Why Should We Look Beyond the Sabbath’s Shadow?

I spent most of 2016… and some of 2017… completing the “Major Project” for my Doctor of Ministry degree. Attached is a copy of my doctoral work, Beyond the Sabbath’s Shadow: A Biblical Understanding and Application of Godly Rest. If you were hoping for more detail than the Rethinking Rest material affords, you might find that in this project.

You can download a free PDF copy here: Beyond the Sabbath’s Shadow – Gregory D. Hall

How Culture Confuses the Puzzle of the Sabbath

I’m wondering how you ended up at this website reading a post about “rest”. Of all the things people are reading about these days, what caused you to stop here just now? I suppose there are lots of reasons one might have but what are those reasons for you?

Whatever your motivation, I’m guessing you wouldn’t refuse if someone offered you a satisfying recipe for rest and a compelling argument to rethink what it means. The Bible studies and ideas I’ve presented on RethinkingRest.com are representative of why I have completely changed the way I approach rest. Not only have my definitions of “rest” changed, but the practical application isn’t the same either. 

And it’s not what you are thinking. This site isn’t one that will try to settle arguments about what day the Sabbath is or what activities are approved and which should be avoided on such a day. You’ll find this to be a completely different perspective on the topic. It will be a refreshing break from the tired Sabbath discussions that seem to have occupied a generation of evangelicals. 

I grew up in the middle of those discussions. 

I also grew up playing baseball. There was a strong Little League tradition in our small community. One of the years I was in middle school (in the early 1980’s), our local high-school baseball team made it to the playoffs. Most of the post-season games that year were played on week days after school, but the championship game happened to be scheduled for a Saturday afternoon. Normally this is a great idea. It allows teams and families time to travel. 

That particular year, one of the best pitchers on the team (and his family) consistently observed a 7th-Day Sabbath. Their family took Saturdays off from many of their normal weekday activities for religious purposes. As the team kept winning their playoff games, I remember there being great conversation in the community about whether the star pitcher would choose to play if they made it to the championship game.

They did keep winning… and they qualified to play that Saturday afternoon. After much discussion (and I’m assuming prayerful consideration as well)… the pitcher decided to play in the title game. Even though they lost a close one-run contest, the conversation surrounding the decision to play, or not, made an early impact on me.

That baseball season was just a couple years after the movie Chariots of Fire won four Academy Awards (including Best Picture).  For those who haven’t seen it, Chariots of Fire is a film based on the true story of two British Olympic athletes in the 1924 games. In the movie one of the athletes, Eric Liddell, is favored to win the 100-meter race. Liddell is a devout religious man and He refuses to run in a qualifying heat because it is held on Sunday. 

Though I was young at the time, I remember being somewhat confused about how many different ideas and practices there were regarding this sacred concept. One athlete refuses to run on Sunday, another doesn’t know if he should play baseball on Saturday. These ambiguities, and many others like them, have lead to a general state of confusion for many. It is common for followers of Jesus to second guess what the sabbath is and how they should respond to it. 

I think we can all agree, biblical rest is a confusing topic. I grew up attending church, and one might think church attendance would have brought more clarity to the topic, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. On the contrary, it was in the church that I found great diversity in how people thought about biblical rest. Most assumed rest was simply one variation or another of observing the Sabbath (the fourth commandment). For years that’s what I assumed too.

For me, early confusion about the topic lead to apathy and eventually, even though I remained a believer in Christ, I lost interest in the Sabbath. It was later in life, while in my Master’s program, that I began to re-engage with the topic. It was in a Bible class, studying the book of Hebrews, that I began to ask new questions about biblical rest. It is those questions, and the answers that followed, that lead to a surprising discovery, a greater understanding, and the desire to write about this topic.

I invite you to dive in with me and discover why it is we should be rethinking what we think we know about rest.