Manna, Quail, and Breastmilk, Part 3

For my Dad

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” Exodus 16:4-5

In my parents’ home, growing up, Sunday was Sabbath day. We weren’t Jewish, even though my dad’s insistence upon our honoring the Sabbath did earn him the nick name “Old Testament Wally.” We poked fun at him as he continually tried to limit our activities on Sunday. We didn’t play sports on Sundays, and I couldn’t go to my friends’ houses or go out on dates in high school. We couldn’t work on Sundays outside the home. Whether we went to church or not (we did more than we didn’t), the purpose of Sabbath was more than liturgical: it was, literally, a rest day. We woke up to fresh baked cinnamon rolls on Sunday mornings that my mother let rise all night. We enjoyed huge, decadent breakfasts. We ALWAYS took a Sunday nap after those huge breakfasts, and woke up in the afternoons to help my father formulate a plan on how to secure whatever dinner he had “gotten a hankering” for in the last few hours.

As the demands of high school became increasingly overwhelming, I started to appreciate Sundays. I never would have admitted that to Old Testament Wally, of course, because it still annoyed me that he had such tight Sabbath restrictions. I would tell myself, “Okay, you can make it through this stressful week . . . only three more days until Sunday, and then you can rest.” And I did. And I started to think maybe my dad was right, maybe we NEED Sabbath . . . not once and a while, but every week, just like Yahweh intended, even for Himself.

I think we forget who God created Sabbath for originally: Himself! In Genesis 2: On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that had been done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done (Vv2-3). This passage is so important in Jewish tradition that it serves as the introduction to the Kiddush, which is the prayer recited before the first meal of the holy day every Friday night, marking the beginning of Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat. This exact verse also appears in the Friday night (Sabbath) service (The Jewish Study Bible). In other words, it’s really important.

As important as Sabbath is, Yahweh does not mandate it until Exodus 16. That means that from the creation of man, from Adam to Moses, no one was keeping the Sabbath. And, even with all the instructions that were given to the Israelites from Abraham through the Exodus, God waited. Why?

I have an idea why, thinking back to Deuteronomy 1:30-31:
The LORD your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, and in the wilderness, where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place.

God is big on proving Himself. He doesn’t ask much when we don’t have much to give. He gives and gives and gives, building our trust. He delivers us, saves us, provides for us, then says, “Oh, and here’s the best part: you can rest in my care. I have already provided, so you can trust me.” He had provided! Manna was falling from the sky.

But do they trust God enough to listen? Do we? Has he not provided for all of us? I often think about Sabbath in the terms of a parent’s love for a child. My children are cared for; we provide them with nutritious food morning, noon, and night. They sleep in warm beds, have enough clothing, etc. How would I feel if I saw them—two and four years of age—out trying to scrounge up supplies for dinner in the backyard when I had a beautiful dinner already cooking on the stove? How would it break your heart if your children didn’t trust you to provide, and instead at every opportunity, scurried about desperately trying to find something to eat?
I can’t imagine many worse failures as a parent than my child not trusting me to provide. I can’t imagine them going to bed at night afraid that I did not always have their needs at the forefront of my mind.

God chastened the Israelites when they disregarded his commandments concerning Sabbath. Even when He gave them double portions on the sixth day to last through the seventh, they still went out looking for more (Exodus 16: 27). But they found nothing. Why? Because all of their needs were already met, even their need to rest.

So how does this relate to us, living in an iPhone world with every work email being sent directly to our phones, club sports being played all weekend long and all year long, and the internet being open for business every minute of the day and night? I don’t think there are any easy answers, and I WILL NOT legislate the religious from this blog.

Judaism 101 has a wonderful synopsis of Sabbath beliefs, practices, and regulations. They define Sabbath as a “joyful day of rest,” one in which we “remember (Deut. 1:30-31) and observe (Exodus 34:21)“. The Hebrew word “melachah,” refers to the “work” that is prohibited during Shabbat. This means “creative work,” work that exercises control of one’s enviroment. Again, we circle back to trusting that God is in control, and we are not.

So, what is important about Sabbath keeping? More important than going to church, more important than following every letter of Jewish law (including taking the light out of your refrigerator at sundown), is REST. The word “Shabbat” comes from the root word, “Shin-Beit-Tav,” which means to cease, to end, to rest. The observant Jew already prays 3 times a day, and eats as much every day, so the Hebrews did not consider Shabbat a day of prayer, or eating. Instead, it is a day of joyful feasting, of savoring God’s word.

On Sabbath, you may rest as a child rests in their father’s arms. You may rest just as your children rest, with complete confidence that their bellies will be filled and their needs met. You may rest with your spouse, children, family, friends. Celebrate the life God has given you, remembering how far He has brought you and your family. . . Drink a mimosa with your spouse and make love while the kids take a nap (yup, if you’re married, “the act of marriage” is a great part of Sabbath keeping!). Eat a beautiful meal with your family. Create a day that your family looks forward to all grinding week long.

Trust, trust, trust that your Father provides a double portion so that you can observe this holy, weekly holiday. Don’t go out looking for blessings that have already been given. Sit and drink them in.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.

Psalm 23:1-3

May the Lord of Manna and Sabbath bless you!