign we belong to God (Ex. 31:12-13).
God told Moses that throughout the generations, observing Sabbath rest is a sign that He has consecrated us; we belong to Him.
5. It is a reminder of God’s deliverance and salvation (Deut. 5:14-15).
God told Israel that when they observed Sabbath rest, it was a reminder that He delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians and saved them to be His people.
5 Important Truths About Sabbath Rest from the New Testament
1. Jesus came to fulfill the Sabbath (Matt. 5:17; Mark 2:27-28).
The Pharisees had made a mess out of God’s original intent for Sabbath by adding law upon law to define how it was to be observed. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, lived in such a way as to fulfill the Sabbath; He shows us the correct way to have Sabbath rest.
2. Jesus worshipped with fellow believers on the Sabbath (Luke 2:49; Luke 4:16; John 18:20).
It was Jesus’ custom to worship in the synagogue or temple on the Sabbath.
3. Jesus ate and fellowshipped with His followers as well as those who were not (Mark 1:29-31; Luke 14:1).
Following time in a house of worship, Jesus often dined in the home of others. At times, it was the home of some of His followers (Simon and Andrew). At other times, it was in the home of those who opposed Him (the Pharisees).
4. Jesus did good deeds on the Sabbath (Luke 4:31-35; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 13:10-13).
We know from many stories in the gospels that Jesus did things like healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman who was bent over, and the man with the withered hand—all as part of His Sabbath.
5. The New Testament Church continued the Sabbath tradition (Acts 16:13; 20:7).
The accounts of the early church in Acts confirm that God’s plan for a Sabbath rest continued on with these first century believers.
Whether one of our work days is on the traditional Sabbath Sunday or not, there are some simple things we can do to reclaim a day of rest.
1. Decide on your day. For most it will be on Sunday. If that is not possible, pick another day. If not on Sunday, your worship may include listening to a sermon online.
2. Decide on your timeframe. Will it be the full 24 hours of the day or a smaller segment of time, such as dawn to dusk.
3. Prepare before Sabbath. Anticipate the things that need to be done ahead of time and go ahead and do them.
4. Plan for Sabbath. Plan a rough idea of what the day will look like, taking cues from the way Jesus spent His Sabbath. Omit things that do not rest and rejuvenate you.
5. Be intentional about observing the Sabbath. Jesus was.
I have found being intentional about observing the Sabbath has led me to a deeper trust in God as I test His word and find that things actually do get accomplished on the other six days of the week. I have found that as I intentionally abide in Him according to His plan for the rhythms of my life, I have grown in my love for Him. And, I have found that my intentional observance of a Sabbath rest has increased my capacity to love others deeply as Jesus did.
Sister, God has given us permission to rest. Let’s you and I take advantage. I believe we will be better in our ministries as we practice the work-rest rhythms God modeled for us.
Denise O’Donoghue has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Denise’s dissertation for her doctoral degree was on Critical Success Factors for Creating and Sustaining an Intergenerational Women’s Ministry. She has spoken on the topic of intergenerational ministry across the U.S. Denise also served as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Bay Leaf Baptist Church. Currently, she is enjoying serving her church, Imago Dei, as a member of the biblical counseling team and Refugee Hope Partners as the Director of Ministries. She has two married daughters and seven grandchildren. Denise and her husband Rod live in Raleigh, North Carolina.