May 31 – Keeping the Sabbath

Luke 6: 1 – 11 NLT

“One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples broke off heads of grain, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grain. 2 But some Pharisees said, “Why are you breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
3 Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests can eat. He also gave some to his companions.” (1 Samuel 21: 1 – 6) 5 And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”
6 On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. 7 The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
8 But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. 9 Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.”

Here is a turning point in the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus is openly contradicting their ideas of what following God means. As they were walking through some grain fields, the disciples plucked some grain and rubbed it so it was edible. Did they need to eat something that day? For sure! Jesus deliberately taunted the Pharisees on another Sabbath by bringing a man with a deformed hand to the front of the synagogue and healing him. Was having a healed hand a blessing for that man? Of course. But …

Follow the rules! I suspect that was a motto for the Pharisees. In Charles Swindoll’s commentary on Luke, he writes about where the Pharisees got all these rules. Many think the Pharisees began when many Jewish people were exiled in Babylon, where we read the story of Daniel and his three friends who refused to follow Babylonian culture. To preserve their Jewish heritage, this new group clung to the law and later embellished it. They eventually became both a political and religious group who earned the respect of their nation. Over the years they created a huge document called the Mishnah which outlined all the rules and regulations. Apparently, there are 24 chapters on just how to keep the Sabbath.

What is the Sabbath really about? Let’s look at Exodus 20: 8 – 11 (NLT)

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”

This is a day of rest, a day dedicated to God and our relationship with him. If you read verse 10 carefully, you realize that it’s talking about the daily work we do to keep our lives functioning. Today that would include things like the work we do for pay, the work we do to keep our households running well, those new projects to improve our house and yard, etc. It doesn’t mean you can’t do any work at all, that you can’t help someone. If you’ve taken the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality course by Peter Scazzero at LSA, you likely discussed the concept of Sabbath keeping. It’s a day when you step back, rest and enjoy life – reflect on your relationship with God.

In our culture, we all don’t have the same days off. Work goes 7 days a week. So Sunday can’t always be our day of rest. But here’s my challenge for you today. Find a day every week where you can rest and enjoy life. If it happens to be on a Sunday, include going to church, online or in person, in your day. If it’s another day of the week, set aside some time to be with God in prayer and reflecting on His Word. But also find time to rest – whatever that looks like for you. Find some time to enjoy being with family and friends, go for walks, go for drives, go out for dinner, head to the beach – whatever recharges you for the coming week. Take that one day each week to step aside from all the busyness of the 21st century and relax knowing God loves each one of us and he never intended for us to go, go, go 7 days a week.

Our song for today is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

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