Sabbath – Identity and the Fourth Commandment

Posted on February 13, 2014 | 14 comments

Sabbath - Natalia Goncharova, 1912

Sabbath – Natalia Goncharova, 1912

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8 – 11

Work is not a curse, it a part of the image of God we bear.

For the first man and woman in the garden, work was an expression of their communion with the Creator. Part of the reflection of his glory to the world.

But for a people who were in the midst of exiting slavery, work would not have felt like a gift or a product of design, but rather a death sentence.

So, God reminded the Israelites that He set the standard for work. In the days of creation. Then He introduced Sabbath, a day of rest that would have been startling to a person who had spent their entire life in slavery.

God created the rhythm of work and rest.

Yet, in the garden, at the fulcrum event of the Fall, mankind’s relationship with work changed.

Rather than responding, the creation was not going to fight back. There was going to be pain and toil.

Mankind was also going to look to work to provide more than it was intended. The man and woman would now seek fulfillment in their work.

Ful – FILL – ment.

Their desire would be for work to be a place of filling, yet it would produce thorns and thistles. There was going to be toil of the soul.

That is where we find ourselves. What we do is one of the foundations we use for identity outside of God.

So, our worth is measured by productivity, busyness, and achievement. And, like the Israelites in Egypt, we become enslaved to work.

In order to prop up our sense of self, we always have to be producing more, achieve the next goal, or be in constant motion.

Idleness is “wasting time”, a sin against the identity of work, an opportunity lost to bring affirmation to the false self.

Work is a crumbling foundation for identity. There will always be someone with which you compare unfavorably. There will always be failure.

Then shame will once again be exposed.

God was clear to the Israelites about the Sabbath. It was his example. He did not need rest from creating. God was intentional to just be.

He is the God who identifies himself as “I AM”. Sabbath is restoration of communion with God. The just be with him.

Sabbath is more than just rest for the body, it is rest for our soul. From striving to prove our worth. From creating our own significance. From covering our own shame.

And it is ours – continually – in Christ. It is his invitation to us. In Matthew 211:28 – 29, Jesus makes this promise to those who would follow him “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Rest for our soul. Sabbath. Jesus is our Sabbath.

Identity in Christ provides the rest for our soul. The covering for our shame. The proof that we are loved. The demonstration that we are significant simply because we bear the Creator’s image.

Sabbath has everything to do with identity.

When do you experience communion with Christ, your Sabbath? What practices/disciplines create openness in your life for God to enter in?

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  1. Scott, thanks for providing that perspective of the Sabbath. I think many of us break the Fourth Commandment more than the other nine.

    • It is interesting that the other nine are explicitly referred to by Jesus. Except this one because He became our rest.

  2. The promise of Matthew 11:28-29 is one I return to again and again. It draws me like bee to a honeypot. Soothing words as nectar to my weary soul. How we need such reminders! Even though I have chronic health problems and am too sick to work in a paid capacity, I still know the dangers of being overly busy in my mind and shutting God out of thoughts and decision making.

    With Jesus as our Sabbath we can take Sabbath rest on any day we need to, and at any given moment our souls seek the sanctuary of His peace. Mind, soul and body function best with Sabbath rest, just as God intends them to. Thank you for this lovely reminder! Blessings 🙂

    • Good words, your participation means a lot. Thanks!

  3. I agree with Joe, but work sometimes does not allow one to take off. I love the companies who are believers and state on their doors they are closed for Sabbath. Personally I look forward to the Sabbath spending time with other believers, and resting my body for another busy week. I notice a difference when I do totally rest in Him in my energy level the next day.

    Followed you here from Heart Filled Fridays.

  4. I am passionate that in our busy workaholic society we hold onto Sabbath and rest.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  5. I remember Sunday was the day all stores were closed except for drug stores where we stopped to get the paper after church. Thanks for the reminder that what we do is not a true reflection of our worth.

  6. Oh yes, I have learned in chronic illness that Rest is necessary and that identity is to be found only in Christ. Hard lesson.

    Thanks for linking up with Recommendation Saturday! Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

  7. It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to visit your blog, Scott and I’ve really missed your insightful and straight-forward examination of the false self, and today, how we turn even the work we do into a validation of our false self. I know that rest is so important to my spirit and my body–for everyone’s spirit and bodies. I even make times daily to just “be” in God’s presence–soaking up His presence and not saying or reading a word. I suppose anytime you or I are “being still” with God, we are experiencing a moment of Sabbath. Thanks for mining these valuable gems of wisdom, my friend!

    • Thanks for coming back, I’ve missed your comments! It is a good thing that Jesus has become our Sabbath, rest and freedom is always available.

  8. I’ve recently experienced a major change in the work rhythms of my life. I’ve found the Sabbath to be a centering reminder to just breathe and “be” with God. Thank you for this post.

  9. Thank you for a good reminder about the purpose of Sabbath. And thank you for linking up with the Let’s Get Real hop. We hope you’ll link up again this week.

  10. I love being with Jesus in the morning. That’s when my brain functions and I’m feeling refreshed. When I NEED to experience the Sabbath of Jesus is in the midst of the day, when my focus has fractured and I’m feeling burdened. I pray I can be more intentional to seek Jesus as Sabbath in the midst of the crazy instead of the calm of the morning.

  11. The Sabbath rest is very important second only to idolatry. Idolatry and Sabbath rest are mentioned more than any other commandment. I agree completely we are able to rest when we find our identity in Christ. No more needless toiling for the sake of toiling. Instead, God gives us purposeful work to glorify his holy name. Rest is very important and very sad to see most Americans overworking themselves. Only in God can we find true rest. God is Gracious

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