BE PREPARED TO STOP
Imagine you’re riding a bicycle on a beautiful mountain back-road. You’re coming down a steep hill, going about 35 miles an hour, and you see that there’s a stop sign right at the bottom. What would happen if you waited until you reached the stop sign to slam on the brakes? Well, the best-case scenario (the one with no cross-traffic) would have you skidding to a stop somewhere in the middle of the intersection, or beyond it.
Sometimes I feel like that’s the way I live my life. I’m careening wildly downhill all week, going faster and faster, right up until the time when I jam on the brakes and slide into my seat at church just before the worship team starts. Or, let’s just be honest, sometime after they’ve started. When I’m on my bicycle, it’s easy to see that I have to start braking in advance. And the faster I’m going, the earlier I need to start. But what about my Sunday? It takes preparation to be ready to stop.
The Hebrew people referred to the day before the Sabbath day as the Day of Preparation. It is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31). On this day, they prepared their food for the next day, bathed and purified themselves, dressed in festive apparel, set their tables, and lit their lamps. They even had a signal to begin. The priests would blow trumpets six times at intervals at 3 pm (ISBE, vol. II, p.798).
The roots of these practices go all the way back to the book of Exodus when God was providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. On the day before the Sabbath the people were told to gather twice as much, and “bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” Exodus 16:23. There would be no manna falling from the sky to be gathered and prepared on the Sabbath. Later, in Deuteronomy 5:14, the Lord clarified that the Sabbath applied to everyone – male, female, adults, children, servants, and sojourners. You couldn’t rest while others took over for you. The preparations had to be done in advance.
The heart-attitude God seeks is the affirmation that He is most important, not us or our work. “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken…” Isaiah 58.13-14.
So, what can we do to ensure that we are able to stop and delight in God? No one is going to be blowing any trumpets for us on Saturday afternoon. But perhaps there are other practical means you have discovered to help slow yourself and your family down before Sunday morning. I’ve found some ideas, but I’d rather hear yours. Would you share them with each other in the comments below?