My grandson and I were chatting about where the names we use for the days of the week come from and the subject of “Sabbath” came up.
Of course, in English the names for the days of the week are based on the Sun, Moon and Saturn plus the names of four Norse gods — if you are interested, Google is your friend!
In his multicultural studies in high school he had learned that most of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) set aside one day of the week for contemplation and religious observances and the most predominant in Christianity is called a “sabbath”. Note that since this is usually observed on the first day of the week , “Sunday”, it is different than the Jewish “Sabbath Day” which is on Saturday.
Sunday is often referred to as “the Lord’s Day” commemorating the day of the resurrection, since arguably that is the most significant day in any Christian’s life.
As a child I grew up in a culture (Presbyterian Calvinist), which seemed to be bent on sucking any joy to be had out of resting from normal labor on the first day of the week. No games, no watching TV, even running was considered “frivolous” and unseemly. It seemed to me as if God wanted to bore people to distraction! It was only many years later that I found the answer in scripture:
One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:23-28 NLT
I believe the key to understanding the sabbath is Jesus’ answer to the religious authorities in the KJV translation of verse 27:
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”!
This world pulsates with energy. The clock ticks, deadlines loom, and the to-do list never seems to end. In this constant churn of activity, it's easy to lose ourselves in the pursuit of "more." But within this relentless rhythm, God offers a precious gift: the Sabbath. That’s right, the Sabbath is a gift of God to the human race.
As a boy, asking “why?”, the only answer I was ever given was that observing a Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments — and so it is, but the “why?” still lingered.
The Sabbath, a day set aside for rest and worship, isn't just a religious practice; it's a fundamental human need. Just as the earth needs a fallow season to replenish its resources, we need a day to rest our minds, bodies, and spirits.
In Genesis, we see God setting the example, resting on the seventh day after the work of creation. Note that God was not “tired out” or weakened by his creative work (how could He possibly be?), rather He was proud of it and took time out to admire and appreciate the beauty He had created!
He invites us to follow his lead, to step off the hamster wheel and rest, relax, contemplate, luxuriate and enter into his peace.
Observing the Sabbath isn't just about stopping work. It's about creating space for connection.
We connect with God through prayer, reflection, and worship. We connect with ourselves through introspection and contemplation. And we connect with others through fellowship, shared meals, meaningful conversations, and acts of service.
In a world that often values productivity over presence, the Sabbath is a radical act of resistance. It's a declaration that we are not simply human doings, but human beings, worthy of rest and renewal.
It's a reminder that our worth doesn't come from what we achieve, but from who we are – beloved children of God.
Let me encourage you to accept God’s offer of His gift of rest and relaxation. Set aside at least one day in the week especially to marinate in appreciation of the blessings of being a much loved child. Connect with God’s family. Instead of an obligation, let it become one of life’s greatest pleasures, and you’ll not only keep a commandment, you’ll be physically, emotionally and spiritually better because of it.
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study