Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath, by keeping it holy.”
Can you say the 10 commandments by heart? I’ll be honest, I can only do it because of a silly pneumonic device my Children’s Pastor taught when I was a kid. We had a 10 week series on the 10 commandments, and though I can’t remember any of the lessons, I do remember the poster they made and the phrase that we used to remember them: GIVeS F/M show me your MASLE (we said ma-sa-lee), but it was supposed to be like muscle. Each capital letter was the key word for the commandment. In order they are:
- God’s (Have no other gods)
- Idols (Don’t bow down to other idols)
- Vain (Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain)
- Sabbath (Honor it)
- Father/Mother (Honor them)
- Murder (Again, Don’t do it)
- Adultery (Don’t go there)
- Stealing (If it is not yours, don’t take it)
- Lying (Just don’t)
- Envy (Be content with what you have)
When we look at this list of do’s and don’ts, some are really easy for most people who call themselves Christians to follow (like murder, stealing, bowing down to idols), and others are more difficult. There are a lot of discussions that we can have about what the 10 commandments mean for us today, but that’s another discussion for another day…
In case you missed it, today, I want to pose a question about the 4th commandment. Of course, before the question I have a rather lengthy preamble: We are lousy at following the 4th commandment. Starting from Monday, we spend 5 days at school and/or work. The 6th day is often spent doing housework, catching up on laundry, yard work, running errands you didn’t have time for during the week, taking the kids to practice or games, or… you can fill in your own blank. Then Sunday we wake up early and go to church, where many of us serve in some capacity or another. In some churches, you can spend your whole weekend in church serving the Body of Christ. In no way am I saying that is bad, but we fail to take a day off and “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.”
So here is my question: “What does it mean to Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy?” I think that we have the wrong idea here. When I think of the Sabbath, and I suspect you as well, I think of a day off, relaxing. Not going to the office, spending time with my family, some time enjoying one of my few hobbies, watching some tv and/or a movie. That is my default idea of the Sabbath.
Yes, the idea of the Sabbath is rest. The idea is that we need to recharge our batteries, less we burn ourselves out. That is a human need that God created in each one of us. However, our method, I believe is all wrong. Take a look what scripture says about rest and strength:
Exodus 34:14 “The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Psalm 46:1 “The Lord is my refuge and my strength. A very present help in time of need.”.”
Psalm 62:5 “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”
Isaiah 40:31 “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
If the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest and renew our strength, and our strength is found in God, I wonder if it is not a coincidence that the 4th commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” Is a true Sabbath resting and looking for strength the human way, or is a true Sabbath time spent with the Lord and finding our strength and rest in Him?
To be fair, in our world today, I don’t think that it is realistic to think that one could set aside one day every week just to spend time with God. In fact I would say that very few could do that. But could you set aside more time one day a week to spend with God? Or could you find a way to keep one day a week a “more holy” than other days. For example, on this one day, could you spend more time with God and be more careful what you allow in your mind through our various avenues of media (music, tv and movies specifically)?