Why the day begins at dusk, and other biblical insights into how God works—and rests.

Many people simply cannot believe that there can be a large, leisurely center to life where God can be pondered. They doubt they can enter realms of spirit where wonder and adoration have a place to develop, and where play and delight have time to flourish. Is all this possible in our fast-paced lives?

I began asking this question out of my own life as a pastor. But I was soon asking the question out of the circumstances of my friends and parishioners, putting myself in their shoes, their ways of life, their vocations.

I decided that it is possible. It is possible because there is a biblical provision for it. The name for it is Sabbath.

An accurate understanding of Sabbath is prerequisite to its practice: it must be understood biblically, not culturally. A widespread misunderstanding of Sabbath trivializes it by designating it “a day off.” “A day off” is a bastard Sabbath. Days off are not without benefits, to be sure, but sabbaths they are not. However beneficial, this is not a true, but a secularized sabbath. The motivation is utilitarian: it makes us feel better. Relationships improve. We may even get more done on the six days than we would on the seven. But the day off is at the service of the six working days. The purpose is to restore strength, increase motivation, and keep performance incentives high.

Sabbath means quit. Stop. Take a break. Cool it. The word itself has nothing devout or holy in it. It is a word about time, denoting our nonuse of it—what we usually call wasting time.

The biblical context for understanding Sabbath is the Genesis week. Sabbath is the seventh and final day in which “God ...

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