It’s Friday night in Jerusalem. The sun is slowly making its way to the horizon and the city is buzzing with Sabbath preparations. The women in the community are cooking their meals to eat over the next twenty-four hours. Families are setting the table for their Shabbat meal, pulling out their white and purple candles, and making sure the braided Challah bread is baked just right. Just as the sun goes down, the most frantic folks, the ones a little late on their preparations, park their cars on the sidewalk and walk home, lest they break the Sabbath law. Passersby wish one another, “Shabbat Shalom.” This is a passing of the Shalom of God, that comes in the fullest expression of rest.
Shalom has its own significant meaning; a complete rest, one without wanting, emptiness, a peace with nothing left undone. Shalom gives wholeness – it’s as if to say to the passerby, “I wish the peace of God upon you that makes you whole.” It is an extraordinary thing that the peace of God, found in Sabbath rest, can be so renewing and restoring to our weariness and brokenness. Even more, Sabbath Shalom gives us the kind of peace that allows God to meet us and do the kind of work in and through us that He so desires.
King David was an observant Israelite. He was not a man without mistake but he lived his life observing the commands God had given, to the best of his ability. During part of his life he was fleeing death, being chased by those wanting to murder him, dependent on God in a way most of us envy but rarely understand. David found the Sabbath Shalom of God in the most unlikely places and it created in him the kind of character he needed to be Israel’s most beloved king. Psalm 46 describes this for us. David was in the desert wilderness, being chased, and found rest and peace. He writes, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us.”
David had to know and understand the pain and brokenness of the world, but he also had to call upon the Lord to be his strength. This wasn’t a painless process, but I can imagine that it gave David what he needed to be the king that foreshadowed the eternal kingdom to come in Christ.
We want and need Sabbath rest because we are a thirsty people for the peace and wholeness that only God can offer. But could it also be that we need Sabbath Shalom and rest for the sake of soul growth and change, that we might have an enlarged capacity for the world around us? David models that we must become a people so in love with the wholeness that God gives our surrendered hearts, that we are freed to give endlessly to our neighbor, whomever that might be.
Friends, don’t skip Sabbath, because a life with God, fully receiving His rest, and completely being surrendered to His work in and through us, is what our world needs most in its loving neighbors. Don’t skip Sabbath because even though it’s meant to first restore you, it’s not just all about you. When we find the all-encompassing wholeness that only God can give us, we find ourselves able to respond to our neighbors, friends, and family with love, grace, care, mercy, and a steady shalom in the name of God. If we want to be like the best part of king David, able to say that we rest in the Lord, we need to know His shalom.
My time in Israel gave me a tangible picture of what it means to rest, to experience Shalom, and to get creative about how I might experience this peace in our hurried world. For moms, it might mean pausing to pray while you change a diaper or play with your kids. For those working outside the home, it could mean taking a ten-minute walk in the middle of the day to examine the work that God is doing in and around you. This doesn’t have to be prescribed but it sure can be life giving. Ultimately, the idea is to find moments or days of Sabbath, and to keep them. Do this for the sake of remembering the goodness of God and the blessings we have capacity to offer when we are whole.