My husband once had business partners who were observant Sephardic Jews. We learned many things from time spent with their family, one of the first lessons involved activities and restrictions surrounding the Sabbath or Shabbat. Car doors could not be opened because the interior light would turn on, which was considered work; same with the refrigerator. Food was cooked the day before, so the stove would not have to be “kindled.” Therefore, in order to have a day that was different from the other six, activities were modified to prepare for a day of rest as ordained by HaShem.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Deuteronomy 20:8-11 NIV
The one Shabbat practice we enjoyed most during our time with this family were the long evenings around the dinner table. Each Friday evening, no matter what was planned, the family came together. Generations would sit around a candle lit table, laughing, telling stories, building memories, sharing life. I once asked if the younger members would miss the meal to go out with friends? “After," was the patriarch's answer provided. The Sabbath was a priority, time with family and friends to enjoy the fellowship of each other as a treasure, a gift, protected and holy unto the LORD.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV
On the seventh day, the God of Creation rested. He ceased to create, but sat back, observing all He had done as “good.” Our Elohim has gifted us with the Sabbath, a day of rest to enjoy friends and family, coming together in peace. We temporarily set aside the struggles and pain of the world to acknowledge the generosity of our Creator. Our Father wants us to enjoy the rest He has provided us. It is not meant to be burdensome with more "rules" weighing us down, but an opportunity to enjoy a time of peace. Sometimes we let the preparation overshadow the benefit that is meant to be provided. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man as a gift to be enjoyed, it was not created as a burden of Sabbath laws to be upheld (Mark 2:23-28).
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV
The common greeting on the Sabbath is “Shabbat Shalom,” Sabbath Peace. Like the flame of a candle, peace comes at a sacrifice. Setting aside what the world dictates as important in order to grasp hold of the priorities of our LORD will not be easy, but His light illuminates the darkness. Yahweh provides peace in the midst of chaos.
Jesus encountered conflicts over Shabbat with the religious leader's interpretations of the Law. The Pharisees required strict obedience of the laws, although the fulfillment of their interpretations lacked compassion and peace for many of the people trying to be follow their leadership. The Fourth Commandment given by God to Moses regarding the Sabbath is one such example, found in Luke 6:1-11. Not only do Christ's disciples pick grain to eat, which was work, but then Christ heals a man's hand, more work! Christ asked the leaders, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9 NIV
I pains me to see followers of Christ burdened by all the "things" they believe need to be done to live righteously. Our Creator calls us to be obedient, but we must understand that each law, precept and command is for OUR good. Obedience, or lack of, does not elevate the Omnipotent God of the Universe. He remains holy.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus clarified the intent of the Fourth Commandment, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 NIV) To keep the Sabbath is not a command to restrict us for the sake of keeping the rule, but to prompt us to stop unnecessary toiling to enjoy a relationship with our LORD, Adonai, the One who love you, our family and friends. Our God knows our inclinations, to work for more and more, all the while missing out on the things and people who matter most. When we choose not to be obedient to our LORD's rules for living, We are the ones who miss out on the peace and blessings His Presence provides.
Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is everlasting and Your law is true. Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live. Psalm 119:141-142, 144 NIV
I encourage you to purposefully plan a special dinner this weekend with people you love, do not hurry through it, but linger around a candle lit table, enjoying the company of people whom your Abba has so graciously placed in your life.
Holy Abba, Creator Father, You gift us with so many wonderful blessings. They are available to us should we choose to accept them. Our Savior's sacrifice to purchase our redemption gives us the opportunity to draw close to Your heart and enjoy time set aside for peace with You and our family. May forgiveness burn away grudges, hurt feelings and past disagreements in order to experience the glow of Your Shabbat Shalom. Be glorified mighty God, Prince of Peace and comforting Counselor. Amen