Stop and Breathe, It’s Sabbath!

John 30:22

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

When I am pressed and overwhelmed in my daily life, there is one thing that brings immediate relief. It’s a very old remedy and technique, but is well proven to be effective. And that is to intentionally come to full stop—mentally and physically—and breathe. Slowly and deeply. It relieves tension and brings immediate clarity and calm. This is just what I need to continue in my day.

And that is exactly what God did after he created the universe in six days, he came to a full stop, drew in a deep breath, and exhaled. He rested and rejuvenated. I don’t think God was tired. And I don’t think he needed to rest. But he was and is showing us a natural cycle of creativity. And since we are formed in his image, we are on a much smaller scale and have capacity to create just as he does. And we must stop and breathe and rest as well.

I used to do stain glass, and I would spend hours cutting the glass, grinding it, fitting it together, and soldering. After so much time and effort, I always stood back to take it in. To fully enjoy my creation—to draw in a deep breath and pause. I believe this enabled me to go onto the next stained glass piece.

The same is true with God. He paused to take it all in—his beautiful creation. And he commands, not suggests but commands, us to do the same to stop and breathe in and out. This brings rejuvenation and new perspective, new vision and new strength for the next project. This is Sabbath.

In one breath, God said both, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Exodus 20:8–11

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of YHVH your Elohim; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 “For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore YHVH blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

The two important things that God said about the Sabbath are to remember and to make it holy which is to observe it.

You will find these two tenants over and over in Judaism remember and observe, remember and observe. Because you cannot follow the teachings of the Torah without remembering things that God said and laid out and observing those things—one is no good without the other.

Three ways to Remember

1. Think of the week as winding to an epiphany which is Sabbath.

It has been said that the Jewish people don’t keep Sabbath—it keeps them. And so it is true for 2000 years, in or out of captivity, the Jews have been sustained by remembering and keeping the Sabbath. Even if they were physically restrained as in the holocaust, they kept sabbath in their hearts. In concentration camps, they found crudely handcrafted candlesticks and menorahs that could hold candles. Jewish people lit them and said beautiful prayers in dark corners, and it kept the light within their hearts connecting them to God lit. Rabbis say if one wants to return to Judaism, the first thing is start keeping the Sabbath with insincerity. And

Wayne and I lead tours to Israel frequently; and we tell anyone who has fallen in love with the land and the Jewish people, the first thing you do is learn about how to keep Sabbath. Yes we give this instruction to Gentiles. There is great value in keeping Sabbath for all humankind, and the command for remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy actually was born at creation, long before Moses gave the law.

Where will you be on Friday evening through Saturday evening? How will you rest-with a meal or without. What will you do and not do. Both are important.

3. Mentally prepare to allow yourself to rest. Anticipation is half of the effort and enjoyment is part of the fun. Let it be the same as you look forward to your favorite vacation or activity. You control it. It is as fun and relaxing as you allow.

Now that you have remembered by planning mentally and physically intentionally. Then this is the follow through to actually observe the Sabbath. This foundation of this observation of Shabbat is detailed and what is called “halacha.” This refers to Jewish law. Yet the word halacha does not literally translate as “law,” for it comes from the root halach, which means “to go,” “to walk.” Halacha means “a path.” It is not about cold do’s and don’t’s, but about forward movement. When the keeping and practice of Sabbath becomes a lifestyle and not a burden, leaning into “halacha” becomes not a restriction, but a direction. And when paired with the beauty of “remember,” the coupling opens up a world without limitations — a world of endless depth and opportunity. The pathway to knowing God and making him known is halacha—obedience to what he commands.

As believers, we know that it is impossible to keep the law fully. Therefore we rejoice in the blood sacrifice of Yeshua. We receive atonement for our many failures.

Three Ways to Observe

1. Ask God how you are to rest.

You have the Holy Spirit residing with you. He will give you inspiration and instructions on what is work for you. As a writer, I am tempted to begin writing on that day. The reason is that I come to full stop to breathe and reflect. And my mind engages and thinks of things to write. But I resist this. I know that God stopped creating and I must as well.

2. Obey what he says—there are are so many reasons to break the sabbath and rob your rest.

When you begin the ritual of resting routinely, suddenly there will be so many reasons for you to do something else. There will be a sale that you can’t miss. There will be a game that you have to go to. There will be an invitation from someone else. There will be an errand to run. Breaking the Sabbath shouldn’t throw you into a depression, but think of yourself as free to make the healthy choice of rest, knowing that sales games, and everything else can wait for 24 hours. There is great reward in making a decision like this.

3. Always make if fun.

My husband is the king of having fun and he always thinks of nature walks or drives and other things that motivate us and inspiring ways. I actually think fun is more of an attitude than what you do. We always think of our Sabbath break as fun.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 58:13-14

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