Kevin Emmert at Christianity Today on "The 'Above All' Commandment of the Sabbath":
.... We love those verses that emphasize disciplined activity. Yet most of us probably have never even considered that the Sabbath may be the most important "discipline." Consider this:The 'Above All' Commandment of the Sabbath | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
And the Lord said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.'"(Ex. 31:12-13, ESV used throughout)We may debate how the Sabbath should be observed, but we all recognize the value of taking a day of rest. However, this passage suggests features of the Sabbath we typically overlook.
For example, this passage says that the Sabbath is an "above all" command. It is as if God said, "This is the most important one!" A careful look at the context in the Book of Exodus reinforces the point. ....
...[P]astor Tim Keller said in one interview that though sanctification requires enormous effort, it is not "works based" but rather comes by continuously "reorienting ourselves to our justification." Keller teaches that sanctification is living in accordance with our justification, which is a free gift. Therefore, even in sanctification we acknowledge that God is the primary agent, and that our works contribute nothing on their own. So in both sanctification and justification, Christians are declared righteous and are continually being made righteous solely by the free grace of God. Though we are called to be active, the "activity" seems mostly to mean the call to rest, to trust, to freely receive sanctification from God.
The Sabbath, therefore, helps us realize we completely depend on God for all our needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual.
So, can we just sit back and passively wait for some mystical experience to transform us? As Paul would say, "By no means!" God is not dependent on our doings, but like many aspects of life, he has gladly chosen to use us and our activities to transform us. Thus, the story of Israel remains significant today. Although Israel was instructed to obey God's commands in order to "be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:45), at the end of the week the only thing they had to do was relax; in the midst of their religious busyness, they were called to simply remember that God alone sanctified them. As Paul put it, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor. 3:7). Only God brings about our transformation. That is something we can count on, and rest in. [more]