Reprinted from Forward Movement, Day by Day
by Lindsay Hardin Freeman

Nehemiah 13:19. When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath.

No longer are stores closed on Sunday. No longer are sports practices or games put off to another day. Church on Sunday morning is too often a question mark upon awakening, not a sure thing. Often this day is as busy as the rest of the week.

And we are lesser people for it. Keeping the Sabbath arises in Genesis 2, when God rested after six days from the work of creating the world. Later, Moses received these words as the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Nehemiah closed Jerusalem’s gates to stop the flow of commerce, knowing that a day of rest and devotions was ordained by God as a sacred gift for the people.

In Jesus’ time, Sabbath rules were kept as well. Although he was criticized by the pious for picking grain and healing on the Sabbath, those actions were wisely seen by Jesus as life-giving.What about us? We might do well to pause this Sunday and consider how we, too, might respect the Sabbath as God’s gift to all.