Have you ever noticed what God did on the seventh day of Creation?
Sure. He rested. We know from Genesis 2 that God had completed the work of creation and he rested.
But there is a nugget in Genesis 2:3. Unlike the other days when he called his work good, on the seventh day, God blessed it and declared it holy. It’s the first time the Hebrew word qadosh, meaning holy, is used in the Bible.
The Sabbath is Holy
Why did God call only the seventh day holy?
The Jewish scholar and activist, Abraham Heschel observes in his book The Sabbath:
[One] would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place— a holy mountain or a holy spring— whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first. When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time.
Later, at Sinai, God made a people holy. And in the Tabernacle, God made a place holy.
But first, God made a time holy. The Sabbath.
We Like our Busy Sundays
We’re not feeling that so much these days.
The fourth commandment has fallen into oblivion. Surely, a football game or shopping on Sunday isn’t on par with the really bad sins listed in the Ten Commandments.
Sabbath watchers have observed that our reluctance to observe a Sunday-rest may come from a warped perception of what it means to rest. Like the old days in the South, when resting wasn’t so much a personal choice, as a social one – enforced by the complete cooperative shut down of commerce.
In that context, especially for the kids, Sunday meant the absence of everything except gossipy relatives. Boring-day.
Thanks to modern marketing, that’s not how it works anymore. The people in our churches are lucky to squeeze into their busy Sundays a church service, maybe a little ministry, along with some family time, a few errands, and getting ready for the next week.
Making the whole day a time of rest and restoration? Doubtful.
So what’s a pastor to do? There are so many discipleship issues…
Isn’t observing the Sabbath somewhere down the sanctification list near keeping the church kitchen clean?
The Point of the Sabbath
The point is to see that the Sabbath day of rest is a holy day – brimming with work that God does in our soul when we step out of the race and rest. It’s counter-cultural.
There is a spiritual transaction as we loosen our grip on our phones, step away from our keyboards, and put down our to-do lists.
It’s a day to be near God and far from the ambitions of the other six days.
In defense of the Sabbath, Philo, the spokesman of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, says:
On this day we are commanded to abstain from all work, not because the law inculcates slackness … . Its object is rather to give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities. For a breathing spell enables not merely ordinary people but athletes also to collect their strength with a stronger force behind them to undertake promptly and patiently each of the tasks set before them.
Heschel goes on to clarify:
The work on weekdays and the rest on the seventh day are correlated. The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired.
God intended Sunday to be the highlight of your week.
When the families in your church make Sunday the best day of their week, the rest of their week will fall into place.
It’s Matthew 6:33 for your calendar:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
It’s a sabbath church growth strategy.
Would your Church be Willing to Try It?
I believe God wants to do great things in our churches for His glory.
That’s why I have partnered with Outreach to launch a nationwide I Love Sundays Campaign.
It’s a church-wide experience of getting our lives focused on Jesus for the whole week by starting with Sundays.
Will you consider the benefits of teaching your church to love their Sundays?
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. Hal mentors pastors to lead healthy, growing churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.