"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." - Jesus (Mark 2:27)Most Christians have already heard the basic things the Bible teaches about the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a day of rest. Jesus healed on the Sabbath; some objected that he was a Sabbath-breaker. He explained the good of his actions, showing from their own Jewish tradition how the Sabbath did not stop someone from doing a greater good: they would circumcise a child into the covenant on the eighth day even if it fell on the Sabbath; the priests would serve in the Temple on the Sabbath; someone could rescue an animal that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath day. He said the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath. After Jesus' ascension the early church leaders met to discuss which of the ancient Jewish laws applied in the church among the Gentiles, and the Sabbath was not mentioned. In the New Testament letters, we are told not to let anyone judge us about the Sabbath day. Paul wrote that some people valued all days equally, and some held one day above another -- that each of us should be fully convinced in his own mind, but that we should not judge each other or cause someone to trip up over these things.
So there we have one of the delicate balances about the Sabbath: we are not made to serve it. But still it was made for us:
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." - Jesus (Mark 2:27)If it was made for us, we are permitted to enjoy its blessings, keeping in mind: the Sabbath is not Lord over us us; Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
- Somewhere I read that in ancient times a pagan had criticized the Jews over the Sabbath, saying they were lazy to keep the Sabbath because a Sabbath would leave the work un-done. The Jewish response was: the command says "In six days you shall do all your work" and on the seventh rest -- so that the whole command was kept not only in the one day of rest, but also in the six days of completing all the work so that it was possible to take a day of rest without neglecting important things.
- The Sabbath was given as a memory of God resting from his work, and also as it says in memory of Israel's rescue from slavery. So the Sabbath is a lasting memorial of a rescue from slavery. In our age it can be a reminder not to become enslaved willingly. Some types of people become over-committed, and we risk becoming slaves to ourselves, never having a day of rest.
- Once in war-time the staff of an aluminum plant worked seven-day weeks. At the end of the war, when they first scaled back to six-day weeks, the plant produced more per week in the six-day weeks than it had in the seven-day weeks. I have this on the word of one of the plant managers, who was my grandfather.
- Again, I read somewhere that while people do produce more if they have a day of rest, that we must not imagine that is the true purpose of keeping a Sabbath: as if the true purpose of man were to be productive workers, and the Sabbath was meant to serve our productivity. Instead, the Sabbath is kept as a blessing in itself, not for the sake of something else.
- It's likely that the things I've remembered reading, as mentioned in this post, can be found either in the text or footnotes for A.J. Heschel's The Sabbath. I would give that book mixed reviews, but it was well worth the read.