2014-12-14 - The Fourth Commandment
The Question: “When did the Sabbath become Sunday?” is similar to asking a husband: “When did you stop beating your wife?” It is loaded. But the issue of keeping the Sabbath is one that has created a great deal of struggle, for both the Jew and the Christian.
In his book The Ten Commandments – Playing by the Rules, Stuart Briscoe speaks of Sabbath keeping during his childhood.
“My childhood home was Sabbatarian. We went to Sunday morning church, Sunday afternoon church, and Sunday evening church. In between those services, we played no games and could not play outside; instead we prayed or read or took part in quiet family conversations. Once my parents got a radio, they never switched it on the Lord's day. Neither would they dream of going to a restaurant on a Sunday; that would require someone else to work.” 1
While I wouldn't choose this approach to the Sabbath, I certainly don't think it is wrong, depending on the underlying motivation, legalism or love.
It is interesting to note the Jewish approach to keeping the Sabbath and its source in creation. In SHABBOS Rabbi Finkelman notes:
“The word Sabbath is related to return which is the root of the word Teshuvah, or repentance. This gives us an insight into the role of the Sabbath. It signifies return to the Ultimate Source, because the Sabbath is our constant reminder that God created heaven and earth in six days, and on the seventh day He gave us the ability to push away the demanding unforgiving material world and return to the eternal concept that the same God Who created the world created us, and just as the world serves Him always through His “constitution,” which we call nature, so too, it is our task to serve Him.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as these words sound, and as much truth as you find in them, the Jewish people have also found some six hundred-plus ways to violate the Sabbath, and so, as Jesus notes in Mark 2, the Sabbath had become more of a burden than a blessing to humanity. Here is just one example taken from Finkleman’ book.
"The status of a vessel or tool is dependent upon the use to which it is put. Identical leather pouches can be used to carry gold coins or children's marbles. If the former, the pouch is a wallet; if the latter, it is a toy. The laws of the Sabbath employ this concept. One of the forbidden labors is carrying from domain to domain. Such carry constitutes a punishable offense, however only if an item of significance is moved. The Talmud gives examples of such measurements: if the amount transported is too small to be considered of reasonable value, the carrier is not considered to have violated the Scriptural prohibition.” 3
As you can see, keeping the Sabbath can certainly become a burden rather than a blessing. The real work that ends up violating the Sabbath can become keeping it. And for us as believers, the question is even more basic. Are we even called to keep it?
Series to be continued.
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