Nehemiah 13:19–22, Isaiah 56:4–7, Mark 2:27–28, Hebrews 4:9–11
We really are bad at taking a Sabbath. Even in the “good old days” restaurants would be filled on Sundays with people leaving church and eating. So now we have memes that say, “consciously choosing to slow down and rest is a revolutionary act of self-care.”
Obviously, this is not a new thing. Nehemiah “defended” the Sabbath by force of arms. Imagine armed guards walking around making sure you rested. It sounds a little strange. Nehemiah understood that the first step to prevent violation of the Sabbath was removing temptation…the merchants.
God always wanted the Sabbath to be followed. So much so that the Sabbath became a doorway into a relationship with God for those where were previously excluded from the community…eunuchs and foreigners. In many ways, right observance of the Sabbath overrode the other “ritually clean” and “holy exclusionary” practices.
Sabbath observance was never about the rules, says Jesus, it was for us. Yet, we don’t seem to really get it. One of the biggest pieces of the Sabbath is not rest, or at least not rest in the way we think of it. The writer of Hebrews gives us the insight that really helps us understand the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews tries to get us to the point that we understand that full/true Sabbath rest is when we rest within the embrace and presence of God and are fully present.