I don’t have time.
I’m too busy.
I haven’t gotten enough done.
How are you doing on the sabbath rhythms we talked about a couple weeks ago?
I hope well, because it really is life changing.
But—not only for the person keeping the command.
Honor the Sabbath
This honoring of the sabbath because it’s our chance to slow down enough to remember God as our God and in charge of our lives is swings toward 1st 3 commands and Jesus’ great command—
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.”
But the second reason God gives for keeping the sabbath swings in the other direction—that of the last six command of Exodus 20.
Don’t murder, steal, commit adultery, want what others have, lie about others, dishonor elders.
It also reminds us of the other half of Jesus’ great command—
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And for that we have to look at the second reason God said to honor the Sabbath rest.
Deuteronomy 5.12-15 Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Last time, we read in Exodus that God told us to remember the Sabbath because of his acts in creation. This week, he has a completely different reason. It’s because they must remember they were once slaves in Egypt and God saved them. Did these two conflict? Not at all. One swings toward loving God and the other toward loving neighbor, and they meet in the middle perfectly.
In Deuteronomy, this command has to do with how we allow others to celebrate and honor the sabbath.
The Sabbath wasn’t created just for me or you. The Israelites were to give rest to children, servants, foreigners–animals even.
God is telling them that he is the one who brought them out of slavery; it is his hand that saved and restored them. He gave them the very opportunity to rest of which they speak. If he had not done this, they would still be slaves and there would be no rest at all. 24/7 hard labor. This chance to enter into a life with rest involved is purely a gift of a God who makes redemption his #1 business.
Because of this, he commands them to remember those not as fortunate as they. They are not to allow their freedom to make them unaware of and uncaring about the freedom of others.
REMEMBER that you were once slaves—you know how it feels.
Keeping the Sabbath is to willingly interrupt our planned out life to remember it is our job to bring others into rest and freedom.
And if we don’t see the fallout of not keeping this command to remember those around us—the centuries of frustration and anger at the injustice and oppression of breaking this command right and left throughout history—we’re not looking too hard.
You were once slaves and I freed you. Do not treat others as you’ve been treated. Treat them as I treated you.
But it gets even better. After God’s people are commanded to rest every seven days, he also establishes a celebration every seven years. They are to let the land alone and trust him that there will be enough food to carry them throughout the year without planting or harvesting. They are to leave the extra grain and grapes for the poor.
Beyond this, God gets uber extreme.
He Commands what we call the Jubilee. This is one of my favorite things in the Bible. Every seven sets of seven years, not only are they to give themselves, their servants, and the land rest for a year, but they’re told to do it again for a second year—to celebrate a 50th Jubilee year. And this special year, everything lets loose.
They set their servants free. They return their land to its original owners. They forgive debts. It all basically resets. Everything returns to an even playing field. They all get a brand new start.
Feels like what should be happening right now, no? Don’t you kind of wish for a divine reset button right about now?
Why? Same reasons. God wants to remind them that nothing they have really belongs to them, nothing they have done has been because they were in control, and they must always be thinking about those who have less. They must always be willing to relinquish what isn’t theirs for love of God and neighbor. This is the point of Sabbath.
If we don’t keep the rhythms, we forget. We start to trust ourselves. We start to forget other people and convince ourselves that if they only worked harder they would be doing better. It’s not our problem – we’ve earned what we have. That’s the opposite of what God wants when he makes this all important command.
If we don’t keep these rhythms of rest, reflection, and worship, we forget everything. Every important part of our relationship with God and neighbor.
He Doesn’t want his people entering a new land in a new community without that. He doesn’t want that for us either.