Devotional Thoughts for Today
Mark 2:23-28 (ESV)
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Many Christians today consider the Sabbath to be an archaic, obsolete regulation that is out of touch with our busy and competitive work environments—not realizing that the Sabbath was designed exactly for this reason. For a moment in our week, we can allow God to remind us that our lives belong securely in His hands—that ultimately, we are not the authors of our own success, and we can stop striving for that unreachable goal. The problem that we find is that many of us look at church not as a place of rest but just another place to strive. We do this by reducing the Sabbath to just another obligation that we need to fulfill in order to prove that we are good Christians. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of, so Jesus tells them: “Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.” In other words, God doesn’t require the Sabbath for His benefit but for our own.
One of the great benefits, for those of us who are committed to a Sabbath rest, is the flourishing of our relationships. All Christian fellowship is dependent on cycles of rest, because you cannot establish deep relationships if you are otherwise consumed by your work and your ambitions. It’s amazing how much of a difference rest can make in our relationships with one another. The Sabbath was designed to intentionally put enough space in our lives, so that we could enjoy the relationships God has given us. But knowing the rich benefits of the Sabbath is still not enough motivation for many of us to take the rest that we need.
Unless you live with a deep sense of freedom, you won’t pursue the rest that your soul is longing for. As many of us think about our schedules and our future success, there doesn’t seem to be any other option but to continue this frantic pace. There are many factors that contribute to these feelings: In this economy, job security is a major concern. There are hundreds of people waiting to take our jobs if we don’t do well. Technology is another culprit. We now have the capacity to work anywhere and at anytime—meaning, we don’t have the luxury of clocking out. Finally, sociologists tell us that for the first time in human history, we now have a society that determines personal identity and worth based almost completely on achievement. The traditional value of having your identity linked to your family is something that has essentially disappeared
For all of these reasons and more, many of us feel trapped by our work. One of the things that Jesus did so well in his interactions with people was to identify the things that enslaved them. Christianity—more than any other religion—emphasizes the recovery of human freedom. This connection between freedom and rest is most clearly revealed in Deuteronomy 5:15: in instituting the Sabbath, God tells the Israelites, “Remember you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out with a mighty hand; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” The Sabbath was given to the people of God as a reminder of their freedom. And whether your master is Pharoah, corporate America, or your own ambition, the results are exactly the same—you feel like you have no control over your time and work. That is the bottom line definition of what is means to be enslaved.
In every age and culture, the most dangerous master is the unrelenting lure of success and wealth. The nature of man can’t help but base his identity on these things that are so artificial and fleeting. Unfortunately, we are often driven by this master, not realizing the negative impact it has on our lives. By realizing God’s loving intention for the Sabbath, we can prevent this self-induced bondage and learn how to live life in all its abundance.
Prayer: Father, we confess that none of Your commands are burdensome or restrictive. Everything You teach us is meant for our good and for our freedom. Help us to learn what it means to rest in You, by observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy. As we cultivate this discipline, may we experience the renewing effect of the Sabbath on our body, soul, and mind. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Judges 4