After a bit of a hiatus, we return, this week, to our ongoing look at the Sabbath and what it means. The last time we look at the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant . This week’s topic is “Sabbath as Obedience.”
We’ve all probably heard jokes – or even serious comments – regarding the nature of the Ten Commandments as mere suggestions. One such statement says that, “if God had been a Liberal, we wouldn’t have had the ten commandments. We’d have had the ten suggestions.” The fact of the matter, however, is that God is not a liberal. He handed down the moral law with the expectation that it would be followed by His people.
Jesus told us that the law is still in force. It is not just an Old Testament device to keep people in line. He said,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, ESV).
This is not intended as an essay on the Ten Commandments, but I wanted to establish the binding nature of the Law before stating that the keeping of a Sabbath is not suggested. It is required. It is one of the commandments. Exodus 20:8-11 makes it clear that the reason we must keep the Sabbath is because God did.
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 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.
Theological arguments abound as to exactly how we are to keep the Sabbath. Can we enjoy recreational activities? Watch football on TV? Do we have to attend two or more church services on Sunday? Does corporate worship include clapping, drama, music? We will leave those arguments for some other time. The fact is that we are to observe a Sabbath, which includes worship of the Creator who has blessed that day.
Why would God make this a command, instead of a helpful suggestion, we might ask. Because people don’t always respond to suggestions. Good intentions there are aplenty, but actions don’t necessarily follow the intent. “Nothing less than a command has the power to intervene in the vicious, accelerating, self-perpetuating cycle of faithless and graceless busyness, the only part of which we are conscious being our good intentions.” (Eugene Peterson).
What, dear readers, do you think of the Sabbath?