“Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 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.” Exodus 20:9-10
Sabbath again. Now, with a little addition. God told the Israelites not just to rest weekly, and devote a day to the LORD, but also to be sure to share sabbath with their whole household/town. The communal sabbath. If I’m an Israelite, that makes sabbath more than just a private practice to be kept in my own tent. I think the idea is that a stranger among the Israelites, walking through their land, should be able to notice a palpable difference on the sabbath day; and notice it enough to say, “woah.” Really, to notice it enough to recognize this particular people, and their God, as one-of-a-kind on earth.
We get a miniscule hint of that feeling in our southern culture on Sundays, like with the good ol’ “blue laws” to set Sundays apart. No one can forget it’s the LORD’s day, because Bi-Lo turns the lights out on the beer/wine shelf! There are other little things, like shorter store hours, and larger lunch crowds, and lighter traffic from 10am to noon. I think community happens a little. I still don’t know that we actually share sabbath in a personal way, though. Does it satisfy God’s desire for our hearts to just do things like banning the sale of alcohol or eating at place like this:
(if you’re from somewhere that doesn’t have Cracker Barrel, then imagine some other sit-down establishment)?
When I wonder why God made sure to add this part to the commandment, I think he was cutting out loop-holes. If you or I were the head of a household in those days, it would be easy enough to grin a sneaky grin, cunningly twist our moustaches and say, “Sure, God, we’ll rest on the sabbath,” but then just make our spouse, kids, and slaves pick up the slack. That satisfies God’s little rule and gets our business done. Better yet, since the Law only applies to us Jews, we could just hire foreigners, or enforce labor on them, even start bringing in buses of Gentiles to handle the sabbath shift. But God tackles all of that right here. Sabbath is to be shared, by all. Not half-kept.
God was serious about no work happening which, again, made sabbath a risky even scary observance with respect to livelihood and staying competitive with other peoples/nations. God was serious about us not cheating the sabbath, but intentionally making it different. So, today for the second day in a row: reflect on your sabbath-keeping. How is it a truly different day? Is it part of your witness to Christ? Would a casual spectator see the difference in you? Sure, many of us take the day off, but more in the sense of “weekend” than sabbath. Will you make it time reserved to God?