The Fourth Commandment – The World of the Text

Today we are going to look at the world of the text of the Fourth Commandment, as found in Exodus 20: 8-11:

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

rootedchristIn this text, we see the word “Sabbath.”  This may sound like an unusual concept and even word, but for the people of that day, it really wasn’t.  Many, if not most, of their neighbors and the culture around them It was a common concept, but it would not have been something that was done restorative, or worship.  In the religious landscape of their world, sabbath would not have had that religious undertone to it, but it was something tied to magic and using the gods to accomplish the task that you desired for them to do, not a day of rest.

The notion of rest is something that is, in many ways, unique to Israel.  Also, the notion that God would rest is quite stunning.  There is something beautiful that God understands that the people need rest, that the body needs rest.  We see in this passage a kindness to God; a compassion and care. God cares for His people and demands that they rest.  This is one of the top ten for the people.  Rest is demand and a dictate from God.  It is that important.  We’ll talk tomorrow about this deeper. But know that we are Biblically commanded to rest.

We see that we are commanded to make this day holy.  Holy in this context means set apart, it means different.  How is our sabbath different from other days?  The rest of this passage tells how it was to be so for the people.

We see that the people are commanded to work for six days.  In Hebrew, this doesn’t mean so much “six days” as it does the totality of the days that God has given you to work. The emphasis here is upon the fact that the work that He had given.  Work is a gift.  Rest is a gift, but work is as well.  Remember that work is not a consequence of the fall, God put Adam to work in the Garden.  We work, but we rest. Both are gifts from God.

We see that this day of rest is for all the people and all of their labors.  Everyone rests. Workers, servants, the land, everyone and everything rests. Rest reminds us that our value comes not from what we accomplish or earn, but rest reminds us that we have worth. I have worth.  You have worth.  The common laborer has worth.  Rest reminds us of that.  Even if you aren’t “producing” anything at all, you have worth.  So do others.  Rest.  This command tells others to rest.  All of creation should rest.

That is sabbath.

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