Archives For Sabbath

If you have read the Bible much, you know there is a lot of talk about this day called ‘Sabbath.’ Jesus talks about it, and even used the Sabbath to antagonize the Pharisees and expose their hypocrisy. Israel was supposed to keep a Sabbath day, and even a Sabbath year. One of the reasons they went into captivity was because they grossly neglected the Sabbath.

Ten CommandmentsWhat should be most unsettling for those of us who claim to obey the Bible is the fact that the Sabbath shows up in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. Yes, one of the Big Ten is that we are to take one day a week to rest and not do work. It is right there in the same list with not committing murder or adultery. Now that is unnerving, or at least it should be.

Are you telling me that taking a day off every week carries the same moral weight as sexual purity in marriage? And the same moral weight as plotting and carrying out a murder? It would appear that yes, it does. In fact, if amount of ink is any indication, then this Sabbath command might be more important (if that is possible) since it gets more ink than any of the others. Take another look at Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. God doesn’t just say, “Remember the Sabbath” and let it go at that. He goes into a great deal of detail. Seems this is a pretty important command, a pretty important moral issue.

So why is Sabbath so important? How can a day off work even begin to compare to the other commandments? Let me throw out a few thoughts. Remember that the Decalogue was given to an agricultural society, a work cycle not many of us live any more. In the spring, the fields needed to be plowed. Seed needed to be sown. Weeds needed to be killed. In the fall, when the crop was ripe, the harvest needed to come in fast before rain or wind or hail destroyed an entire year’s income. There was a lot of pressure to get each season’s work done as fast as possible. The idea of taking off one full day each week was completely counterintuitive.

Taking a Sabbath day, in obedience to God’s command, was really an act of trust. It was a living statement that God was actually in control of my crops and my income. It was an acknowledgement that God is sovereign over the winds and rain and He is the one who makes things grow, not me. Sabbath is only partly about a day of rest; it is also a deterrent against idolatry, against self-sufficiency, against thinking I am in control of my destiny. It is even a means of socio-economic balance, not allowing a workaholic to get further ahead financially because he or she works 7 days a week.

We live today in a mostly post-agricultural society. Oh, there are still a lot of farmers out there, and I have the highest respect and appreciation for what they do. It is a lifestyle I would have loved to live had my life gone differently. But how does the Sabbath apply to the office worker? the construction worker? the housewife? the firefighter? the doctor or nurse? and so on? It is still an act of trust and a deterrent against idolatry. Taking a day off each week is still a strong statement that God is in control, not me.

Few would disagree that we as a 21st century people are way too busy. Many would even agree that this busyness is a sin. What better way to counter-act that busyness than by taking one day each week, and resting. No shopping, no errands, no work, no busyness. But simply resting. Being still. Worshipping. Lingering long over the Word, over dinner, over a sunset.

I suggest to you that our busyness is idolatry. It is an act of thinking we are so important that we can’t stop or our world will collapse. The kids will miss soccer practice. The profitable stock deal will get away. I will miss a text message. The car won’t get washed. Do we really think we are such a big deal that the world will fall apart if I shut down for a day? Sabbath is acknowledging the fact that God is God, and I am not; He is in control, and has it all covered.

Of course for most of us, taking a Sabbath day each week means something in our lives needs to go. So what are you going to eliminate from your life so you can obey the Fourth Commandment? Or will you continue to flaunt your self-sufficient, I-can-do-it-all lifestyle in the face of God? Let me suggest, quite strongly, that refusing to obey the 4th commandment, refusing to take a Sabbath day each week, is idolatry. And that is a violation of the First Commandment! Wow, double whammy. Take stock, reflect, slow down, eliminate something. Be still, and know that He is God, and you are not.

No Guns on Sunday

Chris Hay —  July 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

I grew up in the 60s, just a few decades removed from World War II. I had two older brothers and a younger sister, and we played with guns. Toy guns. We played army, war games, in an eight-year old kind of way. We also played the very unpolitically correct cowboys and Indians. After all, TV in those days was Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Our guns were sticks, and as time went on, we moved up the socio-economic ladder and had “real” plastic guns; green guns with stickers that made rat-a-tat noises; and no gaudy orange safety barrels.

The Lone Ranger

Now of course this was pre-Columbine and pre-Sandy Hook. Guns did not have the horrific social stigma that they have today in this terrorist, mass-shooting era. So this was our world of boyhood in the 60s. We glamorized war and cut our teeth on toy guns.

But our parents, far wiser to the way things really were in the Viet Nam era, recognized that guns and war were not so glamorous. And so we had a household rule, a Sabbath rule if you will, “no guns on Sunday.” We could play guns and war and cowboys and Indians six days a week; but on Sunday, the guns had to be put away. Why? It was the Sabbath, a different kind of day, a unique day, a holy day.

My parents understood that at some level, Sunday was different. It was the modern variation of the Sabbath, and it was to be kept holy.

Dad staunchly refused to take a Sunday paper. Our newspaper in those days came in the late afternoon, and the Sunday paper came in the morning. But he was adamant that nothing would distract from our preparing to go to church. It was bad enough trying to find matching shoes and ensuring our hair stayed combed. No way would there be those colorful comic pages laying around, sucking us in to reading Peanuts and Dick Tracy. This day was different; it was holy. No guns, no newspaper.

In Scripture, holy means “set apart” or “unique.” Different. So when God says “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” He means “make it different.” Whatever this Sabbath is, it is clearly supposed to be different than the other six days. That is why mom and dad wouldn’t let us play with guns on Sunday; we did different things on this day. We went to church, we took naps, we played differently.

I would argue that God gave us Sabbath as a universal, timeless principle. One day out of each week is to be set aside as different, unique. We do different things, we play differently, we don’t work. He instituted it at creation. He set it in stone at Mt Sinai as the fourth commandment, which means it is in the same list with the same weight as “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery.” It was not just for Israel, it is for us all today. One day, each week, different.

So how are we doing with this? Do you set aside one day each week on which you rest, do no work, take time to see God in new fresh ways? God commands us to do just that. We need it. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it.

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you” (Deut. 5:12, ESV)