Christians and the Sabbath Principle
John Telgren

I am struck by the fact that there are more instructions concerning Sabbath than the Day of Atonement. God was "refreshed" on that seventh day of rest according to Exodus 31:17. I am not sure what that means for God, but I do know what it is supposed to mean for God's people. They were to take time to be refreshed on a regular basis.

When God commands a Sabbath rest for his people in Deuteronomy 5, he reminds them that though they were slaves in Egypt, he freed them from bondage. Every seven days, everyone was to rest, including slaves, servants, visitors, and animals. God's people were to rest, giving them an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of their work in light of God's redeeming work.

There was a time when I would have said, "So what? That is in the Old Testament and we are not under the Old Testament." The extent of any study I had done concerning the Sabbath was merely to refute Sabbatarians.

While it is clear that we are not under the law (Rom 7:1ff; Heb 7-10), there is still a lot to learn from the law as a "tutor (Gal 3:24)". We still need a special time for reflection, renewal, and recommitment. It seems that for so many who do not observe a periodic Sabbath in their life wind up in bondage. They often become slaves to work, measuring their worth in terms of the amount of work they do or their earnings rather than in terms of the God in whose image they were created and recreated.

I understand that Sabbath rest is not the same as mere leisure. One refreshes only the body, but the other refreshes both body and soul. This rest gives the spiritual fortitude needed for face the challenges of life. Jesus said,

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30).

It is curious is that Jesus offers rest while he invites me to take his yoke and burden upon myself. My self worth does not come from how much money I make, my level of expertise, or the position I hold in my vocation. Rather, my self worth is connected to the God who created me in his image. It is rooted in my savior who gave the very best he could give to redeem me to himself. It is on the basis of his redemptive work that I enjoy fellowship with my Lord.

This frees me from the burden of trying to measure up. He gives me the grace to work and serve for no other motivation other than to love my Lord. Indeed, his yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Living without the Sabbath principle may cause spiritual fatigue in my soul even if my body is rested. Sabbath enables me to interpret my work in light of God's work, and do it with the proper motivation and perspective.