Take a Break

Take a Break – Deuteronomy 5:12-15

A friend once asked me, “Why do we follow all the Ten Commandments except the fourth about the Sabbath?” Ironically, this command is the only one that begins with “shamar” (“observe” in NIV; Deuteronomy 5:12), meaning “pay careful attention to” (see Day 9). It also adds, “as the Lord . . . has commanded you”. The extra stress on obeying this commandment is appropriate because it is easy to break without appearing sinful. After all, who considers work sinful?

But for God, the breaking of the Sabbath—which is derived from the Hebrew verb “sabat” which means “to stop, cease, rest”—was such a serious offence to Him that it was punishable by death (Exodus 31:15).

God was explicit that the Sabbath rest was also applicable to servants, livestock, and foreigners living within Israelite households, so that they “may rest, as you do” (Deuteronomy 5:14). The principle here is similar to Jesus’ Golden Rule: “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). That is, if we need a rest day, those working for us also need one. This is a good reminder that those who have domestic workers should treat them as they would want to be treated by their own employers—with dignity, compassion, and fairness.

Though the weekly Sabbath was probably unique to Israel during Moses’ time, the world has since recognised how important this principle was. Now almost every society has adopted the practice of dividing time into seven-day weeks, also recognising that a day of rest from work is necessary for our overall well-being.

Yet, while the Sabbath is for rest, it is also meant to be a day kept “holy” and set apart to God (Deuteronomy 5:12). It is a day that is different from other days because it is devoted to a special emphasis on God. Israelites gathered for worship on that day (Leviticus 23:3) and remembered that they were once slaves in Egypt before they were redeemed by God (Deuteronomy 5:15). The Sabbath rest served as a regular reminder that they had once been slaves, knowing no rest, but now had been redeemed by God.

Today, many denominations have replaced the Sabbath day with the Lord’s (resurrection) Day. But the principle of a day set apart to devote ourselves to God remains a cornerstone of the Christian life. Jesus taught that we must not legalistically avoid doing good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1–13; Luke 13:10–17), but it is also important that we do not miss meeting up for corporate worship by doing other things on the Lord’s Day. Taking a break from normal activities on the Lord’s Day is a way of acknowledging God’s lordship over us. In obedience to Him, we stay away from what seems to be important work and affirm that God is the one who ultimately does the working.

Think Through:

How should the thought that “Sabbath rest affirms that God is the one who ultimately works” influence you?

Think of ways in which you could make the Lord’s Day a meaningful day to you and your family.

Taken from Journey Througn Deuteronomy: 60 Biblical Insights by Ajith Fernando.

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