Growing up, I was under the impression that the Sabbath was for the Jewish people but Christians celebrated Sunday as the Lord’s Day instead. Sundays therefore were always a rather hodgepodge free-for-all. At one time in my life, Sundays were the busiest day of the week for me, with ministry obligations starting at 5:00 am and not ending until after 9:00 pm., a lifestyle that almost leading to spiritual burnout. Then they morphed into the leftover day – the day to get caught up on housework. But over the past two years, I’ve been challenged to think about Sabbath a little differently. In Keri Wyatt Kent’s newest book, Rest, she invites us to consider Sabbath as a gift that God still intends us to receive today.
Kent explains that, prior to the exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel toiled seven days a week, week in and week out. Once in the wilderness, God provided manna for them with these instructions: they were to gather only as much as they needed for that day, with the exception of the sixth day. On that day, they were to gather twice as much as needed, and the following day was to be a day of rest. It was a gift, a luxury they had never been allowed. Not until the giving of the law several chapters later was the Sabbath instituted as a command.
As believers, we understand that salvation comes not through the keeping of those commands but through the grace of God alone. But the Sabbath is the keystone between the nine other commands regarding how we relate to God and others, which Jesus succinctly summed up in the gospels, to love God and our neighbors. As Kent points out, Jesus came not only to die for us, but to live for us and show us how to live. “He modeled spiritual practices like solitude, prayer and compassion.” And she reminds us, Jesus kept Sabbath. He freed people from the burden that religious people over the years had heaped on the Sabbath when he reminded his followers that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. And in doing so, he “pointed people back to the heart of God.” Receiving this gift of rest enables us to stop, to cease from doing and just experience God’s love for us that is based solely on his nature. When we stop, we are able to realize the all-sufficiency of God.
Keri Wyatt Kent has an uncanny way of making spiritual practices such as Sabbath accessible to today’s Christian. She gently strips away all pretense and fluff, and gets right to the heart of the matter. Rather than heap a list of do’s and don’ts on readers, she invites us to stop and consider what Sabbath-keeping might look like in our lives, one step at a time. She offers many suggestions and examples from her own life and the lives of others. At a time when many of us are pondering some goals and direction for the coming year, Rest might be just the ticket to help you embrace Sabbath simplicity in your own life.