Honoring the Sabbath is an easy commandment to break. We diminish it to the hour or two we’re at church on Sunday morning and an afternoon nap. We justify ourselves by saying a 24-hour Sabbath is part of the old covenant and unrealistic in modern times. Taking a day off feels lazy, but that’s because we practice it wrong. If we were to rest in line with God’s created purpose, we would see it as a gift he made specifically for us (Mk. 2:27).
Despite the fact that God commanded us to honor the Sabbath should be persuasion enough, there are a few notable reasons practicing Sabbath is good for us:
- We reflect God’s image by remembering that he, too, rested on the seventh day of creation.
- Sabbath rejuvenates us and our work.
- Most of all, Sabbath reminds us that we are not our own providers.
In modern times, the idea of Sabbath—that is, abstaining from what we consider our job—seems foreign, but it would have seemed just as strange to the Israelites. When the Israelites wandered in the desert, God sent enough manna and quail to feed them each day; they literally had to go out and pick up their daily bread. On Fridays, he sent a double portion to feed them on Sabbath, too. In this, he showed himself to be trustworthy to give them what they needed, even on days they didn’t work for it. We have the same God and thus the same confidence.
Even when we aren’t doing something to justify our paycheck, God is our provider. Six days of productivity is well sufficient to cover our expenses on the seventh day—that was God’s design. In fact, God’s design includes a reminder that we trust God with a portion of our lives each day, whether we realize it or not.
Like the Sabbath, to exalt our nightly rest above busyness is counter-cultural. Fellow IFWE author Dr. Renita Reed-Thomson considered that those who talk about “get[ting] up to pray every morning at four a.m.” slights those who need a full eight hours’ sleep. She recommends more sermons on sleeping (different than sleeping in a sermon!). For those who take her up on this preaching series, here are some guiding verses from the book of Psalms:
- “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2).
- “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
- “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (Ps. 3:5).
God designed our bodies to require sleep. As we sleep, we process the day, form memories, recuperate, and grow physically and spiritually. If we can trust an anesthesiologist to put us in a state of unconsciousness for surgery, how much more can we trust God who does that nightly?
In Him I Place My Trust
When we drift off to dreamland, we become useless to the world. We cannot produce anything, talk to anyone, or respond to something, generally. We are completely at the mercy of God to see us through to the morning. Thus, the child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” God is the keeper of our soul and body, always—but especially while we’re in bed.
We trust that he’ll keep our lungs breathing, our hearts beating, our…whatever body part “catches” us when we suddenly feel like we’re falling. It’s a sobering thought that we do not have the security of physical health to guarantee a new morning. Rather, we are nightly at the mercy of God’s will. But what better place to be than in submission to his will?
We also trust him to continue spinning the world, that civilization will not collapse while we don’t have a say, that our homes and families will be intact and present when we wake. Of course, none of this is guaranteed either, and that is why we trust God. We don’t trust him for anything in particular. When we lose our job, he has not promised another one. We trust him because he’s trustworthy.
Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread. This doesn’t stop at mealtime or on payday. We trust that 24 hours is enough time to do all God has set out for us to do. We distrust God when we reject our body’s need—his design—for sleep in order to get more done. The mathematics of the universe is fascinating and above my intellect, but I do comprehend that one rotation of the earth is sufficient for our needs. God has given us that daily bread.
Nothing we do is done by our own power. God gave us the Sabbath to show us he is our provider. And, as Charles Spurgeon said, “God gave us sleep to remind us we are not him.”
Before you drift into unconsciousness tonight, be conscious that rest is more important than doing one last thing, that God is your sustainer, and that he is trustworthy.