Tempered Sabbath Keeping

Written by Carl Greene

August 10, 2022

Sabbath keeping requires a backyard forge. That’s right, I am advocating that biblical Sabbath keeping relies on amateur blacksmithing skills. Well, something like that anyway.

My friend Bobby forged all sorts of metal creations in his backyard forge. He began the metal working process by scouring the scrap heaps of our rural neighbors to find his starting material. This blacksmithing story comes to life thanks to Bobby’s discovery of leaf springs on an old farm truck that was waiting to be discovered.

Forging

The movement from a metal chunk of rusty farm truck to a decorative living room accessory requires heat. A lot of heat—but not all at once. I am not always the most patient of artists, and my preference would be to superheat the metal and form it into a coffee table knickknack in one quick process. Bobby forges his creations with a much better approach. He heats the metal to the right temperature in the forge, then makes the classic clanging noise of hammer to anvil pounding.

If the metal was not hot enough coming out of the forge, it will not form well on the anvil. In fact, it will be deformed or marred in the process. At the same time, if Bobby just super heats the metal and never takes it to the anvil, the chunk of farm truck will never take the intended creative form.[1]

Sabbath Keeping Forge

So, restful Sabbath keeping requires a backyard forge. The rest that God invites us into is part of a broader rhythm that includes the heat of work and the hammering on the anvil. As described by Pete Scazzero:

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word that means “to cease, to stop working.” It refers to doing nothing related to work for a twenty-four hour period each week. It refers to this unit of time around which we are to orient our entire lives as “holy,” meaning “separate, a cut above” the other six days (see Genesis 2:2, 3). Sabbath provides for us now the rhythm for an entire reorientation of our lives around the living God.[2]

Notice that Sabbath requires that we have been working—that we have been heated, that we have even been facing stresses and challenges. This rest is not an escapism though—we are not running away from the good Kingdom work that God invites us into throughout the week. The formative process that God invites us into uses Sabbath rest alongside six days of work.

We can fall into the trap of simply seeing six days of work as a fiery furnace to run away from whenever we have the opportunity. The biblical model, however, is an ongoing, weekly rhythm of work and rest as a formative process. Sabbath rest is not designed to “fill my tank” so I can survive another week. Sabbath is part of the discipleship forge that is shaping me according to God’s design.

Tempered

Part of Bobby’s forging process includes tempering the metal. He heats the metal to a high temperature and then allows it to cool down for the intended purpose of decreasing the brittleness of the metal while improving its internal integrity. Sound a lot like the picture of Sabbath keeping we have been talking about? Our Sabbath keeping is part of a tempering process which shapes our internal integrity.

Sabbath prevents the heat of our work from becoming an overwhelming, consuming experience. Sabbath also prevents work from becoming an idol that becomes our primary focus in life. Sabbath reorients us toward God as a part of a formative process that requires a work, rest rhythm (Deuteronomy 5).

May our Sabbath keeping include a day of rest, with a corresponding embrace of six days of Kingdom work in our homes, with our families, at our job, and in civic organizations. Blessings as we are formed and tempered with the right work-rest rhythm.

For more information about Sabbath rhythms, check out:

https://www.seventhdaybaptist.org/sabbath/

[1] For an excellent presentation of the heat-rest aspect of forging and the connection to leadership formation see: Bolsinger, Tod. 2020. Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of

Change. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Scazzero, Pete. 2010. Receive the Gift of Sabbath: Lent 2010. 4. https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/sabbath-booklet.pdf.

You May Also Like…

Storytelling With

Storytelling With

I can remember the scene vividly, even now, decades later. The pastor would call the children up to the front pew...

SDB Design Sprint Retreat

SDB Design Sprint Retreat

What is a Design Sprint Retreat? This past weekend, it involved over 20 participants representing 6 Seventh Day...

Introspection at Muddy Waters

Introspection at Muddy Waters

Picture yourself hiking through the mountains and coming across a pristine mountain stream. You are parched after...