Pastoral Perspectives

Sabbath Is A Day For Important Things

Sometimes, our Sundays may not always feel like they are the most restful times. This is especially so if we are actively serving in church, engaged with the lives of fellow worshippers or have various family commitments. We would have preferred that observing the Sabbath simply means that we get to sleep in late on Sunday mornings and not have to be flustered over getting ourselves and our families ready for worship service, agonising over our lesson plan for Bible study or feeling guilty for having to rush off after worship service.

While the Hebrew word “sabbat”, translated into English as “sabbath” contains the meaning of “to cease”, the idea has more to do with ceasing from striving and from the tendency of placing ourselves or other things above God or in the place of God. Indeed, when God instructed the Israelites to “keep the Sabbath holy” (Ex 20:8), it involves much more than abstinence from labour. At the heart of the fourth Commandment was the need for the Israelites to acknowledge the sacredness and sanctity of this day because of who God is and what He has done for them (Ex 20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15).

Thus, a godly Israelite who seeks to keep the Sabbath would meditate on what God has revealed is needed for one to walk rightly with God and would go on to live out his life in accordance to that. And as he does so by worshipping God and ceasing from his regular activities, God will bless him with the gift of rest and restfulness.

The Bible shows us that true rest cannot be experienced apart from walking rightly with God. We can be putting our heads on our pillows and not feel rested if there is an area in our lives that we have not entrusted into God’s hands. We can pamper ourselves to a spa and still experience restlessness if we have ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting to forgive someone. In short, the rest that comes from Sabbath observance may have very little to do with doing nothing on Sundays.

For us today, we need to cultivate this mindset that the Sabbath is a day for doing important things. Thus, if we believe and say that God and our relationship with Him is most important, it is only right that we give priority to God through our corporate worship and ministry involvement on Sundays. Furthermore, if we recognise that our spiritual well-being is intimately dependent on how we are spiritually fed and refreshed by God, it would be unwise to spend our Sundays in a hurried manner or away from God’s people.

To be sure, we must not become legalistic about Sabbath observances (Col 2:16-17). There are faithful Christians whose work requires them to be on shift rotations or travel frequently or whose season in life makes it difficult for them to be regular(or punctual) for Sunday worship. Nevertheless, we should still seek to be accountable to another believer even as we encourage one another to draw near to God’s presence.

Similarly, while there is nothing essentially wrong with arranging for tuition or enrichment classes on Sundays, we do need to prayerfully examine our motivations for doing so. We need to ask ourselves, “Where is God in this matter and how does this contribute to helping my child live out God’s Kingdom purposes?” Sometimes, it could be that we are fearful that our children will miss out in life if they did get to study under a particular tutor or enrol in a certain program. In addition, we should consider the implications when our children are whisked away immediately after their U12 or YZ program. Will they be missing out on fellowshipping with their peers and building the important bonds that will strengthen their sense of belonging in True Way?

Some other important things in life would include our family members and our physical health. Observing the Sabbath could mean engaging in unhurried conversations with our loved ones or just enjoying each other’s company through recreational activities. Indeed, our Sundays can be more intentionally spent with the aim of strengthening our relationships and physical well-being even as we commit them into God’s hands.

Admittedly, there is much more that can be said about Sabbath observance. But what we can take heart in is that Jesus taught that “the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27-28). God in his goodness and wisdom gave humanity the Sabbath because we are in need of it. And thanks be to God that this rest can be experienced not just only on Sundays but every day of our lives. Because Christ came into our lives and is coming again to usher in the fullness of this rest (Col 3:4).

Pastor Edwin Wong

October 21, 2012