September us upon us and with the first Monday we celebrate Labor Day. The official holiday began in 1882 as
a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. (http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm)
In the early years the American workers were celebrated with parades, speeches and festivals to celebrate the labor unions and their contributions to the progress in America. These celebrations may take place in some areas of the country but I believe most Americans look at Labor Day as a celebration of a day we don’t have to labor – a time to celebrate rest and recreation.
It turns out this is not a new idea! God designed a time of rest into His creation.
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. Genesis 2:2-3 NIV
God doesn’t get tired and He doesn’t need to rest, yet He spent a day of His creation doing just that. I believe it was an example for us to follow, showing us that since we are created in His image we also need to rest. Add in the fact that we are human, not deities and His point is made even more strongly!
To reinforce His point when Moses was given the Ten Commandments God again emphasized a day of rest.
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 20:9-11 NIV
A full day was set aside by God for the purpose of rest.
I like the way the King James version puts it:
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God…
I have been part of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination for most of my life. We are evangelical Baptists who hold to keeping the seventh day Sabbath of the bible as sacred time. (You can learn more about us here: http://seventhdaybaptist.org/) We seem to see this day of rest differently than other churches I have attended over the years. Our Sabbath mirrors the Jewish Sabbath that begins at sundown Friday night and continues until sundown Saturday/Sabbath. While each person/family is free to celebrate the Sabbath in their own way there is something special about the day. For most it is more than fitting a church service into busy weekend, it is a time to slow down, take a deep breath, rest and worship.
I grew up on a dairy farm owned & run by my father and uncle. The only work they did on the Sabbath was to milk the cows and make sure the animals were fed, safe and healthy. It didn’t matter if Sabbath was the only day to get the hay in or if it was harvest time and it had finally stopped raining enough to pick the corn. Those tasks could wait. My parents did not take us to birthday parties or friends’ homes on the Sabbath. As a general rule we didn’t shop on the Sabbath either. It was family time, and often included a nap for Mom & Dad. As a kid I sometime thought it was a punishment to spend my Saturday differently than my friends. Now I realize that my parents both worked hard and needed a day to rest and prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually for the week ahead. The older I get the more thankful I am for the example they gave.
One of my most precious memories growing up were the rides we would often take on Sabbath afternoons. I sometimes thought it was boring, but now reflect upon how Dad knew people for miles around and would tell us stories as we traversed the countryside, checking the progress of a new barn or business or just enjoying God’s creation. We might pop in to say, “hi” to a family member or friend and visit for a while. I still like to ride around with friends and family, discovering new places, experiencing adventures and making new memories.
Do you experience a day of rest each week? Do you set aside time to stop, reflect and become refreshed? I hope you do, and whether your Sabbath falls on the same day as mine or another day during the week I hope you’ll realize the gift we have been given. Our lives are so filled with work and other activities and it is rare to stop long enough to catch our breaths and catch up with family and friends and worship our Lord together. We shouldn’t wait for a day to come along when we are excused from our everyday work in order to fit in this precious time.
Enjoy your Labor Day weekend! May it be a time of creating memories and perhaps reevaluating our schedules to fit in a time of rest every week. We might be surprised at how good it feels and the rewards we reap from the time we set aside.
Blessings & peace to you as you enter His rest this weekend!