“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work…Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out with amazing power and mighty deeds. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-13 ,15).
One of the favorite parts of my job is being able to sit down with students and talk about a wide range of topics. Whether it’s politics, technological advances, spiritual truths, or cultural tensions I really enjoy the exchange of ideas. But I can honestly say the Sabbath is not a common subject of discussion. But yet, twice this week, it has come up.
The first was a student who stopped by the HUB just to remind me of a challenge I gave them years ago about not studying on the Sabbath. I’ll explain the reason behind that some other time. She said she was skeptical but decided to practice it anyway. For the most part, she has followed that. This past week, she had quite a bit of work to do and wanted to finish it, but to honor God, she decided not to. That evening, her professor emailed the students informing them that the problems were too complicated and that he’d give them the solutions. She was so relieved because if she had worked on them last Sunday, it would have been 9 hours of wasted work.
The second was a student who said he couldn’t afford to take a day off otherwise he wouldn’t get any work done. I remarked that Christians can use the Scriptures from the Old Testament to justify or judge so many different practices but yet ignore so many crucial ones. I submit that the Sabbath is not a luxury but a necessity.
God created us. He knows every ounce of our being. We are created with limitations. Very simply, we need that time to recuperate and recharge from the regular routines of life. I’m in now way suggesting that the Sabbath should be spent sleeping all day. We can still be productive while resting. I like to spend extra time in prayer and worship and reading my Bible. I also like to read at Caffe Paradiso or go on a long walk.
New Way of living
Just prior to instituting the Sabbath, God had rescued the Israelites from 400 years of harsh slavery. Daily they toiled and labored under intense conditions, serving cruel taskmasters who gave them no rest. God wanted to do away with this curse upon His people. While they were still to work hard as one of the effects of sin, He still recognized their need for a break physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
This is not to say the Almighty Lord Jehovah was tired after creating everything that exists. The Hebrew word vyenafesh has many different meaning including ceasing from our worries and work, renewing our bodies and soul by resting. God took this time to step back and observe His creation. It was a time where He could appreciate and cherish it, to enjoy its benefits. Is it possible that His intention was for the creation to do the same with their Creator?
Because He said so
I used to hate this response as a child. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO! With God, this should be good enough. But, we’re humans and need answers for everything we can’t explain. I think I’ll take a stab at it. Perhaps God doesn’t want humans to give into pride. We become workaholics and immerse ourselves in busyness as if everything depends on our feeble human effort. Perhaps God was looking out for His people and wanted to protect them from further exploitation and being take advantage of. Then there is the possibility that it was another reflection of their “let’s return to Egypt” attitude. No rest was their curse in Egypt. God’s blessing and proof of His dominion was ridding them of the old ways.
“Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. 15 Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death” (Exodus 31:14-15).