By Pastor Jeff Jacobs
Unity Lutheran Parish – St. Paul, Saetersdal and St. Matthew’s, Granger
In May, my colleague, Pr. Nissa Peterson, reflected on sabbath in this space, and I offer additional thoughts on that theme.
Last fall I attended a conference on sabbath keeping in ancient Israel. The presenter’s theme was that sabbath is not merely “taking a break,” but deeply necessary for our existence.
The sabbath decree is one of the longest of the Ten Commandments. After “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,” Exodus continues;
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20:9-11)
Sabbath is built into the rhythm of creation. God worked six days, and even God took rest to enjoy being in that moment, not doing all the time as our hectic pace is nowadays.
Sabbath is also not merely individual respite, but communal necessity. Spouses, children, servants, foreigners, livestock, everyone was to enjoy a rest, and in the Commandments’ reiteration in Deuteronomy, the sabbath commandment concludes,
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” (Deut. 5:15)
Sabbath was a matter of justice for all laborers, so that no one worked incessantly and everyone was refreshed.
In Hebrew, the word “refresh” (naphash) is related to “spirit” (nephesh), so being refreshed by sabbath is truly to “re-spirit” oneself. Through summer and all our seasons, let us keep sabbath for renewal of body, mind and soul.