Sabbath Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Sabbath in Scripture</span></strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">The Sabbath day is, </span><span class="body-copy">first of all, for rest from work. That&#39;s the point of the commandment in <a href="">Exodus 20:8 - 11</a>. Anchored in the creation sequence (God worked six days and rested on the seventh), the Sabbath is our duplication of God&#39;s seventh day, intended for relief, refreshment, and re-creation. It&#39;s important to note that the Sabbath was and is intended not only for householders, but also for their children, their slaves, their ani</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">mals, and for any resident aliens who may be about.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">As <a href="">Deute</a><span class="body-copy"><a href="">ro</a><span class="body-copy"><a href="">nomy 5</a> reveals, the backstory here is the Israelites&#39; history of being slaves in Egypt, where Pharaoh made them work all seven days. When God commands rest, God is undercutting Egyptian tyranny by mandating relief &mdash; pointedly, for the Israelites&#39; own slaves. From a vantage point in the twenty-first century, we naturally wonder why the people of God had slaves at all. Isn&#39;t slavery inherently evil? Yes, and ma</span>ndated rest for slaves is a first step toward the eventual dismantling of slavery by Jews and Christians. For Christians, its centerpiece is that in Christ &quot;there is no longer slave or free&quot; (<a href="">Gal. 3:28</a>).</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">God&#39;s sabbath i</span><span class="body-copy">ntent to subvert tyranny is profound. God &quot;hallowed&quot; the Sabbath, &quot;consecrated&quot; it, made the Sabbath &quot;holy.&quot; God&#39;s seriousness about the Sabbath may be gauged by the fact that the commandment to ho</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">nor it is one of the two longest in the Decalogue.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 34:2</a><span class="body-copy"><a href="">1</a> s<span class="body-copy">pecifies that Israel must rest on the seventh day even during harvest. If Israel trusts God by resting while their grain is ripe, God will provide. Even outside agricultural societies, Jews and Christians have always treated the Sabbath as a testimony to the sober fact that the welfare of the world doesn&#39;t depend on our going to work on the Sabbath. For this one day in seven, we may safely suspend our &quot;work a</span>nd</span> worry.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Zacharias Ursinus,<em> The Heidelberg Catechism, trans. Faith Alive Christian Resources</em> (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2011), Answer 125</span></span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 2:2-3</a>, God rested on the 7th day</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 20:8-11</a>, &quot;Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 34:21</a>, &quot;Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Deuteronomy 5:12, 15</a>, &quot;Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> your God commanded you. . . &quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Ezekiel 22:8</a>, &quot;You have despised my holy things, and profaned my sabbaths&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 12:9-13</a>, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 28:1-6</a>, the women discover the tomb is empty on the Sabbath</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Mark 2:23-28</a>, the sabbath was made for humankind</span></li></ul><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Colossians 2:16</a>, &quot;Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Hebrews 4:9-11</a>, &quot;<span class="body-copy">Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs&quot;</span></span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections about Sabbath</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Wh<span class="body-copy">at if you are scraping by and can&#39;t afford to take Sunday off? Here&#39;s a situation in which it&#39;s important to note that the celebration of the Sabbath is a communal event. Communities of believers may financially support members who believe they need to work on Sundays, supplying what they had hoped to earn and freeing them to join the community in celebrating God&#39;s gift of sabbath.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">St. Augus</span><span class="body-copy">tine understood that, above all, we need sabbath to recover from existential angst. He could speak with authority on rootlessness, aimlessness, and the anxiety that stems from do-it-yourself forms of life, with its ceaseless oscillations between pride (&quot;I&#39;m making it!&quot;) and despair (&quot;I&#39;ll never make it!&quot;). Accordingly, in his most famous prayer, Augustine addressed God from the deepest chambers of his </span><span style="font-size: 16px;">heart: &quot;Lord,</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">&nbsp;you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.&quot; </span><span class="body-copy-sm">(Saint Augustine, <em>Confessions</em>, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University, 1992), 1.1.1.)</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Sunday as Christian Sabbath (Lord&#39;s&nbsp;Day)</span></strong> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">S</span><span class="body-copy">ometime in the first century Christians began to gather on the first day of the week for worship including the Lord&#39;s&nbsp;Supper, the reading and preaching of Scripture, and the gathering of alms. Their idea was to celebrate the first day of creation and especially the day of Jesus&#39;s resurrection. For most Christians then and today, the Sabbath is Sunday, but not so for Seventh Day Adventists &mdash; serious Christians</span><span style="font-size: 16px;"> with serious objections to the historical switch from the seventh day to the first.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><span class="heading-sm"><strong>Sabbatarianism</strong></span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians have long entangled themselves in fussy Sabbatarianism: no cooking; no washing; no shaving; no tennis; no radio, television, or Internet, etc. The intent here is laudable: The Sabbath should be notably different from other days. But it should not be different by being grim. In the gospels Jesus defends various forms of Sabbath replenishment, including mercy for the sick and food gathering for the hungry. In Answer 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the confessional gems of the Reformation, God&#39;s will for the Sabbath is characterized as &quot;the festive day of rest&quot; intended for worship including Word, sacraments, prayer, and gifts for the poor. <span class="body-copy-sm">(Zacharias Ursinus, <em>The Heidelberg Catechism</em>, trans. Faith Alive Christian Resources (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2011), Answer 103.)</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Giving to the poor</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">A main way to celebrate the Sabbath is to offer gifts for the poor! Not only should the poor not have to work on the Sabbath, but what they would have earned should simply be given to them. It is not hard to see here that the Sabbath is a form of what Walter Brueggemann calls &quot;resistance&quot; to the culture of anxiety, coercion, acquisition, and exclusion based on (for example) race and class. <span class="body-copy-sm">(Walter Brueggemann, <em>Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now</em> (Westminster John Knox, 2014)</span></span><span class="body-copy">&nbsp;From Exodus to the present, God&#39;s sabbath is a kind of holy subversion of tyranny.</span></p>