Photo by David Bridle on Unsplash

Keeping Sabbath

August 17, 2023

God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:3)

There is an order to God’s work of creation as described in the first and second chapters of Genesis. On the first and second days, light and sky. On the third day, dry land and plants. On the fourth, sky, moon, and stars. On the fifth day, sea creatures and birds. On the sixth day, land animals and human beings. And on the seventh day, God rested.

I have always assumed this order of creation to be progressive, from least to greatest, with humanity the pinnacle of God’s creation because of the order in which we appear. God created all these other things necessary for our flourishing, and then God created us.

This sensibility is reinforced in other places in Scripture, as in Psalm 8, in which the Psalmist questions why God cares for humanity, as small and insignificant as we seem in the vast expanse of time and space.

The Psalmist then confesses, “Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” The Psalmist goes on to say that God has given us dominion over the rest of creation, the works of God’s hands—the beasts of the fields, the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea.

Dominion here is not to be confused with domination. We are not given creation to do with as we please. Rather, we are entrusted with the care of creation. We are to be stewards: caretakers, not rulers, of creation.

If the order of creation is progressive, if it proceeds from least to greatest, if we take seriously the creation account in Genesis 2, then in fact human beings are not the pinnacle of creation—the Sabbath is.

In Genesis 2 we read that God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested from all the work God had done in creation. The Sabbath is a part of the order of creation, existing beyond that order but nonetheless the pinnacle or culmination of it.

To hallow or make something holy is to sanctify it, to set it apart for God’s purposes. The Sabbath was set apart for the purpose of rest, to enjoy God and God’s creation. It is an in-breaking of the eternal into the present, a foretaste of God’s kingdom come, in the words of Jesus, amid the rhythm and routine of our lives. What is interesting is the fact that God created the Sabbath not through action, but rather through inaction—not through speech as was the case with the prior acts of creation, but through rest.

Keeping Sabbath runs counter to the ways of the world and the powers that be, but keeping Sabbath is a reflection and a reminder that we are not the pinnacle of creation. Rather, the enjoyment of God and God’s creation is.

God said, let there be light, and there was light. God said, let the earth bring forth creatures, and the earth did. God said, let us make humankind in our image. God said and it came to be. But when it came to the Sabbath, God didn’t say anything. God rested. God did not speak Sabbath into being. God simply rested.

As a writer and an editor, I am fascinated with language, with the construction of words and how they fit together well to tell a story, to communicate truth, to build up, and sometimes to tear down. Words, speech, the things we say have power. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” is not true. Names can be hurtful.

Words can be powerfully uplifting and powerfully harmful. The saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” is true. Words are more powerful than bombs and bullets and armies clashing on battlefields, even if that does not always immediately seem to be the case. Were it not so, we would still be living in the Roman Empire and the words of an itinerant preacher from a backwater town in first-century Palestine would long ago have vanished in the mists of time.

But the word who was with God in the beginning became flesh and dwelt among us. And the words of Jesus continue to go forth like ripples from a stone thrown into a pond—words that have the power to topple empires, and overturn injustice; words that have the power to bring forth peace, justice, and righteousness.

Words have power and their power was demonstrated at the dawn of creation when God said, and it was so. God spoke and through words, through the Word, what God intended came to be.

We all know the feeling of speaking something into being. Maybe it’s an article or a sermon you write, fitting words together just so. Maybe it’s a presentation you make at work or a group project you work on with others at school. An idea you share, a proposal you make, sets in motion a series of events and decisions that lead to something new. And when that something new is accomplished, there is satisfaction in having completed the work.

We should all know as well the satisfaction of resting from the things we have spoken into being, of practicing the art of Sabbath, of setting apart time to enjoy God and God’s creation before we move onto whatever we will next speak into being. If that sounds like a tall order, it is. Amid the busyness of life, keeping Sabbath is not easy. It never has been. The Jews were held in contempt by the Romans for keeping Sabbath and refraining from work one day each week.

Keeping Sabbath runs counter to the ways of the world and the powers that be, but keeping Sabbath is a reflection and a reminder that we are not the pinnacle of creation. Rather, the enjoyment of God and God’s creation is.

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

Don't Miss What's Next

Get early access to the newest stories from Christian Citizen writers, receive contextual stories which support Christian Citizen content from the world's top publications and join a community sharing the latest in justice, mercy and faith.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This