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Living the Sabbath


One of the benefits of my education has been the wonderful people I have met along the way who have been superb resources to me in ministry. One such person is my friend of nearly 30 years, Dr. Ken Gore, chair of the Department of Religion at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. When I outlined my present sermon series, one of the things I wanted to do was preach a sermon on creating margin in our schedules, and the basis of that thought was the Old Testament teaching on Sabbath. So when I needed a good resource on the subject, I called Ken and shared my thoughts.

Ken recommended a very fine monograph titled Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba. Wirzba serves as the chair of the Department of Philosophy at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. Thanks to my friends at Amazon, I held it in my hand in four days, and must confess it was money well spent.

I had supposed that Sabbath would be an excellent foundation for teaching about God’s perspective on time, but I quickly discovered that Wirzba had much more in mind than how Sabbath influenced Hebrew thought about calendars and schedules. Wirzba takes the Sabbath principle to a fuller, more rounded expression about simplicity, inclusive of perspectives on time, family life, education, the environment, possessions, and of course, worship.

Having stated the obvious concerns at hand in our modern culture in the preface, the author deals systematically with the meaning of Sabbath from both a biblical basis as well as from Rabbinical tradition. Not only does Wirzba handle the Old Testament texts, he moves across the aisle to the New Testament and provides some helpful understanding of how to apply the principles of the Sabbath to our Christian worldview.

I have much I could say about this book, but will limit my thoughts to two excellent contributions offered by the author. First, I was impressed by Wirzba’s insistence that we understand and apply the Sabbath in principle to our present setting. Sabbath is an important aspect to achieve and maintain a sense of pacing and rhytmn to every day life. Application of the Sabbath, in the writer’s words are, “a matter of life and death.”

A second contribution of value is his explanation of rest. Sabbath rest (shabbat menuah) is not the rest of recovery from some strenuous or exhausting physical exertion. Rather, menuah is the delight and celebration that is achieved after the completion of a purposeful activity (cf. Genesis 2:1-3). That thought alone was worth the price of purchase.

I would highly recommend Living the Sabbath. It’s scholarly, yet readable. It’s theological, yet practical. Most of all, it’s simply helpful.

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