Give it a rest: Deuteronomy 5
by Dr Bob Dellinger
Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 5.
Deuteronomy retells the law to a new generation. As part of that lesson, Moses restates the ten commandments. Today, much of the law has been replaced by the new covenant of grace. Even Jesus summed up the law and the prophets by saying that the greatest commandment was to love the LORD with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. But to me, the ten commandments are more than law. They are bedrock principles which provide the moral foundation for living. The first four commands help us relate properly to God: no other gods, no idols, no using God’s name carelessly, and keeping the Sabbath. The next six teach us how to live with others: honor your parents, no murder, no adultery, no stealing, no lying, no desiring what belongs to others. Let’s look at one of those commandments today – the order to observe the Sabbath each week. We seem to downplay its importance even as we maintain the truth of the other commandments.
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 manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant 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. Deuteronomy 5:13-15
The Sabbath command contains a what and a why. What are we to do? Rest. Why are we to rest? To remember. The two are inseparably linked. We rest – from work and every sort of busyness – so we can take time to remember. What are we remembering? Here Moses tells the people to remember how God delivered them. But to the older generation, who first received the commandment, God said:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:11
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. Isaiah 58:13-14
Jesus said the Sabbath was made for us, meaning that it was made for our blessing and benefit. I don’t think he meant that we should ignore it, but that we should keep it free of the burden of man’s legalistic rules. God’s rule is simple: rest and remember.
I write all this as one who has not rested as I should, or remembered as I should, or honored God as I should. I often “do as I please” after I get home from church on Sundays. Writing this post makes me want to do a better job of resting and remembering. I challenge you to do the same. I know there are some, reading this, who must work on Sundays. Your challenge is to find another day and make it your Sabbath. For all of you who read this post, how do you keep the Sabbath? What helps you honor God on this set-aside day?
Image by @boetter on Flicker, CC by 2.0