Refreshing the Body and Mind on the Sabbath
Translated from Holy Spirit Monthly—Issue 352
Modern human beings lead hectic lives and endure heavy pressure from work. If we use weekends and holidays to exercise or to participate in relaxing activities, we can boost our metabolism and eliminate stress. Such activities can also promote a healthy lifestyle and decrease the chance of disease.
However, rest only removes fatigue from our body—it will not result in the cleansing of our mind and soul. The Sabbath has broader implications than merely rest. Other than the reprieve given to our body, the Sabbath also refreshes our mind and soul.
The Sabbath is associated with God. Only when we have an intimate relationship with God can we allow our lives to enjoy rest. The Sabbath requires our return to God’s bosom. But what does this have to do with Sabbath days? We will examine this question according to the Bible.
WHY DID GOD ESTABLISH THE SABBATH?
Evidently, the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit of mankind.
To Allow Man to Remember that God Is the Creator
In six days God created heaven, earth, sea, and all the living creatures within them. The work of creation was complete and He rested from His work on the seventh day. Therefore, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.1
But man is forgetful. As time passes, we fail to remember that God is the Creator. The Lord established the Sabbath day as everlasting evidence to mankind that God is the Creator.2 If we can observe every Sabbath in remembrance of His awesome creation, then we will stay away from idolatry and avoid trouble.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Moses commanded the people to double the amount of manna that they harvested on Fridays so that they could reserve portions of it for meals on the Sabbath. Only under such conditions would the manna not spoil and attract worms.
They were not supposed to gather manna on the Sabbath because they would not find any. Nevertheless, some people tried to gather manna on Sabbath days—but they were unsuccessful.3
God made the Sabbath one of the Ten Commandments so that the Israelites would observe this day for generations to come.4 Anyone who violated the Sabbath and did work on that day would be put to death,5 but the people still refused to treat the Sabbath as sacred.6
Through Jeremiah, God issued warnings and said,
“But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” (Jer 17:27)
Unfortunately, the Israelites were still unwilling to listen, which led to the Babylonian captivity.7 We should heed this warning and observe the Sabbath to honor our Lord the Creator.
To Allow Man to Remember God’s Saving Grace
Because human beings easily forget God’s salvation, the Lord instructed the Israelites to hold holy convocations on the Sabbath.8 In doing so, they could remember that they had been enslaved in Egypt and that it was God who used His mighty hand and outstretched arm to lead them out of Egypt.9
In New Testament times, the chosen people also held services on the Sabbath to honor the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus who shed His blood to redeem us. As human beings, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even though the wages of sin is death, we are freely justified because of God’s grace and salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ.
As it says in Romans 3:25, God set forth Jesus
as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.
We need to always remember God’s grace, and we need to make His deeds known to future generations. If we do not constantly remember God’s grace, His deeds will be quickly blotted out of our memories because we are forgetful creatures. Therefore, we need to make a determination to observe the Sabbath in remembrance of His saving grace.
Moreover, we need to instruct the next generation to honor the Sabbath so that our faith can be passed on and God’s grace always remembered.
To Allow Man to Enjoy Rest in Body and Mind
The Bible says,
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary. (Isa 40:28)
God does not need rest; therefore, the Sabbath was instituted for man so that we can enjoy rest both physically and mentally. We are made of flesh and often become weary.
We also have many issues to worry about: our children, our parents’ health, the relationships between in-laws, and our family’s financial situation. These can impose a great deal of pressure on us and prevent us from finding peace. Jesus proclaimed,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
If our body and mind are to enjoy rest, we need to first hand all of our difficulties to God. We do not do any work on the Sabbath. Such actions represent our faith toward God and acknowledge that He has control over everything. This reminds us that the world is controlled by God and not by men.
A problem might continue to persist even when we are willing to trust and rely on God. But because of our reliance on God, strength can come from within us to overcome difficulties.
Second, we need to be obedient to God. Jesus told us that we need to take His yoke and learn from Him, and then we will find rest.
We can learn obedience from Jesus’ example—He entrusted Himself to God. When He was verbally abused He did not respond, and when He was persecuted He did not retaliate. He obeyed wholeheartedly to the point of death, even death on the cross.
The Lord Jesus’ complete obedience is a wonderful example for us.10
To Allow Man to Hope for the Sabbath in Heaven
In the Old Testament, God promised the Israelites that they would enjoy peace.11 Further, in the New Testament, the Lord assured those who labor and are heavy laden that they will receive rest.12
However, due to the skepticism and defiance of man, this promise never came to fruition; we are not able to enjoy a truly heavenly existence on earth.13
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Heb 4:8-10)
There is no resting place in this world. If we can observe the Sabbath, however, the Lord Jesus will carry our heavy burden so that we may taste the sweetness of the heavenly Sabbath. Therefore, if we hope for the second coming, we will be able to enter the heavenly kingdom to enjoy eternal rest.
THE IMPACT OF THE SABBATH ON MODERN LIVES
An entrepreneur in the church was once asked to speak to a youth fellowship. He answered, “My schedule is completely booked for the next six months, and I cannot make any changes.” It seems that a prevailing idea today is that the busier one appears to be, the more important one is.
Though the advances in technology are supposed to make our lives easier, they actually seem to have increased the pace of our work as well as the number of our responsibilities. For instance, the advent of cell phones and fax machines forces people to take care of work-related issues at home.
Overloading ourselves with work often results in exhaustion and a bad temper that make us difficult individuals. Furthermore, because of long hours, job-related stress, and irregular schedules, more and more deaths caused by overwork are starting to occur.
As we immerse ourselves in work, especially when we become successful, it is easy for us to become pompous and self-centered. We believe that this enterprise or this world requires our existence and that without our contribution they will become bankrupt or stop functioning.
In reality, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. If we can stop participating in secular work on the Sabbath, we will realize that the world continues on its way because it is maintained by God’s hands, not ours.
Human beings are composed of flesh, and we require physical nourishment to fulfill our needs. But a major part of us is our soul, which requires spiritual food for satisfaction. We are often accomplished in our career and abundant in material possessions. Nonetheless, our soul is parched and malnourished because we are deficient in spiritual sustenance.
On the Sabbath, we do not need to prove our worth through our career. Instead, we can return to God through services, prayers, and communion with Him. As our prayers deepen and we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, we will be able to taste the sweetness of spiritual satisfaction, which is the heavenly beauty that we can experience on earth.
WHAT TO DO ON THE SABBATH
The term “Sabbath” came from the phonetic translation of the Hebrew word sabbat, which is unclear in its origin. Phonetic translation of the corresponding verb is sabat, which can be defined as to terminate, to discontinue, or to rest. The word also implies setting apart a certain period of time as holy. God blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.14
A holy day is a sanctified and special day, which should be different from other days. This day belongs to God, and we ought to live out this day according to His instructions. We should allow our body to rest and our spirit to revitalize. Moreover, instead of focusing on worldly pleasure, we need to live out this day in accordance with biblical teachings.
With Respect to Careers
The Sabbath is a holy day and meant to be kept sacred. Therefore, we should not participate in any type of work.15 Even harvesting crops should cease on the Sabbath.16 If we can be mindful of our steps on the Sabbath, stay away from work-related activities, and refrain from mindless chatter, we will obtain God’s blessings.17
The Israelites disobeyed the rules of Sabbath and were thus cursed by God to captivity. Many years after returning to Israel, some people took part in commercial activities on the Sabbath. Prophet Nehemiah rebuked the residents of the land:
“What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” (Neh 13:17, 18)
Consequently, he proclaimed an edict that, as soon as the gates of Jerusalem began to cast shadows before the Sabbath began, the gates would be closed and locked until the end of the Sabbath day. This was to prevent the Israelites from violating the Sabbath again.18
In this hectic industrialized society, we are preoccupied with our jobs. Even after we come home, our mind is still occupied with work-related concerns. We are enslaved by our duties.
However, on the Sabbath, we should suspend all of our business activities and let go of everything that we have become so engrossed with during the week. We should focus on our communion with God and pursue an abundant spirit.
With Respect to Faith
Sabbath days are to be set apart as the holy days on which we can worship God. In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to do no work on the Sabbath but conduct holy convocations19 and make offerings.20 In the New Testament, Jesus entered synagogues on the Sabbath and read the Bible.21 Paul and Barnabas also went to synagogues on the Sabbath.
Entire towns would gather to listen to the words of God.22 Today, we should also turn away our foot on the Sabbath, attend church services, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy days of the Lord honorable. In doing so, God will bestow upon us blessings and cause us to ride on the high hills of the earth.23
In our church today, the Sabbath is full of services of all kinds (e.g., worship services, prayer sessions, classes for the newly baptized). Through these meetings, we can allow our body and mind to enjoy a break. Some churches use the time after service for hospital visitations. Holy work such as this are meant to preach the gospel and are also acts of charity that are pleasing to the Lord.
With Respect to Family
Typically, parents spend their energy on work, and children are preoccupied with the television or the internet. Very rarely do parents and children have time to connect. On the Sabbath, both parents and children can cease their respective activities to spend time with one another. Through the opportunities created by the Sabbath, parents can listen to their children’s thoughts and improve their relationship.
Sabbath is also an occasion for husbands and wives to strengthen their bond. Through walks, conversations, and meals, they can re-live happy memories and reaffirm their feelings. The Sabbath can be a day in which family members communicate well with one another. If everyone actively participates, wonderful relationships can be established.
In a city filled with lights, it is difficult to see stars at night. But in rural and mountain areas, the sky is sprinkled with stars. During the six days that we are occupied, worldly obligations and worries accumulate, and we are not able to feel the abidance of God. On the Sabbath, we can stop our work and attend church services to pursue a fruitful spiritual life. Our relationship with God will thus become more intimate.
The Sabbath is blessed by the Lord, and it is set apart to be holy. Through our weekly attendance at church services, we can commemorate God’s work of creation and His wonderful grace of salvation. Moreover, we can give our burdens to God and trust in His guidance during our prayers.
Through diligent spiritual cultivation on this holy day, we can reach the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We can also work on our relationships with family members, and visit members in the hospital so that they can feel the love of God.
The Sabbath is only the beginning. Through this day, we can pursue an abundant spiritual life and maintain an intimate relationship with our Lord that will continue with daily cultivation. We should trust that these spiritual developments will be worthy of God’s blessings, and the promise of the Sabbath will come true.
In this life, we will obtain peace in our body and mind, and we will one day enter the heavenly kingdom to enjoy the eternal Sabbath.
2. Ex 31:17
3. Ex 16:13-30
4. Ex 20:11
5. Ex 31:15
6. Jer 17:23
8. Lev 23:3
9. Deut 5:15
10. 1 Pet 2:23; Phil 2:8
11. Deut 3:20
12. Mt 11:28
14. Gen 2:3
15. Ex 20:10
16. Ex 31:15
18. Neh 13:15-21
19. Lev 23:3
21. Lk 4:16
22. Acts 13:44