“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey, or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in
The Sabbath is the center of the Ten Words. It forms a bridge from the first half to the second half of the our responsibilities to God. It connects concern for God with our concern for our neighbor. In other words it deals with our relationship with our Redeemer and our responsibility to our neighbor. Thus it forms the gracious center of the Decalogue.
The Sabbath Word is the only word that is significantly different here in the Deuteronomy passage than in Exodus 20. Those differences should not be slighted or passed over in silence but taken in light of the purpose of these respective books.
From a casual reading of the Ten Words it becomes apparent that God spends more time (and space) on the Sabbath than any of the other words. In this section God gives one explanation as to WHY
In Exodus the Sabbath is based on creation. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In Deuteronomy, however, there is no reference to creation at all, instead the Sabbath is rooted and grounded in mighty redemptive act of Yahweh in rescuing
What this Word Expects from Us
This Word wants those in the believing community to:
1) on a regular basis set aside our normal routine and work activities to gain respite and refreshment. This gives us freedom to relax from the daily grind;
2) that time we take out on a routine basis is set aside in God’s honor, to worship and to simply enjoy what he has done. This is an important aspect of “rest” in Deuteronomy;
3) on that day we are to recall the redeeming work of God. In short we are to remember;
4) We show grace to others in gratitude for the rest and salvation to Yahweh has granted to the believing community. Toil is not our lot in life . . . the Sabbath reminds us of that.
We in Churches of Christ have had drilled into our heads that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not Saturday. This is true, but we have allowed a shallow understanding of what the Sabbath was all about to rob us of the grace in this word from God. I have said before, and I will say it again, it is methodologically wrong to read Paul’s debates with legalists and Jesus’ debates with Pharisees back into the Hebrew Bible. Pharisees did not exist in Moses’ day and there were no legalists in his day either . . . this is very important to remember.
The Sabbath is a gift from God to man. Jesus said that God made the Sabbath for man. The Lord’s blessing of a Sabbath is a provision to rise above mere existence. It was meant to bless us . . . not condemn us. Perversion turned it into something it was never intended to be.
As a gift of grace the primary character of the Sabbath is rest. Rest from work and toil. It places in the cycle of life a provision for freedom from tyranny and the oppression of unrelenting labors. It places a check on our own driveness and increased pressure of unceasing demand to get ahead.
The Sabbath looks backwards to the grace of God in the Exodus . . . the single greatest miracle in history until the Incarnation of the Word. In breaking from our slavery to work (and dependence upon self), we will be reminded of God’s breaking us free . . . without our working contribution and the greater bondage to sin.
The Sabbath looks forward to our promised Rest with God. This theme is vital for understanding our promise of heaven. The Preacher of Hebrews states, that we Christians still honor the Sabbath, our goal is the real Sabbath . . . resting in God’s Presence (Hebrews 4).
The Year of Jubilee is the Sabbath on steroids. And this provides the food for thinking about heavenly rest in Hebrews 4. There is an old rabbinic legend that says,
“At on time when God was giving the Torah to
‘My Children! If you accept the Torah and observe my mitvot [i.e. commands] I will give you for all eternity a thing most precious that I have in my possession.’
‘And what,’ asked
‘The world to come!’
‘Show us in this world an example of the world to come,’ asked
‘The Sabbath,’ said the LORD, ‘is the example of the world to come.’”
(Quoted in Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 73)
Regularly setting apart time for the Lord checks the human inclination to justify oneself by job or work or human effort. The Sabbath is a concrete symbol of God’s saving grace that redeems human life rather than humans saving themselves by work and effort. The Sabbath is a regular time to STOP striving, to STOP trying to keep up with the Jones’, to STOP trying to gain approval by our success. The Sabbath is a chance to GIVE love, time and rest . . . in the name of him who grants us gracious rest.
The Sabbath is the great equalizer, for that day is a fore taste of the Kingdom when all – great or small – are reckoned to be exactly the same and equal. There are no masters and slaves on that day . . . only brothers and sisters!
There are many texts in the Hebrew Bible related to the Sabbath, find them and relish the images God puts in your mind’s eye. The Sabbath is that picture of the way a community redeemed by the blood will live both in relation to God and to each other.