This morning in Sunday school, a wonderfully wise woman, Marilyn Elliot, taught on Sabbath as more than just a day of rest. She explained from creation that it was meant to be the umbrella that ruled over us. We were to live in a state of rest. She posed the thought that rest was the last created thing, and this “Sabbath” was made holy. Not time, as many say, but rather “Sabbath” was deemed holy. Time was created and it was good, but rest is holy. Rest is a way of being, not an activity we do. However, with the fall of man, that umbrella of rest was shattered.
I’ve thought a lot about this concept in the past. Perhaps it started in college when I was staying up too late, not getting enough sleep, and sincerely being convicted about it. I realized that I couldn’t do all for God I wanted to while sleep deprived (namely, stay awake in church!). I questioned in biology class: if food is our source of energy, why can’t we just eat enough to gain the energy to not need sleep. (Because we all need to play more card games of course! Oh wait…I mean study…yes, study more…) But alas, that is impossible! Even if we eat good food, we can not get around sleep. The other fascinating fact about sleep is that it is the only time our body is able to heal itself. Only when our brain is completely cut off from external stimuli is it able to do the miraculous work for repairing the damage done to our body through out the day. Sleep is a piece of that original created order that demands we rest. Not just once a week, but daily! Sabbath was never meant to be a concept that was limited to one day a week! Sabbath is a way of living.
So, what exactly does that mean? Sabbath is a way of living. Sabbath means rest, but at its core it’s not a physical rest. It is a rest that comes from our security in God. Our security in God is what was lost in Adam’s sin. It is a cessation from anxiety, from worry, from striving. Not a rest from work. In the garden, prior to the fall, mankind had work to do. But after the fall, that work came with “the sweat of the brow”. This sweat doesn’t come from the heat of the sun, but from the fret of the soul. When we are fretting, what do we lose? Sleep! Sleep is dependent on security. I think this is something we forget inside our pad locked homes, but when we sleep, we are at our most vulnerable state. We are absolutely vulnerable. Imagine living in a tent…in the wilderness…as a way of life. I’m not sure how well I’d sleep. In order to sleep, I must have some security in my surroundings. I’ve learned the most about Sabbath from the created order of sleep. Sabbath is not about physical rest, but about spiritual rest. It is about complete trust in God.
Think of the way God taught the Israelites about Sabbath. He used manna, their daily bread. Look it up in Exodus 16. God provided food for them each morning. He gave them just enough for the day. They could fix more if they chose, but overnight any they had not eaten would have gone bad. Again confirming this idea of daily trust in God. After being in want for so long, how many of us would have fixed tons and tons of food that first time we saw the manna? God said it would come the next day…but just in case, I’ll make some loaves for tomorrow. Only tomorrow we wake up and find TONS and TONS of maggots in our tents to reward our lack of trust in God. This daily provision happened for six days. Then on that sixth day, they were commanded to make double, enough for day six, and for day seven. Now who, after cleaning maggots out of their tents earlier in the week, would want to do that again?! It was a test of trust. Those who did not trust the Lord made only enough for day six and went out looking for manna on that seventh day, only to find none. I dare say this constitutes the first spiritual fast!
To be honest, I’m not sure where the idea of not working one day a week comes into play. There certainly seems to be some healthy biblical backing for these breaks in the rhythm of life, daily, weekly and yearly. However, I am sure that this type of rule keeping alone is not enough to fully embody the idea God had behind Sabbath. I think for me, the idea of a full night’s sleep is necessary to complete Sabbath. Marilyn challenged us to consider “tithing” our Sabbath. Allow that to become priority and dictate how I live my life, much like I tithe my money and allow that to dictate how I spend the rest of it. Can I “tithe” my time to sleep first, knowing this is the way God created me to function best, and trust that I can get all the things He has called me to accomplished in the remaining time? That would be radical trust in today’s world. A world where pharmaceutical companies are researching pills that will allow us to function fully on nearly no sleep. We are fighting a hard fight against trust in God. But only in this trust do we find restoration of our souls, just like only in sleep do we find a restored body and mind.
“In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat; for He grants sleep to those he loves.”