Stress and Distress got you pressed?
In our high-stressed, fast-paced, high-tech, Internet-surfing, .com-thumbing generation can you find time for quiet reflection and peaceful rejuvenation? The more gadgets created to simplify life, the more enslaved we become. Is there relief?
Is relief what Jesus assures here: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27)? What is the Sabbath? Sabbath means “rest” or “rest day” in more than 108 languages. It is God’s cathedral in time constituted by example and statute. “Was made” highlights a creative act. Who made Sabbath and why?
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:2, 3). God made the Sabbath by resting, blessing, and sanctifying the seventh day. Blessing means to consecrate or make holy. Sanctify means to set aside for sacred purposes or holy use. This makes the Sabbath the world’s second-oldest institution, marriage being the first. Why did God create the Sabbath?
It demarcates the weekly cycle and memorializes Creation (see Exodus 20:8-11). It celebrates the world’s birthday. It commemorates redemption from Egyptian bondage (see Deuteronomy 5:12-15) and connotes liberation from sin. God accentuates the Sabbath in the Decalogue with an invitation to remember (Exodus 20:11). Did God know we would forget or try to change it? For 40 years in the wilderness God did a weekly miracle to remind Israel—manna spoiled if kept overnight, except on Sabbath.
Jesus also said the Sabbath was made for people. God created it to benefit people. We need it for “the more ‘labor-saving’ devices we possess, the more we feel we must do, experience, and acquire—and so the more hurried and harried we are. We live in the fast lane, measure time in nanoseconds, and become skillful at multitasking. If ever humanity needed the quiet, slow time of genuine Sabbath rest, it is in the twenty-first century.” God instituted a seven-day cycle when He created humans to work six days and to rest one, for spiritual and physical rejuvenation. The weekly cycle is predicated on this premise. The seventh-day Sabbath climaxes the cycle and week. Chronobiology discovered this seven-day cycle designating it the circa septan rhythm. Ken West by notes:
“In addition to being the key coordinating rhythm for the rest of the body’s many rhythmic interactions, a seven-day cycle has been found in fluctuations of blood pressure, acid content in blood, red blood cells, heartbeat, oral temperature, urine chemistry and volume. Also the ratio between two important neurotransmitters: norepinephrine and epinephrine, and the rise and fall of several body chemicals, such as the stress coping hormone, cortisol." Also “the seven-day cycle is not a cultural or religious invention. Rather, we can now say these four things about the rhythm of seven:
- It is of ‘very ancient’ biological origin;
- It is independent from environmental cycles of sun, moon and stars;
- It is imbedded in all living cells and in short,
- It is the beat to which all life is tuned.”
Thus our bodies were designed to respond to a seven-day cycle of work, rest, and worship. Sabbath observance requires work, rest, and worship of the Creator who designed us. Sabbath is the day for humans to be free for worship of, and service to, God. Just as we work in the day and sleep at night, we should work for six days, rest, and worship on Sabbath. Just as we work in the day and the body uses sleep, at night, to rejuvenate and rebuild itself, (circadian rhythm), likewise we work for six days, and the body needs the seventh to refresh and rejuvenate itself (circaseptan rhythm). That’s the God-ordained cycle—weekly life cycle. During the workweek tyrannical masters such as things, gadgets, technology, and schedules control us. On Sabbath we surrender these for adoration of, and fellowship with, God. Thereafter we enter a new week equipped to withstand the dominance by things and the dehumanization of technology.
Thus the Sabbath is obedience to the call of Revelation 14:7 to worship God; it is rest from labor, preparation for, and anticipation of, the toils and trials of the week ahead. It is boost for the hustle and bustle of life; tonic for the bones; refreshment for the body; energizer for the soul; relaxer for the nerves; and stimulant for the mind.
Do we need the Sabbath in the twenty-first century? Most assuredly! It is God’s timeless destressor for human stress and distress.