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Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and create more leisure time, but for many life is becoming more hectic. God, however, has commanded us to set aside a 24 hour period each week for physical and spiritual renewal.
Marriage and family therapist H. Norman Wright calls the results of our fast-paced lives "the hurry sickness."(Simplify Your Life, 1998, p. 39). Physical, emotional and spiritual rest are human needs. Biblical days begin and end at sundown, so, no matter how hectic the week, the goal of Friday at sunset—the beginning of the Sabbath–-awaits with its promise of physical, emotional and spiritual renewal.
The fourth commandment holds the key for not only combating stress, but growing closer to and honoring our Creator. It states: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God ..." (Exodus 20:8-10). Few would argue against the commandments forbidding murder or stealing, but the fourth commandment is almost forgotten. In fact, its relevance is often debated even among those who promote keeping the Ten Commandments.
God told the ancient Israelites the Sabbath is a "solemn rest, a holy convocation" (Leviticus 23:3). It's a time for gathering with other Christians to worship God.Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded Israel of the Sabbath's original intent: "If you turn your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD…" (Isaiah 58:13-14).
When Jesus was questioned about healing a man on the Sabbath, He answered: "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it, and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:11-12). When we visit the sick or elderly on the Sabbath, we are putting God's way of life into action (James 1:27).
After God freed ancient Israel from slavery in Egypt, and they faced a food shortage in the barren wilderness, God told them He would miraculously supply them with manna every morning except on the seventh day which was the Sabbath. He instructed them to gather extra manna on the sixth day so they wouldn't have to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:22-26), teaching them the important concept of preparing for the Sabbath. .
The Sabbath also stands as a weekly testimonial to God as Creator. As part of the fourth commandment God tells us, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11, Genesis 2:3).
Some may think that the Sabbath was given only to the Jews, but the fourth Commandment states that God hallowed the Sabbath at the beginning of creation, before there was a distinction between Israelite and gentile. Jesus didn't claim the Sabbath was made only for Jews, but that God made it for "man" and stated that He was “Lord of the Sabbath" (Matthew 11:28, 12:8).
The Good News magazine (Nov-Dec 2000)