I was excited to receive a review copy of Sabbath by Dan Allender from Thomas Nelson Publishers for several reasons. First, I am currently writing commentary on Luke 6:1-10, where Jesus has Sabbath day controversies with the Jewish religious leaders, and I was hoping the book could shed some light on the statement by Jesus that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Though the book did not provide much discussion about this specific passage, the overall content of the book did push me in the direction I was already heading.
Second, I was excited to read the book because as life gets busier with work, marriage, family, and writing, I often feel the need to slow down, rest, and occasionally just stop. I knew that this is the concept behind the Sabbath, but did not want to develop a legalistic Sabbath observance full of rules and regulations that removes the purpose for the Sabbath. The book was somewhat helpful in this regard also.
Overall, Dan Allender presents the Sabbath as day of rest, but not for sitting around, twiddling your thumbs, and thinking Godly thoughts. Many of us, in our more honest moments, think a day spent that way is more wasteful than restful. I think Allender would agree. He even points out that you do not keep the Sabbath simply by going to church. He, along with Eugene Peterson, calls this a “bastard Sabbath.” Far too often, church attendance has become the opposite of what God intended for the Sabbath (p. 8, 24, 66, 88).
The Sabbath, as Dan Allender describes it, is a day of delight. It is to be full of joy, sensual abandon (reveling in our God-given senses), laughter, and memory making. It is a day when we live out redemption, when we imagine what life will be like in the eternal Kingdom of God (the eternal Sabbath), and then try to live out that vision here and now. Living the Sabbath is Kingdom living. It is window into eternity, a foretaste of the New Heaven and New Earth.
So while there are few hard and fast rules for keeping a Sabbath, Dan Allender paints a picture in his book of spending time with friends and family, enjoying sumptuous meals, taking walks, enjoying long talks, and doing whatever we find enjoyable in life. For him, it includes fly-fishing, reading, and writing. For others, it will look different.
As a result of reading this book, I celebrated a Sabbath with my family this past Tuesday. We got up, ate breakfast, and then went ice skating for two hours. While there, our girls made a new friend, Mia, and I met a man named Ed who is on the board for Chosen People Ministries. He and his skating partner compete nationally, and they gave my wife and I some skating tips. After this, we ran a few errands, and then went to Olive Garden for Zeppoles. We came home, ate a light dinner, watched a Christmas movie together, and then went to bed. It was a wonderful day, full of laughter, joy, and memories. It was a foretaste, at least for me, of what I hope eternity will be like.
I had a few criticisms of the book (when do I not?), but will leave those unspoken, for that too, is an element of Sabbath. If you want to restore peace and joy to your life, I recommend reading this book.