Shalom Shabbat! Peaceful Sabbath! This simple concept of a weekly day of rest has been the focus for our family for the past couple days. Along with our chronological study of history beginning with the book of Genesis, we're learning about Jewish feasts and holy days this year. It is probably the one thing that I am most excited about learning this year.
Eric and I felt lead a few years ago to begin making the weekly sabbath a larger priority in our household. It was a difficult transition for us. The world and even many people who are part of the church tell us that it isn't necessary. It's in the Old Testament. Why bother? Jesus freed us from having to follow all those antiquated rules...or did He?
Yes, Jesus definitely brought us freedom, but what most Christians miss is that our desire should still be to do those thing which are pleasing to the Lord whether or not we are required to do them, especially when those things were designed for our own good. When we began to incorporate this weekly day of worship and rest into our weekend, it changed the rest of our week. School went better. Work went better. We were more prepared for every aspect of our lives because we did things the way in which God designed them. He designed us to need to rest. He created the world in 6 days and rested on day 7, a perfect model for which we should aim.
I can't stress to you how important I believe this concept is. In our hectic society, we're always running around. For us, planning two days to celebrate a Jewish sabbath was difficult. The Jews celebrate their weekly shabbat from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown, the last day of the week. I desperately tried to make this work for us since we were learning about the Jewish sabbath, but it just didn't. A friend pointed out what I previously mentioned, freedom in Christ to not be legalistic, so, instead, I spent Saturday researching exactly what we needed to do and tasty recipes to prepare ahead of time. Eric did some reading on the subject as well. I planned everything, and then I spent Sunday preparing for our sabbath, which began last night and ended this evening when we saw the first three stars in the evening sky. I never really understood the value of "preparation day" when it was mentioned in the Bible. Now? I found that preparation day was a little on the tiring side but more than worth the time and effort to do all the cooking for our sabbath celebration. In fact, I might even go as far to say that Jewish women need the sabbath just to recover from all the cooking and cleaning on preparation day. Haha! That's not true, but it did feel a little like that after I had prepared everything we needed for four meals all in one afternoon.
Last night's dinner was peaceful. The presence of God was ushered into our home as we lit sabbath candles and prayed and blessed each part of our meal together. Eric blessed each child and me, a powerful moment for sure. We ate freshly baked challah which was covered in challah coverings which were made by the children during the afternoon. Eric and I shared what each thing stood for and why we were doing it so that the children understood.
After dinner we read a picture book about the Jewish sabbath rituals during our evening devotional with the kids. We sang together. We prayed together. We tucked our precious cherubs into bed. It was a peaceful, special evening.
Just as our theme verse for our school year suggests, we were encouraged to spend this day discussing the things of the Lord. After breakfast, we read another book about the sabbath and spent time reading the Bible and praying together. I love beginning our days this way. We do this everyday by beginning our school days with our Bible lesson. It sets a good tone for the day.
Since all of our meals were prepared yesterday and the house was spotless, I was free to enjoy time with Eric and the kids today without feeling any guilt. It was wonderful. I enjoy cooking, but it was nice to have a day off too. We watched a movie. Ava and I painted our nails. The kids played Wii. I read a little. I feel ready to tackle another week with an overly long to-do list.
Our children loved this day. Ava has begged us to do it every week. She loved every little detail from making the challah to lighting the candles to smelling the besemet (box of spices) at the end of the day. Lukas loves the rare day when we don't have to leave the house, a blessing for all of us when it happens. We all enjoy focusing on the things of God and spending time with only each other. It was a wonderful experience.
I encourage you to take time to rest with your family. If anyone knows how challenging it can be in our modern, busy world in which Satan often uses our busy schedules to infect our families and tear them apart at their core, it is essential that we, as believers take the time to put our priorities in order. Rest, friends. Enjoy time with the Lord and time with your families. It's one day of the week. God gave you 6 days to do the things of the world. Focus on Him on day 7, and I promise you will be rewarded.
A typical sabbath for our family begins on Saturday night when we make sure our Sunday is planned. Church outfits are laid-out. Healthy muffins are made for our on-the-go breakfast. A simple lunch is planned for after our worship time at church, and we spend the afternoon napping, playing Wii or board games, watching movies or playing in the back yard together. We enjoy each other. The day is about worship and family for us. When we choose to do something else, we miss it. Our entire week is different than it would be if we had simply chosen the things of the Lord, which He designed perfectly for us. Try it. See how it goes, and let me know when you do. I would love to hear how your family responds. Don't worry about doing all of the parts of a traditional sabbath. Just rest and focus on the Lord. Blessing will come your way for sure.
"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10