Rest

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27-28

Did you know the Sabbath is mentioned in 36 different verses in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) alone?

Besides those, 20 additional verses do not expressly use the term Sabbath but speak of a seventh day of rest, making an average of 11 mentions per book. In a written tradition using repetition for emphasis, this commandment is underscored with greater intensity than the one prohibiting murder.

Let that sink in a moment.

On this year’s trip through the Bible, I’ve been drawn to the numerable mentions of Sabbath and have been prayerfully meditating on why. By God’s grace, I think I’m beginning to see glimpses of a few reasons.

There’s too much for a blog post, really, but I wanted to look at one facet: Have you ever wondered why God would command us to rest when rest is not only something we all need, but also a wonderful gift?

I think in part, this is so we would see the rebelliousness of our own stubborn hearts.

Sabbath – one day in every 7 to rest – is really an enormous benefit to our mental, physical, and spiritual health. But of course, we humans have an incorrigible contrariness about us when it comes to God and His commands. We tend to want to do things our way, decide we know what’s best – even decide for ourselves what is right and wrong.

And we’ve decided Sabbath isn’t all that important. Especially today in our 24/7, fast-paced world, rest is something we would much rather complain we can’t find. A glance at the mental health statistics in my country suggests how well this is working for us.

Maybe that’s what is going on now with COVID-19. Maybe, just maybe, this is a kind of Sabbath thrust upon a people who refused it otherwise.

In America, we often talk about how busy we are, how we never have time to stop. Some of us even claim we find it a struggle to read our Bibles every day.

Well now we have time. What are we going to do with it?

Isaiah advises:

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 58:13-14

What if we rested? Physically, yes, but also embracing the full idea of Sabbath as God meant it to be. Keeping it holy. Dedicating it to Him. Taking delight in Him, in His Word, in worship of Him.

What if we took this time – these next few days or weeks or whatever it turns out to be – and really dove in deep to Bible study, to prayer, to searching our hearts, and repenting of sin?

What if we really pondered the Word of God and spent time talking through it with its Author?

What if we pressed into obedience and taking every thought captive to obey Christ and honestly loving God with all our hearts and souls and minds?

What if we did this openly with our families, praying together, reading together, talking about the greatness of God together?

What kind of peace and joy might that bring?

This time of quarantine and social distancing could be lonely, frightening, and difficult. Or it could be the greatest blessing we’ve ever received.

So? What are you going to do with it?

Semi-Quarantine Musings

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:8-9

This was among the first passages of Scripture I memorized with my kids back in our homeschooling days.

Today after an incredibly appropriate virtual church service, I watched the kids belonging to a friend and her worship team. While I had this captive, non-teenage audience, I had a little Q and A time with them concerning Moses and Joshua. I briefly told them about when Joshua began to lead Israel following Moses’s death, and I tried to quote this memory verse.

It seems Ms. Heather needs to get back into practicing her memory work. The old memory just doesn’t work so well these days.

Anyway, I’m sure the words were comforting to Joshua when the Lord spoke them to him. They can be equally comforting to us today.

Who knows what the future holds? Some schools are closed, some are not. The grocery store shelves are barren of toilet paper and other random items. Major league sports teams have called off upcoming games. People are scared.

But you know what? God saw this coming. As a matter of fact, there’s a bit of ironic proof it you want to go back and click on the link above to hear the message my family listened to this morning!

If we belong to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. This could be a good time – a very good time – for us to lay down all our frantic distractions and listen to Him.

I can’t help but note that when He assured Joshua of His presence before he went in to take the Promised Land, He also reminded the man to continually meditate on the Book of the Law and be careful to do it.

We have that Book of the Law and so much more; we have the full counsel of the Word of God within arm’s reach in paper or in digital form. We even have a luxury Joshua would have lacked – our choice of translation.

Folks, we don’t have to learn ancient Hebrew to read it (although there’s a much greater depth to it in Hebrew than English can fully capture). We don’t even have to read it at all. We can open the Bible app and have a stranger read it to us. We have no real excuses!

Let’s take this time as a gift – an enforced Sabbath for all the decades and decades of Sabbaths we’ve ignored – and spend more time in the Word.

I know this gal is going to spend a bit more time meditating on it than I have in recent years. The shocking failure of my memory today served to bring that neglected area to the forefront of my attention.

I can’t wait to see what else God brings to mind in the days and weeks to come. I’m sure He’ll reveal other areas where I need to be more faithful or where I need to repent and obey.

I don’t think it will be easy. But I know God and whatever He does, I know it will be good.

And I know there’s no reason to be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go – even if I go nowhere.

If you don’t have that assurance, get into His word and do business with Him today. Why wait? With no sports to distract you and fewer excuses than ever before, take this gift of time and get serious about eternal matters.

I’ll look forward to hearing your stories of how God used the coronavirus pandemic for His glory, whether you choose to share them here or we talk them over in eternity. But don’t delay. Let’s get serious about God and see how seriously good the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is.

While you’re meditating on His Word, get outside and explore the world He’s created. You may find some of His fingerprints along the way.

PS – The photo is not a virus, nor is it an alien seed like I told the kids, but it is a fungus. I found it today while walking around my back yard with a one-year-old watching his older friends running and playing. Curious about it? Check out Detective Gluck’s blog post to learn more!