Posts Tagged “Exodus”

Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings. (We found an “oops” in the bookmarks we uploaded last month – we forgot to include Feb 29 in the schedule. The bookmarks have been updated to reflect the additional day we get this year.)

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

I pray that you enjoy your time with God as you read each day.
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here Download only the March/April 2012 Bookmark Here Download a Half-Page PDF of the March Reading Plan Here

Here’s March’s reading plan:

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW  in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings.

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

Happy treasure seeking, friends!
Sandy

Download Bookmarks Here Download a PDF of the February Reading Plan Here

Here’s February’s reading plan:

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In our reading in the Old Testament for Resting at the River’s Edge we are making a transition. We finished reading Exodus on Friday. Monday we begin reading Deuteronomy. That’s quite a jump! Let me provide some background.

We’re following a plan that has us reading through the Old Testament over a two year period while reading the whole New Testament each year. Built into the plan in the second year is a second reading of a few foundational Old Testament books:

Genesis – This “Book of Beginnings” provides the creation story, a discussion of the origins of sin, reveals God’s first steps in His plan to overcome the power of sin in people’s lives, and introduces God’s covenant with His people. It provides the very foundation of all that happens after it. It also details the beginning of the history of the Israelites. At the end of the book we find that the Israelites are living in Egypt, having moved there during a famine when Joseph was the Prime Minister. The Israelites were thriving in Egypt.

Exodus – This book takes us through the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, a critical turning point in their history. At the beginning of the book, Joseph and the Pharaoh under which he served have both died. The new Pharaoh recognized that the Israelites were thriving and became afraid of losing his kingdom to them. Consequently, he enslaved them, and their treatment as slaves became increasingly harsh over time. God raised up Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh and ultimately rescues the Israelites out of Egypt. The book then records the process of God teaching the Israelites how to worship Him and how to live in community. In the last chapters of the book, we have God giving instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Israelites building it according to those instructions.

Deuteronomy – This book is important because it records three sermons Moses gave shortly before his death. The Israelites have wandered through the wilderness for forty years (recorded in the book of Numbers) and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses will not be going into the Promised land with them. It records Moses’ wisdom and advice to the people before they embark on a tremendous adventure and challenge without him.

We’re in the second year of the reading plan, and have just completed reading Genesis and Exodus. We are skipping over the books of Leviticus (a detailed instruction manual for the priesthood) and Numbers (an account of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness). In chapter 27 of Numbers, the Lord begins the process of transitioning the Israelites from wandering through the wilderness to crossing into the Promised Land:

12One day the LORD said to Moses, “Climb to the top of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. 13After you have seen it, you will die as Aaron your brother did, 14for you both rebelled against my instructions in the wilderness of Zin. When the people of Israel rebelled, you failed to demonstrate my holiness to them at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

15Then Moses said to the LORD, 16“O LORD, the God of the spirits of all living things, please appoint a new leader for the community. 17Give them someone who will lead them into battle, so the people of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
Numbers 27:12-17

The book of Numbers finishes with instructions about their first steps into the Promised Land.

On to Deuteronomy
Monday’s reading will be the first two chapters of Deuteronomy. You’ll find Moses on the east bank of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is on the other side of the river. He’ll begin with a history of the Israelites’ journey. He’s not just an old man telling stories. His repetition of history is meant to remind the Israelites (and us) of the goodness of their God throughout the generations and many of the lessons they have learned throughout a long history of following and rebelling against that God.

Now that you’re caught up a bit, enjoy Monday’s reading. And if you haven’t been reading along with us, Monday’s a great place to jump in and join us.

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Love, The Gospel & The Law

This month we’ll read:

  • The three letters of John and the book of Philemon (think “love”)
  • The book of Luke (think “Gospel”)
  • Deuteronomy (think “Law”)

The exciting thing is that all reveal God’s purposes, His nature and His great love for us. Here’s a snippet from Deuteronomy, Luke and 1 John.

7“The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8It was simply because the LORD loves you, and because he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such amazing power… 9Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:-9

30b“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end….35b So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him…. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins…. 1 John 3:1-5

If you don’t know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. If you do know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. He has something to say to each of us. I’m looking forward to it!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for March is below.

To download a PDF of March’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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3So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the LORD has brought you out by his mighty power. (Remember, you are not to use any yeast.) 4This day in early spring will be the anniversary of your exodus. 5You must celebrate this day when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. This is the land he swore to give your ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey.
Exodus 13:35 (NLT)

In America we celebrate many things: birthdays, anniversaries (of all kinds), New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In our house, we like to celebrate Ground Hog Day. Some people even celebrate Tax Day.

Some days receive major celebration, some just a little. I’m guessing, though, that we let the most significant days go by without notice. God told Moses and Moses told the people to celebrate the day they came out of Egypt because “the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” I haven’t been a slave in Egypt, but I have been a slave to sin. Then I came to read in the Bible that Christ died to set me free from that bondage and I prayed something like Lord, I don’t understand what I’ve just read, but I want to believe it and I want to believe in You. So if You’re real, help me to understand. A while later, I became convinced of the reality of God and further convinced that He loved me…even when I didn’t even believe in Him. At that point, my heart was changed and I prayed a different sort of prayer. It went something like this: “Lord, forgive me. I still don’t understand a lot of things, but I believe You are who You say you are in the Bible and I believe Jesus died for my sins. To the best of my ability in my limited knowledge, I give my life to You. That was my day of FREEDOM. That’s when God began to make the tremendous changes in my heart that have occurred over the past thirty-two years. It was May 21 that I prayed that second prayer.

Do you celebrate your Freedom Day? Do you commemorate the day in which the Lord brought you out of bondage? We typically do little more than remember “Oh, today’s my spiritual birthday.” I’d like to step that up a bit. Any ideas? What kind of Freedom Day or spiritual birthday celebration do you think honors the Lord?

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17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
Exodus 13:17-18

Do you sometimes wonder why God seems to be taking the long way around to fulfilling your dreams? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s because He knows that taking the shorter route would require facing enemies that you’re not ready to fight. So He patiently leads you around those enemies until you have gained strength and knowledge, faith and perseverance. Then, when you are ready to make the final steps toward the land He has promised you, He’ll lead you into it.

I love serving a Father who truly knows what’s best for me and leads me into it! Lord, help me to embrace life knowing that You are leading me even when it feels like we’re going nowhere. Help me to remember that sometimes taking the long route is for my own good. Enable me to embrace that fact and enjoy the journey, not running ahead or falling behind.

God is so good!

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Moses and the Hebrews

1And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are bound for heaven, think about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s Messenger and High Priest. 2For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully and was entrusted with God’s entire house. 3But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything.
5Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.
– Hebrews 3:1-6

Our February reading will have us read about Moses’ great leadership of the Israelites as God worked through him to bring God’s people out of bondage. We’ll find ourselves almost finishing the entire book of Exodus as we read throughout the month. While reading Exodus we’ll also read the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews was written to the New Testament Israelites. It begins by establishing a point of connection between the Old Testament Israelites and those living when the book was written.

1Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. 3The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.
– Hebrews 1:1-3

Let me know what new things God speaks to you as you read these related passages in February. Enjoy!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for February is below.

To download a PDF of February’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

In this three-part series, we first briefly looked at God’s fourth commandment – seeing that it was not only a commandment but a gift – a day set apart to rest from the curse that would later come through Adam and Eve’s sin and to enjoy and be refreshed by God. In the second blog I gave seven reasons that compel me to observe a weekly Sabbath. But I live in the real world with all the schedule struggles that each of you experience. Today’s blog is more practical in nature.

A significant key is to honor God by not being legalistic about the Sabbath while still being disciplined to abstain from working and spending time honoring God. Balancing freedom and discipline is the challenge of the Christian walk in many areas.

Sabbath Saturday, Sunday or ???
The Jewish Sabbath (or Shabbat) is from sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening. There is actually a short ritual and prayer that bookend the day, setting it apart as different from all other days. I have never observed a Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, but it’s on my bucket list! It seems to me that the traditions would enhance a Sabbath observance.

Some Christian denominations observe a Saturday Sabbath, but most recognize Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Whether Saturday or Sunday, I find that observing a Sabbath on one of those days, is easiest. However, I am by no means dogmatic about what day is honored Stepping out of legalism and into freedom, I honor the spirit of the law in lieu of the letter of the law. I am somewhat legalistic about it being one day a week (because if I’m not I too easily allow many weeks go by without a Sabbath), but exercise complete freedom about which day of the week.

My husband works two jobs – part time at our business and part time at a local hospital. His hospital schedule varies and he is required to work most Sundays. Each week we look at our schedules and set aside one day for him to honor as a Sabbath to the Lord. It’s sometimes very difficult for me to not violate his Sabbath when he’s been out of our office for several days and I need his assistance on a project. But Sabbath observing is as much about disciplining ourselves not to meet the demands of this world as it is about resting and enjoying the Lord. So I try not to be one of those demanders.

Observing the Sabbath on the same day every week is ideal, and clearly what God intended, but your schedule may not make that possible. In Phil’s case, for example, sometimes ten days may go by between Sabbaths and the next week it may be only five days. It’s not ideal, but it still honors God and enables Phil to experience the blessing of observing the Sabbath.

Do’s & Don’ts
People often think of a long list of restrictions when they think of observing a Sabbath day. The only true restriction is “don’t work.” Anything else I write is simply a guideline designed to help you enter into the spirit of the day. As I wrote in my first blog in this series, as a child I was not allowed to sew on Sunday. To me sewing was a joy and I never understood the rule. I understand now that the rule was developed when sewing was just another chore required to make a household run smoothly. My great-grandmother couldn’t stop by WalMart to buy a new dress for my grandmother when she outgrew the one she’d been wearing. Great-granny had to sew a new one. Hence, sewing was something that was prohibited on a day of rest. That rule was passed down to my grandmother and my mother and eventually me. I bucked the tradition.

Space does not allow for a lengthy discussion about how Christians might observe the Sabbath, but a few suggestions might be helpful. Again, they are not meant as rules, simply suggestions to get one started on a path of honoring the Sabbath and the One who created it. One suggestion, however, as you begin to enjoy Sabbaths as days set apart for the Lord – they take a little preparation sometimes. Don’t wait until your Sabbath day each week to enjoy it. Plan ahead to take a nature walk or gather with friends. Not every week, but frequently enough to keep your Sabbaths from disintegrating into days of sitting around doing nothing!

Do’s

  • Worship
  • Rest
  • Family activities that promote positive interaction
  • Fellowship with friends
  • Rest (repeated here because our natural inclination is to do something instead of do nothing)
  • Explore nature
  • Discuss God’s Word, nature, ways, etc. and what He is teaching – “discuss” means you’re gathering with family and/or friends for enjoyable times centered on God
  • Be creative – draw, sew, play an instrument, garden, write (so long as you’re not working at it!)
  • Practice peace

Don’ts

  • Work or discuss work
  • Discuss bothersome issues like finances and “to do” lists
  • Get lost for Sabbaths on end doing things alone – playing computer games, watching television, even reading
  • Rush – for anything or anywhere
  • Quarrel – set differences aside for a day
  • Adhere to a strict schedule

A key is to recognize the commandment, need and blessing of observing Sabbaths and making a commitment to do so. God will be honored and pleased by your efforts and you will be blessed more than you can imagine. I like what Abraham Heschel wrote in his book The Sabbath, It’s Meaning for Modern Man.

“The art of keeping the seventh day is the art of painting on the canvas of time the mysterious grandeur of the climax of creation: as He sanctified the seventh day, so shall we. The love of the Sabbath is the love of man for what he and God have in common. Our keeping the Sabbath is a paraphrase of His sanctification of the seventh day. (page 16) (bolding mine)

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Yesterday’s blog introduced the Biblical injunction for Israelites to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” While many believe it is not a requirement for Christians to observe a weekly Sabbath, I believe there is great blessing when we live as God designed us to live. Today, I give my six most compelling reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath. Tomorrow’s blog will address some practical issues surrounding observing a Sabbath without falling into legalism.

1. It is the Fourth Commandment
I have difficulty moving away from the fact that honoring the Sabbath is a part of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given as a covenant between the Lord and His people, the Israelites. As Christians, we have become a part of that covenant community, grafted in, as it says in Romans 11. Yet, we are also not a part of it. The covenant we have with the same Lord is no longer based upon the Law as providing a means for our righteousness, but upon our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death – His blood (once for all) instead of the blood of an annual animal sacrifice makes atonement for our sin and enables us to be righteous in God’s eyes. Hence, we are not under the same covenant. We are no longer under the Law, but the spirit of the law is still relevant. (In fact, it is the supremacy of the spirit of the law that Jesus repeatedly stressed in His teachings.) The spirit of the fourth commandment is a day in which we end our work (our striving), and enjoy God and His good gifts.

God’s covenant with the Israelites offers both a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. A review of Israel’s history illustrates not only that God was true to His word in both cases, blessing and punishing Israel for her obedience and disobedience, but also that He was long-suffering – He didn’t bring immediate punishment. So while we might not see an immediate affect from not honoring the Sabbath, we can be sure that it is building, that the long-suffering God we serve will reach a point when He removes His hand of protection and we experience the results of our non-stop lifestyle. (Is it not arrogance and pride on our part that disagrees with our Creator that we need a Sabbath?)

2. The Purposes for the Sabbath Still Exist
A study of Old Testament Scriptures shows that God had three purposes for the Sabbath: (1) serving as a day of remembrance, (2) establishing a testimony that we are God’s people, and (3) to provide a day of rest from our labors. Can anyone argue that there is still need for each of these things today? Each purpose continues to have validity in today’s world. With the many sounds and voices clamoring for our attention 24/7, setting aside a day each week when we intentionally remember the goodness of the One who set us free is more needed than ever. In a world that sees little difference between the people of God and everyone else, choosing a lifestyle change that focuses on God one day out of seven might begin to be a change that people notice. While research shows that the average American gets less sleep than they require, few of us need research to convince us of the truth. We need a day set aside each week for the specific purpose of “resting the body…replenishing the spirit…[and] restoring the soul.”[1]

3. Observing the Sabbath Demonstrates My Trust in God
Further, I find that observing the Sabbath (specifically, committing to setting aside one day each week in which we will not work) to be very similar to tithing in that it demonstrates my trust in God to provide for my needs rather than in my own efforts. When observing the Sabbath, the primary activity that we are to abstain from is work, whether paid or unpaid labor. To honor God, then, I must choose a lifestyle that can be lived within the limits of the six available days I have for working. When life gets crazy and I need the seventh day to “catch up” on work, I face a choice much like the choice I face when there are more bills than my 90% will cover. I can trust God and keep our covenant or I can choose to accomplish all that needs to be done in my own strength. I am reminded of Psalm 20 in which David says “some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Note that trusting God does not mean that I continue to accept deadlines at work and schedule too many activities in my life, trusting that God will allow me to accomplish in six days the same things I’ve been doing in seven days. Trusting God means that I change my work habits, working less hours if necessary, trusting that God will meet my needs. Trusting God in this situation means saying “no” to some activities, believing that God will find others to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

4. Observing the Sabbath Enables Me to Focus on What’s Most Important
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) In Matthew 22:40, he expands this teaching by adding, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, if we do only these two things, we will have met all the demands of the law and the prophets. Observing a weekly Sabbath enables me to do these two things better by giving my heart, soul, mind and strength a respite from toil and an opportunity to be refreshed and restored.

Sabbath keeping requires that we stop everything that might be considered work, pulling ourselves away from the toil and burden of it physically and emotionally. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish rules for keeping the Sabbath included not even being allowed to talk about work. The wisdom in this is that to talk about work brings it into one’s reality, even if one isn’t actually doing the work. Much of the work that is done in modern businesses is conducted in meetings. Talking about work is essentially just another business meeting. Accommodating these discussions on the Sabbath opens the door for any other kind of work as well.

I find that such discussions almost immediately change the atmosphere in the room and the focus of the day. By definition, it is no longer a day of rest. It is some hours of rest. My experience shows that there is a very large difference between a day and some hours. The interruption of even a short conversation about work is far greater than the time spent talking about it. For most people, their minds and bodies shift slowly into Sabbath and quickly back to the rest of the week. In other words, that short conversation can very easily trigger our minds and bodies back into “work mode.” The conversation may have been ten minutes, but the mind and body don’t return to their “Sabbath” state for another hour.

My husband and I learned many years ago that there were some subjects we should not discuss on the way to church. It’s not that these subjects would cause arguments, but that they would put us in too “earthly” of a mindset. It becomes too easy for those thoughts to encroach on our worship if we’ve discussed them on the way to church. It might seem like an innocent question that pops into our mind on the way to church but if it has any potential of carrying additional baggage, it is best left for another time. (Any question beginning with “did you remember to…” almost always falls in this category.) Sabbath keeping honors those kinds of rules for the entire day

5. My Heart and Soul are Transformed by the Sabbath
Entering into regular rest allows one to appreciate the “little” things of God – a beautiful sky, the wonder of nature, the nuances of His Word, or even His goodness in providing the life He’s given us. When in “work” mode, these things often go unnoticed and unappreciated. They are often an interruption or even an annoyance. But on a day when all we are supposed to do is enjoy God, we have time for these things and they refresh our souls. Mark Buchanan writes:

“When we get too busy everything becomes either a trudge or a scramble, the doldrums or sheer mayhem. We get bored with the familiar, threatened by the unfamiliar. Our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrivels…Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about.”[2]

Those things include God, family and the world around us.

Slowing down calms my heart and enables me to love God with my whole (healthier) heart, and to love my neighbor because neither is an “inconvenience” in my otherwise busy life. Instead, slowing down, loving God, and being kind to my neighbor are exactly the things I’m supposed to be doing on the Sabbath.

Ruth Haley Barton describes the “sabbath transformation” as follows:

“I know what it is like to rest for hours until I have energy to delight in something – good food, a good book, a leisurely walk, a long awaited conversation with someone I love. I know what it’s like to feel joy and hope and peace flow back into my body and soul though I had thought it might never come again. I know what it’s like to see my home and my children through the sabbath eyes of enjoyment.”[3]

How vital these things are for the Christian! How dramatically they impact our ability to show Christ to those around us. Sometimes it seems that few people truly enjoy their children today. Perhaps it is because they never experience a Sabbath that allows them the rest needed to care about the things that are most important to them.

6. My Mind and Strength are Transformed by the Sabbath
Only the most hardened against rest would argue that being over-tired weakens both our mind and our physical bodies. Nevertheless, let me cite a recent German study that provides:

“hard evidence…that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep… Scientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep…the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process.”[4]

Dr. Nilesh Davé, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center was quoted in the Dallas News explaining that being awake “longer than you should be for a few days” causes stress to your body. This stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, which “leads to higher blood pressure, more sugar in your blood…and an increased appetite.”[5] Notice that he says “for a few days.” Sleep deprivation does not mean living on four hours of sleep for days or weeks on end. It can mean getting only six or seven hours of sleep a few days in a row. God has provided a “backstop” to counteract the stress on our bodies. It’s called a Sabbath, a day in which we rest physically and emotionally and in which we allow God to restore and revive us spiritually.

7. Observing the Sabbath is the Only Way I Can Enjoy God’s Gift of the Sabbath
Both in yesterday’s blog and in today’s, I have used the word “gift” when referring to the Sabbath – it is God’s gift to His people, as are all the Commandments. The Sabbath can only be received and enjoyed as God’s gift when it is observed. This might seem so basic as to have no need of being included in this list, but were it so, we would be spending more time Sabbathing and less time rushing from church to work or meetings or even leisure commitments. One can only enjoy a Sabbath by placing oneself under the Sabbath’s authority – by saying the Sabbath has priority today, nothing else. The root of the Hebrew word for “sanctify” means “to betroth.” “When we betrothed – pledged to be married – it is a pledge that we honor whether it is convenient or not. Just as in a marriage, it is the honoring of that pledge in times when it is not convenient that strengthens the relationship and love between spouses. Honoring the Sabbath, the day God sanctified at the creation of the world, when it is not convenient makes its observance all the more special (and all the more needed).

That is quite a compelling list to me. How about you? Let me know what your thoughts are, and  join me again tomorrow for a discussion about observing a weekly Sabbath without becoming legalistic.


[1] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 142-143.

[2] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 47, 48.

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 137.

[4] _____ (AP article), “Study Confirms Sleep Essential for Creativity,” posted on CNN.com on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 (http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/01/21/sleep.creativity.ap/index.html).

[5] Leslie Garcia, “How Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Helps During the Day,” posted on DallasNews.com on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/DN-nh_sleep_0722liv.ART.State.Edition1.2ca4973.html).

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Preface: I’ve struggled about whether to make this a part of the “Let’s Be PC (Practicing Christians)” series, because there are many who believe that we have been released from any requirement to observe the Sabbath. In this series of three blogs you won’t find me citing (or refuting) the Scriptures that support their case. Rather, I look at the intent of the original commandment (part 1) and, having become convinced that it represents the heart of God, I address the tremendously positive reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath (part 2), and finally, some practical guidelines to keep us from legalism (part 3). So if you disagree that keeping a Sabbath is part of being a Practicing Christian, that’s OK. Don’t abandon the series – hang in there reading all three blogs and then let me know what you think. (Of course, feel free to leave comments on each blog. I love comments.)

“Ten Words”
The Lord spoke to the Israelites, giving them what is called the “ten words” or Decalogue. They are the only words He spoke to them directly. All other words He spoke through Moses. The content of those words is what we call the Ten Commandments. They provide instructions about the Israelites’ responsibilities toward God and toward one another. Their importance is not only underscored by being spoken directly by God, but also by their repetition, in whole or part, throughout the Old Testament.

I find it utterly amazing that in choosing to define the ten most important things that the Israelites should know and do, God chose to include a commandment to rest. Intermingled with commandments to not worship other gods, make false idols, steal, kill or commit adultery, is the commandment to rest one day each week. To our modern work ethic and independent western mindset, this makes little or no sense. To begin with, how can resting be as important as not killing or stealing? Secondly, in what way does resting honor God? We tend to think of our service to Him and others as honoring Him. Yet the fourth commandment reveals to us that resting somehow also honors God.

What a gift God gave to His people! Think about it – in the Garden of Eden, man sinned against God. His punishment was “in toil you shall eat of [the earth] all the days of your life” and “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17b, 19a). Man’s punishment, in part, was that subduing the earth would now be accomplished by hard work. Yet God, in His great foreknowledge and mercy, had already established the seventh day as a day of rest and had blessed the day (Genesis 2:2-3). Before the fall of man, God laid the groundwork for the gift He would give His people – the gift that would provide a respite from the punishment they would soon bring upon themselves. What a gracious and kind God He is!

A Commandment to Remember and Rest!
The Ten Commandments were spoken by God to the Israelites and are recorded in Exodus 20:1-21. The Sabbath commandment is as follows:

8Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
Exodus 20:8-11

Moses repeats the Ten Commandments in their entirety and with few modifications in Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

Within the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath commandment is given more attention than any of the others. With the exception of the commandment to not make and worship idols all other commandments are a single sentence and verse. The Sabbath is given 4 verses, both in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

God tells us to “remember the Sabbath.” The word “remember” doesn’t simply mean to remember what day of the week it is. It means to set it aside or mark it as different. I can’t help but be convinced that when we honor the commandment, we also mark ourselves as different – because we live in a culture that defines spending our time in the constant pursuit of gaining more and having more as the very pinnacle of success. Our very practice of observing a weekly Sabbath says “there are things that are more important in life than just getting more things.”

A Sanctified Day
I grew up being told many things that I could not do because it was Sunday. One that always irked me as a young teenager was the rule that you can’t sew on Sundays because sewing was considered work. I tried in vain to explain that sewing was enjoyment to me, not work, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was not allowed to sew on Sundays. This in a household that was not very religious.

The Jews and many Christians (although many less today than in generations gone by) spent a lot of time defining what was NOT allowed because those things violated the commandment to “not work.” For many, this negative approach caused the day to lose it’s “remembering” aspect. Perhaps we focus so much on the “not doing” simply because it’s so much easier than defining what we should be doing to honor the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath is really about setting aside time to rest and enjoy the wonder of God and His creation as it is about.

In his book The Sabbath, Its Meaning for Modern Man, Abraham Heschel, does a masterful job of communicating this. Referring to the physical world and things in it as “space,” he explains the difference between the Sabbath and other days:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space [i.e., the physical world]; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” (page 10)

Comedian Sam Levenson remembers understanding as a child that “through their [Sabbath] traditions [his parents] had the power to separate mundane time from sacred time, to declare one day out of seven above and beyond the slavish struggle for survival.”[1] Clearly, through traditions that might seem to outsiders to be nonsensical or annoying, the Sabbath was a day “set apart” as different from other days. Not different because we run errands or play instead of work, but different because it has spiritual significance. It is “holy” as God defined it.

As New Testament believers, we serve the same God who considered the Sabbath as important as those other commandments – thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt have no other Gods before Me. Honoring the Sabbath helps with that last one. Through these blogs, I’d like to encourage all of us to enter into that holiness in time. I am convinced that honoring God sets us apart as different from our culture (which is a good thing) and puts us in a better position to know Him and receive His blessing.

Tomorrow I’ll give you my six most compelling reasons to observe a Sabbath. Stay tuned…


[1] Sam Levenson, 1966 autobiography Everything but Money, p. 88, as quoted in the article “Fourth and Long: Presenting (and Resenting) the Sabbath” by Elliott Horowitz ; in The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol.97, No.3 (Summer 2007) published by the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, p. 453

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