Of the Ten Commandments, perhaps the one related to the Sabbath is the most misunderstood and ignored one. Dan Allender addresses this in his book, Sabbath, part of Thomas Nelson’s Ancient Practices series. This series looks at the seven ancient practices that are common to all Abrahamic faiths. I received a free copy through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze blog-review program to read and offer my unbiased opinion on.
Allender examines what it means to see the Sabbath as a true day of delight instead of as a burden. He believes that most Christians have been taught poorly about the Sabbath and have thus developed incorrect understandings about it. He starts with the premise that we should keep a Sabbath not so much for our own benefit, but because God commands it. He sees the Sabbath not as an abstract “principle” to work into our lives, but as a reality to be engaged in weekly. It’s more than just not working, but the opportunity to experience true joy and delight in who God is, what He has made, and our place in it. Allender explores a wide range of ideas of how he sees Sabbath intersecting with the reality of our life in a fallen world.
In reading the book, I was challenged in my own understanding and application of Sabbath. This is definitely something that is not a regular part of my life. Allender’s assertation that a true understanding of the Sabbath doesn’t begin with us, but with God really hit home. I also appreciated the idea that many don’t engage in the Sabbath because we have a hard time accepting that God would actually want us to find joy and delight in Him and the world He created for us. The first part of the book was great.
However, I struggled through the remainder of the book. As Allender continued unpacking the idea of Sabbath, I was honestly left wondering how much of this was biblically derived or God-given, and how much of it was his own personal opinion. I can understand why he wanted to address some things that often prevent us from experiencing true Sabbath (despair, relational division, lack of justice, noise), but at times felt he was reaching in making some connections. There are definitely some great thoughts and challenges, but there is also a lot that felt awkward and a little too esoteric.
I would have also liked to see more practicality in the book. Allender would occasionally provide some examples from his own life, but did not adequately help people work through how to more biblically incorporate this practice. Whether by exploring his own journey in more detail, or by specifically addressing some of the realities that keep people from celebrating Sabbath, this would have been a better conclusion to the book.
All in all, if you are interested in understanding Sabbath, this would not be a bad book to read in conjunction with some others on the topic. It is not the only resource out there, and can certainly contribute to forming a more accurate biblical theology and picture of what it means to Sabbath.