“Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy”

The fourth commandment, the command to keep the Sabbath day, is a threefold gift to us from God.  Sabbath is a gift of refreshment from the weariness of life, and a gift of liberation from the taskmaster of busyness, and a gift of connection with God. 

A gift of refreshment: Gary Yates points out that the most notorious technological accidents happened because of exhaustion.  “When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain that the jet was descending as if to attack when in fact the airliner remained on a normal flight path.  In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before.  Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.  We ignore our need for rest and renewal at the peril of others and ourselves. 

Warren Wiersbe remarks, “The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life.  Our old nature is restless…the world around us is frantically in a hurry.  But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.”

God designed us in such a way that we operate on full capacity only when we get consistent rest.  When the command for Sabbath is presented in Exodus 20, the focus is on our nature as created beings and our need for rest: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” 

A gift of liberation: When the command for Sabbath is presented in Deuteronomy 5, the emphasis is on liberation: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” 

Mark Buchanan suggests that this command is like God saying to the Jewish people, “There was once a day you were denied any choice in this matter.  Rest?  Work?  There was no option.  The choice was made for you, day in, and day out.  The point was reinforced with bullwhips, in case you missed it or were the least inclined to ignore it.  The point was, you worked.  Period.  Rest was for other people.  Rest was for Pharaoh.  But Pharaoh couldn’t rest if you didn’t work—he had such overlarge ambitions, so many things he wanted to accomplish, so many tall, pointy monuments he wanted to be remember by—somebody had to do it.  That somebody, that nobody, was you.  And to make sure you did it, and didn’t ever, ever, ever slack off, he placed taskmasters over you.”

And Buchanan suggests that when we are so driven by busyness that we fail to incorporate rest into our lives it is as though we are “living as though the taskmasters still glower, ever ready to thrash us for the smallest sign of slowing down.  It is to strive and toil as though we have no choice, as if we’ll be punished otherwise.  To refuse Sabath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom.  It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from.  It is choosing what once we shunned.  Slaves don’t rest.  Slaves can’t rest.  Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest.  Rest, it turns out is a condition of liberty.  God calls us to live in the freedom that he won for us with his own outstretched arm.” (The Rest of God, p. 89 & 90)

A gift of connection: One of the most common words for “worship” in the Hebrew Bible is the word yadah.  Literally, yadah means to “throw the hand” or to “extend the hand.”  My favorite image of yadah is when my daughter was a little girl, and she would lift up her arms in front of me and beg, “Pick me up.”  It delighted me to pick her up and to hold her close to my heart.

Sabbath is God’s gift to us of yadah.  Sabbath provides us the opportunity to throw up our arms before God and to cry out, “Pick me up and hold me close to your heart.”  Sabbath is the opportunity for intimate connection with God.


One response to ““Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy””

  1. Therese Harper says :

    I love this!! Therese

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

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