Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review - The Sabbath by Dan B. Allender

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I often have puzzled over the commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."  I waited with great anticipation for the mailman to deliver from Booksneeze a copy of this book, and when it came, I devoured it.  

The message of the book is this:  The Sabbath should be a delight.

Phyllis Tickle, in her foreward, writes, 

"I never thought of shabbos as a thing of delight before, never thought of it as a time for the soul to play and take its leisure, never before thought of it as a time of training for learning to walk again, as once we did, in familial communion with the Father.  What has happened for me in working with this manuscript is a transposition of the Sabbath from rule and commanded observance to holy romp and secret playground where each visit only adds another level of delight."  p. viii.

It happened to me as well, Phyllis.

Dan Allender explains the difference between a true Sabbath and a "bastard Sabbath" - a day that merely ceases from work.  Sabbath ought not to be merely the cessation of work, but the turning from work to something utterly different from what we normally call rest.  When God rested on the seventh day, He...

"didn't rest in the sense of taking a nap or chilling out;  instead, God celebrated and delighted in his creation.  God entered the joy of his creation and set it free..." p.28
We are to enter the joy of creation, to have a day of wonder, delight, and joy EVERY SINGLE WEEK.  The Sabbath should be the Queen of Days, a day to celebrate four key components:

  • sensual glory
  • rhythmic repetition
  • communal feasting
  • just playfulness
Sensual Glory

God stood back from each day of creation and declared that it was good.  Everything He created revealed something different about His glory.  In the busyness of our lives, we simply do not take the time to marvel at creation, to delight in our senses, to praise our Beautiful God for all of the beauty which He bestows on us.

"We are to bask in beauty, to surround our senses with color, texture, taste, fragrance, fire, sound, sweetness, and delight.  And if we are to do so, each and every day, with joy, then how much more are we to do so on the Sabbath...?" p.44

The intriguing concept for me was that each and every Sabbath should be a delight, but each and every Sabbath can be different.  Dan asks,

"What beauty will you explore and get lost in during this day of celebration?  What beauty will open your eyes to the questions God wants you to ponder in order to increase your awe and gratitude?" p.47

The only parameter is that the Sabbath should be a delight.  Do what delights you!  Do it intentionally, planning ahead, asking yourself and your family, "What will bring us joy?"

Rhythmic Repetition

Dan explains that there is a rhythm to celebrating the Sabbath.  There must be planning and preparation through the week, so that work can be suspended on that day, and the joy of the Sabbath celebrated.  

The key word is intentionality.  Joy doesn't just happen, nor is it served up on demand.  Much as the notion that creativity is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, so Sabbath joy is part mysterious surprise preceded by much planning and preparation.  The Sabbath calls us to receive and to create with God the delight he gives and invites us to orchestrate for his glory.  It requires surrender and imagination.
Once the Sabbath ends, the next three days can be reflection, a remembering of the day, savoring what was sweet and reconsidering what might have made the day more glorious. p.62
Communal Feast

Sadly, some people think that the Sabbath should be a day of forced quiet, spiritual exercises, and religious devotion - spent mostly indoors, napping or praying, but not partying.  Dan makes the case that instead of somber reflection, the Sabbath ought to be a feast day, when we say to one another, "Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" ~Ps. 34:8

The Sabbath is a day when we enter a dance with God and others and experience a beauty that takes our breath away. p. 67
Dan explains that we do this through enjoying beauty, sensuality, and feasting. 


If you watch small children or even young animals, you'll see them abandon themselves to play.  Play is a gift; it's also an affirmation that life is a celebration, and that death has no sting.

The Sabbath is our play day - not as a break from the routine of work, but as a feast that celebrates the superabundance of God's creative love. . . p 82
To play in the fields of God will vary from Sabbath to Sabbath.  There will be countless Sabbaths spent indoors in front of a fire, reading a novel; and there will be others on the side of a stream watching a bull trout meander with feckless disregard...
Sabbath doesn't deny that death exists; instead, it celebrates life. p. 97.
 Part Two of the book explains the purpose of Sabbath in great detail.  The sheer abundance of God's gifts overwhelms His children and makes them grateful.

The Sabbath is not a vacation; it is a grateful celebration.  Who are you celebrating?  To whom do you owe your life, your current taste of re-creation?  Who marked you with kindness that has enabled you to offer care in return?  Who has scarred you with heartache that has enabled you to enter the woulds of others with grace?  p. 12

The reality of God's love and provision overwhelms His children and fills them with joy.

Worry is anti-Sabbath.  Both regret and worry assume there is no God, or at least not one who loves and pours himself out for his children. p.136  

Dan Allender does not minimize the reality of living in a fallen world.  Instead, he makes the case that in the midst of our brokenness and pain and suffering, we can turn our thoughts to Jesus.  We can clear away the debris and gaze with joy at our Saviour.  We can see our suffering as a gift that teaches us more about His suffering, and we can learn to use both the joys and the sorrows of our lives to taste and see that the Lord is good!

Part Three discusses Sabbath Performance.

Life is a drama, and each of us is a character in an evolving script, living a life that reveals something of the nature of the human condition.  

We are in God's play, yet our rebellion creates a drama that requires God to enter our play in an act that goes far beyond linking the separated stories . . .  p.151
Dan asks the question, "What symbols and rituals help you focus on the play, delight and awe of the Sabbath?  How can they transform or make sense of the "drama" of your life? p. 198

Whether it's the lighting of candles or listening to worship songs, rituals can help us focus our thoughts and senses to the delight of the day.  

Silence can also be a tool that opens the heart to mediation and prayer.   

The celebration of Sabbath is open to all who have been saved by the grace of God.  Justice is usually considered to be the righteous application of the law against those who do wrong.  It punishes and corrects the evildoer.  But GRACE is not an exception to justice - rather it is its fulfillment.  

When we consider what we deserve, and compare it to what God gives, we are astounded by the grace of God.  We learn to "pay forward" the generosity that has been bestowed on us, and share our freedom with others.


I read this book with delight.  There were a couple of statements in the book that disturbed me, but overall, it was an inspiration.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who longs to understand more of the grace of God, and to delight in all of His gifts.  The Sabbath ought to be a day of delight.  I plan to implement many of Dan Allender's suggestions, and I am thankful he wrote the book.  

I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for my book review.


  1. Sounds interesting. I like the idea that Sabbath should be a day of joy... of celebration.

    Can I borrow it? ;)

  2. I like that you got it for free.

    What disturbed you about the book?

    I have always made sure my meals are planned the day before, so I can truly just enjoy the blessings God has given us.

    Nothing says rest more than fellowship with family, and God.

  3. There are parts of the book that refer to God as "mother" and parts that seem a bit "airy-fairy" to me. I think there is a leaning towards the Emergent church. Yet overall, I was inspired. Like John Piper, I want to spend my life delighting in God - for He is worthy to be praised in every way, all of the time. I want to live a life of gratefulness, remembering that every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights. A Sabbath that is spent in delight naturally would encourage those goals. That's what I plan to do. (Happy Anniversary, Rachel!)


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