Friday, January 17, 4:00 PM – The group of pastors on the recent Israel were at a baptismal site at the Jordan River. We had to hurry because the gates would close at 5:00 PM even though there was plenty of light left in the day and plenty of people wanting to rent robes in order to be immersed in the icy waters. Why was this place closing? If you have been to Israel, you already know the answer is found in the dateline. The Jewish Sabbath begins at 6:00 PM on Friday evening. The workers at the site needed to leave at five o’clock in order to be home when Sabbath began. It is not just a tradition there—it is an expectation of society based on the Law of Moses.
After drying off and warming up, we drove back to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. All the shops in Tiberias, a bustling tourist city, were closed. Even the gas station and convenience store along the highway in little Magdela was closed. By the time we reached the hotel it seemed that our tour bus was the only vehicle on the roads. At the hotel which was located on a kibbutz (Israeli collective farm) I could hear the singing and worship in the synagogue on Friday night. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
On Saturday morning the tour continued on to Tel Dan and Caesarea Philippi. Again, I was struck by how deserted the sidewalks were and how few cars were on the roads. It was as if the people had disappeared—actually they were sleeping and resting quietly at home. The morning haze burned away by midday and the people began to emerge. The traffic was still light but the sidewalks were filled with families taking walks together. The parks were filled families picnicking and playing games together. The trails were filled with families riding their bikes together. Families. Together.
I suspect that the divorce rate is pretty low in Israel. I also would not be surprised to learn that Israeli teens have fewer addictions, social maladjustments, and other similar problems as their American counterparts. Could it be that God knew what He was doing when He commanded us to keep the Sabbath (the 4th of the 10 Commandments)? Of course! God made the Sabbath for us because we need it.
I was convicted about our breaking of this commandment even when we worship on Sunday. We don’t rest on Saturday night. We rush and fuss to get to church. We are impatient if Sunday school and worship takes too much time. We rush to lunch and then families scatter in different directions. I challenge the families of BDBC to rest on Saturday evenings and enjoy worshipping as a family. I challenge you to spend time playing together on Sunday afternoons. Our families need the Sabbath. God made the Sabbath for us because He loves us!