Here's where we started on the Sabbath.
Today I'm going to cover a couple verses from the Old Testament. You can find a full list of Sabbath passages here.
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. (Exodus 31:15 ESV; Also see verses 12-17)
For the nation of Israel, what defined the Sabbath was that they didn't do anything. It's almost mind-blowing in our super-fast culture today. Don't do any work. Period.
I've heard the following said about taking a Sabbath in our culture today:
"As long as what you're doing isn't stressful to you it can still be a Sabbath."
"To really be a Sabbath you need to be doing something to connect to God."
I'm not sure either of those are correct.
First off, the point wasn't the stress. The point was not working, regardless of the stress.
And secondly, there's obviously nothing wrong with connecting to God. But for Israel, a Sabbath was a Sabbath because they didn't do work. It didn't become a Sabbath because of them doing holy activities, it was a Sabbath -- it was holy -- because they didn't do anything. The very act of taking a day off was what made it a Sabbath. It set them apart from all of the surrounding nations.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV)
The Israelites had been slaves without any time off or days to rest. Out of Egypt, God gives them a weekly (mandatory) break. To me, this speaks of the blessing and gift of the Sabbath. God required them to take a day off, but only because he wanted to bless them with a break.
Next Up: New Testament passages on the Sabbath.