As a church we have struggled with a proper definition of Sabbath for ages and often churches have gravitated to one extreme or another, some have regulated everything that can or cannot be done when celebrating Sabbath while others, in violent reaction to these rules, have deemed the Sabbath as just another day, business as usual. In Dan Allender’s book, Sabbath (part of the Ancient Practice Series), he seeks to explore the concept of the Sabbath with new eyes. Circumventing the debate that seeks to regulate the Sabbath Allender shares his experience and study based on God’s Sabbath commandment to his people Israel in Exodus.

Breaking it into three parts, Allender focuses on the basis of Sabbath, the purpose of Sabbath and how life will be formed when understanding these foundational concepts. Removing the stiffness of regulations, Allender introduces his reader to a God who calls us to live in the present but take time to rejoice in the future he promises, even in the face of brokenness. In this book he shares how Sabbath calls us to live, one day a week, in peace and wholeness in the face of division, in abundance even in the face of destitution and in joy despite the surrounding despair. He presents Sabbath as a day to look to God’s redemption of his people, calling us to rest in his presence and live lives pursuing justice and relational healing on the six days surrounding Sabbath.

Though I have a hard time articulating the whole of this book in only a few sentences, I really enjoyed Allender’s perspective and the freedom that can come with this understanding of Sabbath. His encouragement to take times of delight when no work needs to be done and one can experience relationships and joy in the midst of weeks that are often filled with hurt and sorrow was something that I feel many people need to hear. Growing up in a family where Sundays were days to not work gave me a glimpse of the freedom that can come with having a day for relationships, free of homework, at the same time I feel this book has invited me to even more, to a deeper relationship with God and with those around me. Though he challenges his readers to do the hard internal and external work that allows for freedom, justice and healthy relationships, he presents this concept of Sabbath both as a respite from this work and as a labour that brings, in one more way, the kingdom of God to earth.

I highly recommend that this book be placed on your reading list, whether you’re staunchly committed to a specific understanding of the Sabbath or are exploring the idea to find out what it looks like in your own life. This book is a great resource that will give much food for thought.

*Note: This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.