Sabbath Thread

You’ve seen the cartoons where someone or something pulls on a thread and everything unravels. Like that one thread holds everything together; whether it be a sweater or the very fabric of the universe. One strand rules them all. Ah, a Lord of the Rings reference. But kind of like that. There are threads in the Bible; concepts that run through, intertwining and holding things together. Love is like that. You can find it in the Shema: “Here or Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This prayer was uttered every day by the Israelites of Jesus’ day. The theme of loving God and love in general threads its way throughout the Bible. Jesus picks up that thread and calls it the greatest commandment. So, that’s one thread. Another thread is the Sabbath thread.

Exodus 35:1-3 is about the Sabbath and it offers very little that is new. As a matter of fact, much of the rest of Exodus is re-emphasizing things we have already read and covered. Durham suggests that the present Sabbath passage act as a bridge between Exodus 25-31 and Exodus 35-40. And this is most likely accurate, but why the Sabbath? Why not another bridge like say love? What is so important about rest and reflection? And if we pull this thread out will the Word of God unravel? Well, it is found at the very beginning of creation. God rested on the seventh day and established the Sabbath. I don’t believe that God rested because he was all tuckered out. I’ve never been God, so I cannot be sure about this, but Isaiah 40:28 does tell us that God does not grow weary. In Genesis 2:3 we are told “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. I believe God rested to set us an example. And a God example sounds like an important thread.

In Exodus 23:12-13 it is emphasized that everyone including even the animals shall rest. There was to be no exceptions here. You can’t send out your slaves to work and think you are keeping Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13 the Sabbath is called a sign; an understanding that it is God who sanctifies them. The Sabbath is not just about rest. It is also about reflection. In our passage, the only new information is that they were not to kindle a fire inside their homes on the Sabbath. This may have to do with not preparing meals. Preparing meals was an all day event. It kept the women busy much of the day. So, if meals were to be prepared, the women really didn’t enjoy rest and reflection. For many of the men in this culture that would not have been an issue. But it is for God. The Sabbath is a day of rest and reflection for everyone.

After the Babylonian exile, when the people were striving to reboot their nation and their covenant with God, we find the Sabbath is an important thread in the process. At one point Nehemiah discovered that some Israelites were treading wine presses and carrying grain sacks and loading them on donkeys, probably for the sake of selling. Men of Tyre would show up in Jerusalem to do business on the Sabbath. You can’t really expect those non-Jewish business men to respect rest and reflection laws of Israel. Nehemiah puts a stop to it and closes the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath. But those persistent Tyre business men camp outside of the gate, probably conducting business with everyone willing to sneak out. Nehemiah forces them to leave. This is found in Nehemiah 13.

We could go through and look at what some of the prophets say about Sabbath, but we don’t have time. When we get to the New Testament it may seem as if Jesus is trampling all over the Sabbath, but in reality his is demonstrating that they had missed the point of Sabbath. They had turned it into a day so full of rules and regulations that no one could rest and reflect. In Hebrews 4, the author speaks about entering into the rest of God. In verse 9 he says, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” The Sabbath runs like a thread, an important thread, throughout the Bible. I don’t think that means we are to set aside a day and honor it as the Sabbath. But maybe we should respect the thread.

So, why is Sabbath so important? We tend to make our life about business, whether that is wheeling and dealing or farming. But God designed us and he knows what we need; what makes us tick. There is something important about quiet meditation. There is something necessary about rest and reflection. And the Sabbath demands we respect this need in absolutely everyone. This is not just for the bosses. This is not just for the men. Be quiet; rest; reflect; and know that it is God who makes you holy.