Sabbath – Identity and the Fourth Commandment

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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