Tuesday, July 08, 2014

No Seven Day Operations (Part One) -- Exodus 20:10b

in it (the Sabbath of the Lord your God – from the first part of the verse) you shall not do any work, you or our son or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.”
As I study this part of Scripture, I ask myself, “Is it any wonder we, as an entire Body of believers, are not being blessed as much as we could be, or that we are not be being the blessing we could be to others when we have tried to do things our way?  We seem to even change what God says about His commandments so that they can be interpreted to allow what we want the meaning to be.”
My intention here is to first look carefully at what the text says about work in relation to keeping the Sabbath, then to raise some difficult questions as to how the text may be applied in our modern lives and their implications.  So, bear with me.
You may well tell me that I am living in the Old Testament (or as a friend of mine says, the Old Covenant) and that I need to get under the New Covenant implying that Jesus said we are no longer under the “law given to the Isralites and later on tablets to Moses”.  But then these same people are not brave enough to state out rightly that they no longer believe in the keeping of the Ten Commandments.  The fact is that you cannot have it both ways.  Either we are intended to keep the Ten Commandments or we are not.  I believe these laws are unique to the believer in God.  While it is true we cannot, in our sinful nature, keep all the laws all the time, we have been given ten laws that we could keep if we wanted to.  We have been given ten laws that, unless we are ready to throw them out the window, we have to focus on keeping.
And if that is the case, then this fourth law that we are to observe says “no work” on the Sabbath.  And just so we do not try to pass our work on to others, God goes on to say no work for your family.  It specifically mentions our sons and daughters.  Our spouses are covered in the “you” part.  And our extended family is covered in the “son or daughter” part.  So no, you cannot use your niece or nephew to do your work for you.
God goes on to say, your servants (read employees today) cannot do any work on the Sabbath.  Some may ask, “Why did God mention male and female servants separately?”  That is a good question and I do not claim to have the definitive answer.  I can only take an educated guess based on a study of some other themes in scripture.  There is no doubt that the culture of the day, including that of the Israelites, was that somehow there was an inequality between the genders.  That was not God’s intention for the two sexes.  The roles He gave each one of them when He created them were somehow misinterpreted and the man became the superior one in his own mind and acted accordingly.  Throughout Scripture, and later as we move into the New Testament, Jesus, made great strides in correcting that perception that man had about his helpmate.  And here in Exodus 20:10, God is pointing out that this commandment of His applies equally to one’s servants (and thus by inference to all members of the family) be they male or female.  It was the Israelites’ job to facilitate that keeping of the Sabbath for all their workers.
The text goes on to say that your cattle are not to do any work either on the Sabbath.  Now we have two ways to interpret that for modern day living for the majority of us.  We can either claim that God mentioned ‘cattle’ because He really considers animals to be very special and certainly places them above inanimate objects, or we can assume He refers to them as representative of what the majority of Israelites used to help them with their primary means of making a living and providing for their families.  The first would make my daughter-in-law, an avid animal lover, very happy.  The second would appeal more to my way of thinking.  Perhaps a third and preferred alternative would be to believe that He had both reasons in mind.  Again we do not know for sure, but let us go with this interpretation.  God says ‘no work’ is to be done by anyone or anything for your enterprise on the Sabbath.  Farming stops.  Manufacturing stops.  Billable hours stop.  That’s what the commandment calls for.
But surely there is an exception for certain types of services?  We will look at that later, but at this point, the direction is pretty clear.   In fact, God goes on to say, that if you have anyone staying with you at your house for a period of time (that is what a sojourner is), they cannot do any work for you or themselves either.
Do we get the idea?  No work period on our Sabbath.  That is what God asks.  Yes, He asked it of the Israelites in the desert.  But He gave it to them in the Ten Commandments and thus He asks it of anyone who believes they should honor and keep these ten laws.  No work period on the Sabbath.
Next we look at some real crucial “but what about” or “but what if” questions as we try to get a ‘faithful’ handle on what God would have us do or not do on the Sabbath.  Our only hope is that “Scripture answers Scripture” when it comes to that, for as far as this text goes, the message is clear.

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