Invitation to Sabbath Rest (Exodus 20:8-11)

““Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:8-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

YHWH gives this Sabbath command for the people. This is more of an invitation to stop being restless and live in a restored relationship with YHWH, as at the beginning of creation. Not only is this invitation (command) for the people, but also for all of creation (animals, vegetation, land) to allow the created order to flourish, through times of rest, as designed by YHWH.

The Sabbath command is placed within the middle of the Decalogue, giving it significance to what YHWH finds important as well as show a balance in how to fully live out the relationship with YHWH (commandments 1-3) and with people (5-10). It is as if YHWH is saying, we are not able to accomplish this unless we take the time to rest (cease from normal work) and take the time to praise, celebrate, and glorify God on this holy day. “…the Sabbath would communicate that Israel’s whole life was to be lived in imitation of the Lord.” (Blackburn, 71) The covenant YHWH is making with Israel is working to set Israel apart, making them holy. This is something the people are to teach to their children, grandchildren, and through the generations.

זָכ֛וֹר֩ (remember) is used to begin this section of this commandment. The active state of remembering o keep the Sabbath day holy (set apart) is an act of keeping YHWH as the only God Israel would pay attention to and live for (commandment number one). “The force of the Sabbath, then, is not simply in remembering the fact that God created the heavens and the earth, but also remembering how he created the heavens and the earth, through establishing an order that brings blessing and ensures Israel’s well-being.” (Blackburn, 111) Again, this commandment is set here as a reminder (an invitation) to step into the creative work YHWH has done, is doing, and will do in the world. It is a command to live in such a way that Israel has a completely whole relationship with YHWH, not like the other nations who worship other gods. “Remember” is a key theme throughout the Pentateuch and the rest of the Old Testament. There were many times when Israel “forgot” YHWH and his law and chose to go their own way. But “remember” is also important with YHWH because he never forgets his people or his promises, something Israel was supposed to embody. “Remembering” the seventh day, as a day of rest, is a tangible reminder of what Israel was to be about—the work of God in the world as his priests and a holy nation to the rest of the world. ““Remembering” is more than a mental act, it is an active observance (see God’s remembering in 2:24).” (Freitheim, 229)

The seventh day (symbolic of the day YHWH rested) is a שַׁבָּת, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ (Sabbath to the LORD your God). This was to be a day different from the other six days of work. The Sabbath day is a day to stop doing “normal”, “everyday” work. “Derived from a verb meaning “to cease, stop,” especially from work, the sabbath day was patterned on the divine rest from labor at the termination of creation. It was a day of rejoicing and feasting, related particularly to creation (Ex 20:8-11).” (Alexander, 304) When Israel ceased from work, they were being set free from the burden of having to work for everything as the other days of the week. Stopping normal work allows Israel the opportunity to remember they need to rely on YHWH to provide for them, and to celebrate all that YHWH has done and has provided. “Not having to work freed the people from their material burdens so that they could celebrate their relationship with God and their families. On a holy day, numerous sacrifices were offered at the sanctuary to honor God and to provide an abundance of meat for feasting. Israel was commanded to make each *sabbath holy by observing it as a day of rest (Ex 20:8; Deut 5:12; cf. Ex 31:15; 35:2).” (Alexander, 425)

    לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה  (you shall not) is expressed as an action that should not be taken in the future. YHWH giving this command, for future Sabbath days, is setting it apart and making it holy, making this day something different from the rest of the week. Brevard Childs writes, “Throughout the Old Testament the Sabbath is described as holy (Ex. 16:23, Lev. 23:3, Neh. 9:14, Is. 48:13).”  (Childs, loc. 929) YHWH is working on making his people holy. At the same time, YHWH is using this command as a teaching moment to demonstrate the rhythm of creation. “God’s resting is a divine act that builds into the very created order of things a working/resting rhythm. Only when that rhythm is honored by all is the creation what God intended it to be.” (Fretheim, 230) As we have seen earlier, this command (invitation) is not just for the people; it is also for the created order (animals, vegetation, land). If Israel does not live into this command, then there will be consequences, and the consequences will bring chaos because there is not a time of rest. Not keeping the sabbath is a violation of the created order; it returns one aspect of that order to chaos. What the creatures do with the sabbath has cosmic effects.” (Fretheim, 230)

The Decalogue, Ten Commandments, teaches how Israel was supposed to live in the world. If Israel obeyed and kept this covenant, they would be blessed and be regarded as YHWH’s “treasured possession”. (Ex. 19:5) The people of Israel would experience the blessing(s) YHWH has in store for them. For Israel to experience the blessings this covenant would bring require them to be obedient to the voice of YHWH and keep their end of his covenant. If they do not keep this covenant, or obey his voice, the people will be like restless wanderers not able to find the rest, completeness, and identity they have in YHWH. “Restless wandering is a result of sin and its punishment. Thus *Cain was sentenced to be a “restless wanderer” (Gen 4:14 NIV), no longer able to settle and facing the insecurity of threats from enemies…Rest is therefore about more than safety and settlement; it also concerns restored relationships with Yahweh. It is an objective reality and an inner state.” (Alexander, 688)

Following the commands, and living into the invitation of YHWH’s rest allows Israel to live in a complete, restored relationship with YHWH. Israel as priests to the world would be the examples of how the rest of the world could enter into this kind of relationship with YHWH. “It is to this that Exodus 20 appeals, inviting Israel to participate in a weekly sabbath modeled on the original, very good creation (so also Ex 31:12-17).” (Alexander, 697)

Bibliography

Arnold, B. T., & Choi, J. H. (2003). A guide to biblical Hebrew syntax. Cambridge University Press.

Alexander, T. D., & Baker, D. W. (2003). Dictionary of the Old Testament : Pentateuch. InterVarsity Press.

Blackburn, W. R. (2012). The God who makes himself known : the missionary heart of the book of Exodus. Apollos.

Childs, B. S. (1986). Old Testament theology in a canonical context (1st Fortress Press ed.). Fortress Press.

Fretheim, T. E. (1991). Exodus. John Knox Press.

Off Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 4
We have been focusing on our lives during the working hours. This week, we have the chance to look at what it should look like when we are off work.
I am one of those people who loves my vocation. After all, I get to speak about Jesus Christ daily and do all I can to share his good news. This is a fascinating and joyful position to be in! There are times when I want to keep working on “church work” even in the evenings and nights. These are the times I have to force myself to stop and be sure to be fully present with my beautiful wife and children. This is the time of day when I should completely devote myself and attention to them. There are times when an emergency arises; but we take this in stride and still work to find a balance. To all the workaholics out there, including me, this week is especially made for you.
We live in a culture that makes access to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a great temptation to keep working and think everything has to get done everyday. We are constantly putting out fires. But I believe we all have to remember, the work will keep piling up. There will still be work tomorrow.
Sabbath rest is more important than we realize. We are more productive when we take at least one day off a week. This sounds like a contradiction, but it’s true! If we constantly go and go and go, and work and work and work, our bodies and minds do not have the time to recover.
In Genesis 2, we find that rest from work was the first full day of our human experience. Our rest and our relationships are what should give us the energy to be able to do our work with higher quality and purpose. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Shifting Focus” on this very topic.
Take some time to meditate on this passage from Genesis and see how God views rest in our lives.
“The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.” ~ Genesis 2:1-3 CEB
May we all appreciate the importance of real rest and embrace it.
*Note: The concept for this series we first published on www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Sabbath Rest

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus calls for those who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give rest.

Rest. Our culture says that on our days off we should fill them  with play and non-work activities. At the end of the weekend, it is no wonder we do not feel rested. We really need to take time off from our time off!

Jesus is proposing a different kind of rest. In the rest he gives, we do not just try to stay busy and fill the time with activities we do not have time for during the week. When we rest, we focus on him and allow his Spirit to fill us. We take the time to be quiet before him. We look at the world differenly: not as projects or tasks to accomplish,  but as the incredible creation it is. We’ll be kinder toward other people who otherwise may annoy or frustrate us. We’ll instead see them as God’s masterpiecs who need to be reminded who and whose they are.

It is in this kind of rest, when we focus the attention off of ourselves that we can hear the “still small voice” of God who is calling out to us and desiring to be our guide.

May we rest and experience the true fullness of life that God through Jesus Christ givesto each person who is still and listens for the voice of Truth.

Worship…Take Time to Worship this Weekend

Psalm 122:1 says “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house.'”

How is it to you to go to a place of worship? The only thing that matters is that when we go to worship, we pause what we’re doing and allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill us once again. We all have busy schedules and an almost never ending to-do list, but we can also be excited to be around with other imperfect people so together we can worship the One who created each of us.

The joy of worshipping as a community comes from support and realizing we all have struggles in life but we can still be there for each other. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those around us in a worship service helps us to visibly see God moving in and through us to work with God and fill other hearts with peace and joy.

Where ever you might be this weekend, I hope and pray you find a place to worship and praise God (whatever that looks like for you), so that we can be filled together and go out together to bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it most (the outside world….and us!).

If you do not have a place of worship, you are invited to get a group of friends together and worship with us online Saturday night from 6:00pm-6:30pm central standard time. The message is “Seeking & Knowing God’s Presence” and we’ll look at and explore Exodus chapter 33.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZnpdwYGbVY (may have to copy and paste link)

We do not worship for ourselves, but to give honor and glory to God, our Creator.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us–no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness!”

May the peace and love of God fill your heart and strengthen you today and forever more. Amen.

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Days Off

What do you like to do on a day off? My guess is that we are all alike in that we use days off to “catch up” on what we didn’t get done during the week. So, if we were to take a day off would we feel like we have to accomplish something or be able to enjoy time off for true rest and reflection.

Is it easy to take a day off? Not for most of us. A day off means we take time off of work. A Sabbath rest is what we need in order to be more refreshed and rejuvenated when we go back to work.

Having a Sabbath rest means we refrain from “work.” If we only define work as the place we go to make money, then we will do things to keep us busy and not pay attention how constant busyness is not relaxing.

So on a Sabbath day, we should really do things that are not work and honor God. For example, if mowing the lawn is not fun and showing a creative side to care for creation, why do it on a day off? There are several other examples each of us have that we don’t like to do but still do when we are “off.”

The goal for each of us is to day one whole day each week to rest and be refreshed so we can be more productive at work as well as strengthen our ability to handle people with more care and compassion.

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