Relevant Passages: Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5; Isaiah 58; Mark 2
Sacred Time. In Exodus 20, the KJV translates the Sabbath command as “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”; in Deuteronomy 5, the KJV translates as “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” In both instances, God’s people are commanded to “keep” the Sabbath, keeping it holy. Given the realities of our modern world, “keeping” the day holy presents special challenges. The following aspects are worth pondering:
1. Nomads, Farmers, City Folk. How would the type of work in which one is involved affect a person’s way of “keeping” the Sabbath? In our modern era, Sabbath-keeping Christians typically make allowances for medical personnel. How far should the list of allowed work be extended? Should modern city-dwellers have a different recipe for keeping the Sabbath than the ancient nomads and farmers?
2. Preparation Day. Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and John 19:31 all refer to the day before the Sabbath as the “preparation” day. The authorities did not want Jesus’ body on the cross on Sabbath, so took steps to remove it on the “preparation” day. The story of the manna in the wilderness also tells us something about preparing for the Sabbath. How do we know what a “preparation” day should be, given the changes in our modern world?
3. Day of Delight. Isaiah 58:12-14 suggests that when the Sabbath is properly “kept” it will be a day of “delight.” What kind of “delights” should we expect from such a day?
4. Memorial of Creation. Exodus 20 links the command to “remember” the Sabbath with the recognition of God the Creator. What would remembering him as “creator” suggest as to the nature of our “keeping”? Would that be a good justification in our modern world for greater exposure to nature on Sabbath and greater interest in ecology?
5. Memorial of Deliverance. Deuteronomy 5 links the command to “keep” the Sabbath with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. What would the “redemption” theme suggest with reference to appropriate ways of “keeping” the Sabbath?
6. Mark of Relationship. Ezekiel 20:12 calls the Sabbath a “sign” between God and His people that He is the one who makes them holy. If the day God has blessed is really a “sign” between God and His people of a special relationship, would that affect how we “keep” the day. Would a “blessed” day differ from a random day (or a day other than the seventh day) in the way we might remember it?
7. Made for Humans. The Old Testament does not emphasize that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of humankind, but Jesus certainly gives that emphasis (cf. Mark 2 and Matthew 12). Thus a man who picked up sticks in Moses’ era was stoned at God’s command (Numbers 15:32-36), while Jesus once healed a man on Sabbath and then commanded him to pick up his bed and walk (John 5). How can our “keeping” the day make it a day for serving humanity and for worshipping God?