The rules of the Sabbath, which in Hebrew means “rest,” are based on two specific principles.
First, in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2 – 17), a Sabbath rest on the seventh day of each week was patterned after the events of the creation story (Genesis 2:1 – 3), which describes God ceasing from creative activity on the seventh day after bringing humankind into being. In that teaching, the Sabbath was a time for reflection on good things done and the enjoyment of important relationships.
Second, when Moses repeated the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6 – 21, he noted that the Israelites had recently been rescued from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. In that teaching the Sabbath was a celebration of freedom from an existence solely devoted to work.
For the Israelites, the Sabbath was both a rhythm of life bred into human understanding from the very beginning and a celebration of freedom from oppression. Jesus emphasized the former value of the Sabbath in his own teachings (Mark 2:23 – 28), while his followers focused on the latter value of the Sabbath — especially once they realized the great deliverance from the bondage of sin brought by Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:9 – 10). This understanding was amplified by the writer of Hebrews 4:1 – 11 as a forward-looking anticipation of the renewal of all things.
Even though the Bible makes it clear that Sabbath observance is not mandatory (Colossians 2:14, 16), the practices of both Jesus and the early Christian community testify to its enduring value in a believer’s spiritual life.
With the Christmas season approaching, what can you do to find regular and intentional rest in God’s presence.
Drawn from the NIV Quest Study Bible.
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