The Real Father’s Day Study No. 222
n June, in different parts of the world, people celebrate Father’s Day. They give their dads cards, gifts, parties, and cakes, and make them feel special and loved, and glad that they are fathers. This is an annual occasion in which dads are honored. Certainly, dads should be honored and respected every day of the year, but it’s nice to set aside one day per year to give dad special treatment.
Our biological, adopted, and in-law fathers are very important to us here on earth. But what about our heavenly Father? He is the Creator of us all, and He is the Being that loves us most. He is the Father of all mankind. Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way before, but isn’t there a day that we pay honor and respect to God, the Father, not annually, but weekly? Of course I’m talking about the weekly Sabbath. Every week, from sunset on Friday night to sunset on Saturday night, we have a twenty-four-hour period called the Sabbath. This seventh day is a sign between God and His people, because only His true believers understand its meaning and purpose. The weekly Sabbath is really a “Father’s Day” when we give honor, respect, and thanks to God, and when we spend quality time with Him, talking to Him and studying His word.
To many believers, the Sabbath is simply a day to rest, perhaps not to work, in which they try to attend Church services to meet with fellow believers and to hear a message. Why did I write it that way? I was trying to include all of the common Sabbath “practices” that I’ve observed throughout my life. When one mentions Sabbath “practices,” usually the first scripture that comes to mind is: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27. But does this mean that a person can do whatever they want on the Sabbath? Of course, everyone has free will, but what is God’s will for His day? What most benefits both us and God? Let’s continue with the analogy.
Preparation. Would you plan a Father’s day party the morning of Father’s day, or would you spend days or weeks preparing? You would invite guests, or plan a private family party, choose the perfect gift and the card to go with it. You would clean the house and wear your best clothes. You would do everything you could to make it a special day for your dad. How much more should we be prepared for the Sabbath each week? We have six days to prepare and there is no reason not to be prepared. I remember a friend, Dorita de Mundo, saying that every Sunday she begins the process of preparing for the following Sabbath, ironing clothes, cleaning the house, and preparing food.
The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness gives us a clear example of God’s desire for His people to be prepared for the Sabbath, Exodus 16:22-30. Every Friday, He gave the Israelites twice as much manna as usual, and they were instructed to collect a double portion. If they did not, then they wouldn’t have anything to eat until Sunday morning. Or, if they tried to collect more than a day’s worth from the first through the fifth days of the week, it rotted. How powerful a lesson this is! What if today, when we neglected to prepare meals before the Sabbath, and we tried to “collect” food by purchasing it on the Sabbath, that anything we purchased would rot? I’m afraid that most of us wouldn’t eat on the Sabbath.
What things can we do to prepare for the Sabbath? Well, we can purchase food ahead of time, and even prepare parts of meals or whole meals to save work. We can start cleaning the house on Thursday and finish cleaning on Friday. We can have our clothes ironed. We can set aside the things we want to bring to Church. We can put gas in our cars. With all of these things finished before the Sabbath, we will truly have a day free from stress and anxiety.
Rest and Renewal. Yes the Sabbath is a day of rest. It is a rest from our daily work, a rest from society, and a rest from the cares of the world. But does that mean that if you’re so exhausted from the week’s work that you can go to bed early on Friday night, and then sleep all Saturday afternoon after services? What if you’re “too tired” to go to Church? Do you just stay home? Back to the analogy.
What if you called your dad on Father’s day and said that you were “too tired” to go and see him, or that you wanted to cancel the party you had planned for him? Wouldn’t he be disappointed? Father’s Day is only once a year for him, so you missing it would hurt him. Or, what if you went over to see your dad on Father’s Day and just fell asleep on the couch? Wouldn’t he be offended? How much more hurt and disappointed would God our Father be, if we were “too tired” to take part in the Holy convocation He has planned for us each week? Or, if we spend the whole Sabbath sleeping? How much time can you spend with God if you are asleep?
Contrary to what most of us humans believe or understand, praying, studying God’s Word, and attending Church services are necessary activities for a spiritual renewal. Most of us are too busy and distracted during the week to spend as much time as we need communicating with God and reading the Bible. Every week, God has given us twenty-four-hours when we can get “back on track,” refocus, and gain the spiritual strength we need to face a new week. If we sleep through Church and through the Sabbath, we face the week just as tired spiritually as we were on Friday.
Activities. Back to doing what you want on the Sabbath. Of course you can do what you want. But what you want isn’t always what God wants and isn’t always what is best for you. What if, on Father’s Day, you went over to your dad’s house and spent two hours watching soccer (and your dad hates soccer), and then you spent two more hours talking to your friends about soccer, and left without even talking to your dad? How would that make your dad feel on his day? So, what if you spend all day Sabbath dwelling on the things of this world, instead of on the spiritual things? You can’t learn much about God on TV watching sports, cartoons, movies, or even the news. And, as Christ said in Matthew 12:34, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If all you have to talk about with others is your favorite soccer team or soap opera, then that is what is on your heart rather than the things of God. Am I saying that God doesn’t care about soccer or soap operas? Well probably not, but the point is that on His day He wants us to talk about Him, praise Him, and share Him with others. He also wants us to talk to Him and study more about Him and His ways. We in the Church have a unique opportunity to completely forget the world for twenty-four-hours every week. We can forget the atrocities, materialism, idolatry, and perversity of this world. So why do we want to stay in the world every Sabbath? Why do we want to participate in its useless activities?
Keeping the world out of our homes and our lives is a constant battle for the Christian. It is even more difficult to do on the Sabbath when the whole world is working, buying, selling, and doing whatever it wants. But God calls us out of the world and wants us to be different, II Corinthians 6:17. And how we keep the Sabbath makes the people in the world see us as different. If we do the same things on Friday night and Saturday that we do every other day of the week, how will people know that we are God’s people? How will our lights shine?
The fourth commandment, “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” has often been called the “test commandment.” It is one of the most difficult commandments to obey, because it is so hard to change our daily routine and do things differently every Sabbath. But yet it is what God expects of us, not only for His benefit, but for ours as well. We need the break from the world, to spend time with our families, to forget the stress of work and life, and to be spiritually renewed.
Service. Finally, let’s talk about service. What if, on Father’s day, you hosted a party for your dad. When he arrived, you sat down on the couch and proceeded to give your dad orders like “bring me a coke,” “can you see who is at the door?” “can you bring more food to the table,” etc. Or, what if you took your dad out to a restaurant and invited a lot of people that your dad had never met. Do you think your dad would enjoy either of these types of parties?
Jesus Christ gave us dozens of examples in the gospels about how we can serve others on the Sabbath. In fact, He made it a point to show us that it is our duty to serve others, not ourselves, on the Sabbath, Matthew 12:11-12; Luke 13:15-16.
As human beings, we are most often concerned with ourselves and our comfort, rather than others. How can we serve others on the Sabbath? We could invite people to join us for lunch at a local restaurant. But who is really being served here? Ourselves, right? What are we doing, other than paying the bill? Wouldn’t it be much more giving of ourselves to open our home and lovingly prepare a special meal for our brethren, rather than letting strangers in a restaurant serve them? Do we own a car? Isn’t there a Church member nearby that we could take to services? Can we help before services or during coffee break? Can we greet others as they arrive? Few people realize or acknowledge that serving others is serving God, Matthew 25:40. What better way to show love to others than by serving them!
Let us all try to make each “Father’s Day” Sabbath a day of difference for ourselves, our families, and our brethren in the Church. God’s Sabbath is for our benefit too, so let’s use it wisely, Isaiah 53:13; Nehemiah 10:31.
This article is dedicated to my dad, who taught me, with his words, and with his example, to respect and honor the Sabbath day and to truly make it a “day of difference.”
— by Barbara de Parada. The daughter of Rich and Shirley Nickels, Barbara lives in San Salvador, El Salvador, with her husband, Roberto Parada. W