Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grace in the Law of the Sabbath

I've been reading about and pondering the Sabbath commandment for years ~ re-reading the 4th Commandment, looking at Jesus' words on it, and reading instructional books on how to institute it into family life. I've felt guilty for shopping on Sundays, but even when I didn't shop ~ "working" myself and thereby causing others to work as well ~ I was busy working at church or home serving, entertaining, cleaning, or ministering in some fashion or another.  Sundays have never been a Sabbath in this pastor's family.  So, we tried Fridays, and usually I could get away to drink a cup of tea or iced coffee while reading my Bible and prayer-journaling, but inevitably those coffee dates with the Lord would turn into a coffee date with a friend or college student, or a wedding rehearsal and dinner, or.....something.
In the last two years I've been more compelled and convicted than ever to observe the Sabbath, but fearing the accusation of legalism, my tendency to make everything in my life law and burden anyway, my mile-long to-do list, and the ever-present needs of people in my family and church, it just didn't seem feasible, and therefore it didn't happen.  I chose to keep going, though it didn't feel as if I really had a choice.

My heart and mind and body were telling me ~ or should I say that the Spirit was nudging me via these avenues and warning signs toward an obedient Sabbath, though.  It was even one of my New Year's goals/resolutions ~ an intentional weekly Sabbath.  Well, it didn't happen. I chose (though, again, it didn't feel like a choice!) to keep going and ignore the conviction, the warning, all the while feeling the effects of my disobedience ~ anger, irritability, bitterness, despair, depression.  But the plates will stop spinning!  Heck, the world might stop spinning if I take a day off.  

Oh, the pride....the sinful self-sufficiency.
One of my other New Year's goals/resolutions was to read LOTS of the Bible this year ~ big chunks.  This one I've actually been able to accomplish, and as the Lord promised, His Word has not returned void.  I'm always exhorting the girls in my Bible studies and classes to JUST READ IT ~ even out of sheer obedience ~ even plopping it open randomly (though this is not a recommended habit) ~ JUST READ YOUR  BIBLE and He WILL meet you there.  Well, He's been meeting me there over the Sabbath.  I started with Genesis and Acts.  Now, I'm on to Exodus and Psalms.  Last week I was reading the Lord's final instructions to Moses on Mt. Sinai ~ the Ten Commandments, the instructions for building the tabernacle, and finally an exhortation to observe the sabbath as "a sign" and "throughout the generations..."

"...that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you."
Ex. 31:13

He goes on to tell Moses, 
"...for six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day 
He ceased from labor, and was refreshed."

I've also been reading Galations, because that's what is being preached on at church this summer, as well as what we are studying in our small groups on Wednesday evening.  I read chapter 2 last week in preparation for small group and was struck by this very familiar verse:

"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly."
Galations 2:21

Oh, how I've nullified the grace of God over and over in my ceaseless striving after righteousness ~ whatever my definition of righteousness happens to be for the day.  Inbox emptied?  Beds all made?  Phone calls returned?  Groceries bought and meals prepared?  All bills paid?  Bedtime stories and prayers faithfully executed? 4 mile run, gym workout, and lots of fruit and veggies today?  Anger stuffed and tongue bitten?  Patience with people? Hospitality shown?

In striving to keep the Old Testament Law or even my own VERY LONG LIST of laws for myself (Oh, you wouldn't even believe the length, the details.......the ridiculousness!), then Christ died needlessly ~ the torture of the Cross was in vain.

Except for the Sabbath.

When I cease from my striving by observing the Law of the Sabbath, I verify the grace of God.  I acknowledge that it is HE who sanctifies me (Ex. 31:13), HE who accomplishes all things for me (Psalm 138:8).

It is a Law that encourages me to bask in Grace.

Refraining from work is very difficult for me.  This is not everyone's struggle, but it is most definitely mine.  I really like Law ~ rules, checklists, formulas.  I have a hard time with Grace ~ free stuff?  freedom?  rest?  But, today I did it ~ well, HE did it through me and for me.  I (we) observed the Sabbath.  Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of times I've done this, but today was the best.  I worked hard (well, He did in and through me) for six days ~ even prepared the food for today yesterday, so that today I could do..... nothing.  Well, not nothing, but lots of hot tea drinking, Bible reading, praying, basking in sunshine, reading a good novel, and eating out.  It was wonderful, and I'm so thankful, because the next six days will require a lot of effort.  It's part of why I knew I had to do it.  Oh, there were a lot of things I could have been doing, felt I needed to do, but His call to...

"Cease striving and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:19

was very clear.  I know He is calling me to repent from the belief that my performance earns me more of Him, and I desire to be obedient, so that He, His gospel, and His grace are verified in my heart for what they really are ~ enough, and much, much more than I could ever earn.

Hoping (and hopefully choosing by faith) to engage in many future grace-verifying Sabbaths.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I relate with you so well on this post. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm sure I'll be re-reading it again soon, lots to think about...