I can still hear Mel Gibson as William Wallace yelling “FREEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOM!” in the movie Braveheart. It’s a favorite scene because freedom is a very high value to me. Both of our sons have served in the military, and our younger son, Stephen, is still active duty, a pilot who also trains pilots.
Our older son, Chris, joined the Air Force first, primarily because of something he learned in high school serving as a Congressional Page in Washington, D.C. “Wow,” he said, “our freedom is a lot harder to maintain than I ever thought! It’s a daily battle!” In light of this, thanks to all who serve and have served in the military in order to protect and preserve our freedom!
On the other hand, I believe Chris’s observation has even greater implications for us as Christians. That may be the big why of the Sabbath. God “gifted” Israel with a Sabbath, a time of rest each week, coming out of the Exodus, where they were escaping from slavery to the Egyptians. “They [God’s people] must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you” (Exodus 16:29a, NLT; emphasis mine). It’s the gift of rest, reflection, and refreshment.
God wanted His people, His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5), to have a rest. They did not have to work 24/7. God wants us to be with Him, not merely work for Him. There’s no real evidence of a Sabbath before this in any other cultures. This is something designed by God for us, and it will better enable us to walk in freedom. We all have different issues or areas we struggle with that God wants us to be “free” from. There are things that weigh us down and keep us from delighting in our walk with Him and with others.
God gives us the opportunity to rest from all of this—to be free of it. Israel’s army fought many enemies—the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites. We, too, fight all kinds of work-ites, family-ites, and other-ites. Rest means to cease from activity that is stressful and strenuous, to regain strength and energy and vitality—letting go of the “ites” and getting more life. By building into our lives a regular day of real rest, we can identify these areas that bring anxiety, go to our God and His Word, listen and act on His truth and promises on these things, and allow God to carry them for us. This weekly rhythm makes the daily living free of these more of a reality as well.
We can then regain His eyes—His perspective—on our lives and others, reprioritize our days and weeks, and enter into each one with energy and passion. Jesus put it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).
In closing, let me encourage you to spend some great time with God this week in your Sabbath, whatever day that might be, or pause on Independence Day to take hold of and thank God for the freedom that others have granted to us at great costs. Then thank God for the freedom in Christ that only He can give—to live “freely and lightly”!