Experience silence in the midst of your busy day. Take some time to relax into a time to be with God.
Leviticus 23:26-41 (NRSV)
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire; and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. For anyone who does not practice self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people. And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people. You shall do no work: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your settlements. It shall be to you a sabbath of complete rest, and you shall deny yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, and lasting seven days, there shall be the festival of booths to the Lord. The first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. Seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the eighth day you shall observe a holy convocation and present the Lord’s offerings by fire; it is a solemn assembly; you shall not work at your occupations. These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you shall celebrate as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the Lord offerings by fire—burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day— apart from the sabbaths of the Lord, and apart from your gifts, and apart from all your votive offerings, and apart from all your freewill offerings, which you give to the Lord. Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the Lord, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a festival to the Lord seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute forever throughout your generations.
Rules are not my friends. While reading this passage from Leviticus, I realize how quickly I would have been exiled or destroyed back then. I often take late work from students and break other rules to build up crumbling humans because my gray-tinted lenses see the intent rather than the letter of law. In Leviticus, there is no comfy gray, only a relentless series of black and white specifications. Why, then, am I drawn to this passage? Because I need to hear it. It calls me to be still, to schedule deliberate time to pause in God’s presence.
When was the last time we truly kept a sabbath? In addition to the one day of rest from our frenzied pace each week, this passage establishes a seasonal sabbath and a full week to “rejoice before the LORD.” And these aren’t even all the required festivals! I know that we are no longer compelled to live under these mandates, but there are lessons here to be learned: a full life should include generous, unhurried time to dwell in God’s presence.
Gracious God, help us to deny ourselves and set aside our busyness to seek you first in deliberate stillness. Help us to plan—and then savor—intentional, inviolable, holy sabbath with you. Amen.
Go with God.