Book Review: Sabbath

By: Dan Allender
Thomas Nelson, Feb 2009
Review By: Eric Wood

“My soul needs more than a respite; I need a sanctuary in time. I desperately need to hear the delight of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bubble up through the beauty of creation” (page 193).

Dan Allender brings his introspective and vulnerable passion to Sabbath, his installment to The Ancient Practices Series.

It is certainly not an exhaustive treatment of the Sabbath, although it was not intended to be. For instance, there is only a cursory mention of the Sabbath year used to connect it to the year of Jubilee. Even Jubilee is only dealt with briefly to address the concept of justice in relation to Sabbath. But, as I said, Allender’s book is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise but a meditative look at the Sabbath as a spiritual discipline.

He begins by introducing the Sabbath as the epitome of delight in this life, a theme to which he returns often in the book. For most, this seems to be a completely foreign concept, one which must be driven home again and again in differing ways. “The Sabbath is far more than a diversion; it is meant to be an encounter with God’s delight” (12). We tend to find it hard to believe that such pleasure is acceptable, even worshipful. With that groundwork laid, Allender demonstrates how little we understand of the Sabbath, how few Christians observe anything resembling a Sabbath and exposes misconceptions of the Sabbath. While a few minor errors slipped through the proofreading process, this doesn’t distract from the message.

Celebrating the Sabbath, whether in simplicity or extravagance must be greater than our simple human efforts. Allender suggests it is a day for beauty, sensuality and feasting. Through it God invites us to play, to risk, to enjoy Him and His creation. We are to laugh deeply, share intimately and enjoy thoroughly. Sabbath “is the day that bridges two great events in time: creation by God and the re-creation of the new heavens and earth by God” (56). In Sabbath, God invites us to shake off our cares and meet with our beautiful Creator.

As with other works from The Ancient Practices Series, Sabbath is light in Scripture. I won’t say that the topic and the discussion within the book is un-Scriptural (though there are moments where he reaches to the fringe of what I can see as orthodox theology), but Allender doesn’t spend time expositing texts; (as I continue to say) that’s not his purpose here. His take on the Sabbath is eye-opening. It is a good work that will be beneficial to consider.

Allender also points out early on that “to read a book on the Sabbath and not enter the holy day is somewhat like waiting for an exquisite five-star meal and then forgetting to eat when it arrives” (15). Knowing the truth in his point, I’ve tried to make attempts to recognize opportunities for Sabbath (although it’s certainly not like spending a full day). For instance, when my wife and I are able to sit on a blanket outside in the grass and watch the kids play on a Friday afternoon following my last class…ah, that’s a good time. I’m trying to see that not as just a breather, but to thank God for the gift of that time. In another small exercise of Sabbath, I took a few minutes to write to a friend, thanking him for the way he demonstrates Sabbath and encouraging him (at least I hope it was encouraging to him).

Anyway, if you read the book, I hope you’ll take some time to let me know what you think. I’d love to enter into some dialogue with you.

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