Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The Sabbath first appears at the end of the creation story in Genesis 1, as the culmination of the week of God forming and filling the earth. Sabbath is a day in which we dwell and rest in God’s presence. It’s not just a time, it’s a space we make in our lives. As the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel wrote, ‘the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals’. Sabbath is a way of worshipping God. How could you use Sabbath for worship this week?
God ‘blessed’ the Sabbath. Sabbath is life-giving and creative: it doesn’t just help us ‘live with’ the busyness and seemingly endless grind of work in our lives. It changes the atmosphere completely and cultivates a new environment. It provides a new way of being, a way of creating and giving life.
Genesis 2:2-3 tells us that Sabbath is a rhythm built into creation from the very beginning. This rhythm of work and rest is just as vital to our humanness as food, water, sleep, or even oxygen. God rested on the Sabbath. And we can rest on the Sabbath too. Jesus’ coming and fulfilment of the law as ‘the Lord of the sabbath’ may shift the legal boundaries of sabbath-keeping, but the invitation to take it seriously as a pattern remains. As John Mark Comer rather humorously puts it:
‘You can skip the Sabbath – it’s not sin. It’s just stupid. You can eat concrete – it’s not sin. It’s just dumb.’
Consider living out this rhythm this week. What might it look like practically? Take a full day off this week – or if you can’t quite manage that, a morning, afternoon, or evening away from work. Turn off your phone for a day, or rest from social media for 24 hours. Write a list of things for which you’re thankful. Get outside.
Living in this rhythm, we can take work and rest seriously: not merely resting from a life of work but also working out of a life of rest.
Emilia is a final year theologian at the University of Cambridge.
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