My heart hurt for my son Camden, all of eight years old, after I broke the bad news and then watched him storm upstairs in a fit of anguish and pain. But in that moment, a realization hit home to me—as abstract theology suddenly became personal.
But let me digress for a moment.
About a year ago, my wife Camille and I decided that we needed to devote some more focused, one-on-time with each of our kids. As a result, we concocted a plan that every Thursday night either she or I would take one of the kids out for a little treat and alone time with Mommy or Daddy. Just to make things easy, we figured I’d take the first three weeks and take each of the three kids out, and then Camille would take the next three weeks, and so forth.
In this particular week, it was to be Camille and Camden. They were going to go get a donut together. Nothing fancy (read: expensive), just a few minutes of quality time enhanced by a little concentrated sugar.
However, there was a little glitch in the plans. Through a series of events, we found ourselves spending the early afternoon and evening together with some friends at their house, hanging out, and having supper. We had a grand time—but the evening spilled over into bedtime, and by the time we got home, it was definitely too late for sugar.
Though a little disappointed, Camille assured Camden that the two of them would go out later the next day, which seemed to satisfy him.
But things don’t always work out that easily. When you plow through a weekly commitment, thinking you will simply reschedule, priorities suddenly get sidetracked.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Our daughter Acadia, two years Camden’s junior, had a doctor’s appointment that ran late, and I had already committed to hanging out with another friend of mine for another hour after Acadia’s appointment, and it suddenly occurred to me that we were going to be facing the setting of the sun, when the Sabbath hours—and their honored Guest—would arrive, and Dunkin’ Donuts would not be happening that day. Not only that, but it wouldn’t be happening the next night after sunset either, since we had another gathering scheduled.
So I decided I would prep Camden right before Camille arrived home with Acadia—and to no one’s surprise, he didn’t take it well at all. He stormed upstairs to his bedroom, sobbing. He was very distraught.
As he rushed upstairs, and as my heart ached for him, another thought—perhaps surprising to some—suddenly occurred to me: this is why we need Saturday to be the Sabbath.
Perhaps you’re a little confused about the logical leap. After all, what does Camden getting the raw deal on a donut have to do with the Sabbath—of all things?
It’s very simple: the reason we need Saturday to be the Sabbath—and the reason God commanded for it to be specifically that day—is because human nature is such that if we don’t prioritize a specific day, we will very easily find ourselves moving it around to the point of neglecting it altogether. But when we put our stake in the ground and say “this is the day; I will not budge from it, no matter what,” nothing else can come up that can sidetrack us from devoting that one day a week to Him.
Somewhat ironically, the book club I lead touched upon this subject briefly around the same time. Though our conversations usually revolve around the book we’re reading, mixed in with a lot of politics and running, we got to talking about the Sabbath that same week for a few minutes. We all come from varied Christian persuasions, and thus we each have a unique perspective on the Sabbath (though two of us are Seventh-day Adventists). My Mormon friend, for example, has a high regard for the Sabbath—but he understands it to be Sunday, of course. My other friend, who goes to a non-denominational church, explained that he understands Jesus to be our rest, and thus we should experience Sabbath every day.
I love these brothers and am not seeking to start a public debate with them, but my experience with Camden that day helped me realize one of the greatest arguments for the importance of Saturday Sabbath.
Not to stretch the illustration too far, but God, like Camden, looks forward to a “treat” with us every week. He is, after all, a real Person who longs for intimacy and fellowship with us. And according to His understanding, that time with us comes every Saturday—where we get to spend a whole 24-hours of undistracted time fellowshipping with Him and others.
This is not a burden He places on us—but a joy, a gift! After all, think of the special privilege it is to get to spend a whole day every week with the King of the Universe—free from demanding, labor, work, and distraction! What a privilege!
This is why Jesus announced that “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). It was a special gift designed by God Himself for the blessing and benefit of humankind—and as a blessing for Himself as He receives our undistracted devotion and attention.
The problem is, so many of us think we can push this Sabbath rest off to the other cracks and corners during the week—much like we did with Camden’s donut night that week. We figure we’ll experience this rest throughout the entire week as we rest “spiritually” in Him.
But you know how it goes: one thing leads to another—a meeting fills in those holes, emergencies arise—and all of a sudden our resting in Jesus gets squeezed out.
So that’s why God preemptively set a specific day aside, knowing that we have a hard time saying “no” to other people’s demands. He thus gave us a specific day—Saturday (for reference, see pretty much the whole Bible—beginning with Genesis 2:2-3)—where He takes the responsibility for saying “no” for us. We thus don’t have to feel bad in turning people down because God Himself, the King of the Universe, gives us permission to do so. Thus, we can just defer to God, and refer others to Him, without any feelings of insecurity.
But why Saturday? Why not Tuesday or Wednesday or Sunday—as our Mormon friends do, as well as other Christians historically?
This is no criticism at all of any who have prioritized Sunday. I admire their devotion and commitment. I know they are sincere.
The reason Saturday must be the day is very simple: because God said so! Again, it’s not complicated: if I take God seriously, and I believe that He has revealed His will and ways through the Bible, then I cannot conclude anything else. You can read the Bible from cover to cover, and not only will you never find an instance where God calls another day of the week “holy,” as He does about Saturday (see Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11), but you will see Him promote Saturday as a weekly day of rest over and over and over again in both Testaments (see the previous verses, as well as Isaiah 55:22-23; Ezekiel 20:20; Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2; etc.)
Admittedly, I don’t know exactly why God chose Saturday as the day over another day— other than the fact that Saturday was the seventh day of creation and He decided to rest after He finished all His work. But what I do know is that apparently, God determined that it would be a good idea for humankind to get a day off every week, where we could enjoy physical and spiritual rest.
Some would have us believe, of course, that the Sabbath was a peculiarly Jewish thing, given only to and for the Jews—as though they for some reason needed a whole day of rest while we don’t today. Not only is such an idea biblically unsound (the Sabbath, being introduced at creation, was given long before there ever was a Jew), it also doesn’t make logical sense. As I mentioned: are Jews the only people that would benefit from a full day off each week—or might all of us?
But there’s one other reason why the whole world needs Saturday to be the Sabbath. It’s because the Sabbath is not simply a private experience between the individual and God; it is to be a communal celebration. One of the greatest joys of Sabbath is spending the day with other followers of Jesus—to have fellowship in Christ as we build one another up in the gospel.
Of course, we will want to do this as much as possible throughout the week, but life’s competing demands make it difficult—if not impossible—to enjoy extended and uninterrupted mutual edification.
Graciously, God gives the community of believers one whole day a week to experience the joy of mutual encouragement.
But here’s the point: how can the Sabbath be a communal experience if everyone decides to pick his or her own day? Some might find Tuesday to be more conducive to their schedules, others Saturday, still others Monday.
Should we decide by vote? Given seven choices, how could we expect a whole group of people to arrive at a consensus? We have whole churches that split right down the middle when it comes to electing a president—and there we (effectively) only have two choices.
So, again, God has graciously made it easy for us. Instead of trying to agree on our own day (like Sunday), He’s given it to us—already revealed in His Word. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” He wrote with His own finger. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-10; compare with Exodus 31:18).
For some, this whole idea may sound antiquated—or even worse, legalistic. But how can a day that celebrates rest, instead of work, be considered legalistic? How can a day that promotes placing one’s trust in Jesus to provide for him or her, instead of toiling by the sweat of one’s own brow for yet another day, be looked upon as old covenant?
My experience with Camden that day may seem overly simplistic or juvenile. Yet I do think it reveals a deeper theological truth: God, as a relational Being, wants to spend one day a week with us—and He wants us to do it in community and fellowship with others. And He has preemptively set that day—Saturday—aside so we don’t somehow miss or neglect Him, thinking we’ll get to it when it is more convenient.
We don’t need to complicate things.