by Matthew Sleeth, M.D.
–Review by Judge Jesse Caldwell
When I bought Matthew Sleeth’s book “24/6”, I am not sure what angle I thought he would employ as he argued his case for us to more faithfully observe the Sabbath day of the week. But I never dreamed this medical doctor would use his experiences as an emergency room physician to introduce and illustrate Biblical truths relating to the Sabbath. He tells these ER and other stories in a masterful and captivating way that beautifully spotlights his theme that we must recover and live out the Biblical mandate for keeping the Sabbath holy. We need to learn how to live a 24/6 week rather than a 24/7 one.
Examples? Here are three.
A group of medical students scrutinize an X ray for an hour, and because they do not see any tumor, lacerated body parts, or foreign objects, diagnose that the patient is healthy. Only when their teacher points out what is missing do they see the truth: the patient’s collarbone was gone, totally eaten away by cancer. Lesson: We are so consumed with all that on our calendar that we pay no attention to what is missing. And what is missing in the lives of many of us is true Sabbath observance.
An arrogant surgeon peppers a medical student during an operation with rapid fire questions about anatomy. When the student disagrees with the doctor concerning the origin of a particular artery, the surgeon haughtily tells him to “scrub out”, go read “O’Brien’s Anatomy”, and then “come back and enlighten us”. Only as the operation is ending does the doctor discover that the medical student he upbraided was Michael O’Brien, author of “O’Brien’s Anatomy”, who had given up his professorship in the anatomy department to enter the medical school as a student. Lesson: Caught up in his own power trip, the doctor has failed to recognize the true authority on what they were doing. Like him, we are so caught up in our own ego and power that we miss the true authority of life itself: God.
A man who lobsters for a living got his hand caught in a winch that cut off three of his fingers. At the E R, Dr. Sleeth told him he thought he would be able to continue his work with just the remaining two digits on his hand. The patient said he surmised that might be the case, since he had continued to use his mangled hand for 45 more minutes of work after his fingers were cut off before coming to the ER! Lesson: We are like this guy, so caught up in our work that we totally lose perspective and the ultimate purpose of life. Sabbath observance helps us regain what he have lost. Or in some cases, gives us what we never had.
Make no mistake: “24/6” does not champion the Sabbath’s virtues merely because it gives us a day’s vacation each week to chill, recreate, and find balance. It is not just a time for rest, refreshment and renewal. Rather, Sleeth argues that the Fourth Commandment is “nothing less than grabbing onto the robe of the Maker of the universe.” It has everything to do with God.
Pretty heavy stuff.
This volume is not only a beautiful piece of theology, but a tool kit on “how” to truly observe the Sabbath by really connecting with our Lord. Dr. Sleeth shares his own rituals: start with a clean house and clear desk; have a stocked pantry and fridge so you don’t have to go out to get a gallon of milk or loaf of bread; read a special book on your day (his was on the musings of Samuel Johnson); don’t wear a watch; take strolls, not hikes; give up something, as you do in Lent; and of course, talk, listen and pray to God. The book begins with a beautiful introduction by one of my favorite minister writers, Eugene Peterson, and concludes with a chapters on“24/6 scriptures”, and “24/6 quotes”. These are rich resources to help us not only understand that we must observe our Sabbath in a way that glorifies God, but also shows us practical ways to do so.
I hope you will consider reading “24/6”, not just because you will enjoy it, but because it will help you regain your soul’s compass bearings and lead you True North, in the direction of the Lord who created both us and the Sabbath, both of which are made for the glory of God.