2010-03-21 - The Fourth Commandment
The Ten Commandments, Part 18
The Forth Commandment ~ Introduction
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. Mark 2:23-28
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 on the Lords day. Neither would they dream of going to a restaurant on a Sunday; that would require someone else to work. While I wouldnt choose this approach to the Sabbath, I certainly dont 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.
Our weekday cares stand in the way. They blind us and tear at our energy and attention until we think that they and their demands are the sole reality of our lives. Then the Sabbath comes and says, No, it is not so. God made this world that so entices and consumes you. It is His and so are you. He created it so that you could find it within yourself to see thorough it, and the Sabbath is the day when the blinders are removed from your eyes if only you will not hold onto them so tightly. God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy so that it would make you holy. Let it take hold of you and bring you back to your Heavenly root, and then you will keep your life-giving Sabbath alive and through it, all the world.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as these words sound, and as much truth as you can find in them, the Jew has 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 childrens marbles. If the former, the pouch is a wallet; if the latter, it is a toy. The laws of the Sabbath empty 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.
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 the keeping of it. And for us as believers, the question is even more basic. Are we even called to keep it?
To be continued.
Comments or Questions?