“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
For the most part, contemporary Christianity has not give too much serious attention to the Sabbath. For some of us who are older we grew up with “Blue Laws” that restricted drinking and other activities on Sundays. Some who grew up in the northeastern part of the country may recall that Sunday home baseball games in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia could not begin a new inning after 6pm. In the south where I grew up, there were prohibition laws against drinking on Sundays.
For many of us today, Sabbath is a day to watch sports and attend our sons or daughters soccer or baseball games. The Sabbath is anything but restful. We are a society of 24/7 multitasking in order to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess, and the idea of stopping for a day to do nothing but rest is perplexing at best and downright impractical at worst.
I want to jog our thinking about Sabbath and give my thesis: Sabbath is resistance. Sabbath is resistance to the heavy load of our cultural milieu of constant production and work. Sabbath is the key to love and rest like no other gift from God.
Sabbath is resistance to the clutter, noise, advertising, and busyness that sucks the life out of our lives. It could be that the fourth commandment is the most important, the most difficult, of all the ten commandments. It might be that the fourth commandment is the most urgent commandment in our commodity propelled, workaholic, go-driven culture.
We need the Sabbath because we need to resist what our go, go, go culture is doing to our hearts. We are the most medicated, depressed people the world has ever produced. We are overworked, overstimulated, over entertained, and over the top exhausted. We need to discover the purpose of the Sabbath.
There is a little expressed secret about the Ten Commandments that give us an insight into the purpose of the fourth commandment. But let’s set the context.
The nation of Israel has just come out of the Egyptian system of Pharaoh’s workaholic, driven, slave labor system. In Exodus 5, we are given a passionate narrative of that labor system in which Pharaoh endlessly demands more production. More bricks for more supply cities for more material wealth. The system is designed to produce more, more, more surplus. There is no rest for Pharaoh, no rest of Pharaoh’s supervisors, no rest for the taskmasters, no rest for the slaves. The exodus from Egypt was an exodus from the pyramid system of power under Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s gods.
It is from the escape out of Egypt that Yahweh takes Israel to Sinai. It is at Sinai that God introduces a new way of living through the ten commands given to Moses. The command given the most press, the most etching as it were, is the fourth, the command to keep the Sabbath. Four verses are given to the fourth commandment alone, and only one verse for each of the others. Why? Why is the Sabbath so important?
Might it be that the Sabbath rest is the hingepoint for the entire Ten Commandments? I think so. I believe that without the Sabbath, no one can interpret and live the other nine. Walter Brueggemann explains,
Sabbath is the crucial bridge that connects the 10 Commandments together. The fourth commandment looks back to the first three commandments and the God who rests. At the same time, the Sabbath commandment looks forward to the last six commandments that concern the neighbor; they provide for rest alongside the neighbor. God, self, and all members of the household share in common rest on the seventh day; that social reality provides a commonality and a coherence not only to the community of covenant but to the commandments of Sinai as well. (p. 1 Sabbath as Resistance)
Let me challenge you. Make the Sabbath a resistance to the Egyptian culture of America that has reduced our lives into an increasingly frantic, consumeristic, commodity driven system that is killing our hearts. Sabbath is a call for us to resist, relax, and reflect upon our love for God and our neighbor. To find our heart each week is the purpose the Sabbath.
The Road, the church I pastor, meets on Saturday nights. This Sunday was my Sabbath. And you know what I did on Sunday? Nothing. NOTHING. I resisted the temptation to watch mindless TV, I resisted the attention of a ball game, and I spent time in God’s Word, I spent time reflecting over my spiritual life. I thought about my week previous and my week coming up. At the end of the day I felt refreshed.
Resist and be refreshed,