Not a minute less— not a second more

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My minister son and I visited Israel in November 2015.

One Friday while we were there, we found ourselves in the square in Jerusalem, facing the western wall along with some other members of the tour group. We were seated on a bench that provided a good view of all that happened in the square.

There were many people there that late afternoon, from tourists to orthodox Jewish men when, suddenly, a group of young and not-so-young Jewish people, close to the western wall, joined hands and in joyful anticipation of the Sabbath, danced and sang in a circle of happiness. They were happy that, once again, the Sabbath was about to bless them. They had waited six days since the previous Sabbath and now they anticipated another and their joy knew no bounds. It was inspiring. It was uplifting. Not for them an attitude of isolating the Sabbath joy to a strict to-the-minute 24 hours. Oh no! They wanted to experience the Sabbath blessing sooner rather than later.

I have often pondered on that experience. Of the fact, too, that believing Jews open the Sabbath in their home with a special meal, candles lit, the menorah if they have one, and the Sabbath celebration continues. And what do we Seventh-day Adventists do? Often Friday duties press right up to the Sabbath and we mumble a brief opening Sabbath prayer and hope that God understands how busy we are.

Does it happen with you, with me, that often the Sabbath experience does not commence with us a minute earlier than the time that is announced in our church bulletin?

And when the sun sets as the Sabbath passes into eternity, is there in your home a frantic rush to some entertainment of dubious quality. Perhaps a business call in anticipation of the working week, or maybe a joke to share with a friend that wasn’t appropriate on God’s holy day? Or perhaps the mother of the home, at work during the week as mothers now often are, is seen piling the washing in the trusty washing machine. As she brushes her hair from her face, she now has to face preparing another meal for her hungry brood. Where does it all end, she wonders.

The Sabbath was made to be anticipated, to be enjoyed and to be remembered. For this to genuinely happen, a re-priority of family activities may need to be made. It can happen where there is the will to do that. When we put God first. If we do that, we will find that there is still time to do what is necessary (perhaps not all that we want to do). Putting God first will see a calm settling on our homes and in our family. And wasn’t God unselfish when He required only one day in seven to be devoted to His worship? Six days for us and one day for God and we still come up to the last minute before Sabbath to cram in as much of our own agenda before we need to drop it and acknowledge the Sabbath.

There are many appropriate passages in the Bible that are ideal for Sabbath opening and closing worship. I am not going to feed these to you here; you can find them. If you are not sure where to look, get yourself a quality concordance. Now, that would be a good Sabbath activity, wouldn’t it? And plan your Sabbaths so that secular events will not run right up to the Sabbath. Play or turn on some quality gospel music a half-hour before Sabbath. That will put our minds in a good place, ready to welcome God’s holy day. 

And then, as the Sabbath is about to end, plan for a quiet easing into the secular week again. Our world will not come crashing down on us if we don’t commence our activities for another 15 or 30 minutes after the Sabbath.

God wants us to enjoy the Sabbath, to experience the blessing of worship, of enjoying His creation and to forget for a day the things that press in on us during the week. We can do it if we try. And then we shall find that we will have time to introduce the Sabbath without encroaching on the sacred hours. And at the end of the day, we won’t have a mind to rush away from the Sabbath, like a scared hyrax, and commence our own agenda. Now that would be selfish, wouldn’t it?

William Ackland is retired in Cooranbong (NSW) and has written eight books.

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